Dr. Mary Morningstar: What Does it Take to be College and Career Ready? Improving Outcomes for Youth with Disabilities

Dr. Mary MorningstarDr. Mary Morningstar is the keynote speaker at the Transition pre-conference of the UMTSS* Connections Conference in Layton, Utah June 23 – a three day event of sessions on Leadership, Literacy and Numeracy, Behavior and Positive Behavior Supports, Transition to Career Pathways, Educating English Learners, Special Education, Effective Instruction, Tiered Intervention, Assessment and other topics.

Today’s Transition event will include many topics on preparing students for post secondary education, employment and independent living.

“Dr. Mary E. Morningstar is an associate professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Kansas and Director of the Transition Coalition, which offers online transition professional development and resources for secondary special educators and practitioners. Her research agenda includes evaluating secondary teacher quality and professional development, culturally diverse family involvement in transition planning, and interagency collaboration. She is also examining the impact of inclusive secondary experiences for students with significant disabilities on postschool outcomes. Currently, she is developing a multi-dimensional model of adult life engagement for transition.” (http://specialedu.soe.ku.edu/mary-morningstar)

Watch the Transition Universe Facebook and Twitter feeds for updates on the conference.

*Utah Multi-Tiered Systems of Support

Optimistic Outlook for Job Seekers with Disabilities

According to information in The Huffington Post, the employment situation is looking bright for people with disabilities. The focus was information from Think Beyond the Label, an outreach organization that provides resources to people with disabilities and businesses to better inform everyone of the employment possibilities.

Think Beyond the Label conducted a survey of hundreds of people with disabilities in December, 2014 on job searching.

Think Beyond the Label found that job seekers look for jobs like anyone else–90% use LinkedIn as a job search tool–but desire more targeted outreach and disability-specific job tools to help them find meaningful work. Nine out of 10 respondents say they would use a targeted job board, while three-quarters say they want to network with employers that are actively looking to hire people with disabilities.

Job seekers with disabilities can and want to work.

Businesses should take note. People with disabilities are looking to connect with you. This is the largest and most heterogeneous minority group in the U.S., with a population that ranges in age from birth to late retiree. Baby boomers, often the senior-most people in a company’s workforce, are more likely to incur disability as they age.

Food for thought.  To read more about this survey, seeking jobs, and recruiting people with disabilities, go to these sites:

Huffington Post

Think Beyond the Label survey information

Think Beyond the Label website

Student Aims to “Climb High” to Raise Funds for Scholarship

A Utah State University student who is  enrolled in “Aggies Elevated”, a progam for students with intellectual disabilities, plans to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro this summer to raise funds that would allow a student to enroll in the program.

According to the Herald Journal,

Troy Shumway, 20, is set to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in June 2015, USU announced in a news release. The fundraising goal, $40,000, is the amount it costs to fund one Aggies Elevated student, covering academic and social supports including mentors, tutors and staff.

For his fundraiser, Troy has set several creative donation levels, including a $19 donation because Mt. Kilimanjaro is more than 19,000 feet high, or $98 because Mt. Kilimanjaro is more than 9,800 miles from his hometown of San Diego.

In a prepared statement, Troy explained that he wants to offer another student the opportunities he is getting through Aggies Elevated.

“It would be great to have other kids with disabilities be able to come to college and learn to be more independent, like I did,” Troy said.

Read more here.

See Troy’s donation page here.

 

Spotlight on Susan Loving, Transition Specialist

Susan2

Susan Loving, Transition Specialist at the Utah State Office of Education.

Susan Loving has a rich history in the field of Transition.  She has been working with transition programs since 1991, when she was assigned the responsibility of co-manager of the STUDY Project Grant (a federal systems-change grant) in Tooele School District.

I was ready for a change from providing speech-language services full time, so I welcomed the opportunity to do something different. In working with transition planning and programs, I realized that the purpose of school is to prepare students for adult life, not just to graduate them with a diploma.

Susan currently serves as the Education Specialist for Transition at the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) – Special Education Section. She admits that is a long title, so she usually says she is the Transition Specialist at the USOE. She works with school district and charter school staff, representatives of agencies such as Vocational Rehabilitation and DSPD, parent groups, community and advocacy groups – any individual or group of individuals who work with and support transition-aged youth.

Susan’s responsibilities are broad in nature.

The USOE is responsible for ensuring that all eligible students attending Utah school districts and charter schools are receiving a free appropriate public education (FAPE), as required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Appropriate timely transition planning is part of a FAPE for a student of transition age.

To that end, Susan is charged with  providing professional development and technical assistance to educators, administrators, families, and other state and community agencies regarding transition planning, agency collaboration, etc. She says that the medium through which this is carried out varies -through a one-on-one phone conversation or site visit, an on-site training session or webinar, or a state-level activity.

Every year, states are required to report the results of state-level activities to the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP); the report, titled the “Annual Performance Report”, addresses student outcomes in a variety of areas. I am responsible for reporting on Utah’s graduation and dropout rates for students with disabilities, the prevalence of complete transition plans in the IEP, and post school outcomes (engagement in education and employment/training) of students with disabilities.

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Illinois Program Designs Disability Awareness Curricula for Students of All Ages

Students in some Illinois school districts receive early education on disability and independent living and employment, thanks to an initiative that incorporates three different curricula, implemented through the community partner “RAMP“, an Illinois non-residential Center for Independent Living. By working with school districts to incorporate these programs, barriers are being dismantled and attitudes changed about people with disabilities being successful in society.

RAMP created a continuum of services that help to strengthen and build the educational and economic success for people with disabilities.

The iBelong curriculum is designed for elementary students as young as pre-K while the Ignite curriculum is designed for middle school students. The teens in Transition curriculum (T’NT) is designed to work with teenagers as they transition to adulthood.

IBelong is taught pre-K thru through sixth grade to all students. The goal is to promote acceptance by teaching children early and consistently that we have more in common with each other than not.

Students in seventh and eighth grade who have disabilities can use the Ignite curriculum to learn more about themselves so they can become better self-advocates.

RAMP’s third curriculum is Teens in Transition. It is designed to help teenagers with disabilities prepare for their transition into adulthood. T’NT aims to increase students’ chances of becoming young adults prepared to further their education, gain employment, responsibly manage a budget and live independently in the community.

The approaches taken by RAMP have left a lasting impression on students. A Rockford teacher said: “I feel as though having RAMP and the community partners come in to teach the lessons helped the students learn about these topics better than just having the teacher teach about it.”

Read the article here.

Read more about RAMP here.

Spotlight on Teresa Berden Clarkson, Transition Teacher

Teresa Clarkson has worked as a Transition Teacher and CTE Career Coach.

Teresa Clarkson has worked as a Transition Teacher and CTE Career Coach.

Teresa Berden Clarkson has a well established and admirable career working with students with disabilities.  She first began teaching 20 years ago at a Western Michigan University with student services.  She progressed to St. Clair County Community College – first as a Placement Specialist and then as a Career Counselor, continuing on the Macomb Community College as a Special Services Counselor.   Teresa then took  a detour back to secondary education in Grand County School District in Utah where she works as a Special Educator and CTE Career Coach.   Teresa’s current job responsibilities include counseling students in CTE pathways and Program of Study; surveying CTE graduates; collaborating with secondary, post-secondary, and industry partners; promoting College & Career Readiness Standards; coordinating the Grand County High School Annual Career Fair; advocatingfor CTE scholarship applicants; and assisting with Work-Based Learning Opportunities.

I serve a diverse range of students – exceptional learners, CTE technical students, at-risk populations, and gifted/talented from middle school to college age adults.

When asked what has been the most important development in Transition, Teresa states that,

new online transition assessment tools which allow teachers to gather transition data and compare results from student, teacher, and a parent prospective. The most positive things about working in Transition are when the joy you see on the face of students when they get their first job or get a paid internship position.  Every student should experience the sense of accomplishment for achieving a goal such as graduation or other milestone.

Teresa feels that the biggest challenge in her work with Transition students is often not with students, but with family members.

It is important for students to play an active role in their transition process; therefore, parents often struggle with letting their child set a goal for themselves for the first time.  Parents occasionally need support/coaching on how to help students create realistic, achievable goals.

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Celebrate World Down Syndrome Day

Today marks the 10th anniversary of World Down Syndrome Day. There are many ways people can celebrate and share stories and videos.  The website has multiple resources to help celebrate diversity and inclusion.

21 March 2015 marks the 10th anniversary of World Down Syndrome Day and each year the voice of people with Down syndrome, and those who live and work with them, grows louder.

Down Syndrome International encourages our friends all over the world to choose your own activities and events to help raise awareness of what Down syndrome is, what it means to have Down syndrome, and how people with Down syndrome play a vital role in our lives and communities. We will share your WDSD World Events on our dedicated WDSD website in a single global meeting place.

For WDSD 2015, DSi will focus on:

‘My Opportunities, My Choices’ – Enjoying Full and Equal Rights and the Role of Families

Learn more here.

If you have a facebook page, go to this story about how a woman’s 5-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome inspired her to open a bakery to employ people with DS and other special needs.

Iowa School District Implements Unique Transition Program

While many students with disabilities across the country meet the academic requirements to earn their highs school diploma, they so not necessarily meet the goals in their IEPs for transition to adulthood. Yet the regulations set forth in the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) stipulate that a student is not eligible for services under IDEA once a diploma has been earned and issued.  This conundrum has had special educators perplexed, parents frustrated and students confused about next steps.

One Iowa school district has a solution, thanks to a grant for transition to employment.  It has launched a program to aid students with disabilities who have met their graduation requirements but need to continue to work on transition goals.

Dubuque Community Schools soon will begin its new Summit Program for certain students who receive special-education services.

Lori Anderson, transition facilitator with the district, said the new program combines the best aspects of the district’s Lifetime Center and Super Senior programs to help guide students and their families on the path of independent learning, living and working.

Anderson said the district reviewed its career readiness and transition-based programs after receiving a Model Employment Transition Site grant in 2012. The grant’s goal is to increase the number of students with disabilities who successfully transition from school to employment. The review led to the new program.

Students who have met their graduation requirements but have an unmet Individualized Education Plan (IEP) goal or transition need are eligible for the program. They can walk with their classmates at graduation, but they will not receive their diploma until they leave the program.

Read more here.

Utah Celebrates ADA 25

UT_ADA_logoSalt Lake Valley, Utah, students, along with students attended the Disability Mentoring Day at Zions Bank City Center as part of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act in Utah! Students learned about what employers want from employees, how Zions Bank works to create value in the community, especially with regards to their employees.

 

Students got a tour of the bank and attended a Zions Bank career fair on site, where they learned about different jobs in the Bank’s organization.

Photos of the event are posted on the Transition Universe facebook page.

Utah will be organizing many other ADA 25 events throughout the year.  Stay up to date by visiting #UtahADA25 on Facebook and Twitter.

New Report: “From Hard Times to Better Times: College Majors, Unemployment, and Earnings”

black-mortarboard-hiThe Washington Post reports that a Georgetown University report demonstrates a correlation between college majors and employment rates.  The report, From Hard Times to Better Times, which is based on research of unemployment rates of recent college graduates in 2011-2012, also demonstrates that college graduates fare better with obtaining employment than those with high school diplomas and no college.

….although the unemployment rate for recent college graduates stood at 7.5 percent in 2012, not all majors gave students an equal chance of finding work. Just 5.1 percent of elementary education majors, 4.8 percent of nursing majors and 4.5 percent of chemistry majors were unemployed after graduating, to take a few specific fields.

The good news for young college graduates is that regardless of their major, they have a much better chance of finding work than their peers who didn’t go to college. Nearly 18 percent of young workers with only a high school diploma were unemployed.

There is an upward employment trend that is reversing the rate of employment for college graduates vs. experienced workers, according to the report.

Recent college graduates are even doing better than experienced workers who only have a diploma, 9.9 percent of whom were out of work.

That’s a change from three decades ago, [Anthony] Carnevale [one of the authors of the report] said, when an experienced worker with a diploma was better off than a young worker with a college degree. That change reflects the increasing importance of technology in the economy and the shift from manufacturing to service.

Read the article here.

Read the Georgetown University report here.