It is a story that has become altogether too familiar in the past year: special education students, teachers, parents and service providers facing the day to day challenges posed by the coronavirus and remote learning. Everyone feels farther behind and less connected. Students are less prepared for life after graduation. In an environment that is complex and difficult to navigate under the best of circumstances, COVID has overwhelmed the systems in place in many states, districts and service agencies. What can be done? Is there any way out?
The circumstances of the last 14 months have stressed special education in some very particular ways, first and foremost complicating communication and coordination at all levels of the system. We all know that local teams of teachers, counsellors, parents, and caregivers must share a common understanding of the goals and the “what, who, how and when,” of each student’s IEP to make success achievable. District and building administrators and special educators must all be “pulling in the same direction,” aligning policies, practices, supporting systems and procedures. Service agencies and state departments of education have their part to play, as well, monitoring for compliance and insisting on quality to deliver results for kids. Without any one of these elements, operational or strategic, and success is left to chance or the heroic efforts of team members..
So, what does it take to achieve results for special education students? First, it takes moving the entire systems back to compliance. State departments of education, service agencies and large districts must put in place systems of support that give visibility into the activities for compliance monitoring. That is the baseline. Those systems must provide mechanisms for deep, shared understanding of local systems’ strengths and weaknesses, be they programmatic, fiscal or otherwise. Those systems must have an underlying technology that taps multiple data systems that are the basis for analytics and insights that, more often than not, have been siloed among disparate units within education organizations. They must provide structured, local monitoring to ensure that programs meet standards established by the US Department of Education. They must provide local units with a way of planning for continuous improvement, ensuring that every member of the team knows their responsibilities and has the supports necessary to carry them out. All team members can be assured that the team is methodically addressing systemic weaknesses.
Fundamentally, the stakeholders that impact student outcomes – from the state-level, to the district, to the community – operate in silos that deter seamless collaboration. To achieve results for students and compliance within local systems, technologies must be deployed that support communication and collaboration among all players focused on making the system work for student outcomes. These platforms must have the ability for stakeholders to seamlessly share updates, documents, and records so all those involved in ensuring and supporting student success. These same platforms must enable secure connectivity between all stakeholders, to ensure that any student information that is shared is protected and in compliance with industry regulations such as HIPAA and FERPA. It is also critical that stakeholders have a way to assign, track, and manage service delivery for special education students, allowing them to monitor compliance and adherence to best practices. This way, they will be able to understand student-level progress as to the goals of a student’s IEP, and gain insight into the areas where they may need additional support. Overall, these secure collaboration platforms will enable clients to put the practice-level aspects of a back to compliance plan into action.
In the end, it takes both strategic and operational excellence to achieve results for students with IEPs. We invite you to take a look at how our two products, Stepwell and eCare Vault, complement each other to help special educators achieve high quality outcomes for students. Stepwell (www.stepwelled.com) increases visibility into your system and provides a structured process for getting back to compliance. eCareVault (www.ecarevault.com), and their Safe Spaces application for Microsoft Teams (www.ecarevault.com/ecare-vault-for-teams), is an out-of-the-box HIPAA and FERPA-compliant collaboration hub that provides secure workspaces for discussions and document exchange around the most important conversations in special education, and enables you to manage and track services delivered to students in order to monitor compliance.
As a limited-time offer, a district version of Stepwell and eCare Vault’s Safe Spaces are available to select districts free of charge. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for more information and to get started.