Sunday, March 09, 2014

A Bill to Watch.  A bill that was heard in the House Education Policy committee last week that has flown beneath the radar to a great extent with all of the attention being showered on higher profile bills is HF 2658 (Sawatsky)/SF 2305 (Dahle).  This bill proposes that a single online reporting system be developed for all reporting of special education compliance data to the Minnesota Department of Education.  Currently, the Minnesota Department of Education develops what must be reported, but it allows local school districts options as to how the data is reported.  Districts purchase the system by which the data is reported from whichever vendor they prefer.  School districts use a variety of criteria when deciding on what reporting system to use.   The bill's authors and proponents contend that going to a single reporting method will reduce paperwork, but that premise is questionable.  I'll use the following analogy to illustrate why.

Say that you have four different colored pails and you had to fill one pail.  You could choose any of the four different colored pails to fill.  All have the same volume and are of the same exact specifications.  The only requirement is that you have to fill the pail that you choose.  That is the task.

What HF 2568/SF 2305 proposes to do is limit the number of available pails to a single color.  You still must fill the pail and it has the same volume and specifications as before, but the state will tell you the color of the pail that must be filled.  Local districts will no longer have a choice of which color "pail" to fill with special education compliance data.  For the life of me (and a lot of special education administrators), I don't know how this reduces paperwork.  Instead of limiting the number of programs that can be used to submit data, the Minnesota Department of Education should think of ways to reduce the amount of paperwork that needs to be reported.  Taking the analogy one step further, they need to think about making the size of the pail smaller.  HF 2568 was heard in the House Education Policy Committee last Wednesday night and the committee and witnesses seemed to talk past his issue, which is unfortunate.

Perhaps (Perhaps?) this analogy is a bit tortured, but the point is relatively clear.  While creating one online system may make portability of data from district-to-district easier, it's not going to do much in terms of reducing the amount of paperwork that teachers have to complete on each special education student.  Whatever happens with this bill, hopefully the debate will include the entire scope of the paperwork issue and not simply stop at consistency in reporting.  We collect a ton of data on all students and the data and paperwork related to special education students is extensive.  The discussion that needs to take place is how valuable much of this data truly is and how its collection adds to the educational experience of special needs students.

It is Sunday, so I will now give the tortured analogy portion of my brain its needed day of rest.

No comments: