Visibility in Stepwell

Blog Post

One word you will hear a lot when learning about Stepwell is “visibility.” We use it all the time to describe our platform and our goals. From “providing visibility into special education monitoring” to “creating visibility with timely and relevant data,” we place a lot of importance on that single word.

So why are we so obsessed with visibility?

The explanation lies deep within our roots. When members of our team worked at state administrative agencies, we gained an in-depth understanding of how these organizations accomplished their work. While some projects and initiatives ran smoothly and efficiently, there were others that got caught up in red tape, dead ends and redundant work. When we reflected on what set apart the projects that were headaches from those that seemed to move along effortlessly, we noticed that it all came down to visibility.

What Visibility Means To Us

The projects that had high visibility shared several common attributes. First, there was a clear understanding of the tasks among everyone working on the project. Tasks were well defined and had actionable steps laid out to achieve a specific solution. Second was a transparent workflow that people could refer to to understand who was supposed to do what and by when. With an understanding of planned tasks and who was working on them, people were able to avoid duplicating each other’s work or having tasks slip through the cracks. Lastly, visibility meant being able to communicate about how a project was going while it was going on. Rather than waiting for a deadline to come up only to find out that not everything had been accomplished, people were able to communicate clearly and address problems as they arose.

Visibility in Special Education

When we reflected on how the special education system worked, we saw many of the same issues that we had dealt with in the past: red tape, redundant paperwork and miscommunication getting in the way of good intentions. Many of these struggles stem from the fact that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is civil rights legislation meant to ensure equal access to education. With such an important topic, there has to be constant monitoring and tracking of any shortcomings. But all these steps to ensure compliance have created mountains of paperwork that state monitors have to keep up with. The data from many different sources are stored in different formats and locations making it nearly impossible to get a clear picture of the situation.

In these struggles, we recognized an opportunity to use our experience with education data and school improvement to streamline this process. By making every step of the monitoring  process visible, we aim to give education officials the tools they need to complete their tasks and make a difference in the special education system.

How Visibility Is Integrated In Stepwell

We have embedded our ideas about visibility in four features of Stepwell:

  • Data: Visible data means two things: compiling all the paperwork that comes with IDEA compliance into one platform and using these data to create understandable data bytes that inform decisions. With the ability to see data from multiple sources in one place, special education officials, administrators and educators can create well defined, actionable steps for their teams to work on.
  • Workflow: Having a visible workflow helps people understand their tasks and deadlines easily. This visibility also gives them an idea of what other people are working on, and how their work will affect what they need to do next.
  • Communication: With a built-in communication system, users can fluidly communicate about  their plans for results. Stepwell’s communications tools enable educators and administrators to get a clear picture of what efforts are being made and where work still needs to be done.
  • Results: Even the best plans don’t always get the results intended. Being able to easily compare data at the beginning and end of a planned action allows educators to see what practices are and aren’t working. If they don’t achieve the results they intended, it might help to think about how improvement plans are being implemented and try again.

With these tools, we hope to bring increased visibility into the complex world of special education monitoring and compliance. By giving educators and administrators a clear understanding of the tasks in front of them, we aim to empower them to bring more effective change to special education.