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Secondary Transition


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Throughout life, people move from one set of circumstances to another. The period of adjustment to these changes is known as transition. As individuals develop and grow, they experience many transitions. Although transition planning is important whenever changes occur, there are two specific times when procedures and practices are mandated by IDEA '04 and the Iowa Administrative Rules of Special Education. The first time is when children turn three years of age and transition from Part C services to Part B or other community services. The second time is when an individual turns 14 years of age or younger, if appropriate, and post-secondary planning procedures take effect. This webpage focuses solely on the latter—the transition of youth with disabilities from high school to learning, living, and working in the community.

The ultimate goal of secondary transition planning is to make the adjustment from high school as easy, successful and as short as possible. Successful transition planning should begin early and be based on specific knowledge and experiences of targeted future environments and activities. It includes the commitment of resources, collaboration among people and agencies, and decision making to develop an IEP for the student.

Legal Requirements & Reports

Recent changes in IDEA 2004 have influenced how transition is identified and increased the scrutiny with which secondary transition is regarded. IDEA 2004 defines transition services as:

Section 602 (34) Transition Services: The term ‘transition services’ means a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that:

(A) is designed to be within a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child’s move from school to post-school activities including post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation;

(B) is based upon the individual child’s needs, taking into account the child’s strengths, preferences, and interests; and

(C) includes instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment, and other post-school adult living skills and, when appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation. 602(34)

IDEA 2004 goes on further in Section 614 to describe content that should be included in the IEP to address transition:

(VIII) beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child is 16 and updated annually thereafter:

(aa) Appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and where appropriate, independent living skills;

(bb) the transition services (including courses of study) needed by the child to reach those goals, including services to be provided by other agencies when needed;

(cc) Beginning no later than 1 year before the child reaches the age of majority under State law, a statement that the child has been informed of the child's rights under this title, if any, that will transfer to the child on reaching the age of majority under section 615(m). 614(d)(1)(A)(VII)

Although federal statute now requires transition planning to begin at age 16, Iowa continues to begin secondary transition planning at age 14.

Graduation Changes for Individuals Eligible for Special Education

Administrative Consideration for Changes in Definition of Diploma - Provides an overview and implications related to Iowa's special education rule change regarding graduation for individuals eligible for special education.

Graduation Guidance for IEP Teams - This document provides an overview of state changes to graduation requirements for students eligible for special education and provides considerations for local districts and IEP teams.

Graduation Information and Guidance for Families - Contains an overview of the changes related to graduation for students receiving special education services, along with information about how this will impact students and actions that families might take as they are learning more about this change.

4+ Services

Guidance on 4+ Services (1-20-2017)

Sample Contract for Districts Related to Contracts with a Community College 4+ Transition Service Provider

Guiding Practices

Although IDEA requires transition planning and services, it is silent on the specifics of implementation. Iowa has therefore used statutory language and knowledge of effective practices to identify six critical elements of transition that should be followed when planning for, and providing, transition services. The six critical elements are:

  1. Student preferences and interests
  2. Age appropriate transition assessments
  3. Post-secondary expectations for living, learning, and working
  4. Course of Study
  5. Annual goals
  6. Services and supports

Age of Majority








Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

Memorandum of Agreement Between Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS) and Iowa Department of Education (Department) - Provides information about how IVRS and the Department work together to serve students, including considerations for AEAs and LEAs.

Memorandum of Agreement Between Iowa Department for the Blind (IDB) and Iowa Department of Education - Provides information about how IDB and the Department work together to serve students, including considerations for AEAs and LEAs.

Memorandum of Agreement Between IVRS and IDB - Provides information about how IVRS and IDB work together to serve students. It helps to clarify questions about who should be contacted for which students.

Department of Education, Local Education Agency, Iowa Department for the Blind and Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services Collaboration Frequently Asked Questions

Guidance Memo: School Responsibility for Employment Preparation

Additional Resources

Secondary Transition Decision Guide - Learning

Secondary Transition Decision Guide - Working

Supported Decision Making

SDI Framework for Secondary Transition

Blending IEP and ICAP: Assessment Tool - PDF

Blending IEP and ICAP: Assessment Tool - Word