Latest Developments in Transition Planning in Massachusetts

Transition services are part of, and not separate from, a school district’s responsibility to provide FAPE.  The IDEA requires transition services that are developed through transition planning by the IEP Team.  Specifically, the IDEA requires every IEP, beginning no later than the one that will be in effect when the child is 16 years old (age 14 in MA), to include “appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based on age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills,” and to describe the “transition services (including courses of study) needed to assist the child in reaching those goals.” 20 USC § 1414 (d)(1)(A)(i)(VIII).  See also 34 CFR § 300.320(b).

Transition planning is a continuously developing area of law and practice.  This article highlights recent legislative and regulatory changes, and guidance from the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the U.S. Department of Education.

Transition Specialist LegislationAn Act to Promote the Successful Transition of Students with Disabilities to Post-Secondary Education, Employment, and Independent Living (signed into law: March 9, 2012).

This new law (M.G.L. c. 71 § 38G.5) and associated regulations (603 C.M.R. 7.00, 7.14(4)(a-g)) require the MA Board of Education to revise educator licensure regulations to provide a mechanism that will enable current special education teachers and rehabilitation counselors to obtain a Specialist Teacher Endorsement in Transition Services.

The intent of this legislation is to provide school districts with trained personnel necessary to fully implement the transition requirements of federal special education law, and to improve competitive employment and independent living outcomes for students aged 14-22.

MA DESE – Technical Assistance Advisory SPED: 2013-1:  Post Secondary Goals and Annual IEP Goals in the Transition Planning Process

The purposes of this advisory are to “highlight the central role of appropriate measurable postsecondary goals and annual IEP goals in the transition planning process” and to “provide guidance to school districts concerning the inclusion of postsecondary goals in the Transition Planning Form . . . and the inclusion of postsecondary goals and annual goals in the IEP.”  Parents and advocates may find it helpful to review this advisory before attending a Team meeting at which transition planning will be discussed.

USDOE Decisions:

Letter to Spitzer-Resnick, Sweeden, and Pugh, 112 LRP 32664 (OSEP June 22, 2012)

IEP Teams must comply with LRE when assigning work placements. According to the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), a transition placement, including a work placement, is no different than any other educational placement in the sense that it may not be unnecessarily restrictive. That is, before assigning a student to segregated employment, the IEP team must look at whether there are steps it could take that would enable the student to work alongside nondisabled individuals.  This letter is important to keep in mind during upcoming IEP meetings, as it makes clear that LRE principles of integration apply to transition programs and work placements.

Questions and Answers on Secondary Transition, 111 LRP 63321 (OSERS September 1, 2011)

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS) issued this Q&A to provide State Educational Agencies (SEAs), Local Education Agencies (LEAs), parents, advocates, and other interested parties with information regarding transition for students with disabilities.  The document also discusses Summary of Performance (SOP) requirements per 20 U.S.C. § 1414(c)(5)(B)(ii) and 34 C.F.R. § 300.305(e)(3).  A district is required to provide the student with an SOP when his or her eligibility for special education is terminating due to graduation or age.  The purposes of the SOP are to summarize the student’s academic achievement and functional performance and to provide recommendations to assist with the student’s transition to postsecondary life.

Janine Solomon is Of Counsel in the Special Education & Disability Rights practice group at Kotin, Crabtree & Strong, LLP in Boston, Massachusetts.

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