By 2006, Richardson ISD in Texas-like many districts across the country-found itself struggling to keep up with compliance regulations related to special education. Richardson's biggest problem: overdue and incomplete reports for the state's Admission, Review, and Dismissal Process, known in Texas as ARD and analogous to the IEP process in other states.
Located in northern Dallas County, Richardson ISD serves 34,000 students, of whom about 4,200 are enrolled in the special education program. The district's special education staff faced other challenges as well: it was increasingly difficult to access special education data, and the district's software program for managing that data was unreliable.
Like many suburban school districts, Richardson ISD has a highly mobile student population, which makes tracking special education data an even more difficult and time-consuming process. Additionally, the district was using an outdated, unreliable ARD software program; staff members would frequently forgo the software and complete the special education paperwork by hand.
Richardson ISD adopted Spectrum K12's data management system, Encore?, in the fall of 2006. Encore helps schools improve special education management by ensuring compliance with state and federal law, saving training time, eliminating duplicate data entry, providing case of access to centralized information and, ultimately, saving hundreds of dollars per student.
"The staff readily adopted Encore because it is easy to use and it provides them with the proper tools to ensure that the district is in compliance with state and federal regulations and timelines," said Dr. Sandy Roland, Richardson ISD's Director of Assessment and Behavior Management.
As a result of the Encore implementation, Roland said, the challenges of documentation compliance have been overcome, allowing the district's 276 special education teachers and administrators more time to work with students. "Encore has relieved the staff of the burden of paperwork and the complexity of compliance issues so they can focus more time on instruction and improving student achievement," she said.
As the staff 's frustrations with paperwork and outdated software ended, the district saw another benefit from the Encore implementation: a dramatic increase in employee morale. "We have had valuable assessment staff near retirement choose to continue their careers because of the relief that Encore has provided," Dr. Roland explained. Between the 2006-'07 and 2007-'08 school years, Richardson ISD had nearly 100% retention of its assessment staff .
Another benefit is the Encore product's integration with Richardson ISD's student information system, which allows staff to access data easily.
"The district has seen an immediate decrease in time spent gathering data because of Encore," said Dr. Roland. "In the past, we went out to each school and pulled the ARD document to fi nd the data we needed. Now we can immediately access and gather data. Our staff loves having access from home, as well as the ability to view their students' data without having to locate an ARD document."
For Richardson ISD, the implementation of Encore and its built-in compliance features has eliminated concerns about meeting state and federal requirements and timelines, according to Dr. Roland. "Th e district is now experiencing complete, compliant ARD documents that arrive on time," she said.