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Quality of Transition Partnership Networks
Transition-aged students with disabilities make a huge shift from an entitlement-based high school education system to an eligibility-based system, the difference being having to seek out and secure services on their own. However, families frequently report that information on these services is fragmented and unavailable.1 The absence of connections negatively impact postschool outcomes, such as employment, postsecondary education and community participation.2,3
This article by Jennifer L. Bumble (University of Kansas), Erik W. Carter (Vanderbilt University) and Emily M. Kuntz (the University of Oklahoma) (2022), emphasizes how collaborations between secondary special educators and partners from the school system, service system and community—making up the “transition network”—provides access to a greater array of resources that support the transition process.
Mixing Qualitative and Quantitative Data
Bumble, Carter and Kuntz created a sequential explanatory mixed-method design, using quantitative data from an online survey and qualitative interviews, that examines the vulnerability of current transition partnerships that primarily hinder high-quality transitions. Their research focused on three areas:
- characteristics of the transition networks of secondary special educators
- variables associated with larger transition networks
- educator perspectives on these variables
Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected from 509 study participants in Tennessee, approximately 10% of the state’s 5,095 special educators, from which 25 respondents were selected for the interview.
The data achieved the purpose of the research: “Understanding the composition of transition networks, and how networks might grow and change in response to student caseloads, is an important next step in (a) identifying the ‘key ingredients’ of effective collaboration and (b) developing interventions aimed at increasing collaboration.”
Major Influencers: Network Size and Educator Characteristics
The size of transition networks is influenced by the knowledge, background and experiences of the special educator in establishing partnerships, as well as knowledge of the locale, school roles and responsibilities, and the transition goals of their students.5,6
The research identified three major variables affecting ‘larger’ networks: high school teachers who are supporting students with moderate/severe disabilities in high school, number of years of experience, and higher levels of knowledge in establishing collaborative partnerships.
Participants interpreted that smaller networks were due to (a) larger caseloads of students with mild disabilities, (b) a lack of services specific to students with mild disabilities, and (c) a focus on academic instruction and meeting graduation requirements that left little time for transition planning.
Barriers that limit collaborative practices include multiple responsibilities of educators, limited support and service partners in the community, limited involvement of outside agencies in transition planning, little to no formal training in collaborations, and lack of familiarity with local resources.
Suggested Actions to Boost Network
The social resource theory highlights the benefit of a higher social capital, basically, collaborating with more partners means gaining more access to novel and diverse resources.4 “Educators can leverage the resources housed within their own network and mobilize their networks to connect students and families to critical postschool supports.”
According to Carter and Bumble, these new insights should guide the development of “out-of-the-box” interventions to improve collaborations and increase its scope beyond the school system, such as transition fairs, community engagement events, and practicum placements with local agencies and providers.
Other suggested actions include colleagues and families creating a list of existing services and supports, reaching out to potential mentors with expertise in collaboration, beginning discussions with administrators, and interagency collaboration for federal legislation.
Bumble, J. L., Carter, E. W., & Kuntz, E. M. (2022). Examining the Transition Networks of Secondary Special Educators: An Explanatory Sequential Mixed Methods Study. Remedial and Special Education. https://doi.org/10.1177/07419325211063485
Summary by: Adrian Pasos — Adrian describes himself as a creative and strategic educator. Likewise, he believes that the MARIO Framework embraces the creative and strategic roles of both the educator and the individual learner in the teaching-learning process.
- Gilson, C. B., Bethune, L., Carter, E. W., McMillan, E. (2017). Informing and equipping parents of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 55(5), 347–360. https://doi.org/10.1352/1934-9556-55.5.347
- Prince, A. M. T., Hodge, J., Bridges, W. C., Katsiyannis, A. (2017). Predictors of postschool education/training and employment outcomes for youth with disabilities. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 41(2), 77–87. https://doi.org/10.1177/2165143417698122
- Sanford, C., Newman, L., Wagner, M., Cameto, R., Knokey, A., Shaver, D. (2011). The post-high school outcomes of young adults with disabilities up to 6 years after high school. Key findings from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2) (NCSER 2011—3004). U. S. Department of Education. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED523539.pdf
- Lin, N. (2001). Building a network theory of social capital. In Lin, N., Cook, K., Burt, R. S. (Eds.), Social capital: Theory and research (pp. 3–30). Aldine de Gruyter.
- Trach, J. S. (2012). Degree of collaboration for successful transition outcomes. Journal of Rehabilitation, 78(2), 39–48.
Taylor, D. L., Morgan, R. L., Callow-Heusser, C. A. (2016). A survey of vocational rehabilitation counselors and special education teachers on collaboration in transition planning. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 44(2), 163–173. https://doi.org/10.3233/JVR-150788