Ohio School Improves Communication Among Special Ed Teachers, Students and Families

Guy Middle School, located in Liberty, Ohio, serves 367 students in grades 4-8, and has 33 Individualized Education Program (IEP) students.
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Guy Middle School, located in Liberty, Ohio, serves 367 students in grades 4-8, and has 33 Individualized Education Program (IEP) students. Because IEPs are administered by the schools with oversight by state and federal governments, there are many required processes and procedures for sharing necessary program information with parents and students. Teachers must write up lengthy program descriptions individualized for each student, and ensure they are read and understood by the students and their parents. Additional federally-required documents that must be shared can be up to 80 pages in length; the combination of these materials result in items being sent multiple times per year – whether by email, certified through the US Postal Service, or hand delivered by teachers during parent conferences or by students taking them home. Regardless of the method of distribution, teachers had no way of tracking who read the information, much less who understood it, given the size and complexity.

“Unfortunately, some of our students’ parents have challenges reading such lengthy documents due to their own literacy limitations, so asking them to read an 80-page document written in complicated, legal terms was just not realistic,” said Katie Critell, IEP specialist at Guy Middle School. “It’s my responsibility to make sure parents and students have all the required information that goes along with an IEP, yet I had no way of knowing who read the materials or not, and if they had areas of confusion or misunderstanding.”

In addition to the communication inefficiencies Critell dealt with, her students were often left to figure out assignments and projects on their own because it was nearly impossible for her to tailor instruction to each child’s individual needs.

“I have kids who are more advanced and those who need much more hands-on attention. The kids who are more advanced would often get lost in the shuffle because I simply couldn’t spread myself thin enough to give them the time and detail they needed to work on a particular task,” she said. “The burdensome amount of paperwork, the inability to communicate effectively with parents and students, and the feeling that I wasn’t doing my number one job – serving the students – caused a lot of frustration and extra hours for me and made my work much less fulfilling.”

Trackable, shareable communications platform
Through a colleague, Critell discovered Ving and decided to use it to address many of her communication and engagement problems.

“With Ving, I don’t have to spend countless hours with emails, paper mailings and phone calls, as I can easily see in the dashboard who has interacted with the content – whether it’s a document, video or other multimedia – and I can also provide an easy way for two-way communication so I know when parents have questions or need a more clear explanation,” said Critell. “The Vings take minutes rather than hours to create, and once I create a template I can re-use it over and over again.”

Using Ving in Critell’s classroom is valuable, she shares,“The ability to include video is really incredible, as it allows me to give each student the level of detail and explanation they need to work on whatever project they have, without feeling like I need to be by every student’s side – which is just not possible,” she said. 

Outcome
In the future Critell said she can see Ving being used to provide lessons to students who miss school due to illness, vacation or other reasons.

“With more assignments being given to students on platforms like Google Classroom, and students spending much of their time online doing schoolwork in the classroom or at home, a technology-based tool like Ving is perfect,” said Critell. “Kids love being able to use technology for learning – and it certainly helps teachers be more effective. I can see Ving being used by every teacher in the country eventually, as it makes teaching and learning a better experience for everyone!”

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