Massachusetts recently enacted a new regulation creating something called a Transition Specialist Endorsement. This is basically a way for a special education teacher or vocational rehabilitation counselor to obtain official state recognition of additional training and experience specific to Transition Planning. The citation of the new regulation is 603 CMR 7.14(4). The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has also published a set of guidelines to help better understand what is required to obtain the Transition Specialist Endorsement.
This Endorsement was created because of the ongoing difficulty that students with special needs have been encountering trying to transition from secondary to postsecondary life. To highlight some of these challenges, the DESE guidelines note the following:
Too many students with disabilities are unprepared to live and work independently when they exit high school. Currently, according to the US Department of Labor, only 25% of 20-24 year olds with disabilities are employed, compared with 60% of their non-disabled peers. Nearly half of all disabled adults who are employed have an income of less than $15,000 per year. In 2012, data shows only 68.6% of Massachusetts students with disabilities graduated on time with their peers, compared to 84.7% for non-disabled students and the dropout rate for students with disabilities was almost twice as high as the rate for non-disabled students. The President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education acknowledged that, “One reason for these outcomes is that educators are inadequately prepared to provide the transition services required under IDEA.”
In order to obtain the endorsement, an individual must have at least two years of experience as a special education teacher or as a vocational rehabilitation counselor. They must also complete courses specific to transition services that have been approved by the DESE. The person must also complete 150 hours of field-based experience providing transition services for transition aged students with disabilities. They must also show subject matter knowledge in four different areas (refer to the regulation for details). There are exceptions to these requirements for individuals who can show that they already have met the subject matter knowledge and skills requirements.
The Law Office of James M. Baron represents students and parents in special education and other school-related legal matters throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Please visit http://www.lawbaron.com, or call 781-209-1166 for more information.
The Massachusetts Senate has passed H. 3270, An Act to promote the successful transition of students with disabilities to post-secondary education, employment, and independent living. The Bill now goes back to the House for enactment, and will also need to be signed by the Governor before becoming law. The Bill directs the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop regulations that will allow special education teachers and rehabilitation counselors “to develop the competence necessary to serve as transition coordinators to facilitate provision of a coordinated set of activities to adequately prepare students with disabilities to achieve successful transition to post-school activities including further education, competitive employment, and independent living.”
What does all of this mean? Basically, Massachusetts is trying to put in place a framework and supports to allow special education teachers to obtain additional expertise in the area of transition planning. Through additional coursework and field experience, special educators will be able to earn an “endorsement” in transition planning from the state. The transition section of the IEP is the area where a student’s post-secondary goals are listed, as are the services and supports that will be utilized to help the student achieve post-secondary goals and independence. Unfortunately, transition planning is often an afterthought in IEP’s. Hopefully, this new law will help to fix that situation.
The Law Office of James M. Baron represents students and parents in special education and other school-related legal matters. Please visit http://www.lawbaron.com, or call 781-209-1166 for more information.