Hawaii Hopes Web System Eases Teachers' Workload

WASHINGTON (07/10/2000) - The Hawaii Department of Education has purchased a new World Wide Web-based system to help the department identify, track and service special education students.

The department bought the system, scheduled to be ready for use in October as 250 schools go online, to reduce the administrative burden on its special education teachers. Each special education case requires careful documentation to ensure that federal and state mandates are being met. and Saka estimates that the department is losing 20 to 30 percent of its special education teachers to burnout as a result.

The new Integrated Special Education (ISPED) system will pool information collected over a period of time, greatly eliminating duplication. The department estimates that the system will cut down paperwork by 85 percent.

ISPED will assist teachers from initial problem identification through the evaluation and eligibility process, and will help them determine the need for special services, such as speech therapy, mental health counseling, and physical therapy. Once a sufficient database is built up, the system will also be a resource for obtaining those special services.

The department bought the system, developed by Spectria and run on Lotus Development Corp.'s Domino platform, for US$1.5 million. It was developed specifically for the Hawaii system, but is now being marketed to other departments.

"We needed something that was end-to-end, a complete system," said Tom Saka, information technology director for the department. The department hired KPMG Consulting to investigate existing systems, but none were sufficient.

The department also spent about $1.2 million to buy 500 laptops-two for each school-so that teachers have mobility when working with parents to evaluate students. All of Hawaii's schools are networked.

After the system is set up for the roughly 3,000 teachers, administrators and counselors, Saka said the department expects to allow parents to access the system with a user name and password.

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