IEP Equity Supports Special Ed Planning
Updated: May 6, 2020
IEP Equity is one of four startup companies taking part in the first cohort of the Iowa EdTech Accelerator (IETA). This article is part of a series on the Spring 2020 IETA, a 14-week mentorship program.
Each year, millions of US students and their parents or guardians sign a document called an individualized education program (IEP). Serving as a legal document to guide the education plan for a student, an IEP is a blueprint for special education students.
Ideally, parents, teachers, and other district personnel come together to meet student needs and achieve academic success. The reality is that some IEPs don’t fit a student’s needs or parents must play catch up to understand the process. Building an IEP is a bit like an arbitration with the different groups meeting to hammer out a binding deal for the school year, including setting goals and measuring success.
One new Iowa company, IEP Equity, helps these players advocate for students by acting as a valuable resource and an IEP mediator.
Beth Connell, Education Specialist at IEP Equity, said IEP meetings can become contentious and sometimes lead to litigation against school districts.
“Up to 67,000 Iowans - as many as 8.6 Million students nationally - are prevented from achieving their academic potential due to IEP miscommunications,” Connell said, “due to informational and power imbalances on the IEP teams that serve special education students.”
How does IEP Equity help?
“IEP Equity solves these imbalances with distributed privacy technologies, that let all parties control their data; communication training, that prepares all IEP team members to collaborate effectively; and independent mediation support, that brings a neutral perspective which can help avoid conflict. IEP Equity helps teams better serve the individual needs of every student striving to reach their potential,” she said.
Like many companies, IEP Equity and the other Iowa EdTech Accelerator (IETA) participants have had to shift focus and workplace practices to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. The tidal wave of digital learning made many of special education’s fundamental inequities unavoidably clear.
“Districts are seeing that their staff are unable to effectively communicate and support large segments of their student bodies. This clarity has allowed us to expand our efforts from just focusing on parent preparation, and now include building a better digital model in partnership with parents, districts, and outside experts,” Connell said.
Some of the insights they’ve gained as part of the IETA program were applied to their business practices after mid-March.
“In the Accelerator, we’ve learned principles around business modeling, marketing, and clearly defining what problem we want to solve for our customers and how our services and products will do it. This new knowledge helps us build a valuable and sustainable business that delivers life-changing impacts for the students, families, and schools we serve,” Connell said.
IETA participants have mentors, like Eric Engelmann of NewBoCo, who advised, “Always be testing” their constructs. Engelmann also led the teams in Agile training and refining their proposals.
Connell said IEP Equity has pivoted their expert knowledge in the areas of mediation, special education, education policy towards building much needed services to bridge the communication gap around the IEP process.
What’s next for IEP Equity?
“The Iowa EdTech Accelerator helped us better understand how to overcome obstacles that had slowed our progress. We look forward to establishing ourselves as the premier tech-enabled service for rebalancing the interests of special education,” Connell said, adding, “It was amazing how quickly a process of lean, testing-based, accountability could refocus and energize our entire team,” she said.
Find out more about IEP Equity at their website.
The IEP Equity team is Susan Gentz, Beth Connell, Zoey Henry, Joe Vande Kieft, and Chris Draper.