At a Glance
SUN Area Technical Institute (SUN Tech) helps students with IEPs transition successfully to SUN Tech and helps minimize their barriers to success once they are enrolled.
SUN Tech provides resources and support to students with IEPs (Individualized Education Programs) before they enroll and during their time at SUN Tech. The goal is to help them smoothly transition from their sending schools to the CTC (Career Technical Center) by helping them find a program that best meets their interests and abilities and by making sure the learning support services they need to be successful are in place from the moment they start at SUN Tech.
SUN Tech usually enrolls between 270-330 students. Approximately 30 percent of students have IEPs. These numbers have remained fairly consistent over the last 20 years. (SUN Tech is a one-year, all day CTC that primarily enrolls 12th graders and also enrolls a few 11th graders from specific schools.)
This profile spotlights four practices SUN Tech uses to support students with IEPs:
- VIP Tour
- Student Visit and Informal Situational Assessment
- IEP Collaboration with Sending District
- Attending Transition Clinics for Prospective Students.
The learning support teachers at SUN Tech conduct VIP tours for prospective students in 9th or 10th grade with IEPs. Students attend the tour with their learning support teacher from the sending district. During the tour, students learn about the expectations of each program, career outcomes, potential salaries, and the academic and physical skills needed to be successful.
The VIP tours can be conducted at any time during the school year, depending on the sending districts’ needs. SUN Tech hosts a school-wide open house during the fall that starts at 9 a.m. and lasts until 8 p.m., and often this is a good day for schools to bring their students for a VIP Tour. The tours last one to two hours.
A SUN Tech learning support teacher or staff member leads a small group of up to ten students on the VIP Tour, providing an overview of each program. The groups may go into some programs or stand outside the programs, allowing students to view from the hallway as they discuss the requirements and expectations of the programs, as well as what they can do to help prepare for enrollment in the program, such as developing specific skills. At the end of the tour, students complete an interest inventory that the sending districts may choose to use as a review or as a conversation starter to help students plan their next steps.
SUN Tech hosts at least two VIP tours for each of the five school districts it serves. It also conducts smaller or individualized tours for students from other placements or from schools that sometimes are able to allow students to attend SUN Tech.
The SUN Tech learning support staff find these tours provide students the opportunity to get a full picture of what each program entails in a more personal way than if they participated in a school-wide tour. They also give students a chance to connect with the SUN Tech learning support teachers who will be working with them.
Student Visit and Informal Situational Assessment
In the year before they are eligible to enroll at SUN Tech, interested students with IEPs choose two programs to visit at the CTC. (Most of these students have previously participated in a VIP tour.) Students spend a full day at SUN Tech, splitting their time between their two selected programs. (Prospective students who already have made a definitive program choice, such as Cosmetology, attend that one program for the full day.) During their visit, students participate in a variety of activities that simulate the expectations of the program, and they may complete work samples and assignments. Students experience the requirements of the program and can reflect on whether it would be a good fit for them.
While students visit the classroom, instructors observe the students and conduct an informal situational assessment. The situational assessment includes a Likert scale that addresses categories such as hygiene, perseverance, interaction with peers, and interaction with adults, and it also includes observations of student strengths and needs.
SUN Tech provides a copy of the assessment to the sending district transition coordinator and also keeps a copy to use if/when the student enrolls at SUN Tech. Most of the sending districts review the assessment with the student, and many also share it with the parents. The main purpose of the assessment is to help guide students as they decide whether or not a particular program is a good fit for their interests and skills. In addition, the learning support team can refer to the assessment if concerns arise, and the IEP team also can refer to it to make specific recommendations or suggestions. The assessment results may be reviewed during IEP meetings or Transition Clinics as students prepare for attending SUN Tech or reaching their future goals.
IEP Collaboration with Sending District
The learning support staff at SUN Tech writes all of the IEPs at the CTC in collaboration with the sending district special education director. SUN Tech program instructors attend IEP meetings for any of their students, and special education aides also attend the meetings when possible. Because SUN Tech is a one-year, all day CTC that primarily enrolls 12th graders, the IEP meetings are conducted at SUN Tech and usually occur in the spring before students enroll for their senior year.
This team approach to IEP meetings benefits students and instructors in many ways:
- The student and parents can meet and connect with the instructor prior to enrollment.
- The student often better understands the program expectations when the instructor explains them in a face-to-face setting. Based on this information, students can make changes to their program selection, if needed.
- The IEP can be written so that the special designed instruction (SDI) is relevant to the program requirements and industry certifications.
- The learning support teachers can identify potential barriers to learning and problem solve how to address these prior to enrollment. (For example, students may face financial limitations and/or there may be supports instructors will need to better prepare the student for success at the beginning of the academic year. )
Attending Transition Clinics for Prospective Students
SUN Tech learning support teachers attend transition clinics hosted by the sending schools for prospective students in 10th or 11th grade with IEPs. The schools coordinate the clinics with the local Transition Council, on which SUN Tech serves. The Council represents the support network for students with IEPs and includes any community agencies that may be able to provide supports while planning for or during post-secondary transition. At a minimum, the Council usually includes the Intermediate Unit Transition Consultant, a representative from the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, the student, parent/guardian, a teacher, and the learning support transition coordinator. Sometimes the Council may include a representative from a job coaching agency, a postsecondary education representative, a member from the disability/accommodative services, and a school social worker if the student has one.
The transition clinics are student-led meetings during which participants brainstorm ideas for helping students make a successful transition to further learning, work and life after high school completion. These meetings usually provide students the opportunity to make a connection with and enroll with agencies that may be able to provide them additional support and ideas for their next steps. The SUN Tech learning support teachers attend these meetings to provide information about the CTC and its programs to students and their families as well as to the sending district learning support teachers and community agencies who attend the clinics. But, as SUN Tech Learning Support Teacher Wendy Chalmers explains, “Collectively, we all have more to share than just what our job title entails. When I go to a clinic, I am not just sharing information about SUN Tech. I am also able to share other things that I know of in our community or ideas that I may have. For instance, I may know a local employer that a student maybe should reach out to.”
The SUN Tech learning support teachers credit the VIP Tours, the use of situational assessments, collaboration with the sending districts and their involvement with the transition council/alliance with helping students with IEPs achieve success while at SUN Tech. They find prospective students usually are placed in appropriate programs that align with their interests and abilities and benefit from the early identification of risk factors and the communicative and collaborative relationships established with the learning support staff and the program instructor.
With the early and ongoing support provided to them, students with IEPS can make informed decisions about building pre-requisite skills before enrolling. They also can expand their views of what they are capable of achieving.