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Improving Support for Transition to Post-secondary Education: Implications for Teachers and Schools

In a world where employment expectations are constantly changing, it is important for schools and teachers to do the best they can to help all of their students be ready for what the adult world expects of them upon graduation from high school. For students with disabilities, that means getting enough support and guidance that they are prepared for the transition to whatever post-secondary pathway they choose.  For students who wish to pursue a post-secondary education, that means arming them with the information and knowledge they need to know to be successful in college and beyond.

The fact of the matter is that more and more students with disabilities are showing interest in pursuing a post-secondary education, and high schools need to be doing more to help these students be prepared for that pathway.

For schools, this means they have to improve programs offered to students with disabilities without overwhelming teachers.  There needs to be a critical balance here, and that starts with understanding that transition is an ongoing process, and truly needs to be a community effort.

Some important questions in the forefront for most special education teachers regarding the transition to post-secondary education include:

  • How do teachers get more time and resources to improve transition services and supports for their students so that they are better prepared for the world outside of high school?

    • Implications: schools should provide teachers with professional development opportunities to improve transition programs and services offered to students with disabilities. In the end, successful outcomes of these programs will result in better accountability numbers for schools. ​However, teachers would need to be willing to put in the time to make this a success.

  • What types of agencies and supports could teachers/schools partner with to help improve transition supports for students with disabilities?​

    • Implications: ​special education departments would need to invest in having dedicated transition specialists who work to build partnerships with community organizations and agencies specifically designed to improve post-secondary outcomes for students once they graduate from high school

  • Where ​do we draw the line between what is the responsibility of the high school and special education teachers, and where post-secondary institutions responsibilities start. How can we hold both high schools and post-secondary institutions accountable for these responsibilities, so that neither side feels burdened or overwhelmed?

    • Implications: due to how Section 504 and the ADA are written, post-secondary institutions really do not have as many responsibilities​ as post-secondary institutions. In fact, the responsibility shifts directly from the high school to the adult student. There needs to be a middle ground here, where the post-secondary institution helps with the initial transition. What this looks like will vary, but more research needs to be done to see if improving this shift would improve outcomes for students with disabilities in post-secondary settings.

What might help address these areas of concern:

  • training programs for high school and higher ed teachers

  • learning from past students' experiences through follow-up studies

  • improving disability support services & maybe consider creating more universal programs based on size and type of institution

Navigating the Waters to Post-Secondary Education:
A Guide for Students with Disabilities & Parents about How to Prepare for Transition to Post-Secondary Education

by Rachel Z. Roth, M.Ed.

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