How One School District Manages Drastic Growth in Special Populations Each Year
Alvin Independent School District is a dynamic learning organization committed to excellence for each student and every program. Not far from Houston, Alvin is a rapidly growing district with enrollment increasing by well over 1,000 students annually. New schools are planned and built every year to keep up with projected expansion.
With Extreme District Growth Comes Extreme Paperwork
With such explosive growth, meeting the needs of all special education students can be challenging. In her role as a special education coordinator, Gaye McDaniel’s primary responsibility is compliance. Keeping up with the paperwork and making sure all student records are in order used to be incredibly time consuming. The technology the district had relied on for special education compliance just couldn’t keep up with the influx of students. English language learner (ELL), 504 and RTI were all tracked on paper, with each department using its own unique system. Knowing there had to be a better system out there, Gaye started the search for a provider that could meet their unique needs.
“Where some districts just need to plan for now, we have to plan for this growth that we’re going to have over the next 10 years,” said McDaniel. “We had to come up with a program that was going to be able to keep up with the growth.”
A Promising Shift in Strategy for Special-Programs Staff
The district decided that switching to an electronic, paperless system would solve the problem. After searching for solutions, Gaye and her team were convinced that Frontline Special Education Management would be a good fit for them. While it took some time to complete the process of uploading historic assessments, evaluations and records that had been filed as hardcopies in student folders, the special education staff is thrilled to now have all the documentation they need for every student at their fingertips.
New System Positively Impacts the Alvin ISD Community
Reliable service and access to records
After making the decision to go with Frontline and store their records electronically, Gaye needed assurance that the system wouldn’t go down. Frontline proved to have a reliable system of backup servers. When a fiber-optic line was cut 3000 miles away (unrelated to Frontline), the Frontline team immediately notified the district. The constant updates to the Alvin ISD staff reinforced to Gaye that they made the right decision.
“That was a huge component right there. We had already purchased the program, but that was reinforcement that we did the right thing,” said McDaniel.
The paper chase is over
Once the file-input process was completed and demographics were pulled in from the student information system, district staff could simply update records online as needed. Electronic documents for students who are ELLs or on a 504 plan are all stored in the same system. In the past, it often took up to an hour to search for folders that may have been kept at different locations and gather all the documents needed for a meeting. With Frontline, now it takes just minutes.
Compliance management is more accurate and efficient
Having the documentation in a single system makes the compliance process much easier and more accurate, and the special education staff feel confident that services and interventions are aligned to meet the needs of every student. Instead of having to go through each document in a student’s folder, coordinators for Special Education, ELL and 504 quickly spot-check student records online. Not only that, but when a staff member needs additional training on student-support-related tasks, it’s easy to review documentation and provide immediate feedback.
Benefits for teachers and students
Using Frontline saves time for busy teachers. Since working with hard-copies has been virtually eliminated, they no longer need to pull folders out of a file cabinet to work on student records or put them back to secure them.
Case managers can quickly input data or check students’ records to make sure that all their teachers have viewed the relevant documents, and send reminders when needed.
When a new student qualifies for special education services, the special education transportation coordinator is notified through Frontline’s system. Before the end of the school day, the classroom teacher already knows the bus number along with the pickup and drop-off schedule.
Student accommodations, goals and behavior intervention plans are uploaded to the district’s student information system, allowing the general education teachers easy access to information that will help them support their students. Teachers not only know they have a student with special needs, but also have all the relevant details and history about that student.
The group that truly benefits the most is the students themselves. Because staff have immediate access to accommodations, behavior plans, assessments and evaluations, they can provide direct support. If a student is struggling, it just takes a moment for a teacher to review their records and find out what instructional strategies would be most effective.
Improved workflow and communication
With increased efficiency and no hardcopy paperwork, teachers and support staff have more time to spend on students. As they realize how much using the online program helps them do their jobs, staff morale continues to improve.
Having all student records in one place means that if a student has a learning disability and is also a second-language learner, the committee has the information they need to determine how they can best meet that student’s needs. If a student was on a 504 plan before qualifying for special education, that history is in one place, making it much easier to track the progress the student has made over time.
If parents have questions or concerns, or plan to attend a meeting, information about their child is readily available to them. Since most Alvin ISD parents prefer email communication, staff members use Frontline’s system to securely email documents and forms to parents. When parents attend a meeting, they have access to their child’s records right on their phones.
Working together to prepare for tomorrow
Client support from Frontline gets an A++ from Gaye McDaniel. From the initial setup of the system to day-to-day questions, responses to questions are quick, and problems are usually fixed right away. Strong two-way communication provides regular opportunities for district leaders to meet with Frontline representatives to learn about current updates along with new and exciting things going on.
Does your district have the digital tools it needs to stay compliant and strategic as enrollment increases in special programs? Frontline Special Education Managements helps you efficiently manage state-specific regulations as you plan support for each learner.
Danielle is part of the global, award-winning content team at Frontline Education. She graduated from Emerson College with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Writing, Literature and Publishing, and has developed content to empower the education community for over 10 years.