Efficiently transition students with Emotional Behavioral Disorders to the next school year

Four elementary school children leaving the school building

As another school year comes to an end, educators are busy wrapping up the school year and making preliminary preparations for the next, in an attempt to ensure the smooth transitions of students. While adequate transition practices are necessary for all students, they are especially important for students with emotional behavioral disorders (EBD) (Lane, Wehby, & Barton-Arwood, 2005). Research has shown that students with EBD tend to be more successful academically and behaviorally when consistencies in rules and routines have been established (Quinn, Osher, Warger, Hanley, Bader, Tate, & Hoffman, 2000). Consequently, proactive measures should be taken by educators and other educational service providers during the school year and at the conclusion of each school year to ensure well-established routines are in place for students with EBD at the beginning of the new school year (Wagner, Friend, Bursuck, Kutash, Duchnowski, Sumi, & Epstein, 2006).

While there are items that should be conducted at the end of the school year, effective transition begins with early planning and proactive communication between the general and special educators, assessment personnel, school psychologists, parents, and student (when appropriate) during the student’s annual Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) meeting. Consequently, in preparation for the impending changes in the student’s education, IEP meeting discussions should cover the following:Elementary students working on laptop computers

  • IEP participants should conduct a review of the student’s behavioral data and use the data to make instructional and behavioral decisions. Data should also be used to update the student’s goals and objectives and make any changes necessary.
  • The Behavior Improvement Plan (BIP) should be reviewed and updated (e.g., discuss effectiveness of strategies utilized and make any changes necessary to ensure student success).
  • When appropriate, the receiving teacher should be invited to attend the annual IEP meeting in order to obtain important information and provide pertinent input regarding the changes in class schedules and school rules.
  • The team should discuss any changes that will be made to the student’s routine for the next school year (e.g., class schedules, routines, academic demands, social environments, etc.), and problem-solving strategies that will be implemented to alleviate potential difficulties (e.g., set up an organization system, peer-buddy, etc.)
  • When appropriate, active participation by the student in the IEP meeting is important. By allowing the student to participate in his/her IEP meeting, educators can obtain pertinent information regarding the student’s wants and needs; participation also enhances the student’s self-determination skills (Carter, Lane, Pierson, & Glaeser, 2006).

While efficient and proactive planning is necessary and should be conducted well before the end of the school year, there are additional tasks the teacher must complete as the school year comes to a close. Completion of the following tasks will help to ensure student and teacher success:

  • The teacher should ensure confidential student folders are updated and organized. Behavioral data collected should be utilized to update the student’s progress on mastery of goals and objectives. Also, all papers should be securely placed within the folder, in the assigned locations, to ensure ease of use by the receiving teacher.
  • The current teacher should schedule and meet with the receiving teacher(s) to review the student’s folder, placing emphasis on the student’s strengths and weaknesses. The current teacher can also provide pertinent information regarding the use of successful strategies and provide any other important information that would assist in the smooth transition for the student.
  • If the student is transitioning to another school, the teacher should schedule a visit for the student and parents so they can meet with the new teachers and principal. A school visit will also provide the student with orientation of the new building and help alleviate any stress the student might be exhibiting due to the unknown.
  • The current teacher should schedule an end-of-year meeting with the parents and student to answer any last-minute questions and concerns. Such a meeting will model effective problem-solving techniques, collaboration, and communication skills; as well as, allow the student to practice self-determination skills.

Student success is the top priority of educators. Ensuring successful annual transitions of students with EBD requires proactive planning and open communication among educators, parents, and the student. Through proactive collaboration, educators can facilitate a smooth and successful transition from one year to the next.


To help you wrap up the year more efficiently, join us for an upcoming interactive town hall-style webinar to discuss data more in depth and how to use it: Year in Review: Making the Most of Your Data, Wednesday, May 18, 11 a.m., CT.

In preparation for the next school year, join us for an interactive town hall-style webinar to examine behaviors in children and identifying those that can cause problems: Professional Development: Behaviors of Concern, Wednesday, July 20, 11 a.m., CT.



About the Author
Tammy L. Stephens, Ph.D.

Tammy L. Stephens, Ph.D.

Tammy L. Stephens, Ph.D., is a former assessment consultant for Pearson. Prior to working at Pearson, Dr. Stephens worked as a special education teacher (working with students with emotional/behavioral disorders), an educational diagnostician, and an assistant professor at Texas Woman’s University.  Dr. Stephens has presented on issues related to assessment and intervention at the local, state, national, and international levels.  She is also published in several books and educational journals.


Carter, E. W., Lane, K. L., Pierson, M. R., & Glaeser, B. (2006). Self-determination
skills and opportunities of transition-age youth with emotional disturbance
and learning disabilities. Exceptional Children, 72(3), 333-346.

Lane, K., Wehby, J., & Barton-Arwood, S. (2005). Students with and at risk for
emotional and behavioral disorders: Meeting their social and academic
needs. Preventing School Failure, 49(2), 6-9.

Quinn, M., Osher, D., Warger, C., Hanley, T., Bader, B., Tate, R., & Hoffman, C. (2000).
Educational strategies for children with emotional and behavioral problems.
Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice, American Institutes for
Research. Washington, DC.

Wagner, M., Friend, M., Bursuck, W., Kutash, K., Duchnowski, A., Sumi, W., & Epstein,
M. (2006). Educating students with emotional disturbances: A national
perspective on school programs and services. Journal of Emotional and
Behavioral Disorders
, 14(1), 12-30.