In the late 1990s, special education providers in the San Diego Unified School District were still filing handwritten Individual Education Plans. Without a centralized source for IEPs and other student records, the educators could not access or analyze large volumes of information in a timely manner, much less ensure that IEPs were being written in compliance with state and federal laws.
So the San Diego district turned to Spectrum K12 School Solutions, Inc., whose Encore software system now provides a technology-based system of data, process, and compliance management for the district's 15,000 special education students.
"It allowed us to customize our IEPs and to capture data that we can use in our decision-making in our services and programs," says Sue Reilly, operations specialist for the school district's special education programs division. "Encore enables us to look at the effectiveness of those programs and services, as well as ensuring students are receiving the services they need."
Now in use in 29 states, Encore helps districts comply with state and federal regulations governing special education. It can also be custom-built to fit a district's special needs. With Encore, special educators log student information into a forms-based entry that looks similar to a standard paper form. Also, as a Webbased program Encore can be accessed from just about anywhere.
"One of the best things it did for us was to help us sit down and think about all the steps involved: When this event happens, what are the possible outcomes?" Reilly says. "It really helps you think through the process.
Since 2005, all of the special education providers in the San Diego district have been required to write their IEPs into the Encore system. "Since then we've been tweaking things a little bit," Reilly says. "We need to respond to changes in reporting requirements. Encore allows us to make those changes. We can change the way data is captured on the IEP itself."
Reilly says Encore's biggest advantage is the access it provides to timely information. For example, special education providers can learn whether a student requires specialized instruction materials, such as large-print books, and whether those materials have been provided. "You have to do things within a legal time frame, and Encore helps you keep on track of that," Reilly says. "If a student transfers to a new school, as soon as that student is transferred, the teacher at that school has access to that student's information immediately."
Reilly says Encore has helped reduce legal action stemming from overdue or incomplete IEPs. She also believes the San Diego district may benefit from future applications of Encore that district administrators haven't yet conceived. "The more questions we answer, the more we ask," she says, "so we're always seeing a different way to use the information."