Preservice Transition Competencies

The Transition Competencies for Preservice Special Education Programs (PDF, 8 pages, 2014) were developed by the Next Steps NH project to enhance special education teacher candidate knowledge and skills about transition. There are six transition core competencies and 31 corresponding key elements. The standards are not required for state certification, but are intended to enhance curriculum efforts by providing a set of important transition skills and knowledge for beginning special educators.

Transition competencies for preservice special education programs

8-page Transition Competencies PDFThe preservice transition competencies and key elements were developed by the Next Steps NH Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) subgroup and reviewed by the NSNH leadership team. Special education faculty at Keene State College, Keene, NH, also reviewed these standards for use and applicability.

Justification for competencies

In order to support positive transition outcomes for youth in NH, it is imperative that we address critical transition knowledge and skills at both the inservice and preservice levels (Morningstar, 2013). According to Benitez, Morningstar, and Frey (2009), secondary special educators reported that they often lack foundational knowledge and skills in transition and career development planning and programming, affecting their ability to plan for individual student transitions (Benitez, Morningstar, Frey 2009). To this end, the NH Department of Education, Office of Special Education Next Steps New Hampshire (NSNH) project developed a set of core competencies to enhance special education teacher candidate knowledge and skills about transition.

The competencies are framed by the Taxonomy for Transition Programming (Kohler, 1996) so that competency development is addressed in a larger context of established transition program improvement areas.  The NSNH project also utilizes the Taxonomy to frame transition professional development in NH high schools.

Competency development process

The Council for Exceptional Children’s Advanced Special Education Transition Specialist Standards (2013) was used as the primary guide for the development of the competencies. These statements were adapted for preservice special education. Additionally, the National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center (2011) identified key transition competencies for secondary special educators in What Secondary Special Education Teachers Need to Know. These national competencies were cross-referenced and verified with the NH Transition Competencies for Preservice Special Education Programs. The competencies and key elements were developed by the Next Steps NH Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) subgroup and reviewed by the NSNH Leadership Team. Special education faculty at Keene State College, Keene, NH, also reviewed these standards for use and applicability.

We provide a reference to the Council for Exceptional Education’s Special Educator Initial Preparation Standards (2012) for each key element. These standards are widely accepted as the framework for preparing special education teachers.

This is an evolving document, and we hope to engage in further revision and validation. Please contact Steve Bigaj with feedback and questions.

A. Student-Focused Planning competencies

Student-focused planning competencies support the development of practices that use assessment information and facilitate students’ self-determination to develop individual education programs based on students’ post-school goals.

A1. Use information from a variety of transition assessments to inform student-centered transition and career development planning.

Key Elements

  • A1.1 Understand a variety of formal and informal transition assessments and procedures used to identify students strengths, preferences, interests, and needs critical to transition outcomes (postsecondary education, employment, independent living).
  • A1.2 Conduct informal transition assessments and modify to meet individual student needs.
  • A1.3 Communicate transition assessment information so that the results are understood by students, families, and professionals.

A2. Develop student-centered transition IEPs that ensure student voice in goals, processes, and outcomes.

Key Elements

  • A2.1 Write measurable postsecondary goals that reflect student interests and preferences.
  • A2.2 Write measurable annual goals and objectives related to measurable postsecondary goals.
  • A2.3 Design transition services and course of study to achieve postsecondary goals and objectives.
  • A2.4 Align instructional activities and related activities with postsecondary goals and objectives.
  • A2.5 Knowledge of the importance and elements of a student-centered summary of performance.
  • A2.6 Knowledge of state and federal transition requirements and how to incorporate them into an IEP.


B. Student Development competency

Student development competencies support the development of practices that emphasize life, employment, and occupational skill development through school-based and work-based learning experiences. Student assessment and accommodations provide a fundamental basis for student development resulting in successful transitions.

B. Design student-centered curriculum, instruction, assessments, related activities, and accommodations that will facilitate the movement toward identified post-secondary goals.

Key elements

  • B1. Knowledge of a range of post-school options (i.e., employment, postsecondary education, and independent living) to inform student-centered transition and career development planning.
  • B2. Knowledge of evidence-informed instruction, curricular resources, and practices (including Extended Learning Opportunities, ELOs) regarding transition to post-school settings.
  • B3. Knowledge of augmentative and alternative communication systems and a variety of assistive technologies that support transition and career development for individuals with disabilities.
  • B4. Knowledge of curricular resources and instructional activities that educators can use to connect general education course content to an individual’s postsecondary goals.
  • B5. Teach self-advocacy and self-determination skills to facilitate students’ understanding of their strengths and challenges.
  • B6. Articulate the importance and impact of a variety of work-based learning experiences including ELOs.

C. Interagency Collaboration competency

Collaboration competencies facilitate the involvement of school personnel, community businesses, organizations, and agencies in all aspects of transition-focused education.

C. Collaborate with stakeholders to insure and increase effective transition services, activities, supports, and outcomes for individuals with disabilities and their families.

Key elements

  • C1. Knowledge of roles and responsibilities of educators, employers, and other service providers in a variety of settings related to postsecondary outcomes.
  • C2. Articulate strategies that facilitate collaboration among transition stakeholders.
  • C3. Advocate for integrating transition content within general academic courses for individual students.
  • C4. Knowledge of how to connect students to internal school resources (e.g., technical education, school counseling) and community resources (e.g., vocational rehabilitation, mental health).
  • C5. Knowledge of how to prepare the student, family, agency representatives, and other IEP team members for the transition planning process.
  • C6. Knowledge of how to coordinate and facilitate transition planning during and after IEP meetings.
  • C7. Understand the student/family referral process for postsecondary and community services.
  • C8. Develop and maintain professional ethics in working with students, families, school personnel, community, and agency personnel.

D. Family Involvement competency

Family involvement competencies support parent and family participation in planning and delivering education and transition services. Family-focused training and family empowerment activities increase the ability of family members to work effectively with educators and other service providers.

D. Actively involve all families with sensitivity and responsiveness to each family’s cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic makeup throughout the transition decision-making and implementation process.

Key elements

  • D1. Articulate the significance of family engagement throughout the post-secondary transition planning process and how it relates to increased student success.
  • D2. Knowledge of the student and family’s cultural and environmental context and how it affects behavior and learning.
  • D3. Understand the supports necessary for families to communicate effectively and work collaboratively with educational personnel.
  • D4. Identify information for families to understand transition related education services, information on IDEA, and potential support networks and services.

E. Program Structures competency

Program structure competencies support efficient and effective delivery of transition-focused education and services, including philosophy, planning, policy, evaluation, and human resource development. The structures and attributes of a school provide the framework for a transition perspective.

E. Knowledge of program structures that use evidence-informed practices and research to establish effective programs and services.

Key elements

  • E1. Knowledge of career and technical instructional strategies, models, and curricula.
  • E2. Knowledge of transition practices, programs, and services that produce successful post-school outcomes.
  • E3. Knowledge of transition laws and policies (e.g., IDEA, Rehabilitation Act, Fair Labor Standards Act).
  • E4. Knowledge of organizations and publications relevant to the field of secondary special education and transition.