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National Center on Secondary Education and Transition

Transition Team Development and Facilitation

Tool 1: How to Build an Effective Interagency Transition Team

The purpose of Tool 1 is to provide interagency team leaders information on how to assemble an effective interagency transition team, particularly at the state level. Tips for recruiting and interviewing potential team members, including key players, are offered.

The box below shows all the activities included in this Tool. Following the box, Tool 1 begins with an overview about interagency teams, and moves to a section about recruiting team members. Each of the items presented in the box will be discussed in the following narrative text.

Contents of Tool 1

A. Overview

B. Who to Recruit?
Who are the right people for the team and why?

C. Enticing the Right People
Incentives to offer potential members
How to find, interest, and involve potential members

Applying the Nine Principles of Teaming to Tool 1
How to Apply Principle 2: Empowering Members

Worksheets included in this Tool: Potential Member Checklist

A. Overview

Different types of interagency transition teams will operate at different levels within your state. Legislation (such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997) typically depicts teams at the student level (for individualized transition planning) and the state- or community-level (for interagency collaboration), but varied levels may operate concurrently. For example, a student and his or her family have personal goals, while local education agencies (LEAs) integrate community goals and student desires while meeting state laws. Some states will also have district or regional teams serving as intermediaries between the state-level teams and local ones. Their goals will be similar to those of an LEA, but on a larger scale, and at the same time reflect state goals, but on a smaller scale. State agencies want students and their families to achieve their personal goals, communities to be satisfied with services, and regions or districts to operate effectively. They must also look at how these goals and interactions align with state policy and address federal mandates. Any given state may have interagency transition teams that include the following levels:

  • State-level transition policy teams,
  • District/or regional transition guideline teams,
  • School-based or community transition planning teams, and
  • Individual transition planning teams aligned with the IEP.

Each of these levels impacts and interacts with the other levels; therefore, teams will vary significantly by location and purpose. Their various purposes subsequently drive their membership and activities. All teams should be multidisciplinary in nature, with members sharing a common aim. The following paragraphs offer a more detailed explanation of teams at each level. While all these teams are important, this Essential Tool focuses on state interagency transition teams and will move solely to that focus in the section on recruiting members.

State-level transition teams (sometimes called “transition advisory councils”) necessitate interagency collaboration at the state-level that is intended to enhance transition at all levels. These teams serve as vehicles for developing model transition programs, identifying transition policy and procedures, creating training materials for school and agency personnel, and maintaining communication among diverse geographic areas.

If your team is a state-level team, critical members must include youth and family members as well as representatives from: the state education agency; postsecondary education; secondary special education; vocational rehabilitation; employment agencies; the Social Security Administration, independent living centers or organizations; and community agencies that serve adults.

Regional or district transition teams focus upon developing procedures to carry out state goals by detailing how actions would occur to implement state and federal policy, often as applied within smaller state geographic divisions. These teams will continue to facilitate interagency collaboration, but will do so at the regional or district level. Like the broader state team, a regional team will want to develop model transition programs, identify interagency transition needs and procedures, provide training to school and agency personnel, and maintain communication within relevant geographic areas. Like the community teams, this type of team will also attempt to develop action plans and solve problems.

Community transition teams identify common directions, develop action plans, solve problems, and encourage interagency collaboration, creating community training and employment opportunities for students, and seeking additional sources of support (financial, policy, etc.). Community transition teams must be made up of a “representative membership” – that is, members who represent the inhabitants of the area they serve in terms of ethnicity, culture, socioeconomic level, occupation, gender, age, and disability (Halpern, Benz, & Lindstrom, 1992).

If your team is a mid-level team, the critical members must include: a family/youth representative; one representative from each district or area educational agency (should include postsecondary, special, and general secondary education); vocational rehabilitation representative; employment representative; Social Security Administration representative; independent living representative; and adult agency providers.

School-based transition teams typically work on making curricular changes, developing individualized transition planning tools and procedures, integrating vocational assessment into transition planning, or developing instructional delivery options that will affect more than one student. These groups may already exist in the form of building-based curriculum committees, teacher-agency support teams, etc.

If your team is a school-based team, the critical members must include: special education and general education teachers; family/youth representatives, vocational rehabilitation representative; employment representatives; and juvenile justice personnel, where appropriate.

Individualized transition/education planning teams help a single student at a time to identify, plan for, and achieve his or her future goals in education, work, and life. This team, also referred to as an Individualized Education Program (IEP) team or a “multidisciplinary team,” is student-focused and together decides on all the postschool outcome-oriented goals and objectives to be included in the IEP.

If your team is an individual student team, the critical members must be: students with disabilities and their families/guardians; advocates for the student and family; school personnel such as special educators, counselors, transition specialists, department heads, and vocational rehabilitation counselors; adult service agency representatives; and juvenile justice personnel, where appropriate.

B. Who to Recruit?

Who are the right people for the team and why?

State interagency transition teams vary in membership from one state to another. The model state teams that are discussed in Section IV of this Essential Tool have memberships ranging from representatives of a dozen state organizations to teams of almost 40 individuals. Since states have flexibility in how they implement transition, these teams reflect the diversity of each state and its goals. An optimal state team includes a wide range of representatives from state organizations as well as professionals, family members, and individuals with disabilities. Whether a team is convened for local or state-level transition purposes, to be successful it must have individuals with a vested interest in the transition outcomes of youth with disabilities. Stakeholders from agencies who have an active role in transition and who can also identify the transition needs of youth with disabilities – both those needs that are being met, and those that are unmet – are a good place to begin recruitment. Soliciting recommendations from all those contacted might be useful, as well as raising the question at early team meetings. Valuable potential stakeholders may not be among the obvious persons or agencies that team leaders contact, so an open mind to all interested parties is recommended.

In researching diverse transition teams, and communicating with a number of transition coordinators, it became apparent that each one builds an interagency transition team representative of the particular needs and options existing in its state. While similarities between all the states exist, so do differences, and any interagency transition team must reflect its own unique circumstances. Given that, we offer below a list of potential team members that can strengthen any state team:

  • State transition coordinator;
  • Special education coordinator;
  • Special and general education representatives from all levels (elementary, secondary, and higher education);
  • Vocational rehabilitation state coordinator;
  • Employment representatives;
  • Social Security Administration representative;
  • Developmental disability representatives;
  • Independent living representatives;
  • Adult agency providers;
  • Family members and youth with disabilities;
  • Other interested school personnel (i.e. secondary and postsecondary educators, department heads, counselors, special services staff, trades and military training officers);
  • Other social services representatives, including mental health and juvenile justice staff (probation officers and educators);
  • Residential service providers;
  • Transportation representatives;
  • Public safety representatives; and
  • Leisure and recreation services representatives.

C. Enticing the Right People

Incentives to offer potential members

One of the purposes of this Tool is to make future meetings a better experience than they may have been in the past.

Some people serve on many boards simultaneously. What do these busy people get from their participation? While incentives may differ from one person to the next, some common rewards are found in:

  • A need to stay active;
  • A desire to serve the community;
  • A desire to meet like-minded people;
  • A belief in the mission of the organization;
  • A desire to increase the value of one’s résumé;
  • A desire to offer one’s skills and knowledge to others; and
  • A desire to know what’s going on in the community.

There are probably at least as many reasons to become a group member as there are members of a group. But successful groups seem to have the following characteristics in common when they recruit and retain members. They are:

  • Clear about their team’s missions and goals;
  • Clear about a time limit to the service requested.
  • Clear – and accurate – about the time commitment involved;
  • Clear – and accurate – about the work commitment involved;
  • Clear about what kinds of characteristics they wish to add to their team; and
  • Clear in developing guidelines for the team and what team members can do.

Teams might offer some more concrete incentives as well. These could include:

  • Tuition stipends and university credit;
  • Common and comfortable meeting sites for teams;
  • Administrative support; and
  • Mini-grants to teams for implementing their action plans.

How to find, interest, and involve potential members

Team members can be recruited in many ways, from newspaper advertisements or other publicity to membership as a job requirement. The more specifically a team can state what it is looking for in a team member and what roles it needs filled, the more likely it is to find the most helpful candidates. Some organizations actually make charts of characteristics they want in a team member, which can be as specific as a teenager with cerebral palsy or as broad as someone with a legal background. Charts are filled out with current team member characteristics, and then people are sought to fill those traits that are currently missing from the team. This also helps potential team members because they can see what roles they might fill and if those include an aspect of their lives they wish to share with the team.

Some organizations like to have current members contact potential members. This could be done through a phone call, e-mail, or actual meeting. Perhaps the most important part of recruiting a new team member is to be enthusiastic in welcoming him or her to the team, while being honest about what is expected. Recruits may want to share a résumé with the team or even attend a meeting or two to see if the process of the meeting and topics addressed are something in which they want to participate.

People who show initiative and commitment by attending meetings before they are members are often the most productive team members once they become a part of the group. This is also a great way for current team members to meet potential members in an informal way.

The authors have found the general guidelines discussed above to be true in their personal experience. To help you even more with these criteria, this section concludes with a “Potential Member Checklist” worksheet.

Applying the Principles of Teaming to Tool 1

How to Apply Principle 2: Empowering Members

Before conducting the activities in this Tool, review Principle 2 as a guide to good teaming practices at this stage in your planning. Let potential members know that empowering every member will be an important aspect of your interagency transition team, and that there are many benefits to being on a truly empowered team, such as:

  • Receiving new information on content, processes, best practices, and resources;
  • Participating in courses, seminars, in-services, and hearing guest speakers;
  • Networking with other teams;
  • Getting support from other team members;
  • Improving personal skills (i.e. public speaking, presentations, training trainers); and
  • Increased confidence from having an equal say in decision making and being respected for one’s work and opinions.

Once your interagency transition team meetings are well underway, additional suggestions for applying this Principle can also be considered (these are integrated in the remaining tools).

Table of Contents

Cover Page


Background on Interagency Transition Teams

Four Tools for Interagency Transition Teams
Overview/Introductory Tool: Using Teaming Principles to Guide Your Work
Tool 1: How to Build an Effective Interagency Transition Team
Tool 2: How to Determine Initial Roles, Responsibilities, and the Team Vision
Tool 3: How to Conduct Interagency Transition Team Meetings
Tool 4: Knowing if Your Interagency Transition Team is On-Track and Meeting its Goals

Examples of Evidence-Based Models of Interagency Transition Teams


Additional Resources

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Citation: Stodden, R. A., Brown, S. E., Galloway, L. M., Mrazek, S., & Noy, L. (2004). Essential tools: Interagency transition team development and facilitation. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration, National Center on Secondary Education and Transition.

Permission is granted to duplicate this publication in its entirety or portions thereof. Upon request, this publication will be made available in alternative formats. For additional copies of this publication, or to request an alternate format, please contact: Institute on Community Integration Publications Office, 2025 East River Parkway, Minneapolis, MN 55414, (612) 624-4512, icipub@umn.edu.

This document was published by the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET). NCSET is supported through a cooperative agreement #H326J000005 with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the U.S. Department of Education Programs, and no official endorsement should be inferred. The University of Minnesota, the U.S. Department of Education, and the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition are equal opportunity employers and educators.