Statewide system promises easier access to special education data

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A new online system for special education data, including individualized education plans, is set to launch this school year.

The new system promises greater access for parents and school staff and more consistency across school districts. 

The state Department of Education’s Bureau of Special Education partnered with the Massachusetts-based Public Consulting Group on the system, known as CT-SEDS. SEDS stands for Special Education Data System. 

The project began about two years ago to support “goals and vision of developing a comprehensive statewide special education data system (CT-SEDS) to make available to all of its local school district partners in 2022,” according to the Connecticut State Department of Education’s website. 

The new system includes a parent portal so families can access an individualized education plan, or IEP. The language translation feature allows families to access information in their native language. CT-SEDS will also help planning and placement teams (PPTs) “in navigating the special education process, leading to the development of high quality IEPs for Connecticut’s students,” according to the state Department of education website. 

“In addition to developing a universal system, the IEP was modified with some significant changes,” said Aimee Turner, assistant superintendent for special education for Wallingford Public Schools. “The IEP itself is easier to read and much more parent friendly although the content remains the same as the components of the IEP are federally mandated.” 

The document in the system will be in a different format, said Rebecca Cavallaro, director of pupil services for Southington Public Schools. Southington schools have used a third party vendor’s system, while the new system will be used statewide. 

“It will really allow for greater consistency across the state and throughout districts,” Cavallaro said. “So if a student moves from Southington to Waterbury, that information just carries over and everybody is in the same system, which is kind of cool.”

Robin-Anne Carey, director of pupil personnel services for Cheshire Public Schools, said she thinks the new format is “more parent-friendly.”

“The previous forms had lots of information that was written in very small writing,” Carey said.

Staff training, glitches

The Public Consulting Group provided each school district with training for a certain number of staff members that will train other staff. The Wallingford and Cheshire school districts were able to train 15 staff members this summer, while Southington has 25 staff members who are trainers.

“During the summer, the state put out multiple trainings. They are virtual,” Carey said. “The staff that were identified to be trainers registered and were able to then access the training. So they go through the training and then as a district, we’ll put together a training packet, like a training presentation, and then that will be shared with all the trainers. Then they will be training smaller groups within each building.”

Carey said she has noticed some glitches with the program, but said the state is “trying to respond to them in a timely fashion.”

“As with any new program there have been many changes as it has been developed and implemented,” Turner said. “It will be a learning curve for all staff.”

Parent training

Wallingford and Cheshire school districts are planning to hold parent training once the school year begins.

“We are providing parent training in September to introduce parents to the new online portal which they can use to access their child’s document,” Turner said. “As well as train parents in the new format of the documents.”

Carey said Cheshire will be holding their parent training virtually.

“We find that it’s more accessible for parents to attend than doing face-to-face because they often have trouble finding child care to be able to attend meetings in the evenings,” Carey said. “So virtual meetings have been far more successful. So we will be doing some on reviewing the new IEP and also helping to support their participation in our PPT meetings.”

For staff, Cavallaro said having student information at hand through CT-SEDS will be helpful.

“So there is no gap in services, there’s no down time,” Cavallaro said. “I think it will be more efficient and have a greater impact on students.”

jsimms@record-journal.com203-317-2279Twitter: @jessica_simms99


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