Special Education Diploma Acquisition and Transition Planning in Alternative School: An Authentic, Individualized Approach

Margaret Hoehn


Minnesota allows for students to graduate upon successful completion of their Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals, colloquially known as an IEP-driven diploma or an “IEP diploma.” While districts and schools may have their own requirements for this process, guidance from the state only specifies that the IEP team facilitates this process and that annual IEP goals and supporting objectives should be written to support students’ transition goals. The planning framework at the center of this project is designed to support educators in developing culturally sustaining, student-centered goals and objectives for students with disabilities who are graduating via IEP-driven diplomas. It draws on research in the areas of competency-based education, postsecondary outcomes for students with disabilities and evidence-based practices used to improve them, best practices in writing transition goals, and effective approaches for culturally and linguistically diverse students. Included with the framework are an organized diploma checklist and a bank of suggested transition objectives and activities. The framework is designed primarily for alternative school special education teachers and their students, as alternative high schools often have more flexibility than traditional education. An accompanying professional development draws on the work of Malcolm Knowles and Linda Darling-Hammond to provide practitioners with an overview of the framework, modeling of its use, an opportunity to practice utilizing it, and an invitation to collaborate on further work.