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The concept of ‘Compliance’ often sends a bit of a tingle down the spine of the administrative educators responsible for making sure everything is running as it should. After all, as one of the most heavily regulated industries whose financing can depend almost solely on district- and school-level data, there’s a lot riding on it. And because those financing agencies; be they federal, state, or community; need data to make those financial decisions, the burden is on the district to provide it in a timely, accurate, and digestible format. From student compliance such as IEP management and vaccinations, to personnel compliance and workers’ rights, there’s always that pit-of-your-stomach feeling that you might have missed something. Or worse, not even be able to produce accurate data around the requirements riding on your shoulders.
But how can you do that well if you’re still trying to wrangle your data internally? It’s akin to a visit from your mother-in-law bringing her white glove cleaning test, but she shows up a day early while you’re still in the middle of dusting!
It’s a challenge, for sure, and we believe it goes back to our old friend – your data. Your data has to be accessible without jumping through six hurdles to get to it, then having to rope and wrangle it to resemble the report you need. Your data also has to be clean. Just like the mother-in-law white glove test, you never want to be caught still dusting off that data warehouse shelf when company comes to inspect. And finally, data has to be complete. While you never want to be in a position where you have to defend your district or staff’s reputation, should that happen you want to be prepared – completely. You want to have communication records and transcripts in place to avoid any “he said, she said”, you want to have up to date academic and behavioral data available, and you want to have full insight into any medical or special needs regarding the individual child. Having your house clean will help you sleep easier at night simply knowing you’re prepared for whatever tomorrow might bring – even if it’s the white glove test.
If you asked your school board or administrative team what success might look like around compliance, how many different answers would you get? As many as the number of people you asked? Anyone remotely familiar with Education knows there’s an alphabet soup when it comes to the many types of regulations and accountability you’re held to. And often, we find that each bite of alphabet soup comes with a dedicated person to help translate, understand, and comply. The specialization required to comply with federal, state, and community-driven requirements can lead to Compliance functioning as a siloed project – which we all know doesn’t usually create the most efficient work process.The deeper you dig into some of the regulations, the more you start to see how the puzzle pieces of these silos are beginning to overlap.
For example, almost all of the new Title funding requirements emphasize the ability to communicate with the parent/guardian in a language they can understand. This moves beyond the traditional academic support provided by Title I and expands it to communication and stakeholder engagement as well. Similarly, when looking at some of the more recent studies around civil rights for children with special needs and children of minority race, regulations are beginning to tailor around the communication home to ensure complete transparency with what’s happening at school. IDEA and OCR both base requirements on Titles IV and VI requiring a district to maintain digital records should a review be needed. With OCR especially, we’re seeing more and more districts need to be able to read text messages and listen to phone calls between teachers and parents – not just pull emails. Again, an area where we traditionally think of in-school support and on-campus meetings is moving toward a more inclusive, connected experience for the child and their family. As the various compliance requirements continue to move in a holistic direction, it’s important that every member of a district’s team be informed and updated on what the new requirements are. Not only will they be able to help hold each other accountable, removing much of the burden from the siloed individuals currently reading through thousands of pages of guidelines, but they may also be able to spot areas where funding could apply to multiple use cases throughout the district, increasing the effectiveness of the funding for each child protected under the rulings.