How Good Tech Can Help Ease The Paperwork Burden For Teachers
Paperwork is a challenge for all teachers. For some — such as special education teachers, who are responsible for a particularly large amount of documentation — paperwork can become overwhelming.
One reason for this is that teachers’ work is heavily legislated — and legislation leads to a need for bureaucratic record-keeping. Federal education initiatives such as the Common Core Standards have increased the accountability requirements for nearly all public school educators. The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), meanwhile, has determined that every student with special needs requires an Individualized Education Program (IEP), a document that sketches out a plan for his or her schooling.
In short, the documentation responsibilities for educators keep adding up. Special education teachers spend more than 10 percent of their time on paperwork, according to a report from the National Association of Elementary School Principals.
Piles Of Paperwork
These piles of paperwork create problems for school districts when it comes to recruiting and retaining teachers — especially special education teachers, since many candidates are wary of the toll that the burgeoning paperwork burden will take on them.
In fact, according to a report by the National Coalition on Personnel Shortages in Special Education and Related Services, 49 states claim to suffer from a shortage of special education teachers. Some 12.3 percent of special education teachers eventually leave the profession —double the rate of other teachers. That leaves 51 percent of all school districts and 90 percent of high-risk schools facing teacher shortages or recruitment challenges.
Reducing the paperwork burden on all educators would go a long way toward helping states, school districts and individual teachers better serve students. While potential legislative changes may ease that burden, good technology can help, too.
Here’s how well-deployed office technology can help educators reduce paperwork and streamline the workflow process so they can spend less time pushing paper and more time focusing on students’ needs.
Use IEP Writing Software
One of the best approaches to reducing the paperwork load is to invest in IEP writing software. These programs can populate into a document a list of suggested goals for a student. Many also allow teachers to share documents with each other — a helpful feature if students are working with more than one teacher. The software also allows for the quick creation of the complex reports that IDEA legislation requires.
Other popular special education software includes PowerSchool Special Education Edition — which helps ease and automate IEP reporting while being fully customizable — and Embrace IEP, which helps teachers create efficient reports tailored to their state’s requirements.
Teachers can also save time by using templates for letters to parents and spreadsheets for tracking students, forms and IEPs. In addition, there are apps that can further assist with these processes. Rethink Behavior Health is an app that helps teachers assess and address student behavioral issues, and the Special Education Edition of eCOVE’s Observation Software tracks progress in the behavior and learning of students on the autism spectrum. Apps such as Caseload Tracker allow teachers to track student information, update learning goals and manage deadlines.
One of the best apps for special education teachers, IEP Goals and Objectives With Common Core State Standards, was designed by the National Association of Special Education Teachers. The app meets regulatory requirements around reporting, and it allows educators to list all students with IEPs and create individualized lesson plans. It also assists with creating annual IEP goals and defining short-term and behavioral objectives.
Less specialized applications, including Evernote, are useful for all educators — allowing them to take notes as classroom events happen. That increases the accuracy of reporting.
Use Flexible Tech
Most schools provide staff with laptop or desktop computers, but many teachers could benefit from having more choices when it comes to their devices. Having a tablet or smartphone on hand with which to input information and updates while working with students could help reduce paperwork time, improve note-taking accuracy and ensure teachers can spend more one-on-one time with students.
Invest In Learning Technologies
Programs such as the Discovery Education Science Techbook allow teachers to experiment with different pedagogical methods.
The video content that providers like Discovery Education offer might help students with attention deficit disorders. Other programs, such as Bubbl.us — designed to help students map out thoughts and ideas — can assist visual thinkers in grasping complex concepts.
Get The Right Office Equipment
Having the right equipment in schools and district offices can also make a significant difference when it comes to digitizing records, improving workflow and ensuring privacy. A good multifunctional printer and copier, like those of Kyocera, will let teachers keep their paperwork organized, save it in the cloud and share reports with other teachers through a customized document management system. And keep in mind that it helps to have an equipment provider that understands the unique needs of the education profession.
The increased efficiency that teachers experience from workflow automation and streamlining will give them more time to focus on what really matters — working with their students.
Documentation can be a conscientious teacher’s bane, eating up time that could be spent educating. But help in the form of technology is available. And that technology isn’t just an investment in school districts and teachers. It’s an investment in students themselves — and, ultimately, in their future.
Originally published on Forbes Kyocera Brand Voice.