Three Things Learned at NASDSE 2018

Blog Post

This October, the Stepwell team attended the annual National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) conference. The theme of this year’s conference, “Aligning Systems of Support to Improve Meaningful Daily Outcomes,” relates closely to what Stepwell works toward each day with our mission to drive system improvement at every level. There were a few select topics at this year’s conference that our team is excited to discuss.

Sharing data between agencies

The method of sharing data efficiently between state and local agencies has improved vastly over the years. At NASDSE, we discussed effective strategies for sharing data between state agencies, with a goal of meeting special education compliance. Districts need a reliable method of providing information to state agencies – a main feature of Stepwell.

A culture of collaboration and openness ensures that each agency has access to the data they need, minus the hassle. Having set strategies and policies in place can prevent headaches down the road.

Stepwell’s platform relies on cloud computing to provide local education agencies (LEAs) and state education agencies (SEAs) with functionality to collaborate in a single workflow – where administrators can come together in the same environment to share, access and edit the same data.

Another benefit to data sharing: as policies change, districts can easily adapt and comply with agency regulations as they occur, leading to benefits for educators and students.

Using data to eliminate equity gaps

As we seek new ways to eliminate opportunity gaps and racial disparities in schools, it’s imperative that we don’t forget about including special education. Through the collection and utilization of data come opportunities to track student success, and ensure that an accurate picture of the whole child is being created.

Stepwell tracks for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) compliance to inspire results-driven accountability, examining indicators and if changes need to be made. Visibility is brought into the improvement process so that users can better understand how a district is doing beyond traditional indicators.

An overarching view of district success, paired with individual student assessment, results in a system that gives teachers the opportunity to serve every student’s need. Equity remains an important topic in education, and we’re certain that through collaboration and data documentation, positive changes can be made.

Connecting ESSA and State Systemic Improvement Plans

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a hot topic in education, with states rolling out their plans and beginning the steps to measuring success. For these plans to ultimately be successful, the State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP) and ESSA must be aligned to support students with disabilities.

States have worked hard on this alignment, including requiring the same annual accountability targets for students with disabilities in their ESSA plans as are identified in the SSIP. Additionally, many ESSA plans support districts with continuous improvement initiatives that leverage the infrastructure approaches described in their SSIP. In our effort to support this alignment in a coordinated manner as possible for districts, our platform presents data and visualizations, while simplifying processes and allowing users to implement best practices when confronted with a noncompliance finding or improvement initiative.

Even though NASDSE is over, our team has continued to reflect on what we’ve learned, and what’s to come for compliance in special education. We stay committed to viewing challenges as a workflow, and spreading the word of the importance of a collaborative, design-driven approach to education.