Any special education teacher will tell you that one of the most challenging things is balancing the paperwork involved in the profession with the time spent educating students. The endless amount of progress monitoring, IEP writing, lesson plan differentiation, curriculum modifying/accommodating, co-teaching, meetings, etc, etc can drive any sane person crazy. So why not find a tool to simplify some of this? There is no one magic tool or one application that will solve it all, but I use one to manage my IEPs, goal progress monitoring and file management. It is called IEPOnline. The link is dashboard.ieponline.net.
This web-based software can be linked to a central database of students in another application or can manage its own database of students. The real benefit of this program is that it simplifies the process of writing an IEP and makes progress monitoring much simpler. Below is a screenshot of my caseload.
All I have to do is click on a student’s name and it takes me to their IEP or a place where I can write a new one. It makes all IEPs uniform. It tracks and records all transition data which is very nice. When the IEP is complete, the record is locked and cannot be edited unless a formal revision is requested. This makes all records very safe.
We found this application through our Intermediate Unit. It is a great tool not only for teacher management, but it allows you to progress monitor on-the-spot and gives a teacher access to goals and objectives without having to go to the guidance office or the cumulative folder to get the actual hardcopy of the IEP.
There are some downsides to this application. Before using IEPOnline, we created a Microsoft Word template and used that to guide the structure and required elements of the IEP. I miss the ability to format and to improve readability. Using different fonts, indenting information, bolding, italics, and other options for editing are just not available in the online version. This cramps my style so to speak. I can’t even change colors! It often wastes paper because this program does not self-regulate paginating. When the IEP is done, it creates a PDF file that is then not editable unless you have a PDF editor. There is a host of other problems, but those will suffice for now.
Despite these problems, IEPOnline is an easy program to use. It only took about 1/2 hour to go through and train a group of teachers. There are tabs for the major portions of each IEP section. There are sub categories in each tab. It looks like this:
The site is easy to access. With hundreds of users it can be slow at times, but not unreasonably. It must continue to update its interface to be competitive. Its structure seems archaic but it is organized very logically. It isn’t “pretty.” There are some other IEP writers out there that seem more attractive. One plus is that this company does tailor the application to our use. Since this company is nationwide, it has to deal with some states that have their own special education requirements. Pennsylvania has Chapter 14 in addition to the federal IDEA law. Unlike PA, Florida defers all special education services to IDEA. This would make it easier to manage for IEPOnline.
As far as reviews are concerned, I could not find any web sites that review IEP writing programs. However, in my school there are varying opinions about its use. Some are of the opinion that uniformity is important and that protection of the original document is imperative. Having a record of everything that is done to that document and having an exact record of who accessed to online files is helpful. Others are of the opinion that formatting is important and having a document that is easy to edit and work with is helpful. All would agree that there is a usage curve. The more you use it the quicker you get at using the program. Overall, everyone agrees that we should continue to work with this company to streamline editing abilities and to smooth out some of accessibility problems.