by Aidan Said | December 2, 2021
Special education teachers Bridgette Leslie and Adrianna Bertoia have spent a combined 20+ years helping students with special needs realize their full potential. For students with disabilities, though, they grew frustrated by lack of adequate resources for students, parents, and teachers alike. Together, the duo started IEP&Me, a web-based individualized education program (IEP) management platform, with the hope of revolutionizing special education for all parties involved. With their newly forged partnership with Frenalytics, this goal has never been more tangible.
Bridgette Leslie is the CEO of IEP&Me, a career special educator turned educational technology creator. By her side is Chief Product Officer Adrianna Bertoia, who is also a career special education teacher-turned-reading specialist and school leader. As career special educators, both Bridgette and Adrianna realized the issues that were apparent in their field, and as such found common ground on the goal of solving these issues and bettering special education. Together with Frenalytics CEO Matt Giovanniello, the team has found synergy in their strengths and goals, which they all believe will allow them to do extraordinary things in the special education space.
The inspiration behind IEP&Me originated from Bridgette trying to supply adequate IEPs for multiple students when she was the only special ed teacher in a middle school with three grades of students, leading to her realization that the true problem here was a lack of communication between special educators and general education teachers. At this school, she recognized the limited resources available to inform students about their disabilities, especially in regards to their education goals outlined in their IEPs. Adrianna experienced the same disconnect in her experience, so when Bridgette came to her with this idea it was a no-brainer for her to join the cause.
There was a big disconnect, oftentimes I would hear things like, ‘Those are not my students, those are your students because you’re the special ed teacher, it wasn’t in service of students, students were not being successful because their entire team was very fractured.” -Bridgette Leslie, CEO and co-founder of IEP&Me
Repairing these fractures is one of the main goals of IEP&Me, and in doing so the founders hope to drastically change the special education world.
Frenalytics Joins the Team
Matt and Bridgette found synergy in similar goals and found that their strengths matched well. The Frenalytics team had the strong background in software engineering and product development that Bridgette was looking for, and Bridgette recognized how it complemented her team’s extensive special education experience:
It was a balance where [we] could support in the special education realm and give some background … we decided why don’t we test out how our working relationship is by having Frenalytics support us in the technology buildout of our product and platform and then … partner even further and do some integration between our platforms.”
With the launch of FrenalyticsEDU in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Matt recognized how having insight into the industry from two seasoned educators could be very valuable:
I realized that they were on this really noble mission and to be able to contribute and be a part of it in any small minuscule way was my end goal, and I didn’t realize it would formulate the relationship we have present day.”
Adrianna noted the potential for Frenalytics to help special ed teachers by gathering data, which can influence individual students’ IEPs and their progress towards the goals set out in them:
For the first time ever, in history, there is the potential to create assessments based on IEP goals to provide real-time feedback for teachers on how students are progressing on those goals. I am super excited about [the idea] because I’m sure anyone with a special ed background can attest to how difficult it is to collect data on a student’s performance, so if we can help with that and provide a really easy way to collect and analyze that data, then I think that we can really transform the special ed space.”
IEP&Me Changing the System
IEPs are drafted when a student is seen to not be progressing as they should in a certain subject area, and while this process was created with all the right ideas, it can be extremely clunky for students, parents, and teachers alike.
Bridgette and Adrianna both emphasized how the “original system” was created to really just check a box for school administrators managing a special ed curriculum, and not to serve the students and provide the best resources for the teachers. This process can be very tedious for special education teachers, as they have to continually collect data from other teachers and parents for quarterly progress – which sometimes does not even happen, according to Bridgette and Adrianna.
To fix this broken process, Bridgette envisions a student-specific assessment that could be administered through Frenalytics, making this system vastly more effective:
“We can give them a small assessment, [assigned] within the IEP&Me platform, that the students can then complete and provide the data right away, and there’s an automatic really awesome piece of data for this special education teacher to use that has saved time and saved collaboration efforts.”
Importantly, this newly proposed process would also allow parents to see the results of these assessments very quickly, instead of waiting for quarterly reports to come back from the school.
Adrianna also spoke to the fact that the “current system” only grants special education teachers access to IEPs. Within the IEP&Me platform, all teachers will be involved in that student’s success, making the IEP a more influential, living breathing document.
In addition, by making these IEPs accessible to both students and their parents within IEP&Me, the duo aims to increase the transparency and effectiveness of this whole process. For example, parents will be able to contribute comments or pieces of data to the IEP, adding another layer of depth not currently present. These innovations are radically different from the current state of things and could revolutionize special education.
Bridgette says IEP&Me is striving to make its platform vastly more user-friendly, enhancing the ease of use and visual appeal of the typical IEPs:
These [current IEP] platforms are made simply for compliance, they’re basically made to make sure that the teacher checks every single box … the problem with them not being intuitive is that even though their goal is compliance within this federal law, …they are so not user-friendly that teachers make many mistakes that end up putting their IEPs out of compliance.”
As a result of the Frenalytics-IEP&Me partnership, it’s possible that massive change will come that could the landscape for special education forever.
We’re really excited to work with Frenalytics, just because it’s really going to open up a lot of doors for students with disabilities to be able to provide feedback on their IEP goals and to be able to show what they know and to really show others the strengths that they have.” -Adrianna Bertoia
The way that I see it, Bridgette and Adrianna are on a mission to democratize special education through making IEPs accessible to everybody, not just special education teachers, and the fact that we at Frenalytics can play a small part in making this data accessible to all contributing members is huge.” -Matt Giovanniello