Student-Led Decision-Making in Schools

This is the second blog in a series of blog posts on secondary transition from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS).

Successful Transitions for All Blog Series - Post 2 - Student-Led Decision-Making in Schools

Expect, Engage, Empower: Successful Transitions for All!

Blog Post #2

Educators, vocational rehabilitation professionals and families must engage students with disabilities in secondary transition services.

Secondary transition is more successful when students take part in the planning process. Successful secondary transition planning includes:

  • High expectations for students,
  • A student-centered approach,
  • Social emotional behavioral learning supports,
  • Supported decision-making, and
  • Respecting the student, family, and their informed decisions.

Self Determination

An excellent way to promote high expectations, increase independence and improve social emotional learning is through the teaching of self-determination skills.

Self-determination and self-advocacy skills improve decision-making, goal setting, problem solving, self-monitoring and self-regulation. In teaching self-determination skills, it is important to embrace diversity and to take into consideration cultural differences and nuances.

When given opportunities early, students with disabilities can develop and master the self-determination, self-advocacy and decision-making skills critical to success in their daily activities and in their individualized education program (IEP) meetings.

Student Participation in the IEP Process

Meaningful student participation in the IEP process is just one way to help students practice and build self-determination skills.

Research suggests that the following practices are important to bolstering students’ capacities to set their own goals and developing the abilities to achieve them:

  • Ensure IEPs are aligned with the challenging academic content standards.
  • Provide students with disabilities access to rigorous coursework , career and technical education, and vocational rehabilitation to explore pre-employment transition services and career interests and to inform IEPs and transition planning.
  • Implement the specially designed instruction noted in students’ IEPs and assistive technology, related services and other accommodations or supports the student needs to make meaningful progress towards being prepared for their post-secondary goals.
  • Ensure school personnel have the tools, resources and support to develop and implement IEPs with fidelity.

An IEP must focus on the student’s interests, strengths and needs. Suggested student-centered approaches include:

  • Treat the student as an individual, rather than as a diagnosis or disability.
  • Ensure that goals are developed based on the student, rather than other external factors.
  • Use plain language, rather than professional jargon, to communicate with students and families.
  • Include individuals who have a deep knowledge of the student’s academic, personal, and social history, and involve professionals with expertise in pertinent services, such as vocational rehabilitation programs and other adult related programs.

Supporting Students with Disabilities

When supporting students with disabilities, schools and partnering State VR agencies, should use effective practices, such as:

Supporting students with disabilities and providing them with resources to make informed choices is crucial for them to make their own decisions. Self-determination means that students can speak for themselves, solve problems, set goals, make decisions, possess self-awareness and demonstrate independence.

Agency Collaboration

Professionals are the key to seamless secondary transition of students with disabilities based on how successfully they work together and how well they work with students and families.

Secondary transition planning and the development of IEPs can be strengthened through coordination of all stakeholders, specifically regarding collaboration between state educational agencies, local educational agencies and state vocational rehabilitation programs. Through these agency collaborations, students may engage in opportunities to explore their post-secondary goals that can better inform their chosen career pathway, curriculum and course selection, work-based learning experiences, and summer programming while in high school.

Thank you!

Valerie C. Williams
Office of Special Education Program
Carol L. Dobak
Deputy Commissioner
Delegated the authority to perform the
functions and duties of the Commissioner
Rehabilitation Services Administration

Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

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