Hawaii hopes Web system eases teachers' workload

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 Tom

Saka, information technology director for the department, 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 $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," Saka said. 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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