CA Dept. of Education


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Secondary Issues Archive 2004


Priscilla Harvell, M.A., CCC-SLP
Secondary and Speech/Language Specialist

Priscilla Harvell's expertise is supported by over 20 years in the field of Special Education as a Speech and Language Pathologist, Special Day Class Teacher and eight years as a Secondary Specialist for the Northern California Diagnostic Center.

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  • The differences between WorAbility, ROP, and School-to-Career.


Dear Ms. Harvell,

I am a secondary school counselor whose caseload includes special education students. Could you explain the difference between the following programs: WorkAbility, Regional Occupational Programs (ROP), and School-to-Career. 

Thank you for your help.


This is a great question because many people confuse these programs. All three programs support the President’s No Child Left Behind focus to educate ALL children. I will briefly summarize each program and direct you to web sites for additional information.

WorkAbility (WAI)

WorkAbility (yes the “A” is capitalized) is a statewide program funded and administered by the California Department of Education. This program was designed to provide work preparation and paid/non-paid work experience for secondary special education students. The target group is 14-22 year old special education students. Entry can occur between freshmen through senior year. The majority of students enter at the age of 16 or in their junior year. WAI teaches students skills to help them make transitions from

  • school to work,
  • post-secondary
  • education or training

Students receive comprehensive pre-employment training, job placement, and follow-up services. This is accomplished by providing program services appropriate to individual student interests, abilities, and needs. Secondary students develop an understanding of the following areas necessary to keep a job:

  • Job seeking skills
  • Employer practices/expectations
  • Positive employee characteristics

In addition, this program promotes independent living and provides students the opportunity to complete their secondary education while also learning marketable job skills. Dr. Bob Snowden is the Coordinator for Transition Services and WorkAbility in Sacramento. You may e-mail him Visit for specific information.

Regional Occupational Programs/Centers (ROP/C)

“For everything you always wanted to know about ROCP but was afraid to ask,” can be found at or

The difference between WorkAbility and ROP/C is the specific student populations served. As mentioned above, WorkAbilitity was developed to serve special education students. While ROP/C offers its program to the non-special education population, special education students are accepted into the program. The type of ROP/C program (course of study) offered to special education students is determined by the student’s IEP/ITP (Individual Transition Plan) team. The entry age for the ROP/C is 16.

The California Department of Education’s Secondary, Postsecondary and Adult Leadership Division is responsible for funding and compliance issues of this program.

School-to-Career (STC)

The School-to-Career Education home page,, provides specific information about this program. The California Department of Education’s Secondary, Postsecondary and Adult Leadership Division is responsible for funding and compliance of the STC. The responsibility for administering the program is a local partnership between schools, local businesses, and agencies. This program is geared towards providing academic and vocational-technical education to students as they transition to post-secondary, e.g., high-quality employment and advance education, options. The target population is students in the general education program. STC emphasizes the importance of connecting the classroom to careers.

Both the ROP/C’s and STC programs are operated locally and differ district to district. You should contact your local school district for specific information regarding either one of these programs.

  • How can I make sure I can live on my own?


Dear Ms Harvell,

I am an 11th grader and I am looking forward to being a senior next year. I want to live on my own after high school but don't know if my job at pizza hut will be enough money to live on. My mom thinks when I turn 18 I should be supporting myself. How can I make sure I can live on my own?



Dear John,

I commend you on your desire to live on your own after high school. However, you will need to take a very close look at what living on your own involves. Having adequate financial security is high on the list to living independently. Many people live on minimum wage, e.g., working at Pizza Hut, and learn to live carefully within their budget. Ask yourself if you plan to work at entry-level (minimum wage) jobs throughout your lifetime or should you research other post-secondary options.

To get you started, I want you to take this pre-skills survey. The directions are easy, just answer each question yes or no.

Pre-skills survey

Money management

Do you have a budget?

Do you have a checking account?

Do you know how to write a personal check?

Can you balance a checkbook?

Do you have a savings account?

Will your job pay you enough to cover the following expenses?

  1. Apartment rental
  2. Utility bills
  3. Food
  4. Leisure activities
  5. Transportation
  6. Clothing
  7. Other…

Will you need a roommate to help defray expenses?

How will you manage expenses if you lose your job?


Additional Daily Living Skills

Can you set up a household?

Can you care for your personal needs?

Do you have knowledge of common illnesses, preventions, and treatments?

Can you practice personal safety?

Can you wash/clean your own clothing?

Can you choose and plan appropriate leisure activities?

Are you familiar with local, state and even federal governments?

Do you know your civil rights and responsibilities as a citizen?

John, these are just a few of the responsibilities you will encounter when you live on your own. You say your mom thinks at 18 you should be supporting yourself. Does that mean she will be available if you need advice and financial support?

What I would like you to do is meet with your teacher, parents, and school counselor and discuss your goals for the future. This way an action plan can be developed based on your aspirations. Expect some barriers, so stay flexible! I am including an action plan that I have used with many students as well as a website titled “When I Turn 18” to get you started (

Good luck and keep me posted.

Student Action Plan

  • Encouraging a student to continue schooling.


Ms. Harvell,

My son is soon to be a senior in high school. He has a learning disability and has had limited success throughout his school career. His father and I would like him to try the local community college, but he’s adamant that once he graduates, school is over for him. Please help us encourage him to continue school.

Anxious parents


Dear Anxious parents,

Congratulations to your son for willing to stay in school and graduate. However, several questions come to mind about your son as I consider a response to your concern regarding college.

  • What are the specific reasons for his unhappiness with school? What are the challenging issues, e.g., course work too difficult, lack of friends, or social activities?
  • Has he expressed his wishes/concerns with his teachers?
  • Has he expressed an interest in exploring the world of work?
  • Does he want to work and save money before thinking about the future?
  • Does he know about trade jobs that do not require a college degree?

Considering these questions may help you and your son begin to collaborate on taking steps for success after high school. Your goal is to help your son successfully transition from high school to adult life. His options could be work, attending technical school, adult education programs, or a community college. Whatever the case, encourage him to think about the future by considering some of the following tips:

1. Respect your son’s decision

It may be difficult for you and your husband to accept his decision. He may not feel prepared for such a giant step if the opportunity to explore this option has not been presented either at school or home. Talk with his teacher(s) and together encourage him to keep his options open and to work hard. Doing so may inspire him to pursue his education later.

2. Encourage him to explore possible careers of interest

A great place to start is at school. Find out what his teachers have done to help him explore jobs, e.g., complete an interest inventory, job shadow different people at work, interview people with jobs that interest him, and discuss vocational programs like the Regional Occupational Program (ROP). Use the Internet at home or the public library to find out information about all kinds of jobs. A website to provide information and link him to various job related sites is:

3. Teach your son independent living skills

  • Have you talked with your son about money and time management? He will definitely need to learn to balance a budget, know banking options, spend and save money wisely, and use credit and ATM cards. Many banks have reader-friendly information/brochures to start the money management process.
  • Does he get to school and other appointments on time? If you haven’t discussed these issues with him, now is a good time for him to learn how to become a self-manager (with help as needed). Be sure to show him how to set and achieve realistic goals in the process.
  • What are his responsibilities around the house? Cleaning his room, mowing the law, washing dishes, and doing his own laundry are skills he will need to live independently.

4. Explore your son’s interests and abilities

Ask yourself and ask him about school and non-school interests and abilities he has, and then involve him in those activities. His high school or the city Park and Recreation Department should have various activities available.

5. Use your connections with colleagues and friends

As the kids say “Hook him up.” Introducing him to people in his field of interest may lead to a mentorship.

6. Encourage and/or redefine the relationship between your son and his teacher(s), especially his special education case manager.

If teachers don’t know their students, they can’t help them with mentoring, writing resumes, and creating meaningful curriculum to include your son’s interests and abilities. Remember, communication and collaboration between your son, teachers, and you will be a key to his success.

7. Check your and your spouse’s attitude towards education and the work force

Are you always talking to him about going to college and getting a good job afterwards? If so, you might try working with him on improving areas of weakness and providing positive attitudes about various postsecondary options to going to college.

8Assure and support your son through his feelings of uncertainty

We have all experienced levels of ambivalence related to our futures. Let him know that it okay to feel confused and undecided about the next steps in his life. Let him know that finding the right niche for oneself is a process everyone goes through.

One resource I often recommend to parents, teachers and students is titled Transition to Adult Living: A Guide for Secondary Education. You can view the entire document at

I hope these tips help you. Please let me know what happens after your son graduates from high school.

  • Transition program for students with Traumatic Brain Injury.


Dear Ms. Harvell, I am a new Transition Specialist in the bay area and would like to plan a Transition program for a student with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI.) She experienced TBI at 16 and is now 19 and ready to move into an 18-22 Transition Program. Her injuries left her with difficulty controlling her behavior, periods of depression, and mild cognitive challenges. She has no functional use of the left side of her body, however, she can stand with some minimal support. Academically, she reads at the 6 to 7th grade level but she experiences bouts of frustration and apathy and then tends to give up. Her goal is to work as a cashier in a restaurant. I hope this is enough information for you to help me.

Thank you.


Thank you for such a good question. There are numerous commercial tools available for developing appropriate, functional Individual Transition Plans (ITP) for students with disabilities. One that I find useful when talking with teachers in Transition Workshops is titled Individual Transition Plans by Paul Wehman. This is a revised edition of the 1995 publication and includes new ITP examples and individual case scenarios. It is published by ProEd, in Austin, Texas. Get more information on the book at

Basically, the content of this publication focuses on the following areas:

Career and Economic Self-sufficiency

Employment Goal(s)
Vocational Education/Training Goal(s)
Postsecondary Education Goal(s)
Financial/Income Needs Goal(s)

Career and Economic Self-sufficiency

Independent Living Goal(s)
Transportation/Mobility Goal(s)
Social Relationships Goal(s)
Recreation/Leisure Goal(s)

Personal Competence

Health/Safety Goal(s)
Self-Advocacy/Future Planning(s)

Student Career Preference(s)

Student's Major Transition Needs

With the exception of the last two areas, each section includes the following focus information:

Level of present performance
Steps needed to accomplish goal
Date of completion
Person(s) responsible for implementation

I am sure you realize the unique challenges your student faces in terms of her ongoing physical disabilities, cognitive and psychological problems, and vocational aspiration. However, the framework described in the book will help you focus on the most important Transitions areas for your student. Be sure to gather information related to preinjury skills, motivation, vocational competence, and family support/attitude. Much of this information can be obtained from teachers, family, and others who know your student.

Let me know the outcome. Priscilla

  • Resources for colleges with learning support programs.


Hi Ms. Harvell,

I am at the end of my junior year in high school and would like to find out more about colleges. I have a learning disability and will need information on colleges that have really good learning support programs for students like me. My teacher said as part of my research, I should check out your Ask a Specialist web site. So here I am. Can you help me?

Jimmy in Hayward


Dear Jimmy,

Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to help you with your research on colleges. Just so you use the appropriate lingo, we talk about post-secondary options when referring to "life" after high school. Anyway, I can give you some tips on finding a college program that fits your needs and offer some web sites so you can further your research. Let the following questions/statements guide you as you enter into your college research:

  1. Does the school "fit" your career interests?

    I would suggest you find a school that "fits" your career interests and offer programs in that field. For example, if you are interested in pursuing a career in photography, it is crucial that the colleges you research offer degrees in this field. A good time to start a list; and a good way to begin your list is to go to the following web site to find colleges: Also, read the following book:

    Kravetz, M., & Wax, I.R., K&W Guide to Colleges for the Learning Disabled: A Resource Book for Students, Parents, and Professionals (7th ed.) Your school's Career Center may have this book or you can find it at Once you link to this site, you will find other books with additional information.

  2. What support programs are available?

    Colleges should offer "state of the art" programs that fit the needs of the student with learning disabilities. Using your college list and the guide below, ask the following questions to determine if a college's program is "state of the art" and offers the kind of support you need:

      • What is the total number of students in LD program?
      • Do the services available to LD students include any of the following supports: remedial math, remedial English, remedial reading, other special classes, diagnostic testing service, note-taking services, oral tests, readers, tutors, talking books, tape recorders, untimed tests, learning center, extended time for tests?
      • Are LD students tutored? Individually? Small groups?
      • Can LD students take a lighter course load?
      • Are there additional costs for LD students receiving support services?
      • Are the admissions requirements the same for LD students? If not, which ones are different? 

  3. What does your research tell you about the academic culture?

    You not only want to look at the support programs, but also the academic culture of the school. For example, how much money did they spend on learning support vs. types of learning (academic culture values), e.g., self-directed learning, independent study, project oriented (Ask your teacher how you might find out this information?) If your learning values are different then those mentioned, you might need to research further. Remember, I mentioned your career interests, and you also want to include colleges that "fit" your learning style and offer the necessary accommodations for your academic success. This will allow you time to succeed.

  4. What are the curriculum requirements at each school?

    Some may be too strict or rigid for you. Look for requirements that may be too overwhelming and that could set you up for failure.

  5. Do a reality check.

    Do more than talk with individuals at the learning support center. Talk to faculty in the departments you're interested in and other students. By doing direct interviewing, you gain a personal perspective on the school and department philosophies.

Web sites (partial list only) to include in your research are:

NOTE: don't forget to include your local colleges in your research, i.e., Cal State Hayward, Chabot, San Jose State University (has a great Disabled Student's Program), Ohlone, and many others.

Jimmy, these are only a few resources for your college research. Please remember that you can succeed in post-secondary school. However, the whole process of making the transition from high school to postsecondary school can be difficult. Although, it sounds as if you have the support of your teacher who is a part of your IEP Team. Therefore, with your parents, counselors, and other members of your team working together, your transition can be much easier.

Good luck!

  • Help with writing transition objectives for students 14+.


Ms. Harvell,

I have continually had difficulty with writing Transition objectives for my students who are 14+ years of age. I know I am supposed to write about course of study but really do not know how that would look. Are you able to help me with this?

Troubled RS Teacher


Dear Troubled,

Thank you for asking for this information. This question comes up quite frequently as I encounter teachers during assessments and trainings.

To paraphrase the IDEA definition of course of study:

“The IEP must include, beginning at age 14 (or younger, if appropriate), a statement of transition service needs that focuses on the course of study, e.g., required, elective, Regional Occupational Program (ROP), and/or other educational experiences the student needs to help move him/her toward the desired post-high school goal(s).”

I would add that the IEP team takes into account the student’s interests and preferences when developing his/her transition service needs statement. Through various activities, e.g., career field trips, discussions of interests and aptitudes and decision-making/problem-solving, you can help students develop positive work habits, appreciate all types of work and develop disability awareness.  These activities can become an integral part of your curriculum. 

Since you asked what a course of study goal and objective might look like, I have included an example for you to consider:

Goal:  Career exploration and transition planning relative to course of study

  • Obj. 1:  To understand interests, aptitudes, and preferences
  • Obj. 2:  To understand work, education, independent living, and community options
  • Obj. 3:  To specify transition services needed to participate in a desired course of study by no later than age 14

Possible activities:

  • Visits to vocational and technical schools
  • Complete interest inventories
  • Survey transition needs and preferences
  • Job shadowing
  • Money and budgeting
  • Self-determination and self-advocacy training
  • Career guidance

If you have students who express an interest in any particular subject matter, write an activity that will help him/her to explore that interest.  Take sports as an example.  So many of us have students that want to be a basketball, football, or baseball star.  Therefore, any activity that broadens his/her “reality” would be of value.  For example, consider having that student:

  • Instruct others in the rules, regulations and scoring of the game
  • Explore how one becomes a “football” star
  • Keep track and report the comparison between two players in pro football.

To learn more about Transition, check out the following resources:

Storms, J., O’Leary, E., & Williams, J. (2000).  The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 Transition requirements:  A guide for states, districts, schools, universities and families.  Minneapolis, MN:  University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration.

Clark, G.M., & Patton, J.R. (1997).  Transition Planning Inventory.  Austin, TX:  PRO-ED.

UMASS EDUC 607 Career Development Course National Career
Provides grade level competencies from grades k-12 that can be used to develop your own goals and objectives.

  • Life after school and potential agency consultants.


I am a parent of a high school student with learning and physical disabilities. We are beginning to thinks about his life after school and would like to know who some of the agencies are that could be potential consultants to his IEP/ITP team. Also, are these agencies required to participate in my child's IEP/ITP (Individual Transition Plan) if they commit themselves.


Thank you for asking such an important question. In addition to the traditional agencies, e.g., Social Security, Department of Rehabilitation, Mental Health, Regional Centers, and Centers for Independent Living, there are a variety of other groups that IEP teams fail to consider. At, a list of alternative agency groups is provided in a article titled "Transition Planning: A Team Effort." Scroll to page 7. At this site you can view the "consultant" and the relationship to Transition Services. Examples are displayed as seen here: 

Potential Consultant

Relationship to Transition Services

Adult Education Representative Provides information about lifelong education options
Residential Service Provider Can help access specialized housing

In response to your last question, the law is very specific about agency participation. Agencies providing services to a student with disabilities must be invited to a child's IEP/ITP meeting where the focus is only on Transition (they do not need to be at every IEP meeting of the student); however, if they cannot attend this meeting, the designated IEP case manager can either talk to the agency representative beforehand about the IEP and bring their ideas or comments to the IEP meeting. If no agency representative attends the meeting or the agency does not provide the agreed upon services, then the IEP team must reconvene and determine the next steps. Let me be very clear though, the district and/or parent cannot make any agency provide specific services. There are numerous web sites that provide reader friendly explanations of IDEA and Transition requirements related to agency involvement. Visit one of my favorites at Transition to Adult Living: A Guide for Secondary Education. 

Good luck on your endeavors.