Preparing students to transition well to adulthood is a primary purpose of special education. In an effort to equip educators across Tennessee to provide exceptional transition services and supports for students with disabilities, a Vanderbilt University team is developing a unique online resource in collaboration with the Tennessee Department of Education.
Transition Tennessee (www.transitiontn.org) is a free professional development portal that brings together in one place the very best of what is known to work for promoting successful transitions for students with disabilities. The website describes the steps that educators can take—in partnership with families, communities, and agencies serving adults with disabilities—to help students identify, work toward, and achieve their post-school goals.
“We currently have five courses available on the portal,” said Rachael Jenkins, an educational consultant on the project. “Each of the courses contains a rich array of strategies, resources, and ideas to support our state in this very important work. Short, engaging lessons focus on best practices related to each topic. Case studies illustrate how these practices might be implemented with students. Videos demonstrate how these practices are being applied across the state, and downloadable resources provide helpful tools for carrying out this work.”
Courses available on the Transition Tennessee website focus on:
- Guiding Principles for Transition
- Age-Appropriate Transition Assessment
- High-Quality Transition Planning
- Pathways to Employment
- Supports and Partnerships
By November of 2017, three new courses will be added to the site:
- Pathways to Community Life
- Pathways to Postsecondary Education
- Pathways to Self-Determination
“In addition to our core team here at Vanderbilt, we worked with a number of people to develop content and structure,” said Shimul Gajjar, M.Ed., educational consultant for the project. “Blake Shearer at the Tennessee Department of Education was instrumental in the process. He helped us to determine areas of need for Tennessee teachers and to brainstorm individual lessons. During the first year, we also worked with a statewide task force that included representatives from education and adult provider settings who reviewed and provided input. A number of graduate students at Vanderbilt also worked with us to develop supplemental materials for each of the courses. Everyone involved has made a huge impact in its efficacy, and we are excited to move forward and to build upon what we’ve developed together.”
Gajjar and Jenkins will continue to expand the Transition Tennessee website and add new features and activities. Beginning in November 2017, Vanderbilt will enter into a five-year partnership with the Department of Education (Principal Investigator Erik Carter, Ph.D., Special Education). This partnership will expand upon the current online courses to include live training, technical assistance, and professional development. Webinars and a monthly e-newsletter will provide additional avenues for educators and other stakeholders to learn how to implement best practices in transition.
“As I travel across the state, I have found that professional development on preparing students for postsecondary readiness, including early work experiences, creating community partnerships, and developing high-quality transition plans, has been something that educators are asking for and needing to better serve their students,” said Blake Shearer, Director of Support Services for Student Readiness at the Tennessee Department of Education. “Transition TN provides a way for educators, who generally don’t have much free time, to have professional development at the tip of their fingertips 24/7. Since we know knowledge is power, I believe we are helping to support the powerful educators in Tennessee.”
Transition Tennessee can be accessed at www.transitiontn.org. Although the website is free, it does require registration. While the content is developed with Tennessee educators and laws in mind, the website also will be a valuable resource for educators across the country as well as parents, advocates, service providers, and others.
Transition Tennessee is a partnership among the Tennessee Department of Education, Vanderbilt University’s Department of Special Education, and the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.
For information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, 616-322-4999.
Courtney Taylor is VKC associate director of Communications and Dissemination.
Rachael Jenkins is dissemination program coordinator for TennesseeWorks.