According to the texts, describe how the following roles/person relate to the transition planning process and how each role/person is important to the process:

1. According to the texts, describe how the following roles/person relate to the transition planning process and how each role/person is important to the process:
Parent and/or guardian
2.  What are some factors that contribute to a successful transition planning process?
Include 1-2 specific examples from the readings that touch upon student perspectives, teacher perspectives, and a policy perspective
3. What are some barriers to successful transition planning? Provide at least 2 examples from the readings and explain why these are important barriers to think about.
4.  Look back at your Baseline Survey, what, if anything, has changed in regards to your understanding of, and orientation towards, special education?
Career Development for Exceptional Individuals
The online version of this article can be found at:
DOI: 10.1177/0885728807313777
Career Development for Exceptional Individuals 2008 31: 56
Audrey A. Trainor, Lauren Lindstrom, Marlene Simon-Burroughs, James E. Martin and Audrey McCray Sorrells
the Division on Career Development and Transition
From Marginalized to Maximized Opportunities for Diverse Youths With Disabilities : A Position Paper of
Published by:
Hammill Institute on Disabilities
Division on Career Development and Transition
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From Marginalized to
Maximized Opportunities for
Diverse Youths With Disabilities
A Position Paper of the Division on Career Development and Transition
Audrey A. Trainor
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Lauren Lindstrom
University of Oregon, Eugene
Marlene Simon-Burroughs
U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC
James E. Martin
University of Oklahoma, Norman
Audrey McCray Sorrells
University of Texas at Austin
Current secondary education and transition practices have created differential education and employment outcomes by gender,
race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and disability classifications. These differential outcomes result in economic
and social marginalization of far too many students with disabilities. Transition education practices need to respond to these
differential outcomes and provide targeted, systematic, and long-term opportunities for all students to attain individually
and family-determined postschool goals. This position paper recommends an ecological framework for considering the multiple
systems that influence transition education and postschool outcomes for diverse youths with disabilities. The authors
argue for educators, researchers, and policy makers to attend to social, political, economic, educational, and cultural contexts
in developing effective interventions and improving postschool outcomes.
Keywords: diversity; postsecondary outcomes; equity; culturally responsive education; transition
Navigating the transition from high school to employment,
postsecondary education, and other adult
roles is a complex and challenging process for youths
with disabilities (Kohler & Field, 2003). During the past
two decades, educators, researchers, and policy makers
have focused a great deal of attention on improving transition
services and postschool outcomes (Johnson,
Stodden, Emanuel, Luecking, & Mack, 2002). Much
progress has been made; however, pressing needs and
gaps in services still exist (Coutinho, Oswald, & Best,
2006). This position paper calls attention to the unique
career development and transition education needs of
culturally diverse youths with disabilities and urges members
of our community to improve practice and expand
research on the social, political, educational, economic,
and cultural contexts within which students with disabilities
live, become educated, and work. We believe that
improvements in transition education and outcomes will
only result from the development and implementation of
systemic changes.
The Division on Career Development and Transition
(DCDT) affirms the value of preparing all youths with
disabilities for successful postschool employment and
educational experiences. We believe it is crucial to
develop and use transition education practices that result
in more equitable outcomes for diverse youths with
Career Development
for Exceptional Individuals
Volume 31 Number 1
May 2008 56-64
© 2008 Hammill Institute
on Disabilities
hosted at
Authors’ Note: The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily
reflect the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and no official
endorsement should be inferred.
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Trainor et al. / DCDT Diversity Position 57
disabilities. This position paper provides an introduction
to the issues facing culturally and linguistically diverse
youths. We then define challenges in need of immediate
attention using an ecological framework to summarize
issues that range from the micro- to macro-systems. Last,
we identify gaps in the literature and present an agenda
for future transition education practice, research, and
Cultural Diversity
“Culturally diverse” is a deceptively simplistic term.
Today’s students with disabilities are culturally diverse
based on racial/ethnic identities, religion and traditions,
and socioeconomic backgrounds. Diversity also includes
majority culture (i.e., European American) youths, some
of whom face economic marginalization and lack of
opportunity because of poverty or other circumstances.
A culture of disability also exists and interacts with the
environment to define cultural identities. Similarly, gender
and disability interact as is evidenced in differential
outcomes. Research suggests that cultural identities
influence, not dictate, our behavior; they are dynamic,
multifaceted, and shared by group members (Garcia &
Dominguez, 1997). Cultural identities make life secure
and meaningful (Banks, 2004), and knowledge of culture
provides a sense of power (Delpit, 1995). Culture allows
us to maintain our sense of identities and perceptions of
self and represents the lenses by which we view and
evaluate the motives, thoughts, and behaviors of others
(Neal, McCray, Webb-Johnson, & Bridgest, 2003).
History tells us that cultural identities can be markers of
power and status. Positions such as cultural outsiders and
insiders contribute to our perceptions and experiences
(Banks, 2004).
Given our own evolving understandings of the complexities
and multifaceted dynamics of cultural diversity,
we consider the inclusive and interacting nature of the
term, including gender (Asch, Rousso, & Jefferies, 2001)
and disability (Brown, 1996) as culture-bound identities
with shared histories of oppression, exclusion, underachievement,
and differentiated or poor outcomes. As a
cultural group, for example, women with physical disabilities,
African American men with emotional disturbance,
European American men who are deaf, and
Latinos with language disorders may experience outcomes
that cannot neatly be categorized as race/ethnicity, culture,
or disability. Yet as Brown (1996) contended, individuals
with disabilities often have to struggle to
determine their primary cultural or contextual identity.
We assert that disability and difference are inherently
both cultural and contextual and necessarily require
examination within the discourse of race, ethnicity, language,
socioeconomic class, and gender to improve transition
education and reduce individual and collective
marginalization in research, policy, and practice. In this
position paper, therefore, we are concerned primarily
with African American, Latino, Asian American/Pacific
Islander, and Native American Indian youths, as well as
youths with disabilities of all races/ethnicities who are
from low socioeconomic backgrounds. We also are concerned
about youths who speak English as a second language
and/or have undocumented or immigrant status, as
well as gender-specific differentiated outcomes.
The lack of understanding and inadequate attention to
cultural diversity concerns us because research suggests
that different groups of students with disabilities experience
disparate postsecondary outcomes. For example,
we know that high school graduation rates and postschool
employment outcomes for youths with disabilities differ
by disability category, socioeconomic status, gender, and
race/ethnicity (Wagner, Newman, Cameto, Garza, & Levine,
2005). The extent to which differences in outcomes signify
barriers to equitable transitions is complex and
requires sophisticated analysis not only of multiple variables
but, we believe, multiple systems of variables as
well as interactions within and between systems. We are
concerned that the existing transition literature does not
adequately address sociocultural influences on access,
opportunities, or outcomes, nor does it comprehensively
address interactions among people, groups, and institutions.
This lack of attention results in persistent marginalization
of culturally diverse and low-income youths
with disabilities.
Disparate Postschool Outcomes
Growing ethnic and linguistic diversity in the United
States has resulted in corresponding changes in public
schools. In 2004, the racial/ethnic distribution of students
in Kindergarten through 12th grade was 57% European
American, 19% Latino, 16% African American, 4%
Asian American/Pacific Islander, and 3% other (U.S.
Department of Education, 2006). Only two decades earlier,
African American, Latino, Asian American, and
other children of color together comprised only 28% of
the school-age population, about two thirds of the 42% of
the population they comprised in 2004.
If all schools in all regions, across rural, suburban, and
urban settings, graduated youths across socioeconomic,
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racial/ethnic, gender, and disability groups with similar
postsecondary outcomes, the need for this article would
not exist. Students, families, schools, and communities
continue to struggle to achieve equitable postschool outcomes.
For example, 95% of Asian Americans complete
high school, and the same is true for 92% of European
Americans, 85% of African Americans, and 69% of
Latinos (U.S. Department of Education, 2003). Highpoverty
schools report low student math and reading
achievement, as well as high enrollments of children of
color. Given the disparity of access to high-quality educational
opportunities in the form of experienced
teachers and material resources, these differences are not
surprising. Urban youths are more likely to receive
instruction from the least experienced teachers (U.S.
Department of Education, 2007) and more likely to
attend schools with low per-pupil expenditures.
Reports from the second National Longitudinal
Transition Study (NLTS2) illustrate that youths’ experiences
during the transition to adulthood have changed in
significant ways since the first 1980-era longitudinal
study. Youths with disabilities today are more likely to
have obtained paid employment after high school
(Wagner, Newman, Cameto, & Levine, 2005). Although
youths across three ethnicities (European American,
African American, and Latino) made gains in both
employment status and wages earned, group differences
persist. In 2003, about 74% of European American
youths with disabilities had been employed since high
school, whereas the same was true for 62% and 65% of
African Americans and Latinos, respectively (Wagner,
Newman, Cameto, & Levine, 2005). Furthermore, 90%
of working European American youths with disabilities
were earning above-minimum wage, compared with
77% of African American and 69% of Latino youths.
Ethnicity is but one of many demographic factors that
deserve consideration when we engage in discussions
about diversity and transition. We need to also attend to
the potential influences of disability, socioeconomic status,
and gender on opportunities and outcomes for certain
youths. NLTS2 reports indicate clear differences in
graduation, postsecondary enrollment, and employment
by disability category. For instance, students with vision
impairments have a relatively high enrollment in postsecondary
schools (69%), whereas students with emotional
and behavior disabilities (about 21%) have much
lower enrollment rates (Wagner, Newman, Cameto,
Garza, et al., 2005). Postsecondary enrollment also
varies by factors associated with socioeconomic status.
According to the NLTS2, youths with disabilities who
have at least one parent who has a bachelor’s degree are
11% more likely to enroll in a postsecondary educational
setting than their peers with disabilities who do not have
a parent with a college degree. Previous researchers have
also documented poor postschool employment and lack
of transition education opportunities for young women
with disabilities (Asch et al., 2001; Lindstrom & Benz,
2002). In addition, African American men continue to face
disproportionate representation in special education programs
for emotional and behavior disabilities and subsequent
lower completion in secondary education (Harry &
Klingner, 2006; McCray Sorrells, Webb-Johnson, &
Townsend, 2004); disproportionately low rates of enrollment
in postsecondary education (U.S. Department of
Education, 2003); disproportionate employment and
wage inequities (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2006); disproportionate
rates of juvenile delinquency and incarceration
(Sickmund, 2004); and, in some U.S. regions,
higher death sentences (James R. Patton, personal communication,
August 14, 2007).
We believe that disparate transition education opportunities
and postschool outcomes are likely the result of
multiple factors. Understanding the relationship between
students’ demographic characteristics and group outcomes
apprises us of the national transition landscape,
but it does little to explain why these differences exist.
Transition research and practice needs a complex framework
that extends our understanding of individual transition
outcomes into the contexts and opportunity
dimensions in which they occur. In this article, we build
on extant literature that uses an ecological approach to
create opportunities for improved transition education
research and practice (Garcia & Dominguez, 1997; GilKashiwabara,
Hogansen, Geenen, Powers, & Powers,
2007; Mithaug, 1996) and posit that an ecological framework
provides an essential tool for both improved transition
education and advocacy for youths from low
socioeconomic and culturally diverse groups.
Defining the Micro to Macro Issues
A nascent multicultural transition education literature
base presents a growing body of evidence that cultural
identity and values guide and influence youths and their
families (deFur, Todd-Allen, & Getzel, 2001; Trainor,
2005, 2007). A lack of awareness of the impact of cultural
values and beliefs on transition is another concern
(Valenzuela & Martin, 2005). Conflict of values and
beliefs between diverse youths with disabilities and educators
may create additional barriers to successful transitions,
as would conflict between current and future
postschool cultures. Yet few transition studies have
examined these areas.
58 Career Development for Exceptional Individuals
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We believe that ecological theory provides a useful
tool for considering multicultural issues in educational
contexts (Chronister, McWhirter, & Kerewsky, 2004;
Garcia & Dominguez, 1997; Gil-Kashiwabara et al., 2007)
and offers a model to better understand and improve the
marginalized school and postschool outcomes experienced
by many youths with disabilities. Using Bronfenbrenner’s
(1979) model of ecological development as our guiding
framework, we organize a review of the literature regarding
transition for diverse youths with disabilities in an
attempt to answer two basic questions, What do we
already know about transition education for youths from
diverse groups? and What issues continue to need attention
to improve transition services and postschool outcomes?
We approach this task from within a series of
concentric circles, moving from microsystem aspects of
transition in an outwardly fashion, toward the macrosystem,
or “big picture.” For all youths, interactions in every
context may affect individual, family, school, and community
in both circuitous and linear fashions, improving
or impeding school and postschool success.
The microsystem includes people who are in direct
contact with a student, such as family members, school
staff, and peers (Chronister et al., 2004). Interactions
between youths with disabilities and their family
members have been a focus of transition research at the
microsystemic level, particularly in studies that have
examined transition experiences of culturally and linguistically
diverse youths. Gil-Kashiwabara et al. (2007)
examined microsystemic interactions and found that
parents of Latinas with disabilities emphasized college
as a postschool outcome for their daughters. These
researchers also found that disruptions in family functioning
such as high rates of mobility have deleterious
effects on child–parent relationships that are important
during adolescence. Parental influence on transition
opportunities of diverse youths is a key in successful outcomes
(Geenen, Powers, & Lopez-Vasquez, 2005).
School settings where students with disabilities
receive instruction represent another microsystem that
has immediate impact on shaping school and postschool
outcomes (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). Instructional opportunities
facilitate or hinder school and postschool success.
Transition education practices must increase microsystem
opportunities for students with disabilities to
increase their self-determination skills as a foundation
for school and postschool success (Shogren et al., 2007).
Mithaug’s (1996) equal opportunity theory suggests that
instructional activities should increase students’ skills
and opportunities for self-determination. Increasing
student engagement in individualized education program
(IEP) meetings increases students’ self-determination
skills (Martin et al., 2006). Self-determined students
establish goals from an awareness of their needs and
interests, then develop plans, implement the plans, selfevaluate
progress, and make needed adjustments to attain
their goals (Martin & Marshall, 1995).
A growing body of research suggests strong relationships
between self-determination and postschool outcomes.
Increased self-determination skills increase
academic performance (Konrad, Fowler, Walker, Test,
&Wood, 2007; Martin et al., 2006). Self-determination
attributes predicted post–high school success, and
students who identify postschool goals during early adolescence
may experience better postschool outcomes
(Goldberg, Higgins, Raskind, & Herman, 2003). College
students with learning disabilities who had higher selfdetermination
scores obtained better grades than
students with lower scores (Sarver, 2000) and higher
employment rates (Wehmeyer & Palmer, 2003).
Despite a growing number of studies demonstrating
positive outcomes of increased self-determination skills,
teachers report knowing little about self-determination
and how to implement self-determination instruction in
their classroom (Wehmeyer, Agran, & Hughes, 2000).
Interrelationships between culture, transition education,
self-determination opportunities, and the IEP process
influence postschool outcomes for culturally diverse
students with IEPs (Leake & Boone, 2007). Practitioners
need to know how best to involve culturally diverse
families and students with IEPs in transition planning
and to facilitate self-determination, but there is no empirical
guidance on how to do this.
The mesosystem refers to interconnections between the
various microsystems, such as home–school interactions or
teacher–rehabilitation counselor communications. The
ecological model assumes that individual development
and achievement will be enhanced if communication
between microsystems is consistent and positive
(Bronfenbrenner, 1979). Communication and coordination
across settings is crucial for academic, employment,
and postschool success (Benz, Johnson, Mikkelsen, &
Lindstrom, 1995).
According to federal policy (Individuals With
Disabilities Education Improvement Act [IDEIA], 2004),
teachers and administrators must provide opportunities
for parents to participate in school-related services and
educational decision making. This mandate is based on a
Trainor et al. / DCDT Diversity Position 59
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premise of equity, individual rights, and collaborative
decision making between school personnel and families
(Kalyanpur, Harry, & Skrtic, 2000). Yet the “realization
of this vision of collaborative relationships and familycentered
practice remains elusive, particularly for lowincome
and culturally diverse families” (Kalyanpur et al.,
2000, p. 119). A number of barriers have the potential to
limit active parent involvement in special education for
members of diverse groups. Researchers have noted a
lack of effort on the part of special education professionals
to seek out family input (Harry, Allen, & McLaughlin,
1995) and a tendency for teachers to schedule planning
meetings at times that may be inconvenient or impossible
for working parents to attend (Geenen et al., 2005).
Language differences can also create barriers for families
when written materials are provided only in English
and/or translators are not present at meetings or conferences.
A history of unsatisfactory home-school relationships
and/or differing beliefs about education, disability,
and teacher expertise and authority influence parent
involvement (Harry et al., 1995).
Similar barriers and issues have emerged from the literature
focusing on family involvement in career development
and transition planning (Blustein et al., 2002).
Within the school system, bureaucratic barriers such as a
lack of information regarding transition planning or
community resources limit opportunities for parent partnerships
(Geenen et al., 2005). Teachers may lack effective
communication strategies (Greene & Nefsky, 1999)
or disregard student or family cultural values (deFur
et al., 2001). Many parents from diverse groups have
reported feeling mistrusted, misunderstood, and unsupported
by professionals during the transition process
(deFur et al., 2001; Greene & Nefsky, 1999). Finally,
contextual barriers facing many families such as long
working hours, time conflicts, single parenting, transportation,
and child care difficulties prevent parents from
being able to actively engage in school transition planning
structures and intentional career-related activities
(Bluestein et al., 2002; deFur et al., 2001). These barriers
to family–school partnerships create inequities and
contribute to differential postschool outcomes.
The exosystem includes system-level issues and interactions
across multiple settings, for example, between
community and school. However, students with disabilities
are typically not active participants in these interactions.
Nevertheless, these interactions affect students’
daily lives. The distribution of educational resources,
local implementation of education policy, and specific
practices of local schools are all examples of exosystemic
interactions (Garcia & Dominguez, 1997). The
implementation of national education policies such as
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and IDEIA have implications
for transition education. Although IDEIA includes
specific transition mandates, it is perhaps what is missing
from NCLB that is most impactful. The NCLB focus
has been primarily related to improved accountability for
academic achievement, which is an important predictor
of postschool outcomes. Yet the NCLB does recognize
the need for transition educational services except for
youths in correctional facilities or institutions for
neglected youths. The lack of focus on transition education
opportunities for all children, including those with
disabilities, does not spur development of comprehensive
transition education opportunities. Research suggests
that students with disabilities benefit from access to
programs that focus on both academic and functional
skill development needed for success in adulthood.
Relative to transition education and IDEIA, research
has demonstrated that federal transition mandates have
not been fully and consistently implemented. Youths
from low socioeconomic backgrounds and youths living
in urban settings may be particularly vulnerable to delays
in transition education, because they attend schools most
likely to be staffed by inexperienced and uncertified
teachers who may lack awareness of policy. GilKashiwabara
and colleagues (2007) identified an additional
conflict for youths with disabilities who also
receive foster care services, citing clear differences
between programmatic requirements in special education
and the foster care system resulting in multiple and
disconnected transition plans.
Ensuring that students with disabilities have access to
general education curricula has also been defined as one
of several challenges in transition education (Johnson
et al., 2002). Only 37% of African American youths with
disabilities spend the majority of the school day in the
general education classroom, compared with 53% of
European American youths with disabilities who receive
services in general education settings (U.S. Department
of Education, 2004). Of students with emotional and
cognitive disabilities, categories for which overrepresentation
of African American males has consistently been
documented, 15% and 25%, respectively, receive all secondary
instruction in special education settings (U.S.
Department of Education, 2004). The implementation of
transition policy has been an effective force in systemic
change (Kohler & Field, 2003); however, few studies
have focused on the implementation of policy as it pertains
to the treatment of subgroups of individuals with
disabilities. Research on multicultural transition issues
60 Career Development for Exceptional Individuals
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has not sufficiently considered exo-level interactions to
provide a deep understanding of transition outcomes of
diverse youths with disabilities.
The macrosystem consists of societal-level interactions.
This all-encompassing term can be conceptualized as a
social blueprint and includes patterns of activities that
occur within and influence the exo, meso, and micro levels.
Societal forces such as the regional, national, and global
economies; participation of the United States in the globalization
of intellectual development, labor, and trade; and
the relationships among subgroups of the U.S. population
influence, and are influenced by, interactions within each
of the levels of the ecological model. Values and beliefs
that influence our (in)tolerance for one another and result
in individual and institutional acts of bias and discrimination
are another important aspect of the macrocultural system
(Garcia & Dominguez, 1997; Gil-Kashiwabara et al.,
2007). Although diverse students with disabilities may not
be principal actors in macrosystemic contexts, they are certainly
influenced by these forces.
One example of a macrosystemic influence is immigration
and transnationalism, or travel of people between
Mexico and other countries and the United States for the
purpose of finding work, seeking educational opportunities,
or obtaining political asylum (Trueba, 1999). This
influx of workers and their children has contributed to
the cultural and linguistic diversity of U.S. classrooms.
In 2004, 19% of U.S. elementary students spoke languages
other than English at home (National Center for
Educational Statistics [NCES], 2005). To respond to this
changing population, the U.S. education system must
cultivate a teacher force that effectively works with
families and students, including those with disabilities,
from a variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
The documentation status of immigrant children with
disabilities also complicates an already complex set of
criteria for obtaining vocational rehabilitation, social
security income, adult social services, and support for
postsecondary education (Losen & Orfield, 2002).
National employment trends represent another
macrosystemic issue that affects transition education and
outcomes for diverse youths with disabilities. Although
employment rates for women and men have been similar
during the past two decades, women continue to earn
lower average hourly wages than men (Bureau of Labor
Statistics, 2006). Transition outcomes for young women
with disabilities are affected by the economic realities
existing in the macrosystem. Many young women with
disabilities face workforce barriers by virtue of being
female (Lindstrom, Benz, & Doren, 2004). Unemployment
figures also remain disproportionately high for
African Americans who comprise 11% of the labor force
yet represent 22% of people who are unemployed
(Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2006). African Americans
and Latinos also hold fewer managerial or professional
positions than European or Asian Americans. These
national trends inform federal and state policies regarding
education and employment and influence teachers’
perceptions of community members’ employability.
Special education transition research typically
includes discussions of macrosystemic issues as tangential
to micro- and mesosystemic foci. Rueda, Monzo,
Shapiro, Gomez, and Blacher (2005) addressed U.S.
macrocultural conceptions of worker identities as compared
to the conceptualizations of Latina mothers of
children with developmental disabilities; however, they
focused on the microcultural values and beliefs about
independence and individualism. Other studies that have
documented multicultural parents’ transition-related values
and beliefs and diverse students’ transition attitudes,
knowledge, and skills highlight primarily micro- and
mesosystemic questions. A greater understanding of
macrosystemic interactions is sorely needed to increase
our understanding of all levels of the ecological model of
transition education.
Future Directions for Research and Practice
Given the complex and pressing needs of diverse
youths with disabilities, we believe a clear agenda exists
to improve research and practice. As DCDT members,
we must define the issues and develop effective instructional
interventions and support systems to improve
postschool outcomes for youths with disabilities from
low socioeconomic backgrounds; those who are African
American, Latino, Native American Indian; as well as
youths who speak English as a second language and face
documentation and immigration issues. We must consider
and address all levels of the ecological model in
developing programs and educational policies. Although
we may begin by addressing inequities in our own school
systems, we must also advocate for changes in political,
economic, and social structures. Existing systems are
simply not working effectively for many youths with disabilities;
we need an ecological approach that will lead
us from economic and social marginalization toward
maximizing opportunities. To emphasize the need to
focus on broader ecological contexts, we begin with
macrosystem-level concerns and work inward, toward
the micro-level implications.
Trainor et al. / DCDT Diversity Position 61
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62 Career Development for Exceptional Individuals
Macro-Level Implications
By acknowledging the complex sociocultural, political,
and historical contexts in which transition education
occurs, DCDT members need to expand research efforts
to include interactions among and between the ecologies
of transition education. We must be aware of larger
social and system-level trends and issues (e.g., employment
rates, population demographics, etc.) and incorporate
those forces into our investigations and intervention
efforts. Careful attention to detail regarding systemic
change and equity are necessary to move transition education
forward so that we address the needs of all youths
with disabilities, including those who may be harmed by
structures that privilege some over others.
In practice, it is no simple task to address large-scale
social issues such as poverty and unemployment.
However, these macrosystemic realities play a critical
role in limiting opportunities for youths with disabilities
from diverse groups. All of us share the responsibility of
advocacy, addressing social and political issues that will
affect national, state, and local levels.
Exo-Level Implications
In Kohler’s (1996) transition taxonomy, the structure
and characteristics of transition education philosophy,
programs, and policies are considered integrally important
to postschool outcomes. Federal and state transition
policies must be examined to determine the extent to
which their intended mandates reach groups of youths
with disabilities who often face marginalization as a
result of living in poverty; speaking English as a second
language; immigration status; or experience discrimination
based on race/ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation.
To what extent does national policy address unique
challenges faced by diverse youths with disabilities?
How might technical and financial support be filtered to
address the needs of youths facing challenges associated
with disability and marginalization?
Another aspect of systemic change at the exo level is
the diversification of the U.S. teaching force, which has
remained largely homogeneous. Approximately 90% of
elementary teachers are female, as are 75% of secondary
teachers (National Center for Education Statistics, 2005,
p. 3). Teachers of European American descent comprise
60% of the teaching force (National Collaborative on
Diversity in the Teaching Force, 2004). We need to
recruit and retain diverse professionals who can provide
effective services within local schools as well as become
leaders in transition education. A diverse teaching force
has the potential to expand our capacity to respond to
diverse youths’ preferences, strengths, and needs.
Meso- and Micro-Level Implications
To date, transition researchers have provided ample
evidence of the important intercultural differences that
affect transition education. We are advocating for systematic
changes in both research and practice that will
lead to more equitable postschool outcomes. We need to
begin by identifying programmatic characteristics that
predict postschool employment and engagement.
Studies have illuminated school and community barriers
faced by diverse youths and families (Harry, 2002),
young women with disabilities (Lindstrom et al., 2004),
and youths from families of low socioeconomic status
(Park, Turnbull, & Turnbull, 2002). The NLTS2 provides
a wealth of data across disability and demographic
variables; however, these results provide a mixed picture
of the relationship between ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic
class, and outcomes (Wagner, Newman, Cameto,
Garza et al., 2005). More investigation is warranted
using this and other large-scale data sets to disentangle
variables that influence transition experiences and
opportunities. Without this breadth and scope of knowledge,
we will likely produce solutions that fail to
address both inter- and intragroup differences and lack
the capacity to be as dynamic as the identities of the
youths we serve.
In practice, it is critical that DCDT members develop
and test school- and community-based interventions
designed to improve transition education, support services,
and subsequent postschool outcomes with pointed
attention to the needs of diverse youths with disabilities
who experience economic and other postschool challenges.
The potential of self-determination skill instruction
and enhanced opportunities for its practice across
diverse groups of youths must be a particular focus of
our investigations. Diverse youths with disabilities have
not been adequately served by existing programs (Harry,
2002; Trainor, 2005). DCDT needs to create best practice
programs and services that address the unique needs
of diverse youths with disabilities, are carefully evaluated
and documented to be effective, and can be replicated
across settings.
In addition, DCDT needs to develop and evaluate professional
development to increase cultural competence
among transition education personnel. Educators must
consider students’ culture and community in transition
planning and services delivery (Harry, 2002; Rueda
et al., 2005). Professionals also need to develop a more
sophisticated understanding of school, family, and community
issues and barriers and be provided with ongoing
training to increase awareness, knowledge, and specific
skills (Lichtenstein, Lindstrom, & Povenmire-Kirk, in
press; Smith, Constantine, Dunn, Dinehart, & Montoya,
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2006). We need to identify effective instructional strategies
and techniques that lead to improved teacher and
service provider competence.
Directing research and practice toward an ecological
path of study is no easy endeavor; however, to do so provides
the opportunity to develop strategies that uncover
the complexity of real-life interactions and avoid deficit
notions of individuals with disabilities. As a field, we
must carefully consider cultural, political, economic, and
social contexts; develop multidimensional transition
education strategies; and advocate for systemic changes
that promote positive postschool outcomes.
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Marshall, K. G., Sirin, S., et al. (2002). Voices of the forgotten
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Johnson, D. R., Stodden, R. A., Emanuel, E. J., Luecking, R., &
Mack, M. (2002). Current challenges facing secondary education
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68, 519-531.
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expectations of cultural diverse families’ participation in special
education. International Journal of Disability, Development and
Education, 47, 119-136.
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Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois, Transition Research
Kohler, P. D., & Field, S. (2003). Transition-focused education:
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(2007). Effects of self-determination interventions on the academic
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professionals. Journal for Vocational Special Needs
Lindstrom, L., & Benz, M. (2002). Phases of career development:
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in their transition IEP meetings: Establishing the SelfDirected
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64 Career Development for Exceptional Individuals
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2005 (p. 3). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.
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(2003). The effects of African American movement styles on
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37, 49-57.
Park, J., Turnbull, A., & Turnbull, H. (2002). Impacts of poverty on
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Rueda, R., Monzo, L., Shapiro, J., Gomez, J., & Blacher, J. (2005).
Cultural models of transition: Latina mothers of young adults with
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Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Florida,
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Smith, T., Constantine, M., Dunn, T., Dinehart, J., & Montoya, J. (2006).
Multicultural education in the mental health professions: A metaanalytic
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Trainor, A. A. (2005). Self-determination perceptions and behaviors
of diverse students with LD during the transition planning
process. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 38, 233-249.
Trainor, A. A. (2007). Perceptions of adolescent girls with LD regarding
self-determination and postsecondary transition planning.
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of public school students. In The condition of education 2006
(pp. 116-118). Washington, DC: Author.
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secondary education. In The condition of education 2007 (pp. 62-73).
Washington, DC: Author.
Valenzuela, R. L., & Martin, J. E. (2005). Self-directed IEP: Bridging
values of diverse cultures and secondary education. Career
Development for Exceptional Individuals, 28(1), 4-14.
Wagner, M., Newman, L., Cameto, R., Garza, N., & Levine, P.
(2005). After high school: A first look at the post-school experiences
of youth with disabilities. Menlo Park, CA: SRI.
Wagner, M., Newman, L., Cameto, R., & Levine, P. (2005). Changes
over time in the early post-school outcomes of youth with disabilities.
Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.
Wehmeyer, M. L., Agran, M., & Hughes, C. (2000). A national survey
of teachers’ promotion of self-determination and studentdirected
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with cognitive disabilities three-years after high school. Education
and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 38(2), 131-144.
Audrey A. Trainor, PhD, is an assistant professor of special
education at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her current
interests include multicultural special education issues, postsecondary
transition planning for students with high incidence disabilities,
family and student participation in special education,
and English language learners diagnosed with disabilities.
Lauren Lindstrom, PhD, is an assistant professor and senior
research associate in the College of Education at the University
of Oregon. Her areas of expertise include career development,
gender equity, transition planning, and postschool outcomes
for youths with disabilities.
Marlene Simon-Burroughs, PhD, is an associate director in
the Research to Practice Division of the U.S. Department of
Education’s Office of Special Education programs, providing
leadership for discretionary investments in secondary education,
transition, and postsecondary outcomes.
James E. Martin, PhD, holds the Zarrow Chair in Special
Education and directs the Zarrow Center at the University of
Oklahoma. His professional interests include self-determination
and transition education practices to improve high school
and postsecondary outcomes, especially higher education and
Audrey McCray Sorrells, Ph.D., is an associate professor of
Special Education and Fellow in the Lee Hage Jamail Regents
Chair in Education at The University of Texas at Austin. Her
research interests include African American disproportionality in
special education, professional development and research-based
reading interventions for diverse middle school environments.
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These four pages provide an overview of the effects of the newly reauthorized Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act (IDEA 2004) on transition services. They are excerpted from California’s newly published resource for transition,
Transition to Adult Living, and offer a glimpse of the wide range of information and supports contained in the
guide for students, parents, and teachers involved in transition. To download an interactive version of the complete,
270-page guide, go to To request a free hard copy, email donna.lee@calstat.
org or fax your order to 707-206-9176.
Transition to Adult Living
An Information and Resource Guide
Legal Requirements
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Th e IDEA of 1990 required planning for post-school transition at IEP meetings
for all students with disabilities. Th e law required that students be invited to
attend the IEP meeting and that transition services and planning be addressed in
the following areas:
• Instruction
• Employment and other post-school adult living objectives
• Community experiences
• If appropriate, daily living skills
• Functional vocational evaluation
Th e IDEA of 1997 further expanded transition planning in the IEP to include
related services necessary to achieve the activities stated in the transition plan and
required procedures for the transfer of legal rights from the parent to the student
upon reaching the age of majority under state law.
Are education agencies responsible for preparing students
for their futures?
Yes. IDEA ’04 continues to reinforce the intention that education
agencies will assist students to successfully transition from school
to adult living. Its purpose clearly states the legislative intent that
education agencies prepare students for life after leaving school:
(d) PURPOSES.—Th e purposes of this title are—
(1)(A) to ensure that all children with disabilities have available
to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes
special education and related services designed to meet their unique
needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and
independent living. (Section 601, emphasis added)
What It Means
Th e primary purpose of the
IDEA is to ensure that children
and youth with disabilities have
a right to a free appropriate public
education; but it also means that
education agencies will prepare
them for activities after leaving
school. Th ese activities include
attending college, training for
employment, getting a job, living
independently, and participating
in the life of the community.
Winter/Spring 2007 Insert to The Special EDge 1
Transition to Adult Living: An Information and Resource Guide IDEA 2004 Excerpt
2 Insert to The Special EDge Winter/Spring 2007
What is the defi nition of “transition services”?
Th e defi nition of transition services in the IDEA ’04 explains how
improving a student’s academic and functional achievement will
improve the transition from school to adult living:
—Th e term “transition services” means a coordinated set of activities
for a child with a disability that—
(A) is designed to be within a results-oriented process, that is
focused on improving the academic and functional achievement
of the child with a disability to facilitate the child’s movement
from school to post-school activities, including postsecondary
education, vocational education, integrated employment (including
supported employment), continuing and adult education,
adult services, independent living, or community participation.
(Section 602, emphasis added)
What It Means
Th e IDEA expects that local
education agencies, community
and state agencies, and
families will work together to
design educational programs
that prepare students with
disabilities for life after leaving
school. Th e IDEA lists specifi c
results: improved academic and
functional achievement that will
off er youth choices in adult life.
Th ese choices include continued
education, employment, and the
ability to assume adult roles.
What It Means
General and special educators
coordinate activities with the
student to assist the student in
identifying his or her strengths,
interests, and preferences for
post-school activities—such as
further education, training, or
employment—and to help the
student achieve those goals.
General and special educators
coordinate activities to ensure
that students with disabilities
receive a standards-based or
functional education, individually
determined according to
student need, with appropriate
supports, services, accommodations,
and modifi cations to be
successful in school and beyond
school. Additionally, students
receive instruction and engage
in activities that prepare them
for the world of work and life in
their community.
Local education agencies
coordinate with community
and state agencies involved with
higher education, employment
training, and services for adults
with disabilities to (continued)
What is the coordinated set of activities designed to help
students move from school to adult living?
Th e defi nition of transition services is a coordinated set of activities.
Th e activities to which the IDEA refers have a concerted purpose: to
help students move successfully from school to adult living. Improving
a student’s academic and functional performance while in school
increases the student’s chances for a better future. Best practices
involve helping the student understand the connection between school
and careers, coordinating all stakeholders—the student, the family, the
school, and other service providers—and having the student’s goals for
the future as the focus of all activities.
Th e defi nition further clarifi es that transition services are based on
the student’s interests and include the areas of instruction, community
experiences, the development of employment or other goals (such as
further education), and any other related services the student may need
to achieve his or her long-term goals.
—Th e term “transition services” means a coordinated set of activities
for a child with a disability that—
(A) is designed to be within a results-oriented process, that is
focused on improving the academic and functional achievement
of the child with a disability to facilitate the child’s movement
from school to post-school activities, including postsecondary education,
vocational education, integrated employment (including
supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult
services, independent living, or community participation;
Winter/Spring 2007 Insert to The Special EDge 3
IDEA 2004 Excerpt Transition to Adult Living: An Information and Resource Guide
What It Means
Th e defi nition of transition services clarifi es that
when education agencies and families develop
transition services language in the IEP, it must
be based on the student’s strengths, interests, and
ideas about what he/she wants to do when fi nished
with school. Students may not know what
they want to do after leaving school or they may
not have realistic goals; so the transition services
language should include activities that help students
make informed decisions to formulate realistic
goals that match their unique personalities,
interests, and preferences. Once student interest
and preference have been identifi ed, the IDEA
identifi es the areas to be addressed in transition
services language in the IEP (see below):
What is the required transition services
language in the IEP?
Th e defi nition of transition services in the IDEA ’04
further explains that transition planning is studentcentered
and focused on the student’s goals. Specifi c
areas must be addressed in transition planning in the
IEP. Transition services refer to a set of activities that:
Areas to Be Addressed . . .
in transition services language in the IEP
Th e IEP is an individualized instructional and support
plan for students with disabilities. Th e transition
planning, activities, and services detailed in the IEP
align instruction with the student’s post-school goals.
For most students, participation in a standards-based
instructional program will provide them the requisite
skills to enter college, further training, or employment.
Many students benefi t from seeing the connection
between school and career by participating in schooland
work-based instructional experiences, while others
may need more intensive functional skills training
to enter the world of work.
Related services
Th e plan must describe any related services the
student may need—such as transportation to a work
experience or career counseling—to help the student
prepare for his or her future goals.
(B) is based on the individual child’s needs, taking
into account the child’s strengths, preferences, and
interests; and
(C) includes instruction, related services, community
experiences, the development of employment
and other post-school adult living objectives, and,
when appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills
and functional vocational evaluation.
(Section 602)
better inform students about the options available
after leaving school.
Local education agencies work with families to
develop transition plans designed to help students
reach their future goals and, ideally, provide information
to families about post-school options and
adult services for their children.
Community experiences
Instructional activities may take place in the community,
such as community-based instruction, to help students
generalize the skills learned in the classroom to the real
All students should have employment-related language in
their IEP. For some students this may be a goal to enter
higher education; for others it may mean job training or
supported employment; and for others still, going to work
right after leaving school may be the goal. Regardless of
what the goals are, schools should help students identify
their goals and develop plans that prepare the students
toachieve them.
Daily living skills and functional
evaluation, if appropriate
Some students need specifi c instruction and activities in
order to learn to take care of themselves and live as independently
as possible. Some students may need a functional
evaluation to determine which skills they will need
to develop so that they are able to enter employment or live
(B) is based on the individual child’s needs, taking into
account the child’s strengths, preferences, and interests;
(C) includes instruction, related services, community
experiences, the development of employment and other
post-school adult living objectives, and when appropriate,
acquisition of daily living skills and functional
vocational evaluation. (Section 602, Article 34)
Transition to Adult Living: An Information and Resource Guide IDEA 2004 Excerpt
Insert to The Special EDge Winter/Spring 2007
What It Means
Th e IEP that is developed on or before the student’s
sixteenth birthday must contain transition service
If the student turns 16 before the next scheduled
IEP meeting, the IEP team is required to develop
transition services language and identify needed services
during the IEP when the student is 15 years old, so that
the plan is in eff ect when the student turns 16. However,
it may be appropriate for many students to begin
discussing the connection between school and careers
as early as elementary school. For other students it may
be appropriate to include transition services language
in the IEP during middle school or when the student
moves from middle to high school in order to identify
appropriate courses of study that support the student’s
post-school goals.
When must transition service language
be included in the IEP?
Not later than the student’s sixteenth birthday.
Th e point in time when transition language
must be added to the IEP for students
with disabilities was raised from the age of
14 in the IDEA of ‘97 to the age of 16 in
the IDEA ’04. However, for many students,
beginning transition services earlier than
16 may be appropriate. And the IDEA ’04
allows for it:
(VIII) beginning not later than the fi rst
IEP to be in eff ect when the child is 16, and
updated annually thereafter.
[Section 614(d)(1)(A)(i)]
What It Means
Th e use of the term “goal” to describe both what
students want to happen once they leave school
and also to describe what schools must do to help
students achieve their long-term objectives can
be confusing. Th e IDEA ’04 requires transition
services language in the IEP to include postsecondary
goals, or the student’s aspirations for his or her
future. Th e IDEA ’04 also requires annual goals in
the IEP to help students achieve their goals for the
future. Annual, measurable goals in the IEP should
be written each year to help the student achieve his
or her post-school goals. Th e annual goals must be
designed and reasonably calculated to assist students
to achieve their long-term goals and must be included
in the IEP no later than the student’s sixteenth
birthday, or earlier if appropriate. Th e postsecondary
goal is what the student wants and hopes for his or
her future in terms of higher education, employment,
and independent living. Th e annual, measurable
goals in the IEP are what schools will do to help the
What are measurable postsecondary goals?
Th e IDEA ’04 adds a new requirement for
transition services language in the IEP, the development
of measurable postsecondary goals
based on age-appropriate transition assessments.
Th e IEP for students 16 years old or younger, if
appropriate, must contain:
(aa) appropriate measurable postsecondary
goals based upon age-appropriate transition
assessments related to training, education,
employment, and, where appropriate,
independent living skills;
(bb) the transition services (including courses
of study) needed to assist the child in reaching
those goals. [Section 614(d)(1)(A)(i)(VIII)]
student in high school, or earlier if appropriate, to achieve long-term goals. Th e annual goals are still included under the
headings described in the defi nition of transition services above, which include instruction, employment, community
experiences, and related services, and, if appropriate, daily living skills and functional evaluation. Th e annual goals must
be based on age-appropriate transition assessments in the areas of training, education, and, if appropriate, independent
living. Th ey must also support the student’s postsecondary or long-term goals for the future.
Additionally, the transition services language must include any needed transition services, including a course of study
that a student may need in order to accomplish his or her post-school goals. Some examples of needed transition services
may include participation in career exploration and preparation experiences, career guidance counseling, and establishing
connections with adult service providers.

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