Summary of Secondary Transition Services for Special Education Students in Washington County Schools

The transition from school to adult life is a critical juncture for students with disabilities. Federal law requires that transition planning be part of the IEP process when students reach secondary school. The transition services included in the plan must include instruction, related services, community experiences and the development of employment and other adult living objectives.

The members of Stepping Up Moving Forward are doing research to help parents and the larger community understand the types of transition services which are available to students with disabilities in the schools in Washington County. The purpose of this research is to help the residents of Washington County gain a better understanding of the types of supports which are available to students and families in our community as they transition to a life beyond high school.

In late 2012, a questionnaire containing 8 questions about the content of Transition Programs was sent to each of the 10 school districts in Washington County.

Those Districts are:

  • Chisago Lakes Area Schools
  • Forest Lake Area Schools
  • Hastings Public Schools
  • Mahtomedi Public Schools
  • North St. Paul, Maplewood, Oakdale Area Public Schools
  • Northeast Metro 916 – Intermediate School District 916
  • South Washington County Schools
  • Stillwater Area Schools
  • Valley Crossing Community School
  • White Bear Lake Area Schools

The information provided here includes:

  1. The introductory letter sent to Special Education Directors in each of the school districts,
  2. The survey questions, and 
  3. The responses received from special education staff. 

NOTE:  The verbatim answers submitted by responding Districts are reported here. If you're looking for the answers from a particular District, but there is no information reported, that means the District did not respond to the questionnaire.  This information will be continually updated as more responses are received. 

(1) Introductory Letter

Dear ________:

We write on behalf of Stepping Up Moving Forward (SUMF), a network of parents and citizens working to improve supports for and understanding of individuals with disabilities in Washington County. We manage ConnectWC, a website which compiles comprehensive information to help disabled individuals and their families in Washington County navigate our complicated system of education services and social supports. The ConnectWC website is at: http://www.connectwc.org/

Based on the number of hits the ConnectWC website has gotten and the feedback we've received from residents throughout Washington County -- and other parts of the metro area -- we know that our soup-to-nuts website is an extremely useful and much needed resource for families in our community.

The website includes a Special Education tab. The tab is at this link: http://www.connectwc.org/education.html. The website contains information about the special education programs offered in each of the Washington County school districts and we are adding summaries of the offerings in district transition programs.

This is where you come in. To make sure our information about transition programs is detailed and accurate, we need your help. We've written a list of questions about transition programs which we're giving to each school district in Washington County. We ask that you answer these questions. When we receive your answers, we will compile the information from responding districts in a comprehensive Q & A format on the website.

You may answer the questions on the attached word document or go to this link on Constant Contact:

http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07e6gr9athh7uukiy9/a002h7ux8c9p/questions. We ask that you answer these questions by Friday, December 14th.

Because transition programs involve collaborative efforts, we anticipate that some of your answers may refer to programs offered by community providers such as vocational rehabilitation services. If you have limited information about the content of community provider programs, we ask that you refer us an individual we may contact at the relevant agency for follow-up.

We genuinely appreciate your time in answering these questions. We believe that if we work together to provide this important information to the community, we can build stronger community connections and we will all be better positioned to meet the changing educational needs of disabled students in Washington County.

Thank you,

Stepping Up Moving Forward/Education Leadership Team:

Casey vanderBent
Melissa Douglas
Angela Burke
Susan Kane
Melva Radtke

(2) Survey Questions

Q: What criteria does the District use to determine which students are eligible for transition services after Grade 12?

Q: Federal law requires that transition goals in an IEP must address: training; education; employment; and where appropriate, independent living skills.

Q: What programs or classes does the school district offer to help students meet their goals in each of these areas?

Q: Who offers these programs? Are they taught by school district staff, by staff in an intermediate school district or by another organization?

Q: How many teachers and support staff (FTEs) are employed by the School District to work in Transition programs? What is the ratio of support staff to students?

Q: What community organizations serve as partners with the district in transition programs?

Q: What role does Intermediate District 916 – or other similar educational entities-- play in the District's transition programs? What transition-related programs do they offer?

Q: What role do Vocational Rehabilitation providers play in the District's Transition programs?

Q: What kind of information does the District collect about Transition Programs to guide decision making?

Q: How do you report overall program outcomes – not just outcomes for individual students?

(3) Responses Received From Special Education Staff

Q: What criteria does the District use to determine which students are eligible for transition services after Grade 12?

Hastings Public Schools – ISD 200
The transitional needs of students are considered on an individual basis. It varies depending on the needs of the student. Some examples of data used to determine what services a student may need are (but not limited to): formal and informal transition surveys, student input, parent input, observations, evaluation report, testing results and staff feedback. Additionally, information from programs that provide transition services (e.g. ISD 917 or State of Minnesota Vocational Rehabilitation) may be used to with students and parents to help explain some of the services that may be available to help an individual student's needs.

South Washington County Schools – ISD 833
In South Washington County Schools, each individual student's IEP team makes decisions about eligibility for Transition Services after high school. Students who have needs in the areas of employment, post-secondary, and independent living may benefit from transition services. IEP teams consider the student's disability and how it impacts their potential employment and post-secondary training goals and their participation in the greater community. Decisions are based upon the results of educational evaluations, progress towards IEP goals, participation and progress in the general education curriculum, and the goals and desires of the individual students and their families. In addition to Transition Services within the school district, outside agencies will also be considered in the attempt to find the most appropriate level of support for students as they make the transition to adulthood. Decisions are student-centered.

White Bear Lake Area Schools – ISD 624
These are individual decisions made by a student's IEP Team. Basic eligibility is predicated on a student having significant, ongoing needs in one or more of the transition areas. Eligibility is NOT based on specific disability label.

Stillwater Area Schools – ISD 834
Age appropriate assessments in the areas of work, recreation and leisure, home living, community participation, and postsecondary training and learning opportunities are used to determine each student individual transition needs.

Q: Federal law requires that transition goals in an IEP must address: training; education; employment; and where appropriate, independent living skills.
- What programs or classes does the school district offer to help students meet their goals in each of these areas?
- Who offers these programs?
- Are they taught by school district staff, by staff in an intermediate school district or by another organization?

Hastings Public Schools – ISD 200
Hastings Schools ISD 200 – offers several programs and classes to help students reach goals in each of these areas.  Hastings offers a Work Experience Seminar and On the Job Training program and several of our classes incorporate community experiences into their courses.

We offer a class called REACH which has a small number of students who spend a series of weeks working on all areas of transition – the experiences in class range from cooking, to developing a recreation and leisure plan to practicing completing job applications and more. The delivery model of REACH has several special education teachers working in partnership with general education teachers and community members to provide services and deliver instruction around the transition areas of the IEP.

In addition, we partner with Dakota County Community Technical College (DCTC) so that some of students receive training in a variety of vocational trades prior to leaving high school. These students usually attend half of their day at Hastings High School (HHS) and the half at DCTC. Some of the courses they take at DCTC include: computer networking and repair, graphic communications, video game animation and design, medical careers, heavy duty truck technology and more.

The State of Minnesota Department of Vocational Rehabilitation has a worker assigned to our school and several of students work on a one-on-one basis with her to help with training, education and employment goals. HIRED is another organization with a presence in our school that helps our students with daily living and job skills.

We are actively working to develop more partnerships with a variety of agencies to provide increased services within the school for our students.

South Washington County Schools – ISD 833
Successful transition to adulthood is a goal for all of our students. We offer data-driven, standards-based classes in language arts, math, science and social studies to help students build the core competencies that they need to be successful in a variety of post-secondary settings.

In the area of employment and training for students ages 14-21, the District offers sequential courses in employability skills including job seeking and job retention skills. Students may participate in the Practical Assessment and Exploration System (PAES) Lab, a vocational assessment that allows them to explore their interests and aptitudes in five different career areas. Students have the opportunity to receive credit for work experience in both supported and competitive settings. Throughout the district, there are a number of School-based Enterprises, like School Stores and Cafés, which allow students to gain desired work behaviors. This year South Washington County Schools began a relationship with Goodwill-Easter Seals (GES) providing a situational assessment and work experience for students. This is a collaborative effort between the school district, GES and Vocational Rehabilitation Services. Upon completion of the situational assessment, students may have the opportunity to enter a short-term, specialized training program in a variety of different career areas including retail, construction, and banking. Students have the opportunity to pursue similar career paths through the Century College 916 program.

In the area of Independent Living, courses are offered in transportation, cooking, home living, personal care and grooming, and interpersonal relationships. Additionally, at the high school level, health and fitness are a focus through general physical education classes along with adapted physical education. Students in the Transition Program have the opportunity to participate in the P.H.D program offered through a partnership with the YMCA. The P.H.D. program is focused on physical wellness, health and diet.

Extra-curricular sport participation is offered to students at the high and Transition Program.  High School students can choose to participate in adapted sports, like soccer and softball, as part of the Thunderbolts. After the age of 18, students are provided information about and connected with the Blazing Stars and Special Olympics.

Extra-Curricular activities, clubs and organizations, are accessible and supported for involvement for all students. District high schools have opportunities, like Circle of Friends, which promote inclusion and relationships between students in special and general education. Currently, the District is in the planning stages of developing an integrated social support group for 18-21+ year olds.

- Who offers these programs? Are they taught by school district staff, by staff in an intermediate school district or by another organization?  Licensed staff members teach the all the courses offered by the school district. Paraprofessional staff members also support many of these courses. Each district secondary school and the Transition Program have Vocational Coordinators on staff. Coordination of work experiences and vocational-focused opportunities take place at both the site and district level.

Courses offered through 916 are taught by Century College Instructors with special education support provided by on-site Student Support staff.

White Bear Lake Area Schools – ISD 624
This differs somewhat from grade to grade, but we offer transition life skills classes, and work based learning classes from grade 9 through age 21. Specific classes programs in our 18-21 program include: Healthy Living, Functional Math, Functional Reading; Work-Based Learning in the Community; Ingredients (cooking); Post-Secondary Planning; Current Events; Work Box System (similar to PAES); Community Based Instruction tied to relevent course work; Women's Group; Men's Group; Community Presentations from ARC/Face to Face/UM Extension Services; Numerous community job sites; participation in 916 CTE courses; online academic coursework through APEX; participation in Ed2Go courses; participation in Adult Basic Education courses; participation in Goodwill Easter Seals training programs.

- Who offers these programs? Are they taught by school district staff, by staff in an intermediate school district or by another organization? We offer as many of these courses/program within our District, using District resources, as possible. However, it is not possible to meet the full range of student needs without accessing community partnerships, Intermediate 916 programs, and other contracted services.

Stillwater Area Schools – ISD 834
We address all these goals in the development of student's transition plans.

- What programs or classes does the school district offer to help students meet their goals in each of these areas?
A variety of classes and individually designed programs are offered to meet the work, recreation and leisure, home living, community participation, and postsecondary training needs of each student as designed by the IEP team

- Who offers these programs? Are they taught by school district staff, by staff in an intermediate school district or by another organization?
The Stillwater Area Public Schools and their community partners provide transition services and programs.

Q: How many teachers and support staff (FTEs) are employed by the School District to work in Transition programs? What is the ratio of support staff to students?

Hastings Public Schools – ISD 200
All of our special education teacher assist with transition. We currently have 14.0 FTE special education teachers. We currently have 13.5 paraprofessionals in our building. The ratio of support staff to students varies depending on the needs of the students. We have a paraprofessional to support our students at DCTC as well.

South Washington County Schools – ISD 833
Transition programming begins in the high school at the age of 14. The high school student to staff ratio is approximately 17:1 for the general special education population and 12:1 for the DCD, EBD and ASD populations. At the Transition Program, the student to staff ratio is approximately 12:1. Support staff ratios vary based on the needs and the programming of the student population.

White Bear Lake Area Schools – ISD 624
What is the ratio of support staff to students? In the 18-21 program we currently have 23 students; 3.5 teachers; .5 work coordinator; .6 school psychologist; .1 speech clinician; .1 school nurse; and 26 hours of para/job coach/nurse parasupport.

Stillwater Area Schools – ISD 834
Educational transition services and programs are provided by highly qualified Stillwater Area Public School staff.

Q: What community organizations serve as partners with the district in transition programs?

Hastings Public Schools – ISD 200
We have several local businesses that help our students develop employment skills. In addition we work with the MN Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, LifeWorks, Minnesota Center for Independent Living, PACER, Dakota County, HIRED, Dakota County CTIC, Goodwill, local nursing homes, elementary schools, local mental health providers, and others. We are forging partnerships with groups such as Rotary and Kiwanis as well.

South Washington County Schools – ISD 833
South Washington County Schools partners with a number of community businesses and organizations to provide transition programming for our students. Our relationships with Vocational Rehabilitation Services and County Social Services are very strong. We work with these service providers on both an individual student level and in innovative ways to impact our greater school community.

As previously mentioned, we work closely with Goodwill-Easter Seals for work experience, as well as employment training. We are beginning to explore programs through both Goodwill-Easter Seals and Northern Lights College to strengthen our relationships with local community colleges, particularly Inver Hills Community College and Century Community College. This will assist our students by providing supports and creating an awareness of how to effectively navigate a post-secondary college setting.

South Washington County School District is a full participant in the Washington County Community Transition Interagency Committee (CTIC). This committee is comprised of professionals from school districts, county, and state agencies that work to fully integrate youth and adults with disabilities into the greater community. One of our district's members has served in the role of Treasurer for this organization for several years. The cornerstone activity that CTIC organizes is Career Skills Day. Career Skills Day is an opportunity for highschool and transition-aged students from participating districts to compete in job seeking skills. Awards are earned for interviewing skills, general knowledge of employability skills, and job application completion. In addition to the competition, students have an opportunity to hear a speaker, network with one another and attend a resource fair.

Currently, the District partners with a number of local businesses to provide students with non-paid training and job-shadowing opportunities. Community business professionals provide mentoring by serving as guest speakers and interviewers to provide mock interview experiences to students. Additionally, in this past year we have partnered with two local businesses to provide students with competitive, supported employment opportunities. This is an exciting and successful new venture for our district.

The Cottage Grove Chamber of Commerce has been a consistent partner with the district's transition program. The Chamber has provided forums to communicate the district's goals and vision for our students to the local business community. They have included our students in initiatives that offer students an opportunity to gain work skills and to be a part of a community effort. The Chamber of Commerce has served as a conduit for connecting business professionals with educators to enrich the educational experiences of our students.

The relationships and partnerships that the district has fostered with the local business community and organizations are vital to promoting access and entry for our students in the greater community.

White Bear Lake Area Schools – ISD 624
We are very fortunate to have an extensive network of community partners. Each year we honor our community partners at a Community Partner Recognition Event. The past two years we have had more than 20 established partnerships with local businesses.

Stillwater Area Schools – ISD 834
We partner with a variety of partners listed in The Washington County Transition Resource Manual.

Q: What role does Intermediate District 916 – or other similar educational entities -- play in the District's transition programs? What transition-related programs do they offer?

Hastings Public Schools – ISD 200
The answer to this question is embedded in the above descriptions.

South Washington County Schools – ISD 833
Intermediate District 916 plays a variety of roles in the district's transition programming for students. Currently, students are able to enroll in courses offered at the Career and Technical Center located at Century College. Course offerings are available in a number of career and vocational areas, including Cosmetology, Construction, Computer Hardware Repair and Networking, and Automotive Dismantling and Repair. Students are eligible to enroll in these classes beginning at the end of their junior year. Students have the opportunity for dual-enrollment; they receive high school credit with the potential to matriculate credits at the college level. Students in the transition program may begin or continue a program of study initiated while in high school.

South Washington County School District is a part of the Intermediate District 916 Consortium, and therefore fully participates in the Summer Institutes offered for staff development in Career and Technical Education for vocationally licensed teachers, and the Joint Advisory Committee made up of education stakeholders and business and community leaders. Through the Consortium, South Washington County School District accesses Perkins Funding, a key source of funding for Career and Technical Education programming. Perkins Funding supports many of the programs and resources that extend vocational exploration and training to special populations.

White Bear Lake Area Schools – ISD 624
Intermediate 916 provides programming for students/student needs that we are not able to meet with existing resources in our own District. Examples include providing 18-21 services for students with severe/profound disabilities and involved medical conditions; career and technical programming; and PSEO opportunities at Century College for students that quality.

Stillwater Area Schools – ISD 834
Opportunities to attend District 916 training programs at the Career and Tech program areavailable to Stillwater Area Public School transition students. Some transition students may also access other 916 programs, if appropriate based on individual education plan team decisions.

Q: What role do Vocational Rehabilitation providers play in the District's Transition programs?

Hastings Public Schools – ISD 200
The answer to this question is embedded in the above descriptions.

South Washington County Schools – ISD 833
The vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRS counselor) works with the school District in the high school and Transition Program. Each fall, the VRS counselor establishes a calendar for meeting with each building on how to communicate with staff, students and families. Most VRS referrals take place two years before graduation or before exiting a high school setting to continue with the Transition Program. Our school staff and VRS work together with students to create a plan for future success after a release of records is obtained. Documentation for the student's disability is obtained through the student's school assessment, a psychological report, and/or a medical provider's statement/records. A student is eligible for VRS through the following:

  • Documentation of a physical or mental condition that causes a substantial impediment to employment
  • Evidence that the individual requires VRS services in order to prepare for, secure, obtain, or retain employment 
  • The presumption that the individual is able to benefit from VRS services

VRS services are individualized for each student. The services include helping students with setting individual employment goals and identifying the steps and services necessary for achieving these goals. Services may include interest and ability testing, informational interviewing or career exploration services. A student's written plan may include on-the-job-training or post-secondary schooling. Other services include payment for materials and equipment, assistive technology, job placement, and job seeking skills training.

Ongoing communication between school staff and the VRS counselor is important for student success. The VRS counselor is invited to the IEP meetings of students who may be eligible for services. VRS staff work with each student and their IEP team to create an individualized employment plan that helps students make informed choices about their job goals and to identify which services are needed and who will provide them. With the right planning and supports, every student can set and achieve goals for competitive employment opportunities which may include working and living in the community.

White Bear Lake Area Schools – ISD 624
We work very closely with our assigned VR worker.  He is onsite in our 18-21 program one day each week, and regularly meets with students. He attends IEP meetings for students that have qualified for VR services. He works with students/families to have a plan in place for after they leave our District. He explains his services clearly to families. He has provided monetary resources to support student involvement/placement in a summer work program and at Goodwill Easter Seals Retail Training Program.

Stillwater Area Schools – ISD 834
Stillwater transition program works collaboratively with Vocational Rehabilitation services in the meeting of individual goals, accessing community training programs, identifying vocational, transportation, and housing needs.

Q: What kind of information does the District collect about Transition Programs to guide decision-making?

Hastings Public Schools – ISD 200
Some examples of data we collect are (but not limited to):

  • Student demographics
  • Disability area
  • Special Education setting
  • Parent & student satisfaction with services
  • Availability
  • Costs
  • Location
  • Available services

South Washington County Schools – ISD 833
Career preparatory courses, programs, and activities are offered that provide the basic skills needed for success in a career field along with the prerequisites for further training and professional growth. Outcome results of participation in these courses, programs and activities assist in assessing needs that exist. School and/or community professionals assist students through a career planning process (i.e. assessments, career portfolio) incorporating their career goals, interests, and abilities. Career preparatory courses, programs and activities align with labor market trends and in evaluating what skills are necessary to engage in competitive employment opportunities. The District is expanding collaboration with employers and community partners to plan and design career preparatory courses, programs, and activities that support quality standards, practices, and experiences. Agencies, outside of the District, are invited to share services with students and families to create an awareness of additional supports available and how to access services outside of the school setting. This allows support for students and families in understanding how community resources and non-work experiences can assist in future planning in each of the transitions areas.

White Bear Lake Area Schools – ISD 624
(Answered the other questions, but omitted an answer for this one.) 

Stillwater Area Schools – ISD 834
Transition program decisions are based on the needs identified in individual educational plans as determined by the IEP team.

Q: How do you report overall program outcomes – not just outcomes for individual students?

Hastings Public Schools – ISD 200
We report our transition information via the MNCIMP process to the State of Minnesota and to our stakeholders. It is discussed at our local SEAC meetings and with district administration.

South Washington County Schools – ISD 833
Graduation and post-school outcome data are used to evaluate current programs and services in order to make recommendations for future programs and services linked to positive post-school outcomes.

Post-school surveys are conducted with students who have graduated and shared with the Minnesota Department of Education.

The District systematically collects data on school completion rates and post-school outcomes and uses the information to plan improvements in educational and post-school programs and services.

The District has established and implemented high school graduation standards, options and decisions that are based on meaningful measures of student achievement and learning.

The District has developed a work behavior rating scale to assess student performance in job and job training skills. The rating scale evaluates soft skills along with job specific tasks as observed in the job and job training skills area.

White Bear Lake Area Schools – ISD 624
We collect and aggragate information on post-secondary outcomes (i.e., percentage of students employed [full or part time/supported or competitive] and/or attending a post secondary program).

Stillwater Area Schools – ISD 834
Program data is reviewed regularly with the Transition Program staff and through the Transition Advisory Council. It is also reviewed through the Minnesota Department of Education Continuous Improvement Monitoring Process.