(2013) (Download Transition Specialist Standards)
It’s been more than a decade since DCDT/CEC’s transition standards were first developed (Kohler et al) and since then, the “transition field” has grown and evolved. The (now out-dated) Knowledge and Skills statements for the “Transition Specialist Advanced Preparation Standards” were published in the Council for Exception Children’s (CEC) 2009 publication, What Every Special Educator Must Know: Ethics, Standards, and Guidelines*, also known as the “Red Book”. In November 2013, the DCDT Validation Team was initiated led by Dr. Jane Razeghi, Executive Director of DCDT and included Dr. Mary Morningstar (DCDT Past President), Dr. Robert Morgan (member of the DCDT Knowledge & Skills Committee), and Dr. Kendra Williams-Diehm (DCDT Secretary) for the purpose of updating the existing Transition Specialist competencies. Morningstar, Morgan, and Williams-Diehm had already conducted transition related competency surveys of their own with a combined total of almost 200 such competencies.
The DCDT Validation Team followed CEC’s process outlined step by step in the CEC Validation Manual (2007). The latest research, as well as the extensive surveys that had been conducted by Morningstar, Morgan, and Williams-Diehm were used in developing the new transition standards. Once these new draft transition standards were developed and aligned with the new CEC Standards, they were reviewed by the CEC Knowledge and Skills Subcommittee and then sent out to all members of DCDT, selected members of CASE, NSTTAC, and the IDEA partnerships for their reaction and input. The validated results were analyzed, revisions made, and the final draft, along with the accompanying research base for each of the new standards were approved by CEC Professional Standards and Practices Committee and they were then also approved by the CEC Board of Directors in October, 2013. They are now “official” and these newly developed, research-based DCDT/CEC Transition Standards may serve as the foundations for special education teacher preparation programs and used in developing accreditation guidelines for college and university special education programs nationwide. In addition, they will serve as the basis for a variety of transition-job related descriptions, as well as guidelines for many of the transition services provided by secondary special educators. These new transition standards also reflect the needs of the field in serving students with disabilities as they prepare for living and working independently in the community.
You may or may not know that the current Knowledge and Skills statements for the “Transition Specialist Advanced Preparation Standards” are included in the Council for Exceptional Children’s (CEC) 2009 publication, What Every Special Educator Must Know: Ethics, Standards, and Guidelines (available online at the CEC website). It is the transition relevant information in this CEC publication that the Validation Team has updated. Also, it is these standards that often serve as the foundation for special education teacher preparation programs; used in developing accreditation guidelines for college and university special educations programs nationwide. In addition, they serve as the basis for a variety of job descriptions, such as “Transition Specialist”, as well as, the guidelines for many of the transition services provided by secondary special educators. Therefore, it is very important that the transition content accurately reflect the needs of the field in serving students with disabilities as they prepare for living and working independently in the community.
Next Steps in the Process
Hopefully, each of you received and completed the survey that was sent out from CEC (July 8 – August 8, 2013) to validate the new, proposed DCDT Transition Specialist competencies. In addition to DCDT members, DCDT’s three external partners in this validation process – the Council for Administrators of Special Education (CASE), National Secondary Transition & Technical Center (NSTTAC), and the IDEA Partnerships --- each, selected 250 of their members to also receive the survey. In the fall, the CEC Knowledge & Skill (K&S) Subcommittee will meet to review all of the results. The knowledge and skills statements with no or very little support (based on the survey) will be dropped from the competencies. With this subcommittee’s final approval, the DCDT Executive Committee will provide a final review and they will be forwarded to the CEC Professional Standards & Practices Committee (PSPC) for approval. Once the CEC PSPC approves them, they will then be submitted to the CEC Board of Directors for final approval. In addition, they will be published in the next copy of CEC’s publication on the Standards (above), also expected this fall. DCDT will also want to disseminate them through our newsletter, the website, and other media.
Why Are Advanced Professional Standards Needed for a Special Education Transition Specialist?
This is the question of concern raised by the CEC Professional Standards and Practices Committee (PSPC). In response to this question, I included the following as a justification in the DCDT Concept Paper, as well as at presentation. There is a very strong need for professional standards for the transition specialist because, first of all, legislatively, the amendments in 1997 and 2004 to the transition provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) require transition goals for special education students, as well as, a coordinated approach to delivering transition services to these students. Many secondary special education teachers are unprepared to plan for and deliver these transition services which lead to poor student outcomes in terms of their career development, future education, employment, and living in the community (Morningstar & Clavenna-Deane, 2012). “Effectively preparing transition educators requires focusing on knowledge and skills that are often beyond what is currently included in most special education teacher preparation programs” (Morningstar & Clavenna-Deane; Li, Bassett, & Hutchison, 2009p; Wolfe, Boone, & Blanchett, 1998). Unfortunately, studies have revealed that special education teachers report a lack of knowledge of transition competencies and that this hinders their abilities to implement effective practices (Benitz, Morningstar & Frey, 2009; Knott & Asseslin, 1999). Just as the roles of secondary special educators have to change to focus on the transition needs of their students, so must teacher education programs respond accordingly (Morningstar & Clavenna-Deane, 2012). However, this has not been the case. A national survey of special education personnel preparation programs revealed that less than half of the special education programs offered a stand-alone course in transition (Anderson, Kleinhammer-Tramill, Morningstar, Lehman, Kholer, Blalock & Wehmeyer, 2003.
Advanced special education professional standards for a transition specialist are needed to provide guidance and direction for personnel preparation programs in developing graduate and undergraduate courses and programs across the country and to serve as a basis for state and local guidelines and licensing now and in the future. Personnel development has been recognized as a central strategy for systems change and improvement among stated education agencies (Blalock, Kochhar-Bryant, Test, Kohler, White, Lehman et al, 2003). Clear guidance regarding up-to-date evidenced based transition competencies must be available in order to influence the development of effective high quality courses, programs and methods that ensure productive outcomes for students with disabilities.
Please note that the competencies for a transition specialist are vastly different from other Advanced Study sets (Diagnostic, Technology, Administrators, Early Childhood, Early Intervention, etc.). No other sets address transition competencies regarding preparing students with disabilities for the various post-secondary education and/or training options; employment; and living independently in the community. Most special educators are not aware of this transition information, nor do they receive it in their pre-service special education programs. On the other hand, there are numerous studies documenting the fact that youth and adults with disabilities have high percentages of unemployment and under-employment. Education is their first step in achieving a quality of life.
In general, advanced special education professional standards describe the knowledge and skills, and dispositions necessary for individuals to practice at accomplished levels of special education and in advanced special education roles in providing transition services to meet the needs individuals with exceptionalities. After previously mastering initial special education professional standards, special educators work toward mastery of advanced professional standards at the post-baccalaureate levels, including masters, specialist, and doctoral degree programs, as well as non-degree advanced certificate programs (Sparks & Mainzer, p. 8).
Advanced special education professional standards are the basis for recognizing special education preparation programs that have demonstrated through performance that the program successfully prepares candidates in the respective area. Individuals mastering the knowledge and skills identified for the advanced roles, although not necessarily earning a specific state license, can enhance their resumes and broaden the professional roles they assume. The advanced standards provide a benchmark to ensure that experienced special education professionals are able to practice at an accomplished level.
A current copy of CEC’s publication is available free at their website www.cec.sped.org under the heading of professional standards. The transition specialist competencies that are found there are the ones that are over a decade old and what has been updated.