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Assessment Jump Start

July 13, 2010 Jump Starts

The principles and resources provided in this overview of assessment provide a solid foundation for youth guidance and planning in schools, community-based organizations, workforce development programs, and other youth-serving institutions.

To make the transition successfully from school to adult life and the world of work, adolescents and young adults need guidance and encouragement from caring, supportive adults. Developing the ability to make informed choices and to understand the implications of those choices should be explicit goals early in the transition process. The best decisions and choices made by transitioning youth are based on sound information including appropriate assessments that focus on the talents, knowledge, skills, interests, values, and aptitudes of each individual. Adults who work with youth need to have a solid understanding of the purpose, benefits, and limitations of assessment if they are to provide effective guidance.

Understanding the transition and assessment requirements laid out in federal legislation [Table 1.2] (view Table 1.2 in MS Word) is necessary, but these policies in and of themselves do not ensure that youth will receive high-quality transition services. Helping all youth to make informed choices and achieve desired outcomes requires a structured, well-defined assessment process. This process should be driven by person-centered planning, provide a full array of effective practices, and coordinate the gathering of helpful planning information. The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth has developed a framework of opportunities and experiences called Guideposts for Success [Table 1.1] (view Table 1.1 in MS Word) which, when used with a person-centered planning approach, can provide an effective foundation for transition planning.

In transition, person-centered planning focuses on the interests, aptitudes, knowledge, and skills of an individual, not on his or her perceived deficits. It also involves the people who are active in the life of a youth, including family members, educators, and community service professionals. The plan’s purposes are to identify desired outcomes that have meaning to the youth and to develop customized support plans to achieve them. It also identifies marketable job skills, articulates career choices, establishes individual outcome objectives, and maps specific action plans to achieve them. Effective assessment, both formal and informal, is the foundation on which this process rests.

Assessment data is used to form educational, training, or employment plans specific to the individual’s situation. To collect all needed data, a balanced assessment process is needed. Assessment is not an end unto itself, but rather a process for acquiring knowledge to inform decision-making.

Assessment Principles

The following principles should guide each step of the assessment process:

  • Self-determination based on informed choices should be an overriding goal of assessment.
  • Assessment is a dynamic intervention process.
  • Assessment facilitates self-discovery of talents, goals, strengths, and needs.
  • The purposes and goals of assessment should be clear.
  • Assessment should be integrated into a larger plan of individualized services.
  • Assessment should consider environmental factors affecting the individual.
  • Formal assessment instruments should be carefully chosen with attention to their documented reliability and validity.
  • Formal assessments should be administered and interpreted by qualified personnel.
  • Assessment reports should be written in easily understandable language.
  • Assessment activities should be positive and lead to self-empowerment.

The assessment process can be complex, and the systems governing assessment even more so, especially for youth with disabilities. Assessments may be used for identifying and defining disabling conditions, a process that can be different for individual youths since language, philosophy, legislative disparities, and definitions of disability can vary across special education, vocational rehabilitation, and other community service agency programs.

Many education and youth development programs struggle with providing assessments to an increasing number of youth from culturally diverse backgrounds. A plan for incorporating cultural diversity into the design and delivery of youth assessment services plan should consider the following:

  1. recruiting youth service professionals who reflect the cultural diversity of youth populations served;
  2. ensuring that professionals and hired consultants are culturally and linguistically competent; and
  3. ensuring that testing instruments, strategies, and methods selected for vocational assessment purposes are valid and reliable for the youth populations served—and where they are not, that alternate assessment activities are arranged.

CWD-Youth’s Career Planning Begins with Assessment guide and assessment professionals should be consulted when questions about selecting and administering assessments arise. Assessment professionals can be found in school districts, community service and adult agencies, and at community colleges. Specialists in vocational and career assessment can be found through the Commission on Certification of Work Adjustment and Vocational Evaluation Specialists or the National Directory of Vocational Evaluation and Career Assessment Professionals.

The principles and resources provided in this overview of assessment provide a solid foundation for youth guidance and planning in schools, community-based organizations, workforce development programs, and other youth-serving institutions.


Association for Career and Technical Education
Contains information and resources for educators and professionals who prepare youth and adults for careers.

National Center for Cultural Competence
Contains a variety of references on cultural competence including models, guiding values and principles, definitions, self-assessment tools, a consultant pool, and a searchable database of resources.

National Center on Secondary Education and Transition
Contains resources and information for youth with disabilities in order to create opportunities for youth to achieve successful futures. Topics include teaching and learning, postsecondary education and employment, transition planning and community resources, youth development and family participation, and linking systems.

Occupational Information Network – O*Net Online
Contains employment outlooks, wage and trend reports, labor market information by state, career tools, and additional resources.

Vocational Evaluation and Career Assessment Professionals
Contains a national directory of vocational evaluation and career assessment professionals.

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Core Publications

Kapes, J., Mastie, M., & Whitfield, E.A. (1994). A counselor’s guide to career assessment instruments (3rd ed.). Alexandria , VA : National Career Development Association.

Salvia, J. and Ysseldyke, J. (2004). Assessment in special and inclusive education. Boston , MA : Houghton Mifflin.

Thurlow, M., House, A., Boys, C., Scott, D., & Ysseldyke, J. (2000). State participation and accommodation policies for students with disabilities: 1999 update [Synthesis Report No. 33]. Minneapolis : University of Minnesota , National Center on Educational Outcomes. Retrieved January 16, 2004 , from

Timmons, J., Podmostko, M., Bremer, C., Lavin, D., & Wills, J. (2004). Career planning begins with assessment: A guide for professionals serving youth with educational & career development challenges. Washington, DC: National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth, Institute for Educational Leadership.

© 2018 NCWD/Youth