Collaboration supports postsecondary transitions

Career and technical education (CTE) teachers ensure alignment between the labor market and academic skills. They teach and assess with standards’ driven assignments. CTE provides opportunities for students to meet industry standards. School counselors encourage career pathway options based on students’ interests and preferences. They do this through course scheduling and knowledge of school and community supports.

With strong collaboration and smart use of students’ individualized education plans (IEP), special education (SPED) teach self-determination and advocacy skills.

When CTE teachers, SPED teachers and school counselors collaborate, students and families become better able to explore options and set goals based on the student’s:

  • Interests
  • Preferences
  • Strengths
  • Needs
  • college and career activities
  • Transition plans
  • Academic levels and industry standards
  • Approved accommodations

“Jayden, you love to show me the videos and art you post online. Why is your Digital Media grade so low? Jayden shrugged. “I don’t like the class. I am transferring out at semester.”

Pathway success for students with disabilities requires collaborative effort.

A school counselor recognized the need for additional support and consulted with Jayden’s special education teacher and CTE teacher. All together — Jayden included — the team met to explore options available to help Jayden meet course standards.

Jayden’s plan

Prior to COVID-19

Jayden struggled to finish class assignments during class, and he did not have access to the computer program outside of class. The SPED teacher obtained a license for one of his classroom computers. The CTE teacher opened extra hours in the computer lab and made herself available to answer questions. Jayden attended the extra sessions with reminders from his teacher.

Continued support during COVID-19 pandemic

The CTE teacher encouraged all students to post questions in a class chat that he could answer for everyone. He added extra online office hours for students. With Jayden, the SPED teacher reviewed how to access and post questions in the chat. They also discussed how to set reminders on his school calendar for the extra help sessions. Additionally, the SPED teacher has helped Jayden communicate effectively with his CTE teacher.

Providing additional classroom support and career guidance can result in strong positive outcomes for SWD. Create opportunities for teachers and students to meet and talk about their progress. Build relationships of trust and encourage connections with school and community support services.

Ongoing collaboration allows teachers to provide access, equity and inclusion for all students, including those with disabilities. Students become prepared to meet industry standards. Students become empowered to

  • Identify their individual interests
  • Determine which classes are the best match for them
  • Explain the support they need to achieve their personal employment, education or independent living goals.


Jayden popped into the room with a huge smile. He said, “Hey, I am all caught up! I am definitely going to take Digital Media 2 next semester.”  

When we leverage our professional strengths and collaborate effectively, relationships of trust are created. Academic support is appropriate. Accommodations are helpful and timely. Students experience strong positive outcomes. Students achieve.

Shirley Dawson, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Weber State University. She researches and teaches courses in special education law, transition planning, and teacher development.

Melanie Allen, M.Ed, is a school special education teacher. She helps students and their parents explore their career options, determine goals, and facilitates school collaboration and interagency connections.

Adam King, M.S., is an assistant principal in Davis School District. He has also worked as a special education teacher and district SPED/504 coordinator.

The research reported for 2018–19 is supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R324L180011 to Weber State University. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.