Brownsville Independent School District
- Brownsville, TX
- PreK-12 Enrollment
- Caucasian/White: 1.4%
- Hispanic: 98.3%
- African American/Black: 0.1%
- Asian: 0.2%
- Frontline Special Programs Management
- Section 504 Program Management
- RTI/MTSS Program Management
Brownsville ISD is a large multicultural district serving predominantly bilingual students. Ensuring the success of each student, educator and family is vital for growth and sustainability of the community. BISD addresses the unique cultural lifestyle of South Texas with a broad selection of academic activities and programs for all students and maintains a powerful network of support for at-risk students.
Management of the Dyslexia Program, Section 504, and Response to Intervention (RtI) was paper based. Even though the process was well-established in the district, it left a lot of room for errors with compliance, monitoring, and accountability. Julie Salinas, Program Director for Section 504, Dyslexia, and RtI, was eager to update the model. Her priorities were to improve student support by providing additional help to teachers and keeping parents better informed.
“Once we went digital, it opened up a whole new world for our teachers and our coordinators.”
When Julie brought Frontline Special Programs Management to the district several years ago, it was a major shift in the way their programs had always functioned. To be successful, the transition required training and cooperation. The team had to learn a new approach to monitoring plans, completing forms, scheduling and conducting meetings, and documenting student progress. Initially reluctant to change their model, campus coordinators in charge of oversight realized how much easier it made their jobs.
Julie learned how to monitor and support campuses district-wide while ensuring compliance. Her office keeps in touch and sends monthly meeting reminders to coordinators. With district access, she sees state assessment information and reviews committee recommendations. She can even drill down into the data to review student progress in the RtI program.
At the same time, she is more accessible to the teams on each site. If they ask her to review documents, she simply views them in Frontline. No one needs to scan paperwork, send data back and forth through district mail, or meet in person.
In BISD, the assistant principals serve as coordinators. They are responsible for assisting with meetings, maintaining parent communication, and overseeing all the Section 504 and RtI plans. In the past, they didn’t enter any data into an electronic system since everything was handwritten.
Now it’s easy because users can select options from drop-down menus. To customize the item choices, the district includes options for state assessments, sample accommodations, and a list of disabilities to choose from. You can imagine how much time that saves while improving accuracy and consistency too.
“It eliminates a lot of errors in the way things are written, like the disability or the accommodation.”
Emphasis on support
Julie oversees three major programs, Section 504, Dyslexia, and Response to Intervention, altogether serving about 8,000 students. Almost a third of those have dyslexia, and the others qualify for Section 504 because of medical health conditions or temporary impairments. All students who qualify for support through the RtI program receive tiered support that is documented through the Frontline RtI program. The majority of those students are on Section 504 plans.
Remember how important that network of support for at-risk students is at BISD? Around 5,000 students are eligible for special education, about 10 to 11% of all students enrolled. Another 7% qualify for Section 504 plans. To meet its goal of training teachers to recognize red flags that signal at-risk students and learn strategies for supporting those students in the classroom, the district schedules annual in-service workshops. They train all educators on dyslexia and the Response to Intervention program and offer guidance to parents. This year, because of the pandemic, they went virtual.
Teachers appreciate the training and the district specialists who are on call to assist. The department also publishes a staff handbook that includes lists of tiered interventions. When the district transitioned to online instruction during the pandemic, it was easy to progress monitor the students, document the tiered interventions, and continue moving forward to meet students’ needs.
Compliance and communication
“A great thing about the program is the compliance report. The report tells you what’s pending, who has a three-year re-evaluation coming up, and what the disabilities are.”
Frontline works with attorneys to keep abreast of current trends and changes in the law. That helps district administrators keep up to date and stay in compliance, especially during disruptions like those that came along with COVID.
Remembering the days when she used to go around to campuses getting signatures, making sure teachers received their copies of 504 plans, and kept them secure, Julie appreciates the teacher portal. It’s so much easier to provide a copy of the plan to the teacher with a single login.
With the compliance report available through Frontline, Julie’s team has a clear picture of where they need to be throughout the school year. The coordinators use it to keep teachers informed, track student progress, and make sure everyone is in compliance. Not only do they keep an eye on meeting dates and re-evaluation timelines, but they make certain teachers are on schedule with progress monitoring through RtI. That ongoing communication keeps compliance on the front burner.
Frontline recently added a parent portal that has significantly improved the district’s ability to communicate with parents. During school closures, it was tough to get documents to parents. With the new parent portal, digital paperwork can be shared securely. If a student receives support through RTI or has dyslexia services, their parents can see the data reports as well the Section 504 referral documents.
Comprehensive referral process
BISD uses universal screeners for all students. Once they see that a student is at risk for academics or behavior and they need support, the teacher initiates a referral. The parent completes an input form. School nurses enter relevant information about medical history and school counselors weigh in on their academic and behavioral concerns. Evaluators can upload their reports so when a committee is reviewing a child’s case, they’re not just looking at what one teacher is saying. They’re examining the child’s history to identify areas of concern and determine how to move forward. After all of the stakeholders have contributed to the referral, the team works together to create a written plan for the student.
“We’re able to see every student that has come through RTI or 504 and see how best we could service that child. It’s not just what’s happening now. It’s what’s been happening in the past.”
It is not unusual for a student to qualify under Section 504 only because of behavior. They might have a disability such as ADHD or a mental or behavioral health disorder. The student might not be at risk academically, but a behavior plan would help ensure success in the classroom. The program allows the committees to create behavior plans, monitor students, provide services, and add related services such as counseling or nursing when needed.
“It was the best thing ever to have that relationship manager helping us from the very beginning.”
From the very beginning, when Frontline programs were first implemented, the support from company representatives facilitated an easy transition from paper forms to an online platform. When system users need assistance, submitting a help ticket or making a phone call gets a quick response. The Frontline team is open to input from Julie and her staff and makes every effort to accommodate them.
When the district is implementing new initiatives requiring large data uploads or specific drop-down menus, Frontline reps are always willing to help. Julia feels like that support shows Frontline is invested in doing their part to ensure that the district can manage extra challenges along with their daily operations.
We’re doing it right
“We know that using the program is helping to ensure that we target the student’s needs.”
BISD uses Frontline Section 504 Management for everything from compliance to storing documents to communicating with parents and collecting their input. Instructional supports, state assessments, related services, teacher input, it’s all there. Teachers and administrators access it every day to keep up with students’ plans. The program has been life-changing for anyone who used paper forms and remembers how time-consuming the old system was.
We know we’re doing it the right way. It is so much easier for the district to ensure compliance and monitor student progress at every school with Frontline.
“I look forward to seeing what else Frontline has to offer and continuing with the partnership that we have.”
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