Guest Post: Kickstarting Innovation for ELLs and SPED Students

April 25, 2012

When I left my job as a software developer, my original intent was to become a third grade classroom teacher. But during my teacher-credentialing program, I became more interested in special education and felt that working with a wider variety of learners and abilities would make me a stronger and more versatile educator.

I ended up as a middle school special educator in East Palo Alto, where I got to work alongside the most amazing staff of educators and school leaders. While I expected to be challenged by my students and their individual needs, the complexity of managing my reporting and administrative responsibilities took me totally by surprise. There were forms and processes for everything—with a hundred different potential mistakes you could make filling them out. At times it felt like I could fill an entire school day just doing paper work, scheduling meetings, writing reports, and monitoring timelines.

I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. Special education teachers experience the highest attrition rate of any other type of educator, with demands of paperwork being a top reason. This administrative burden takes time, energy, and resources away from the activities that would truly benefit our students with special needs. Ironically, while our laws and compliance regulations were intended to bring students and families into the center of instruction, they are often rendered ineffective due to the complexity of these bureaucratic systems.

I started Goalbook to help change this situation, and enable a transition from compliance to outcomes. The laws and accountability around special education are important, ensuring that our schools provide an essential level of support to students with special needs and their families. What are needed are a better set of tools to help educators, administrators, and families streamline and simplify the process, ensure compliance, and help teams collaborate more effectively to achieve student success.

At this year’s Summit, I’ll be joining other entrepreneurs and educators dedicated to improving our public education system for students with special needs, including English Language Learners. I look forward to taking part in this conversation, and learning from the insights of others. For far too long, special needs education has been given far too little attention in our national education discussion. This conversation is a step in the right direction, and I look forward to working with speakers and session attendees on action steps that put these students and their teachers at the top of our priorities.