New LiftEd App Puts Special Education Data to Work for Teachers, Specialists, Therapists, Parents and Students
Special education teachers and specialists spend hours collecting data on student achievement and activities. But, according to siblings Andrew Hill and Joanne Powell, co-founders of the LiftEd app, those hours often have little meaning, taking teachers’ time away from students while offering little in the way of usable data to help education outcomes.
LiftEd, created in 2016 with the goal of “empowering special educators to accelerate learning outcomes for kids who have disabilities,” aims to slice away at the time spent by educators locked into paperwork and turn capturing data into a way to improve instruction.
The app provides a central location for data collection, with teachers, assistants and specialists working together in the same system. Not only does this save time in data collecting, but Hill says this also helps staff see what instruction students have responded to, where they still need improvement and which strategies benefit the students.
“We have teachers taking an iPad home and on Sunday, while watching a football game, making decisions prioritizing student needs instead of reviewing binders [full of data],” Hill says. “We are about improving student outcomes and prioritizing needs, but time saving is a big [benefit]. We are doing the heavy lifting and saving up to 10 hours a week per educator in time savings.”
All data remain in one place and are updated in real time, helping teachers differentiate instruction. Within a few taps inside the app, a teacher can show the advancement a student made in a specific class on a certain day, a counselor can track social skills and parents can view progress.
Laura Lyons, lead behavior analyst at East Windsor Regional School District in New Jersey, says that by using LiftEd, her teachers can spend more time teaching while still individualizing instruction and collecting data to inform that instruction.
“LiftEd saves us time and provides us with beautiful graphical depictions of how our students are doing,” she says. “It helps us keep our teaching effective and is a wonderful tool to easily communicate individual progress with educators and families.”
Special education students often have a robust Individualized Education Program that can involve a mixture of education professionals. Each one is required by law to collect data. But that can happen in silos. “It is challenging to get them to all use the same digital system in a standardized way,” Hill says. “That is what we focus on.”
More than 2,000 users, serving students in grades K-12, are connected to LiftEd. The app has especially caught on in New Jersey because of the state’s aggressive efforts in supporting students with special needs, Hill says. The company also has a strong presence in California and New York and has recently expanded into Europe.
He attributes LiftEd’s expansion to partnerships with investment funds that focus specifically on special education, as well as connections with universities that inform the app’s educational component. Powell, who holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University’s Teachers College, also brings a powerful connection with her education focus and partnerships with Columbia and Rutgers.
Moving forward, the company will also focus on product development. “It isn’t just how we get from paper to a digital system,” Hill says. “The goal has to be to use that data in a thoughtful way to use exactly what instruction methods are working and with what type of staff and what type of setting.”