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Case Study

A Special Education and Section 504 System Built for Texas

How Texas Can Academies ensures that IEPs and 504 Plans meet Texas requirements while saving time and providing the data needed to inform strategy.

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District Background

Texas Can Academies (TCA) is a charter school serving students in grades 9-12, many of whom have been unsuccessful in a traditional school environment. Eleven percent of the student population qualifies for special education, and three percent have Section 504 plans.

Thirty-two special education teachers work in the school’s 13 high schools. Those teachers strive to ensure the instruction students receive is of the highest quality, but Kim Chesney, Director of Special Services, says that state compliance requirements present a hurdle. Fully completing IEPs and Section 504 Plans within the correct timeframes takes a lot of effort. “I want to spend all my time pouring into making sure my teachers have good instructional techniques and are using best practices and things like that, but I have to spend a large majority of my time on compliance and making sure boxes are checked.”

Before: A System NOT Built for Texas

Previously, TCA managed the special education process with a system that was not tailored to Texas state requirements. “Not a lot of people in Texas used the program we were using, and you could tell because there were some things that were not Texas compliant,” says Kim. “In Texas special ed, we like to do a lot of things differently than other states. There were things about the system for which we had to find workarounds, so we had to put in extra text boxes and other things that made sure we covered the compliance. We couldn’t do all the reporting that we needed.”

With a fairly transient student population, TCA also needed a system that was used by other Texas LEAs to make transferring students between districts more seamless.

Kim Chesney Photo

“I want to spend all my time making sure my teachers have good instructional techniques and are using best practices and things like that, but I have to spend a large majority of my time on compliance and making sure boxes are checked.”

Kim Chesney
– Director of Special Services

Frontline Plan Management

Kim and her team set out in search of a system built with Texas requirements in mind. They evaluated several systems but found that some were not up to date with newer Texas legislation or had a more “loosey goosey” approach to compliance, with fewer checks on information entered.

TCA landed on Frontline Plan Management, with solutions for managing IEPs as well as Section 504 Plans. Crucially, Frontline is a system built specifically for Texas. “They had that Texas background. I know the programs that are under Frontline have been through the rigor, gone through due process hearings, and districts have come out okay,” explains Kim. “I know they’ve been through the updates with the Texas legislature, that was comforting to hear. And then the transfer process between districts was a big selling point for us, knowing how easily documents can be transferred between Frontline districts.”

They began using Frontline in 2023. The team loved their implementation specialist who worked with them over the summer, and they began the school year training staff how to use the system. They also collaborated with other school districts who were implementing the system at the same time, sharing resources and best practices.


Greater Compliance

As the staff at Texas Can Academies uses the system to create IEPs and 504 Plans, Frontline guides users through the correct steps to ensure they meet compliance requirements. “As a former evaluator, I can take a Google Doc and I can write a compliant full and individual evaluation (FIE). Do I trust every single evaluator on my team to be able to do that? Or would I rather lay out all the requirements in the FIE and make them go through the rigor of each requirement? We decided that Frontline went through the rigor and made you go through the steps to reach compliance, and that was a better fit for us.”

“We decided that Frontline went through the rigor and made you go through the steps to reach compliance, and that was a better fit for us.”

Kim Chesney
– Director of Special Services

Kim can run reports to show whether or not TCA is 100% compliant for reports they are required to send to the state. This helps her hold staff accountable. “It’s coming to light a lot more when people are not following all the requirements. Those are popping up and you’re able to see it.”

Stronger Reporting

The information that Kim can pull from Frontline far exceeds what was available to them before. “I’m seeing a stronger ability to report, not just for compliance, but I’m able to see what we’re putting as goals. Are we seeing patterns emerge? I’m able to collect data a lot better.”

She uses this information to make plans as a department. “We look at disability information, primary, secondary, tertiary disabilities. What are our trends? What are we seeing most students come in with? Where do we need to start focusing Professional Development? Do we see that most of our students come in emotionally disturbed or with a specific learning disability? Where do we need Professional Development around that?”

Kim compares the data from Frontline to the PEIMS data in their student information system, since accurate reporting leads directly to funding for their schools. Additionally, Kim generates data summaries every nine weeks to report to the school board, letting her monitor trends at different schools. “Now I know this campus has more code 42s than everyone else. When I visit this campus, should I be concerned that they’ve got more pullouts? Are they not looking at inclusion more often? Are they not considering a least-restrictive environment? It’s allowing us to see where we need to target and tier our campuses appropriately.”

Virtual Accessibility

Frontline’s collaboration portal allows parents and service providers to participate in the IEP or 504 process without being there in person. This is especially helpful because Texas Can Academies spans across the state. “We can send documents and they can even sign documents through that. It’s a secure way to send information, so that has been really helpful to increase meaningful parent participation,” says Kim.

Time Saved on State Testing Accommodations

An accommodation may only be used during state testing if that accommodation is routinely used in class. Frontline feeds classroom accommodations directly into TestHound, the system TCA uses for state assessments. “That is saving our people a lot of time in having to search. It is also saving us possible clerical errors and clicking on the wrong line, when we have lines that are right next to each other,” explains Kim. “To know that this system feeds directly into TestHound, which ensures that we have accurate state testing accommodations, is great.”

“Streamlined compliance with individualization accessibility.”

Individualized Education Programs are just that: individualized. Each student has different needs. Kim appreciates that in Frontline, she only needs to fill out the information required for that student. “For example, if I check that I have a student with dyslexia, then Frontline automatically requires that I fill out the dyslexia screen to make sure I have covered all the necessary components of a dyslexia IEP. If I don’t have a student with dyslexia, I never have to go to that screen.”

Special education will likely never be easy, especially in a dropout recovery school like Texas Can Academies where 99% of students are considered “At Risk” for one reason or another. But Frontline helps Kim Chesney manage the process in an efficient, compliant way — and access the data needed to set her team and her students up for success.