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Case Study

A Special Education System Designed for Compliance with Texas Requirements

Frontline Special Programs Management helps the Special Education Department at Elgin Independent School District comply with federal, state, and district regulations, improve processes, and provide better student support.

Elgin Independent School District Hero Image

District Background

Elgin ISD chose Frontline Special Programs Management and saw the following benefits:

  • Improved compliance. Frontline prompts users to include all information required for state regulations.
  • Better reporting. Customizable reports make it easy to see which actions need to be taken for each student.
  • Quality controls for better education. Collaboration tools allow case managers and special education personnel to work together to provide better support for students.
  • Refined processes. Using Frontline helps Elgin ISD implement best practices and become more efficient.

When Dr. Shannon Darst began her role as a Special Education Coordinator at Elgin Independent School District, she stepped into the middle of a software implementation. The department was changing to a new special education system: Frontline Special Programs Management.

A Growing Community, a Need for Change

Elgin ISD is just outside of Austin, Texas. Although it sits among farm fields and ranches, the school district is one of the fastest-growing communities in central Texas and is home to approximately 800 special education students. “It has exponentially increased in the last two and a half years,” says Shannon.

Elgin ISD is justifiably proud of its programs for special student populations. Reporting to Special Education Director Ashton Booth, Shannon is one of three coordinators, along with a coordinator overseeing Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) and Behavior, and one overseeing Section 504 plans and dyslexia. Shannon spends her days on plan management and helping to guide instructional specialists, ARD (Admission, Review & Dismissal) managers, facilitators, case managers, and paraprofessionals to ensure the district stays compliant with federal, state, and district regulations. This includes attending ARD meetings, making sure Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP) statements and goals are written correctly, and communicating with parents and other district staff.

Shannon says two areas of special education in which the district strives to excel are providing consistent, effective support for students and ensuring paperwork is completed correctly. But under the old software system, Shannon says, it was difficult to guarantee compliance with state, federal, and Elgin ISD policies. “It was possible to create an IEP without collecting exactly the right amount of information and data that you needed to collect, because there were no reminders.”

Introducing Frontline Special Programs Management

The district selected Frontline Special Programs Management to replace their old system. Shannon is glad about the decision they made.

Dr. Shannon Darst Photo

“I was not privy to the decision-making. I was gifted Frontline — which is how I look at it because I love it. I actually love working with it.”

Dr. Shannon Darst
– Special Education Coordinator

Throughout implementation, Shannon says she appreciated the attention and personal touch from the Frontline team who helped them put the system into action. “I have felt extremely satisfied about the support that has been provided, and I think my colleagues do, too.”


Now that the team at Elgin ISD is using the system to manage the special education process, Shannon says she sees numerous benefits.

Greater Compliance, More Accurate Timelines

Special education is complex, and often it is easy for teachers, diagnosticians, and others to overlook required elements. However, Frontline is designed with compliance in mind. Prompts, required fields, and reminders ensure that users enter data correctly and follow the right processes and timelines. “There are a lot of us in special education who need that kind of reminder: ‘Hey, you forgot to check off this thing on the schedule of services,’ or ‘You forgot to talk to your transition person and get that data pulled,'” Shannon says.

For example, certain supplements are required for a student’s transition plan as they prepare for life after high school, beginning when they turn 13. Frontline prompts users to include each element throughout the ARD process. “The fail-safes that are available in Frontline, that is probably the best thing that has happened with the change.”

All special education paperwork is housed within Frontline, along with relevant dates. The system tracks when parents sign the consent forms and calculates due dates for critical milestones like evaluations and ARD meetings. Teachers no longer need to calculate timelines — a time-consuming and error-prone process for someone who is not adept at school calendars. Shannon also uses it to plan. “I am going to I am going to use the reminder system in Frontline Special Programs Management to guide my ARD meeting scheduling: ‘Checking all my ninth graders, we have 25 ARDs coming up in the next month and a half, and 10 of those need Reviews of Existing Evaluation Data (REEDs).’ That has been one of the biggest helps.”

“Frontline gives us all that without having to sit down and look at a calculator and see that we missed a holiday or a weekend. That has been wonderful.”

Dr. Shannon Darst
– Special Education Coordinator


Shannon says she especially appreciates the customizable reports in Frontline, which allow her to choose the information to include and how it is presented. She can quickly access data on an individual student or create a spreadsheet to see any outstanding needs, such as which students still need to have REEDs completed or IEPs created. “Frontline produces amazing reports, and that has helped us with efficiency and compliance, because we know what we’re missing,” she says. “Those pieces of Frontline are so much more powerful than any other platform I’ve ever used.”

Quality Control Leads to Better Education

Case managers work with students to write progress reports every nine weeks. They also prepare paperwork, write PLAAFPs, and draft updated goals — all work that needs to be reviewed and checked for quality.

Frontline allows for collaboration between case managers and others in the district, making it possible for people in separate locations to contribute to plan development. Shannon explains, “That provides us with a way to communicate from district to case manager and say, ‘I see here that you wrote this goal, and it is not written measurably. How can we make that more measurable, to help you provide a measurable activity for your student?’ That is one of the biggest ways it is helping us to provide better for our students, because we have a checks and balances accountability system through Frontline.”

Refining Processes

As the district grows, the special education department also grows, especially now that it includes students with dyslexia. Shannon says that because Frontline Special Programs Management is designed with compliance in mind, it highlights areas where improvement is needed. “It has become a primary troubleshooting mechanism for many of our special education processes.” As the system prompts users for all required information, it helps clarify each person’s role and expectations for what students need.

Shannon says, “Frontline has provided me with a glimpse of the potential well-oiled machine we can be here in this district.”