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Why Do We Use Transition Assessments?

Student completing an assessment

At a Glance

Legal Requirements: Transition assessments are essential for complying with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), ensuring necessary evaluations are completed for students' postsecondary transition plans. 

Understanding Student Needs: Transition assessments provide valuable insights into students' individual needs, interests, and aspirations, providing a foundation for individualized educational and career guidance. 

Facilitating Collaboration and Progress Tracking: Transition assessments promote collaboration between educators and students, allowing for a mutual understanding of goals and priorities, and help in monitoring students' progress towards achieving their set goals.

Welcome back to our transition assessment series where in part 1 we went into more detail about what constitutes a transition assessment and how they can be used. In part 2 we want to dive a little deeper into why we might use a given transition assessment and why it is important to find ways to regularly assess student transition goals in a variety of ways in service of improving IEP and postsecondary transition plan goals. 

While the outcomes of transition assessments are not ends unto themselves, they are a great way to help inform decision making around personal goals and what options might be available based on a given student’s goals. 

What are some reasons to use transition assessments?

To meet the legal requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

As we covered briefly in part 1, IDEA requires the use of transition assessments for students, and you cannot start on a students postsecondary transition plan without having completed transition. 

As we also covered in part 1, the terminology around filling this requirement can be a little confusing, but the bottom line is that enough of an initial assessment needs to have been completed to have a sense of what the student wants to do in the future, some gaps they can fill to achieve those goals, and strategies for filling those gaps with an expectation that further assessments will continue to track student goals and needs as they evolve over time. Which leads nicely into the second reason why we want to use transition assessments. 

They help us better understand our students’ individual needs, goals, and plans.

As much as we’d always like to have our finger on the pulse when it comes to our students wants, needs, and goals, sometimes it is worth putting forth a more deliberate effort in which all parties involved are in a safe space to more directly focus on questions related to career prospects, independent living, or community participation. 

Even in cases where we feel we have a strong rapport with a particular student and that they are very open about their goals, sometimes putting forth new questions or old questions in a new way can prompt some lines of thinking that the student might not have come to in more routine day to day conversations. We highly recommend choosing from a variety of assessments and using your knowledge of your students to offer assessments that feel helpful and relevant. 

They help us better collaborate with students.

Two realities of working with students who are still learning about and deciding what path they may want to pursue in adulthood are that students should have as much autonomy as possible over the future they want and that teachers are equipped with knowledge and guidance that can help students exercise that autonomy more effectively and in service to their goals. 

Seeing student input on a transition assessment is a valuable foundation for more formal IEP goals, but they also offer an array of helpful jumping off points for working on various job, independent living, or executive functioning related skills. Not only are we choosing skills that are relevant to the student, we have a built in context for explaining its importance! 

To give students an opportunity to review their own priorities and goals.

As we alluded to a couple of sections back, one underrated benefit of offering different transition assessments to students is the way they can offer unique framings on old questions or introduce entirely new topics. While in that section we talked about the benefit to teachers, we do not want to understate the benefit to students as well. 

Just like a good assessment can help give us a good idea of what questions to ask our students, a good assessment can help gives students a good idea of what questions to ask themselves. The more transition assessment becomes a collaborative process rather than just a means of evaluation, the more student and teacher can work together when new ideas or priorities come up. 

To gauge student progress toward current goals and objectives.

While some transition assessments might focus more closely on what a student wants or plans to do, some also take a closer look at a student’s progress in working toward certain goals. As with other forms of assessment, approaching from a collaborative standpoint and working together on navigating challenges can be a great way to adjust to new realities without turning such assessments into a judgment delivered from on high. 

Evaluating progress toward goals can involve assessments based around specific skills, or it can involve creating a series of questions based on a particular student’s goals to gauge how they feel about their own progress. Both are valid forms of assessment and both have their place in a robust ongoing assessment process. 


We hope that listing out some of the reasons why we use transition assessments, for the legal requirement but also for their benefits to teachers and students, has inspired you to take a closer look at your own transition assessments and potentially add to your portfolio

If you have any experiences related to transition assessments you’d like to share or particular assessments you’d like to recommend then we’d love to hear from you! Just drop us a line at and we will be back in a week for part 3 where we will take a closer look at formal versus informal assessments! 

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