Special Education Transition
Special Education Transition at Agora on the Path to Success
Agora has always been a leader in special education, and its transition team takes the program to a new level. In a process that begins early at Agora, five transition teachers, a transition coordinator, and highly trained case managers collaborate to develop individualized transition plans for students in 7th grade, then work with students through graduation. Having been recognized for its success through the awarding of multiple PaTTAN grants, Agora’s transition program continues to open new opportunities for its students.
Individualized transition plans begin in middle school as students receiving special education services work to discover who they are through self-exploration activities. This process builds into high school where 9th and 10th graders explore transition options and 21st century skills that will carry them onto their next steps. Depending on goals, these can include college, other postsecondary education opportunities, work, and independent living skills. The transition team then works with 11th and 12th graders to take the action steps that are going to lead to postgraduation success. From building college and work resumes, to cover letters and real job experience, to applying for assistance through the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) if necessary, Agora’s transition team prepares students for life after school.
“We have one of the strongest transition programs in education,” said Morgan Witman, HS Assistant Director of Special Education with Agora. “We start this process early and work around the interests of the students. There are many post-Agora options open to our students, and we strive to find the right path for each student.”
All of Agora’s course offerings are vertically aligned and open to anyone, so special education students get to choose from 80 electives as they explore what the future might entail. For those with greater needs, Agora partners with OVR to assimilate students into a world of work and a seamless transition to OVR-funded programs after graduation. Established through PaTTAN’s Competitive Integrated Employment grant from 2019-2021, Agora developed partnerships with adult employment service agencies across Pennsylvania to offer job training services and experiences directly to students.
Career exploration is crucial, and this includes preparing students for pre-employment services and exploring a future based on interests. A recent example of this in practice can be seen with an Agora student who received work experience through a paid internship working at a taco shop in Philadelphia. The student learned different positions and took full advantage of internship rotations to get an idea of what they might want to do once they graduate. Agora also offers work study credit to students who are employed in competitive, integrated work settings to offer High School credit for satisfactory workplace evaluations and weekly logged hours.
Previously, the Agora transition team received PaTTAN’s Project ACHIEVE grant to evaluate how to improve our programming to prepare students with autism for college and not just graduation. Executive functioning and social skills are crucial, so the team continues to focus on these skills to encourage high school students to communicate with other students and staff on a more comfortable level and utilize organizational strategies/tools that are transferable to the college setting.
As a leader in cyber special education, Agora is constantly measuring and taking a deep look at all that it is doing to ensure results are positive. This includes George Washington University’s Transition Discoveries surveys sent to transitions stakeholders, students and parents, and the transition team looks at what works well and what else they can do to enhance the program. In fact, Morgan Witman is a founding member and current co-chair of the PA Council on Cyber Transition, and the Agora transition team will be presenting at the PA Community of Practice Transition Conference in August 2022 for a 4th year in a row.