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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Any ideas on how to reduce our paperwork?

Any ideas on how to reduce our paperwork?

Related Tags: Special Education
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There are lots of common threads that run through all special ed programs and tops among them is paperwork. One would think that in this time of increasingly electronic communication paperwork demands would go down, but the opposite seems to have occurred. In NYC we're mired in the dark ages and still write IEPs by hand and make copies for all the teachers involved with each student. This is so time-consuming that I often do not get IEPs for the students I teach until January, sometimes later. The city says we'll be switching to an electronic IEPs in a year or so, but I'll believe it when I see it. What, if anything, is your school doing to reduce the paperwork mountain? If not much, what would you like them to do?

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Shirley McKinney's picture
Shirley McKinney
Special Education: K-6 Inclusion Resource Teacher from Phoenix, Arizona

My sincerest sympathy Deven, I remember the days of handwritten paperwork, and I NEVER want to go back to that. We have been using electronic IEPs for over 10 years. This year, supposedly (is that a word?), is our target year for 'the web'.

Despite the online program, I still get in about 2 hours of overtime, 3 or 4 days a week catching up on paperwork. One drawback to writing IEPs electronically is that lots more info can be added when typed. There are several places on the IEP that information can be copied. Depending on the type of meeting, I have preformatted text that I cut and paste into my document, making it student specific with a few added words. An example of this is the LRE page. There are several statements that can be prewritten with minor adjustments made. I have an outline of all perteninet info for the PLEP. I cut and paste it to the PLEP and then just fill it in. Our program allows us to transfer information from the previous IEP with the touch of a key. Demographic information is a good example of this.

At the beginning of the school year. I get the attendance clerk to print out an alphbetized list of all students in the school. The list is taken from the state recording program that the district uses. She calls it the "Shirley" list. It has student ID #s, SAIS #s, parent names/addresses/ph #s, grade levels/teachers/etc. etc. I make copies for our team. We also provide a list of all of our students and potential evals to the school health office. The nurse(we are fortunate to have a 'real' R.N.) takes a day and calls ALL of the students on the list in for vision and hearing screenings. Once completed, I distribute this master list of results to our sp ed staff. I keep all the info in a tabbed notebook for easy access. I also provide the alphabetized state testing results for students and distribute to our team members. It's very handy to just reach for a notebook with all these results and info.

When I handwrote IEPs, I had a sample copy of every page of the IEP that contained information that could be used again. I highlighted that information on each page. Each page was kept in a page protector and was connected to the other pages with a ring. It was easy to flip through and find needed information.

These things don't cut back on the paperwork, but certainly do speed up the job of processing paperwork. I copy paperwork back to back which saves a little on the actual paper usage.

I'm sure these ideas are not new to you, but maybe can help another group members find a more systematic way of 'speeding' things up a bit. There are many other ways to do this as well, but no time to add them now.

Maybe we could get some of the group members to do an online conference and share ideas, or just talk about 'special ed' kinds of things.

Gotta run. Time for work.

Shirley McKinney's picture
Shirley McKinney
Special Education: K-6 Inclusion Resource Teacher from Phoenix, Arizona

My sincerest sympathy Deven, I remember the days of handwritten paperwork, and I NEVER want to go back to that. We have been using electronic IEPs for over 10 years. This year, supposedly (is that a word?), is our target year for 'the web'.

Despite the online program, I still get in about 2 hours of overtime, 3 or 4 days a week catching up on paperwork. One drawback to writing IEPs electronically is that lots more info can be added when typed. There are several places on the IEP that information can be copied. Depending on the type of meeting, I have preformatted text that I cut and paste into my document, making it student specific with a few added words. An example of this is the LRE page. There are several statements that can be prewritten with minor adjustments made. I have an outline of all perteninet info for the PLEP. I cut and paste it to the PLEP and then just fill it in. Our program allows us to transfer information from the previous IEP with the touch of a key. Demographic information is a good example of this.

At the beginning of the school year. I get the attendance clerk to print out an alphbetized list of all students in the school. The list is taken from the state recording program that the district uses. She calls it the "Shirley" list. It has student ID #s, SAIS #s, parent names/addresses/ph #s, grade levels/teachers/etc. etc. I make copies for our team. We also provide a list of all of our students and potential evals to the school health office. The nurse(we are fortunate to have a 'real' R.N.) takes a day and calls ALL of the students on the list in for vision and hearing screenings. Once completed, I distribute this master list of results to our sp ed staff. I keep all the info in a tabbed notebook for easy access. I also provide the alphabetized state testing results for students and distribute to our team members. It's very handy to just reach for a notebook with all these results and info.

When I handwrote IEPs, I had a sample copy of every page of the IEP that contained information that could be used again. I highlighted that information on each page. Each page was kept in a page protector and was connected to the other pages with a ring. It was easy to flip through and find needed information.

These things don't cut back on the paperwork, but certainly do speed up the job of processing paperwork. I copy paperwork back to back which saves a little on the actual paper usage.

I'm sure these ideas are not new to you, but maybe can help another group members find a more systematic way of 'speeding' things up a bit. There are many other ways to do this as well, but no time to add them now.

Maybe we could get some of the group members to do an online conference and share ideas, or just talk about 'special ed' kinds of things.

Gotta run. Time for work.

Shirley McKinney's picture
Shirley McKinney
Special Education: K-6 Inclusion Resource Teacher from Phoenix, Arizona

Sorry about posting a duplicate comment. I couldn't find a "remove" or "delete comment" on the page.

After rereading my earlier posting, I wanted to add that the information that I cut and paste in the IEP is very minimal. My comment sounded as if I was saying that my IEPs are a fill in the blank type of document. They are not, and I wanted to clarify that.

Actually, I don't know how to make the paperwork any less lengthy. Reporting on student performance, goals, assessments, etc. HAS to be thorough and detailed and I don't think this kind of information can be adequately covered in a few words. Most of my IEPs are very lengthy.It also takes a good bit of time after the meeting to make necessary adjustments for the final copy, especially if you do a thorough Summary of Conference.

We were notified recently to send the Procedural Safeguards electronically, instead of mailing it with the Prior Notice. We were told to request a reply as documentation of receipt. I have been asking parents at recent meetings for their email addresses.Of course, if they don't have access to a computer, we mail it out. The district is hoping to cut the cost of paper considerably with this change. Also, the psychologist always presents a copy of Safeguards at the meeting and asks if parents have questions about the copy they received just in case they didn't get one. Most parent decline the meeting copy.

I too am interested to hear how other sped teachers cut back on paperwork, etc.

Deven Black's picture
Deven Black
Middle school teacher-librarian in the Bronx, NY

Thanks for the detailed explanation of your processes and procedures, Shirley.

How many students are you responsible for servicing?

Of course, discussions of paperwork have a variety of aspects. My question initially was about reducing the amount of time devoted to paperwork, but there is also the issue of saving trees by reducing the amount of actual paper involved.

In my school, IEPs are somewhere between 12 and 18 pages, each on an individual sheet of paper. Each student has a variety of teachers and other service providers who each must get a copy of the IEP, A typical students has five subject teachers, an art or music teacher, a speech therapist and/or a counselor, an elective teacher, a gym teacher and possibly an OT and/or PT provider.

At an average of 15 pages per IEP and seven teacher/service providers, we're using over 100 sheets of paper for each student. We have about 100 students with IEPS in the school, so we use approximately 10,000 sheets of paper a year for IEPs.

10,000 sheets is a lot of paper, a lot of copier toner, and a lot of staples, each with an environmental cost. Add in the space requirements for storage and the time involved in copying and distributing the IEPs. And this is just one school in a system with about a thousand schools, so you begin to understand why I'm so eager for electronic or web-based IEPs.

Shirley McKinney's picture
Shirley McKinney
Special Education: K-6 Inclusion Resource Teacher from Phoenix, Arizona

I currently have 27 on my caseload with 3 currently in evaluation.

JMC's picture
JMC
Special Education teacher K-12 specialization LD

Great Question Deven....

Shirley,

You seem extremely organized, even when you were handwriting IEP's, which we still have to do as well. I like your tabbed idea of organization, and I used a color coding system as well. May I bother to ask why you have ALL of the students attendence in the school printed out, rather than just the students with current IEP's or referrals? I am still learning so forgive me, but I really admire your years of teaching and know that I can learn so much from everyone on this site. Does the organization save time? I have to assume that I would when everything is tabbed, labeled and easy to access.

Shirley McKinney's picture
Shirley McKinney
Special Education: K-6 Inclusion Resource Teacher from Phoenix, Arizona

JMC-
It's difficult to respond to your question without filling you in on some of the details of our campus, special education/inclusion set up. So please bear with my long explanation.

This is our 17th yr. of inclusive services. We have evolved from a "Fully Inclusive" setting to one that meets the "real" needs of our students while also taking away some of the overwhelming IEP servicing tasks of the general ed teacher.

Currently, five of the twelve special ed staff on our campus are resource teachers. Three of them are specific to a "pullout" model and the other two are specific to an "inclusion" model, which leads to the main reason for my accessing ALL students' demographic information. Let me explain.

On our campus, "pullout" resource teachers are specific 'only' to the delivery of instructional services to their personal caseload of IEP students which can range from 18 to 25 students. They do not test students outside of their caseload, nor collaborate with gen. ed teachers as part of the process of intervention for CSTs. That job is done by the "inclusion" resource teachers (myself and my colleague).

"Inclusion" resource teachers are responsible for incoming transfer students, intervention for CSTs, testing for initials and re-evals, monthly collaboration with all campus teachers, Tier II instruction for RTI, and membership on the campus RTI team. We are also responsible for whatever type of instructional service delivery method our caseload teachers (general ed tchrs) would like us to deliver. That service can cover any of the 5 to 6 co-teaching models between our general and sp ed teachers.

It is the above range of responsibilities and their frequency that make it necessary for us to have demographic and school/state information easily accessible. I am not getting daily attendance information from the clerk, although that info is sometimes necessary. The attendance clerk has available resources to access ALL the information we need for CST forms, New IEPs and testing information which range from ID #s to current addresses, phone #s and out of boundary exemptions. Our campus attendance clerk is wonderful! She sends a bi-monthly email to us informing us when new students enroll and when they withdraw. Sometimes it is relevant, sometimes not, but nice to have a glance at non-the-less. I copy and share the master list with ALL our campus sp ed staff, since they also need to be aware of changes without having to do the hours of phone calls and footwork to get to it. That's the why of it.

I am the testing coordinator for our campus. This gives me access to the roster that contains the main results for state testing of all of our students (2nd -6th). As you are aware, that information must be on the PLEP of every IEP. It's handy to have quick access to this information. Our campus team shares all information and we have monthly meetings to share organizational ideas, new legal responsibilities, presentations to staff, etc.

It's my feeling that the better organized we are, the less time all procedures have to take and the more time we can spend in the direct servicing of students, or in helping gen ed teachers service students.

I'm sure I more than answered your question. I don't seem to be able to write a short entry. ;D

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