Special Education System Improves Student Outcomes in Detroit

March 31, 2017

West Bloomfield School District began searching for a new software system to manage their special education needs when the inefficiencies of their old system started outweighing the benefits. Situated in the metropolitan area surrounding Detroit, Michigan, the district serves approximately 5,700 students.

“With PowerSchool Special Education it’s so easy to manage caseloads—we’re talking a few clicks to create our caseload sheets and then all they have to do is type in how much special-ed time those students are getting, and everything else is calculated for them. Our educators love that. Our count process is so much less stressful for everybody now.”
-Alan Ellias, Supervisor of Special Services, West Bloomfield School District


West Bloomfield School District was facing challenges with their existing special education management system: challenges with progress monitoring, IEPs, communication, state reporting, and database connections. “With the paper and pencil version and even with the prior database version, things were really disconnected. Even when we were using the template version on the computer, the most glaring question became: how much extra time ends up being spent doing it this way?” says Alan Ellias, Supervisor of Special Services, West Bloomfield School District. “Even with the template version, the process was still clunky. To put an IEP together using the previous system—things had to be emailed, resources had to be sent and coordinated with multiple people, and then it all had to be combined. Nothing was connected, and there was a lot of duplicate work in that way.”

Another key challenge was progress monitoring and state reporting. “Everything was separate, and monitoring progress on special education students was very difficult. In Michigan, we use B-Sheets for state reporting, where we’re basically putting together the case-load information. Before PowerSchool, we were doing this entire process manually.” Overall, too much time was spent inefficiently because of the old system.


West Bloomfield School District partnered with PowerSchool Special Education, and from the beginning, staff started on a positive note using the system. “Because of how flexible and intuitive the PowerSchool Special Education system is, it was just so much easier to learn how to use,” recalls Ellias. “Within our school, there is a variety of computer skills and comfort level with technology, and here we are, asking all of our staff to use and be comfortable with the computer as a main tool for their programs. When I completed the training for PowerSchool, I was amazed by the folks who previously had a lot of anxiety over technology, and for these people the PowerSchool system just made sense to them. The trainings were easier. The flexibility is amazing in how easy it is to get reports out. All the information ties together between the front end and back end, and reports are easy to create.”


With the previous system, one of the district’s biggest challenges was the disconnect between the back end and front end—there was no way to sync the student count and reports with the special education documents. This is something that is incredibly important for funding purposes, and without a better way to do it, it was getting put on the back burner.

“With PowerSchool Special Education, it’s so easy to manage caseloads—we’re talking a few clicks to create our caseload sheets (referred to as B-Sheets in Michigan) and then all they have to do is type in how much special-ed time those students are getting, and everything else is calculated for them. Our educators love that. Our count process is so much less stressful for everybody now,”
says Ellias. The reminders and alerts have helped everyone stay on track with important deadlines, especially since there are multiple parts for the documentation. “Each educator has a page that shows a list with their case load—so they can easily review the kids they’re responsible for. The reminders and alerts help everyone stay on track with MET dates and IEPs so we know everything is taken care of appropriately,” says Ellias.


PowerSchool’s smart-fill feature and form-field guidance make it simpler to get through the complicated process of completing special education paperwork. It’s especially helpful for the parents who are only presented with the information that’s relevant for their student. “Previously it was overwhelming for parents because if there were pieces of the document left intentionally blank they were wondering if they needed to discuss those areas. It’s much more individualized to the student now,” says Ellias.


The previous challenge the school faced with gaps in communication around students was also remedied using the diagnostic reports. “The reports are so helpful. Different users can get whatever information they need to help make their job easier, faster, and more complete,” says Ellias.


Overall, partnering with PowerSchool to improve outcomes with the Special Education solution has helped Bloomfield School District solve previous challenges of having disconnected databases, incomplete IEPs, difficult progress monitoring, communication gaps, and manual state reporting. PowerSchool Special Education has provided a flexible system that is intuitive, and easy to learn. The solution has helped the district close communication gaps, complete compliance processes easily, and save large amounts of time and work.

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