Transition services in school are a coordinated set of activities designed to support programming for students as they move from school to post-school activities such as post-secondary education, vocational training, employment, adult services, independent living, leisure activities and participation in the community. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004 states that transition plans are to be developed beginning no later than the first Individual Education Plan (IEP) to be in effect when the child turns 16, and is to be updated annually thereafter. The Transition Plan must include: (1) appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills; and (2) the transition services (including courses of study) needed to assist the child in reaching those goals. While transition plans must be included in the student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) when they reach the age of 16, transition planning may begin at an earlier age, if deemed appropriate by the student’s IEP Team, which includes the student’s parents and the student. Transition planning is to be constructed on the individual student’s needs, taking into account their preferences and interests. Transition services must include instruction, community experiences, and development of employment and other post school adult living objectives. If appropriate, daily living skills and a functional vocational evaluation may also be included in the planning. Lastly, it should be noted that transition plans are an integral part of the student’s IEP; the transition plan is not a parallel document to the IEP. As every IEP contains goals and objectives there must also be goals aligned with the transition plan. There is a notable difference between annual IEP goals and post-secondary transition goals. Annual IEP goals are statements defining the measurable progress to be achieved during the effective year of the IEP. Post-secondary transition goals are related to the job/career choice, training or educational choices and living situation that the student will pursue after the student leaves school.
School districts strive to provide appropriate academic instruction, pre-vocational experiences, work skills training and opportunities, life skills training and applicable life experiences for all students that address transitioning to employment and post-secondary educational options and services. In light of all the changes regarding high school curriculum and graduation requirements it is necessary for school districts to consider the impact of the changes on special education students. While students must meet more rigorous requirements in order to obtain a high school diploma, staggering dropout rates of high school special education students are an additional challenge that speaks to the need for options in special education programming. The high school requirements that govern all students are but one portion of the regulations that are applied to special education. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II) provide an outline of mandates for special education programs, services and compliance responsibilities, with sanctions for noncompliance. Students receiving special education supports and services are provided with the opportunity to work through their high school experience with individual educational learning plans that lead them to obtaining either a High School Diploma or a Certificate of Completion. Providing for each learner to develop his/her individual potential and to support an educational program that meets individual student’s needs leading to graduation and a High School Diploma based upon the MMC is the opportunity for the development of a personal curriculum, when appropriate. Obtaining a Certificate of Completion is the result of a thorough academic and employability skills program, focusing on functional academics, independence, communication and social skills.
A Personal Curriculum (PC) for students with and Individual Education Plan (IEP) is an opportunity for high school students to meet the graduation requirements leading to a High School Diploma. The PC is an option for school boards or public school academies to award high school diplomas to students, including students with an IEP, who complete the requirements outlined in the PC, including as much of the MMC as achievable. Personal Curriculums are developed by a team of knowledgeable individuals including at least the student, parent, school psychologist, counselor or designee, and/or teacher(s) who currently teaches the student or has expertise in the content being modified. The purpose of the PC is to modify credit requirements and/or content expectations of the individual learning requirements of the high school student. Personal Curriculums provide flexibility for students who desire to fast track learning, by earning additional credits in specific subjects, toward meeting the Michigan Merit Curriculum (MMC) requirements. However, for a student with and Individual Education Plan (IEP), who has demonstrated a lack of progress, despite academic interventions, supports and accommodations, the PC allows for modifications to the MMC necessary to demonstrate learning proficiency in the curriculum. The PC for a student with an IEP is to be consistent with the Education Development Plan (EDP), IEP and Transition Plan. Personal Curriculum Parent/Educator Guide-Focus on Students with an IEP http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/Focus_of_Students_with_an_IEP_482098_7.pdf What’s new in Personal Curriculum (September, 2014): http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/PC_updates_for_website_final_467492_7.pdf
CERTIFICATE OF COMPLETION
The High School Diploma is an academic credential; a Certificate of Completion is not an academic credential. High School Diplomas are issued to high school students based on their meeting requirements outlined in the Michigan Merit Curriculum while the Certificate of Completion is based on an alternate curriculum, with the students taking an alternate State assessment such as the MI-Access. The Certificate of Completion may be based on recognition of the student’s achievement or attendance and should not be reported as if it were a diploma (i.e. on an application for employment). Whether a student receives a diploma or a certificate is a decision made at the individual education planning (IEP) team and is awarded at the discretion of the school district. Michigan law does not include a definition of the certificate of completion. Certificates of completion do not require that the student meet any Michigan Merit Curriculum (MMC) or grade requirements. A student receiving a Certificate of Completion may participate in senior graduation activities and then continue receiving special education programs and services until the age of 26 (Michigan Administrative Rules for Special Education (MARSE) R 340.1702.