How can school and agency personnel work together to support smooth transitions for these students?

Page 4: Interagency Collaboration

teacher at table with student writers

Recognizing that multiple individuals and agencies should be involved in transition planning is an important first step in addressing the transition needs of students with disabilities. Some of these can be met through informal supports (e.g., friends, peers), while others require formal supports (e.g., programs for people with disabilities). No one person or agency can meet the needs of all transitioning students; transition planning requires shared expertise and a wide range of services. These might include agencies that serve individuals with disabilities (e.g., vocational rehabilitation agencies) or those that serve all individuals (e.g., Social Security Administration). One role of the transition coordinator is to encourage representatives from outside agencies to participate in the transition planning process and interact with students, families, and others.

In the past, schools and agencies worked in isolation from each other, with the predictable result of uncoordinated services. In contrast, when agencies work collaboratively, they help create a bridge for students with disabilities from school to post-school activities and environments. Interagency collaboration is a process in which education professionals establish partnerships with personnel from multiple agencies to achieve a common goal: to improve the post-secondary success of students with disabilities. Interagency collaboration is a means to:

  • Coordinate services and supports
  • Identify and address gaps in services within the community
  • Share and leverage resources to reduce costs
  • Promote efficient service delivery

bridge metaphor for interagency collaboration


Mary Morningstar

Listen as Mary Morningstar briefly defines interagency collaboration and who is typically involved in the process (time: 4:01).

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Mary Morningstar, PhD
Associate Professor Special Education
Director of Transition Coalition
University of Kansas


Research Shows

  • Interagency collaboration has been substantiated as a promising transition practice for several decades.
    (Kohler, 1993; Landmark, Ju, & Zhang, 2010; Noonan, Morningstar, & Gaumer, 2008)
  • Interagency collaboration leads to more positive post-school outcomes, especially when students are linked with services prior to exiting high school.
    (Test et al., 2009)
  • Building both formal and informal support networks during high-school using a person-centered approach has been shown to be associated with better post-school employment and education outcomes.
    (Povenmire-Kirk et al., 2015)

Interagency Teams

To create smooth transitions, it is important for school personnel and community representatives to work together to improve the post-secondary transition process and outcomes for students with disabilities. Doing so involves creating teams of people who meet with each other on issues related to these outcomes. These teams engage in interagency collaboration and might be organized at different levels (e.g., the school district, community, or state) and vary in number and how they divide responsibilities. These teams typically:

  • Include representatives from disability-related organizations, community agencies, and workplaces all of whom understand the needs of the community as a whole and the needs of individuals with disabilities specifically.
  • Share ideas, talents, and resources; determine how best to include students with disabilities in the community.
  • Help to identify gaps in services within the community and solutions to bridge these gaps. One useful tool is the Quality Indicators of Exemplary Transition Programs Survey-2. This online survey can be completed by community teams to evaluate gaps in programs and services.

These teams and the work they do are always evolving. In addition, each state or community varies in how they are organized or structured. There can be and often is some overlap in team members. Below is one example of how interagency collaborative teams might be organized.

IEP/Transition Team

  • Responsible for creating the individual student’s individualized transition plan (ITP)
  • Members individually determined according to guidelines established by IDEA
  • Additional members comprise the team based on the individual needs of the student
  • Agency representatives providing direct services to the student may be a part of this team
  • Ensures active participation from students and parents regarding transition planning informs the process
  • Typically, works directly with student

School/Community Team

  • Links education and adult service providers
  • Involved in planning transition services at the community level (e.g., resource fairs)
  • Include a wide range of professional representatives from community organizations, as well as family members and students with disabilities
  • Typically, not directly involved with students

State Team

  • Establish, evaluate, and revise policy
  • Develop coordinated systems to reduce duplication, prevent gaps, and increase efficiency of services among agencies
  • Evaluate the success of state and local transition services
  • Leaders of public agencies (e.g., director of the Department of Health), legislators, parent representative, school representative, community rep (e.g., member of school/community team), representatives from disability organizations
  • Typically, not direct service personnel


Mary Morningstar
Mary Morningstar, PhD
Associate Professor Special Education
Director of Transition Coalition
University of Kansas

Mary Morningstar discusses a model of interagency collaboration that includes the IEP team and a community transition team. Next, she offers some tips for new teachers or those beginning the interagency process.

(time: 3:01)

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(time: 2:25)

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David Test
David Test, PhD
Professor of Special Education
University of North Carolina

David Test describes the CIRCLES Project, an experimental model utilizing multiple levels of interagency collaboration to help assure smooth transitions for students with disabilities (time: 3:56).

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