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Understanding Secondary Transition Planning

Secondary transition is a results-oriented process that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the student with a disability to assist the individual’s movement from school to post-school living, learning, and working environments.

Secondary transition planning is:

  • an ongoing process starting no later than age 14
  • based on postsecondary expectations and transition assessment information

Secondary transition planning may include:

  • Specially designed instruction
  • Related services
  • Community experiences
  • Development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives
  • If appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation
    • A "functional vocational evaluation" is an assessment process that may include observations, data from task analysis, and other formal or informal measures of an individual’s skills in situational and/or community-based settings. A functional vocational evaluation can be completed by personnel from the school, Vocational Rehabilitation, or community partners.

Age of Majority

The age of majority is when a student obtains the rights of any Iowa citizen and is legally responsible for his or her own decision, including educational decisions.

In Iowa, a student reaches the age of majority when:

  • The student turns 18 years old;
  • The student gets married; and/or
  • A student under 18 years old is tried, convicted, and sentenced as an adult and is confined in an adult correctional facility.

Note: The student’s rights to make educational decisions transfer during the period of incarceration.

Additional information on the Age of Majority is available online on the Iowa Department of Education website and on the Resources page.

Transfer of Rights

When a student reaches the age of majority, their educational rights are transferred to them. Prior to the transfer of rights to the student:

  • Beginning at least one year prior to the student’s 18th birthday (effective practice would suggest beginning at age 14) or at the time of the student’s marriage/incarceration, the student and parents must be informed of the transfer of rights and date of the notice must be documented in the IEP.

At the point of the transfer of rights to the student:

  • When the student reaches the age of majority, districts must provide notice to parents and students that the rights have been transferred.
    • This notice does not have to be sent to the parents if the student is incarcerated in an adult prison.
    • Documentation of notification should be kept in the student’s educational record. The Transfer of Rights notification letter may also be generated in the ACHIEVE system, and documentation of notification sent noted in the system.

If rights have not transferred to the student:

  • In special cases (e.g., the establishment of a guardianship or another individual has been appointed to represent the educational interests of an eligible individual) educational rights do not transfer to the student.
  • The LEA/AEA should obtain a copy of the legal documentation regarding who represents the educational interests of the eligible student.
  • IEP should reflect the reason why the rights did not transfer to the student.

Additional information on Transfer of Rights is available on the Iowa Department of Education Page.  Specifically, the Transfer of Rights Decision Tree/Chart is helpful in determining special situations.

Additional information is also available on our Resources page.

Transition Planning Components within IEPs

To address and support transition planning with the student, the IEP team must address additional components within an IEP for transition-age students (beginning the year the student will turn 14 years old or sooner as determined appropriate).

Additional IEP Team Members


In addition to the required IEP team members, starting with the first transition IEP, the student must be invited to attend the IEP meeting to participate in their transition planning. IDEA requires that students be invited to their IEP meeting if the purpose of the meeting is the consideration of postsecondary goals and needed transition services.

If the student does not attend (by their choice or their parents), the LEA must take steps to ensure that the individual’s preferences and interests are considered in the development of the IEP. For example, the LEA could interview the student prior to the IEP meeting and incorporate the information into the IEP, or the student could prepare a statement or some form of presentation to be shared with the IEP team as they are developing the IEP.

Representative from Outside Agencies

IDEA also requires that any agency that is likely to be responsible for providing or paying for transition services be invited to the meeting. Parent consent is needed to invite representatives from an outside agency to the meeting. If a representative from an outside agency has been invited to the IEP meeting to support transition planning, their name(s) must be documented on the meeting notice.

IDEA does not require any further action if an agency representative is unable to attend. Effective practice, however, would encourage the LEA to find other means for the agency representative to provide input to the IEP.

Student Strengths, Interests, and Preferences

The IEP team must include information on the student’s interests and preferences that relate to the student’s postsecondary expectations for living, learning, and working. It is important that the interests and preferences be from the student’s point of view.

Transition Assessments and Results

Transition assessments are used to collect and gather relevant information on a student’s interests, preferences, strengths, and needs as they relate to the student’s postsecondary expectations for living, learning, and working.

Transition assessments should answer the following questions:

  1. What are the student’s postsecondary expectations in the areas of living, learning, and working?
  2. What are the essential knowledge, habits, attitudes, and skills that any individual needs for the student’s desired postsecondary expectations?
  3. What are the student’s current attitudes, habits, basic skills, critical thinking, and application skills?
  4. What is the discrepancy between the essential skills and the current skills?

When collecting transition assessment data, it is important teams use the RIOT (Review, Interview, Observe, Test/Task) process.  Transition assessments may include formal and informal assessments. It is important to get input from the student, their family, school personnel, other relevant stakeholders such as adult agencies, related services personnel, and members of the IEP team.

IEP teams can use existing information such as:

  • Information from general education classes, district-wide career and college planning activities (e.g. ICAP)
  • Input from community members, organizations and adult agencies such as employers, vocational rehabilitation counselors, and disability support service providers

If a team does not have sufficient existing information, it may be necessary to gather new information. If this assessment meets the IDEA’s definition of an evaluation, and it requires more than reviewing existing data, obtain parental consent for reevaluation.

NOTE: In Letter to Olex, OSEP stated that, as a general rule, parental consent is not required for the age-appropriate transition assessments required by 34 C.F.R. § 300.320(b)(1), unless they "are part of an initial evaluation or reevaluation." OSEP stated: [Generally,] parental consent is not required prior to conducting an age-appropriate transition assessment because the purpose of the assessment is to develop appropriate postsecondary IEP goals and not to determine whether a child has or continues to have a disability and the nature and extent of the special education and related services that the child needs.

An IEP must document transition assessment information for each area (living, working, and learning) and must include the:

  • Information sources: the individuals who provided the assessment information, the assessment method, and/or the assessments used. For example, listing student interviews or employer observation provides both the source (student, employer) and the method (interview, observation).
  • Results: the specific data that was gathered through the assessment, including the specific skills the student could/could not do or specific test scores. If test scores are used, interpretation of the scores in terms of the targeted postsecondary expectation should be provided

All assessment results relevant to the pursuit of the student’s postsecondary expectations for living, learning, and working should be incorporated into the IEP. The transition results should provide adequate information to determine that the postsecondary area was sufficiently assessed and whether the student has any need(s) for special education services, supports, or activities in the postsecondary area.

Postsecondary Expectations

A postsecondary expectation statement must be written for each of the following areas: living, learning, and working.

Postsecondary expectations must:

  • Project beyond high school
  • Be based on assessment information, including the student’s interests and preferences
  • Be observable
  • Include an anticipated result in each area of living, learning, and working
  • Become more specific as a student approaches graduation and/or completion

If the IEP team determines a postsecondary expectation for living, learning, and/or working is an area of need, then the IEP must include goals, services, or activities to address the postsecondary area.

Teachers will code a post secondary expectation category or categories for each area of living, learning and working. This will enable the ACHIEVE system to provide districts with data on how increased efforts in postsecondary transition are impacting outcomes for students with IEPs:


  • Independent Living without Supports (age appropriate: dorm, apartment, etc.)
  • Living in the Community with Supports
  • Living with Family Member(s)
  • Living within a Supportive Residential Setting
  • Other


  • 4-year Private College
  • 4-year Public College
  • Active Military
  • Community College
  • Dayhab Program
  • Informal Ongoing Education
  • Job Corps
  • Other Postsecondary Program
  • Registered Apprenticeship Program
  • Other


  • Active Military
  • Full-Time Employment
  • Informal Work
  • Part-Time Employment
  • Self Employed
  • Other

Course of Study

The course of study must include:

  • An indication of whether the learner is working towards an Iowa High School Diploma or a Certificate
    • In Iowa, the minimum graduation requirements for a regular high school diploma are: four years of English, three years of Math, three years of Social Studies, and three years of Science (often referred to as 4-3-3-3) and the completion of district PE expectations. The district may establish policies and procedures that permit students receiving special education services to complete 4-3-3-3 requirements in unique, individualized manners
  • Any adjustments to the district’s standard graduation/completion requirements must be supported by district policy, and documented in the IEP. The revised criteria for completion should be rigorous and clearly measurable
  • For learners working towards a regular diploma, current status toward the completion of the requirements/credits in order to meet the target graduation date are documented
  • A target graduation/completion date (the date that the student is expected to have completed the program requirements, including specified courses and activities)
  • A list of any additional courses that are not already included in the graduation/completion requirements and are necessary for the student to pursue their postsecondary expectations
  • A list of any activities that the student needs to accomplish in order to pursue their postsecondary expectations

NOTE: Transition is a multi-year process; all needs may not be addressed in the current IEP but may be included in the course of study for a future IEP.


When developing a secondary transition IEP, the IEP team must ensure that the annual goals support and align with the student’s postsecondary expectations. All areas of postsecondary expectations must have a goal and/or service/activity unless information from the transition assessment indicated there is no need for additional support.

Services, Support, Activities, and Agency Linkages

The IEP must include descriptions of the supports, services, and activities (including agency linkages) necessary for the student to pursue their individual course of study and postsecondary expectations in the areas of living, learning, and working.

4+ Services

When the completion of the graduation requirements applicable to all children will not adequately support an eligible individual’s movement from school to post-school activities and are deemed necessary for the provision of a FAPE, 4+ services may be considered by the IEP team.

The purpose of the 4+ services is to fulfill unmet transition needs resulting from the student’s disability as identified in the student’s IEP. 4+ services are part of a district’s secondary program and the resident district is responsible to provide the appropriate services for the eligible individual.

An IEP team must use the student’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance PLAAFP), including transition assessments, the individual’s post-secondary expectations, and status within the course of study to inform the need for 4+ services.

NOTE: Students who have graduated with a regular high school diploma are no longer eligible for FAPE and therefore are not eligible for 4+ services.

Potential Locations for 4+ Services

4+ programs and services may be located in a high school or in another setting such as a community college, in the community through a collaborative program with Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS), or in the community through other providers.

Community College Campuses: Several community college campuses in Iowa offer secondary special education programs and the intent of these programs is to provide LEAs with additional options for meeting the needs of students with disabilities and to ensure the students receive a FAPE.

Generally, there are three reasons that an IEP team might decide to send a student with disabilities to a secondary program on a community college campus:

  1. The student will go on to college, but her or his learning characteristics and generalization skills necessitate time in the actual setting to be successful.
  2. The student will go on to college but needs to learn specific study/accommodation skills in the actual setting.
  3. The student may not be successful independently at a college setting, but with the support, he/she will gain specific career and technical skills that will provide for a stronger employment outcome.

Collaborative Program with IVRS: 4+ Services may be located in the community through a collaborative program with Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services or in the community through other providers.

For additional information on 4+ Services, including contracting, transportation, housing, materials, and supplies, please see the Iowa Department of Education Guidance on 4+ Services.

Post-secondary Summary Information

When a student exits special education due to high school graduation or upon reaching maximum age (21yrs), the IEP team must complete the Summary for Post-secondary Living, Learning and Working (PSS). The IEP team must ensure the student is involved in the development of either summary document.

The PSS contains a summary of the learner’s academic achievement and functional performance, including recommendations on how to assist the learner in meeting post-secondary goals. An IEP team may consider using the PSS at any point during a student’s senior year. The summary is not required for students who dropout of high school, but it is recommended that the form be completed.

Purposes of the PSS:

  • Provides learners and families with a brief description of the supports and services provided in high school in preparation for the learner’s targeted post-secondary expectations
  • Provides linkages recommended for the learner to pursue the targeted post-secondary expectations and resources to contact if something doesn’t work as planned
  • Provides a document for students to use with post-secondary agencies to provide a brief overview of supports and services received in high school (For example, Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services will use this form to assist the learner in making the appropriate arrangements for accommodations and support services).