The Hidden (Practical) Value in End-of-Year Special Education Data

Special Education


Supporting K-12 students with special needs makes for a very busy spring for administrators and special education teachers. There are so many things that need to be done to close out the year that it can often feel like a very reactive — even chaotic — time, which means you have pretty much no time at all to proactively plan for next year. But, according to your peers in special education, planning for next year at the end of this year will likely save you a lot of stress down the line.

What if you could use your end-of-year special programs data to proactively solve next year’s problems, before next year — without working 80 hours a week? To gain a better understanding of where there is hidden value in end-of-year data, and how it’s being effectively leveraged with such limited time, we asked districts how they currently go about it, and where they’re seeing a return on their investment of time.

What challenges do you face?

Pine Tree Independent School District: “Finding the time can be challenging. The accountability piece has been somewhat challenging. Keeping track of what student information has and hasn’t been archived — in the past, this has been difficult to determine.”

Pekin Public School District 108: “Not enough time. Having to manipulate some of the data manually.”

Katy Independent School District: “Not enough time. We want to make sure we benchmark and archive all of our data each month so we keep a running record of historical data. Losing live data is a major concern. Lack of interconnectedness in some of the data systems our district uses can be a challenge.”

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When does end-of-year review start?

review and planning IEPs

How does data help you plan for next year?

South Sector — United Independent School District: “Helps us identify programs and systems that proved successful this year and make changes to programs and procedures that were not effective. We also use it to anticipate staff development needs.”

Pekin Public School District 108: “It's helpful for resource planning at the campus level. For example, we had a building that started the year with one teacher and 12 special education students. But 8 or 9 of those students ended up needing more attention from special education teachers and paraprofessionals because of the disability types. Reviewing data at the end of the year allows us to make better projections, so we can more accurately plan effective caseloads and decide if we need to hire more staff.”

Katy Independent School District: “We use it to make projections for how many special education students will be in our district, and moving around to various schools within our district, in the coming school year. We also use it to see enrollment trends at each campus as we determine how we're going to staff educational diagnosticians and speech pathologists for each campus.”

Which data and reports are most helpful for planning?

Katy Independent School District: “Student disability code, how many transfer students are in our district, how many students are evaluated each month, how many meetings are held each month, how many students we started with in our special education programs — and how many we end the year with, pending referrals, reports to make sure the status for each student is filled in to our data management system.

Pekin Public School District 108: “Student grade, program, educational environment code, disability code, address path, projected campus for coming school year.”

Pine Tree Independent School District: “Student name, date of birth, grade, campus, instructional arrangement code, speech code, related services data. We use the annual state-specific special education and FIE reports. The 504 report helps to identify students with dyslexia, so we can compare teacher caseloads.”

Who reviews the data and what’s involved?

 Special Ed Director Review

Things to consider to get the most out of data

Each of the districts we spoke with used insights gathered during end-of-year data review to inform plans for the next school year and improve internal processes in a measurable way. While end-of-year data review in special education and interventions is not a one-size-fits-all approach, common challenges centered around time management and data loss. Better compliance management, resource management and ability track progress were common goals.

Do these themes resonate with what you’ve experienced in the trenches? Are there other ways your team can use data to reclaim staff time to better support children with special needs next year?

About Danielle Simbajon

Danielle Simbajon has created content in support of the education community for over 10 years. She works at Frontline Education, developing content to help the community continue to learn and grow.