Transition Time Using Transition Assessment Data to Develop Postsecondary Goals

by Debbie Grosser, M.Ed., and Dale Pennell, C.A.S.

This is the third in a four-part Link Lines series. Part I (September/October 2007) defined and clarified the purpose of transition assessment and identified the scope of data to be collected. Part II (November/December 2007) provided guidelines for summarizing these assessment data in the PLOP (see

"Beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child turns 16 ... the IEP must include appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age-appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and independent living skills, where appropriate." [§300.320(a)(7)(b)(1)]

Implementation of §300.320(a)(7)(b)(1) obligates local education agencies to use transition assessment data to inform the development of students' postsecondary goals. These data may be acquired through informal and formal measures. Informal measures, developed locally or obtained through a variety of publications, include rating scales, curriculum-based assessments, surveys, interviews, and checklists. Formal measures consist of achievement, cognitive functioning, adaptive behavior, personality, quality of life, aptitude, social, self-determination, prevocational/employability, vocational, and transition knowledge and skills (Clark, 2007).

Systematic compilation of transition assessment data includes several steps.

Step 1: Identify students' interests and preferences.

IDEA's definition of transition services consist of seven domains of adult life for which assessment data must be collected.

  • Postsecondary Education - Coursework at a community or four-year college in a degree-seeking program

  • Vocational Education - Coursework in a vocational school or program needed to secure employment

  • Integrated Employment - Competitive employment among people without disabilities

  • Continuing/Adult Education - Classes that enrich our personal or professional lives; secondary school academic coursework for adults seeking a high school diploma

  • Adult Services - Agencies and organizations that improve quality of life

  • Independent Living - Activities of daily life

  • Community Participation - Activities that relate to mobility and contributing to the community

Data collected about students' interests and preferences provide insight into their visions for life after high school and serve as a starting point for further transition assessment.

Step 2: Conduct environmental analyses of adult educational, living, and working environments in which students express interest.

Identify knowledge and skills needed to meet the demands of these environments. Within each of the seven domains of adult life, consider four questions:

  • What are characteristics of the physical environments in terms of layout and accessibility?

  • What activities or tasks must be performed to be successful in the environments?

  • What levels and types of social interaction are necessary?

  • What are characteristics of climates and cultures of the environments?

    (Sitlington, Neubert, Begun, Lombard, & Leconte, 2007)

Only after environmental analyses have been completed should strategic assessment of students' strengths and needs begin.

Step 3: Assess students' strengths in relation to the demands of desired adult environments.

Determine the extent to which students possess the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the adult worlds they envision. Begin by compiling and reviewing existing data that correspond to the requirements of these environments. This analysis may reveal gaps that, in turn, will inform the need for additional assessment.

Step 4: Compare students' strengths to the requirements of their desired post-school environments.

Students with sufficient strengths in areas of interest and preference are ready to write postsecondary goals that reflect their visions for adulthood. (The February/March 2006 issue of Link Lines [] provides samples of postsecondary goals.) Now transition services and annual goals may be designed to address specific needs identified during the assessment process.

When students lack sufficient strengths in areas of interest, time for reflection is in order. In what related areas of interest might students have sufficient strengths? Do they demonstrate strengths that could be aligned with life planning options they have never considered? What additional assessments and experiences are necessary to answer these questions? It is this process of shaping students' visions of adult life through assessment and experiences that results in eventual development of postsecondary goals that reflect realistic, satisfying visions of the future. Only after a match is found between students' interests and strengths should the process of designing appropriate measurable postsecondary goals begin.


Clark, G. M. (2007). Assessment for transition planning (2nd ed.). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

Sitlington, P. L., Neubert, D. A., Begun, W. H., Lombard, R. C., & Leconte, P. J. (2007). Assess for success (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Date: February/March 2008