Transition Leadership Program: What's That?

Hello! My name is Nancy Hurley and I’m a member of the Education and Transition team at the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMass Boston. (Note: this is the team that includes Think College.) I’m writing today about the Transition Leadership certificate program here at UMass Boston. If you haven’t heard about this cutting edge online program, it prepares special education teachers, school guidance counselors, school social workers and adjustment counselors, and rehabilitation counselors to improve their transition knowledge and skills so they can help students leave school prepared to move on to their best post-school life.

It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve been working as a coordinator and instructor for this fabulous program for the more than 10 years it’s been in existence! I recently learned that 173 Massachusetts educators and counselors have been awarded transition specialist endorsement on their respective state licenses, and the UMass Boston Transition Leadership (TL) program can claim that a significant portion of those transition leaders have graduated from our program. An exciting new development is that Council for Exceptional Children’s Division of Career Development and Transition (DCDT) has approved our program as an accredited transition specialist training program, making graduates of our program  eligible to apply for the new national DCDT Transition Specialist certificate.

Since the announcement of the DCDT national certificate, the TL program has seen an increase in applicants from across the country. This is a thrilling development because not only are educators learning the transition-related skills they need, but they’re becoming part of a growing community of practice. Sharing information on policies, practices and problem solving strategies from across the country has added an exciting new depth to our learning!

So, what makes up the skills and knowledge that Transition specialists need? The UMass Boston program aligns with the Council for Exceptional Children’s Advanced Specialty Set: Special Education Transition Specialist and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Transition Specialist Guidelines. Scholars in our program take a close look at:

  • Legislation, research-based practices, post-school options and transition planning

  • Individual assessment and system evaluation

  • Transition systems and supports

  • Effective collaboration, including strategies for active participation of students and families

Current scholars and program graduates frequently comment on how helpful the course assignments are. The assignments and projects in each of the courses are designed so the scholar can apply concepts learned immediately in their practice. Some examples of course assignments include:

  • Use student centered planning to drive comprehensive IEP development

  • Use a mapping process to identify strengths and gaps in transition services within a school district

  • Visit a college or university with a student to learn about courses of study, campus life, and support services

  • Provide professional development for colleagues and other stakeholders

  • Conduct a survey to identify College and Career Readiness opportunities for students

  • Write and share a topical brief. Recent topics have included supported decision making and guardianship alternatives, benefits planning and employment, and family engagement in planning.

This is just a brief summary of the program highlights, but it offers so much more! Scholars are guided by experienced instructors to create and implement transition action plans with an interagency team. In the end, they are poised to support students and families to have a more successful transition to their post-secondary school life! Look at what some of our graduates have to say:

“I found this program to be extraordinarily helpful in my work as a transition counselor, the material relevant and current, and the instructors highly responsive and knowledgeable. I strongly recommend this program to special educators who seek to implement positive change in their districts and to advance their skills and expertise supporting students with their postsecondary planning.”

“I feel so much better prepared and confident in my ability to support students and inform parents than I did when I entered this program.”

“My confidence has skyrocketed and I believe my students will benefit from this program just as much as I have.”

So, as I sit here and think about my time with this program, I have a renewed excitement to spread the word about excellent transition planning and welcome new scholars to this transformative program. If, after reading about the TL program, you're interested in participating, we are now accepting applications! The application deadline for the Transition Leadership certificate program is June 1 for a fall semester start date.

For additional information:

About the post author: Nancy Hurley is the project coordinator and an instructor for the Transition Leadership Program at UMass Boston. She has developed and delivered face-to-face and online courses and workshops for audiences including educators and professional staff, students, families, and community providers. Nancy is an ambassador for Charting the Life Course planning framework.

Transition Leadership