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Technology Helps Meet Demands of Managing Special Education

With help from Spectrum K12, North Carolina district eases administrative burdens and focuses on its students

LIKE MANY DISTRICTS ITS SIZE, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, the fifth largest district in North Carolina, manages a large special education program. While the district was accomplishing the tasks required of special education, it found several years ago that it was incurring a high cost in administrative and staff resources to do so.

WS/FCS chose Spectrum K12 (formerly 4GL School Solutions) to provide a technology-based solution for the district’s special education management. WS/FCS recognized that Spectrum K12 had a better success rate than its competitors and more ability to meet the district’s needs.

"Spectrum K12, unlike typical software publishers, has the special education understanding and background to create a system that really supports the special education process."

“Most companies in the software world said we should change our process, but we did not have that luxury,” says Sam Dempsey, director for Exceptional Children’s Programs at WS/FCS. “Spectrum K12 was willing to listen and adapt the software to our process, rather than the other way around.”

Spectrum K12 reviewed the district’s processes and forms and incorporated WS/FCS’s business rules into the system. As the district used the system to relieve the burden of paperwork and compliance, it found that special education staff could refocus their time and energy on instruction and improving student achievement. From referral to delivery of services, the Spectrum K12 solution tracks all aspects of special education to ensure compliance with legal requirements.

“The Spectrum K12 staff , unlike typical software publishers, has the special education understanding and background to create a system that really supports the special education process. Their receptivity, hard work, and dedication have been critical in creating a solution that makes things better instead of adding more work,” says Dempsey.

Spectrum K12’s software streamlines data entry with electronic versions of district forms and automatic compliance verification. “This has resulted in tremendous improvements in morale and retention of special education teachers,” says Dempsey. “In addition, we have seen a signifi cant increase in the number of fully-certified applicants to our district’s special education programs and we have begun to gain a reputation as a district that diligently pursues ways to reduce paperwork and to assist and support special education staff .”

WS/FCS utilizes the data collected and stored in the database to realign staffing for schools that have a higher special education workload than other schools. In the first year of implementation, WS/FCS achieved $800,000 in staff savings through informed caseload management and personnel assignment. This equals approximately $115 per special education student in the district.

The Spectrum K12 solution benefits more than WS/FCS’s teachers and administrators. The district’s exceptional students have realized the most important gain of all. After implementing the solution, the district’s students with disabilities achieved a 20 percent increase in their reading scores and scored 15 percent higher than the state average for special education students on state tests.

WS/FCS has also seen a reduction in the number of parent complaints filed with the state, due to improved effectiveness in handling parent issues at the district level. Electronic access to student records speeds the response time to parents, as well as to state and federal officials.

“We expected that a good information management system would ease the administrative burdens in programs for students with disabilities,” Dempsey notes. “However, the size of the gains we found in the areas of revenue reallocation, staffing quality, and positive student outcomes was surprising.”

“After 25 years in special education in four districts and two states, this is the most helpful process tool I have seen,” Dempsey says. “The easy access to data gives the school and the district the ability to see what is happening, without sorting through mountains of paper. This innovation has ushered in a new era in special education.”

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