Age-Appropriate Transition Assessments

Age-appropriate transition assessments are tools that help students identify their strengths, interests, skills, and/or knowledge needed to reach their goals for life after high school. Transition assessments can be accomplished through formal instruments or with an informal process based on data collected from a variety of sources and experiences.

Essential Elements

  • The Division on Career Development and Transition (DCDT) of the Council for Exceptional Children defines transition assessment as “… an ongoing process of collecting data on the individual’s needs, preferences, and interests as they relate to the demands of current and future working, educational, living, and personal and social environments. Assessment data serve as the common thread in the transition process and form the basis for defining goals and services to be included in the Individualized Education Program (IEP)” (p. 70-71).
  • Base measurable postsecondary goals upon age-appropriate transition assessments.
  • Determine if the transition assessments were age appropriate and were used to help the IEP team (student, teachers, evaluators, support staff) in developing the student’s measurable postsecondary goals.
  • Review the measurable postsecondary goals.  For each measurable postsecondary goal there should be evidence that at least one age-appropriate transition assessment was used that provided information on the student’s needs, taking into account his or her strengths, preferences, interests, and opportunities.
  • Show supporting transition assessment information and summaries of any transition assessments in the present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, and/or in the student’s file.
  • A copy of a completed age-appropriate transition assessment can be put in the student’s file. It must be dated, and it must clearly inform the student’s postsecondary goals.

Background Information

Overview of Requirement


The Struggle to Meet the Requirement


Explanation: Transition Assessment Is a Process

Measurable postsecondary goals and transition services must be based on the results of age-appropriate transition assessments. These can be formal or informal assessments.

Formal and informal transition assessments compared

Formal transition assessments:

  • To learn about a wide variety of skill levels in various areas (e.g., vocational, academic, social)
  • Published tests: scores that compare students to others
  • A starting point
  • Types: learning style inventories, academic achievement tests, adaptive behavior scales,  aptitude tests, interest inventories

Informal transition assessments:

  • Observing the student in various academic and work experiences
  • Talking with the student about likes and dislikes
  • Setting up experiences to allow the student to try something that that may be of interest
  • Often teacher-made, often do not result in a score

The assessments should be viewed as part of an ongoing process that will vary from student to student. There are different frameworks for the process.

Tiered framework

Here is a tiered framework that a school, department, or program might use to organize the range of transition assessments it is likely to use to meet a variety of student needs.

First Tier

The first tier includes tools that every high school student is exposed to in order to assist them in identifying career interests. These informal assessments include:

  • interest inventories
  • student dream sheet
  • guidance department software tools for career exploration or interests
  • career interest class projects
  • employment experience
  • example: Dream sheet (PDF, 2 pages)

Data gathered from these sources is often a perfectly valid representation of a student’s interests, preferences, strengths, and weaknesses. However, students with educational disabilities and at-risk students may not be able to participate effectively in these types of assessments. Issues such as reading comprehension, experience, and ineffective decision-making skills can inhibit students from completing tools like interest inventories in a manner that is truly useful. These students may need a more targeted approach, the second tier.

Second Tier

Generally, second-tier assessment tools are administered to students who have been unable to isolate specific goals or interests through the usual channels. Second-tier assessments are more personalized and often include such things as:

Combining information from the first and second tiers often provides enough information to create appropriate transition goals.

Third Tier

Third-tier assessments are used when still more specific information is needed to accurately identify the student’s needs, preferences, interests, and weaknesses. Examples are:

  • functional behavioral analysis
  • full vocational assessment
  • life skills assessment
  • results of person-centered planning
  • example: Person-centered planning


  • “Results of an informal transition interview completed with guidance counselor on October 1, 2019, indicated that John had a strong interest in working with computers.”
  • “The Transition Planning Inventory completed in advisory block on October 4, 2019, showed that Carol is in need of transition supports in the following areas in order to plan for her postsecondary goal.”
  • “The Career Matchmaker completed online on October 5, 2019 (copy of summary results in student’s file) showed a number of career choices compatible with Todd’s stated interests, which included…”
  • “A Functional Vocational Assessment completed on October 1, 2019, by … indicated areas of employment that Scott could access with appropriate accommodations, which included … (copy of vocational assessment in student’s file).”


I-13 Requirement

Are measurable postsecondary goals based on age-appropriate transition assessment(s)?

Essential Elements adapted from O’Leary (2010), Reviewer Reference Form for the Transition Requirements Checklist

Links checked 5/29/20
Content update 7/12/19