Monday, October 7, 2013

Align transportation training with Common Core to foster independent living

Key points:
  • Transportation know-how enables students with disabilities to achieve post-school goals
  • Aligning transportation education with Common Core enhances college-, career-readiness
  • Free curriculum teaches staff to embed transportation content across grade levels
Transportation can provide students with disabilities the freedom and independence they need to achieve their college and career goals. But if they can’t drive and don’t know how to use public transit systems, how many meaningful postsecondary opportunities will they have?

Students with disabilities who know how to get around town are more likely to have better outcomes related to college, career, and independent living than those who must rely on rides from family or friends.

For example, a Staten Island man with severe cerebral palsy was "terrified" to be out on the street alone because he had never traveled before, said Margaret Groce, director of the District 75 Office of Travel Training at the New York City Department of Education. Once he had learned to use public transportation, however, he was able to land a job in Manhattan, she said, despite the fact that getting to work in his motorized wheelchair required him to ride the bus, ferry, and subway.

His story illustrates why infusing travel education into your curriculum is crucial to prepare special needs students for adult life. To start, "administrators and teachers need to have some content understanding about transportation," says Judy Shanley, director of student engagement and mobility management with Easter Seals Project ACTION.

Consider sharing the following transportation training advice from Shanley and Groce, which includes tips to align travel education with the Common Core State Standards.

Begin transportation education early

Districts often don’t consider how students with disabilities are going to get to college or work until they’re leaving high school at age 21 or 22, Shanley said. To best prepare your special needs students for college, career, and independent living, she recommends you consider teaching transportation education in the early grades.

"Transportation education is so much more than just travel instruction," she says; it must connect students, families, educators, pupil transporters, and public transit professionals to ensure students with disabilities have accessible transportation options.

By embedding such education throughout your K-12 curriculum, you can address changing transportation needs as students transition from elementary to middle school, middle school to high school, and high school to college and career, Shanley said.

Ensure your special needs students have knowledge and choice of accessible transportation options as they transition to college and career by having your staff complete ESPA’s free, downloadable transportation education curriculum, launched in August. The curriculum will help your teachers align transportation education with the Common Core State Standards.

Align transportation content with Common Core

Both transportation education and the Common Core standards are intended to provide special needs students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed at post-school life in the 21st century. For that reason, align transportation education with the CCSS, Shanley said.

For example, "When you’re teaching math, why not use a bus schedule to teach students subtraction and addition?" she said. "If you’re teaching literacy and comprehension, why not use a story about traveling on a public transit system as the story for student reflection on reading comprehension?" A big emphasis of the Common Core is ensuring students understand informational text, Groce said. "You’re reading informational text all the time because everything in [your] environment gives you information." Therefore, she recommends you have students with disabilities read, use, and demonstrate their understanding of informational text related to transportation.

What’s more, students with disabilities must learn how to safely navigate vehicular traffic at street intersections. "It’s all angles, curves, speed, [and] distance," Groce said. "You can build math and science in. It doesn’t have to be that divorced" from the CCSS.

According to Shanley, transportation education also is suitable for teaching the learning and innovation skills -- critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity -- emphasized in the CCSS.

For example, "If you want to teach students communication, why not take them to a transit agency and let them interact and communicate with the transit operator?" she said. "If you’re teaching critical thinking, set up a scenario where the bus doesn’t come and the student has to get to a job. What do they do? What’s the problem-solving approach that they take?"

What’s more, use online bus or train schedules to teach information and technology skills required by the CCSS, Shanley said.

ESPA’s travel education curriculum "elaborates on how teachers can address all of the elements of the Common Core by using transportation examples," she said.

See also:
For more stories and guidance on this topic, see the Postsecondary Transition Roundup.

Paul James covers postsecondary transition and charter school issues for LRP Publications.
September 24, 2013

Reprinted with Permission from: SpecialEdConnection® Copyright © 2013 by LRP Publications, 360 Hiatt Drive, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418. All rights reserved. For more information on this or other products published by LRP Publications, please call 1-800-341-7874 or visit our website at

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