Adventures in Accounting…

Also known as Data Sheets…Data Sheets…Who has the Data Sheets?

Wow…that sounds boring doesn’t it? Since it deals with data sheets and record keeping, it is boring…sort of. But it’s also been a discussion a few times on twitter. It, like caseloads and CAS diagnosis is apparently a subject that varies greatly by district and on which few people agree.

We all have them…You know those sheets where you have the date and + or – for every response…or maybe you keep track with a multidimensional scoring and have a 3, 2, 1 to indicate the level of support required…or you have some other creative way to keep track of progress and determine if an intervention or technique is working.

The question that came up on twitter (several times in the past couple of years) is how long do you keep those data sheets…and why. I think the second (or third) time the subject came up, I started questioning myself and wondered if I was doing something wrong. I ended up speaking with my coordinator about it. Apparently it was a discussion that hadn’t come up a lot before as she spoke with the other coordinators and the SPED director. Bottom line is, I was doing it just fine…but…

In discussing it on twitter, I’ve found there are some significant differences. For instance, in one district in New York, SLPs are required to keep data sheets for 7 years. Another district in Pennsylvania, data sheets are kept for 5 years. An SLP in Florida reported her district required data sheets be kept with the file for 5 years. Yet another SLP reported they kept data sheets for 3 years, yet another reported they kept them until the student went to middle school.

At first, I didn’t understand why…they’re data sheets for goodness sakes. Everything is reported in progress reports – why keep a sheet of plus signs and minuses? Apparently, the rationale behind keeping data sheets is for accounting purposes in case of an audit. Having data sheets “proves” the student was seen. In reality, it doesn’t. If I were an unscrupulous person, I could fake data sheets as easily as I could falsely bill an insurance company (thank goodness I don’t bill!). At one point, there was even discussion that parents could request data sheets to “prove” what was worked on and that services are being rendered. This generated a lot of conversation on twitter – whether or not it was right for parents to have access to data sheets and protocols or just to progress reports/IEPs.

For the record, let me say – I am very very grateful that I have never had this happen. Not because I don’t have data sheets (I do), and not because I don’t believe parents should question (I do)…but because I have never had a parent so unhappy with the school that they questioned my work ethic or the ethics of those with whom I work.

As I said earlier, after the discussion on twitter, I asked my coordinator about what we should be doing. I did this because 1) I wanted to make sure I was “following the rules,” and 2) I wanted to CMB (cover my backside).

What I was told was that once the graphs have been generated for progress reports (or the end of the IEP year), the data sheets can be destroyed. Wow! At the most, I would keep them for a year? and not even necessarily a whole year? Wow! It makes me very happy (YAY! for less paperwork filling up my cabinets)…but it also makes me just a teeny bit apprehensive. I don’t know if it’s because my unit has never been audited (we only started billing medicaid 3 years ago) so they don’t know…or if it’s my state. Needless to say, it’s interesting to think about.

Of course, I’m not sure where we’d put data sheets anyway since we’re not supposed to keep “working” files and they wouldn’t go in the student’s cum file. But that’s probably another discussion.

How long do you keep data sheets? Where do you keep them? Have you ever been audited? I can’t wait to hear!

Until then…Adventure on!


13 thoughts on “Adventures in Accounting…

  1. I destroy mine every year after recording all the data, percentages, etc., on progress reports. No one ever told me that I had to save them. And you’re right – it would be easy to fake documentation if you were audited. It’s all a matter of ethics and we are held to a high standard and have a lot to lose if we breach those standards.

    • Thankfully, I don’t think faking documentation is something many SLPs would do. You’re right, we have WAY too much to lose. Also, I think it’s pretty much drilled into us from the beginning to get data and analyze it to the death. I think that’s one of the reasons why the topic was so surprising when it came up the first time. I never saw the need to keep it past the reporting time – I kept it for the year simply because it was convenient to look back and see trends, etc. But that was it. the idea of an audit or parents questioning me was completely foreign (and, I think I must have been pretty naive).

  2. I used to keep my data sheets (just in a binder) until I was done with the progress notes for that quarter. I didn’t see reason to keep them longer than that–the same exact information (date, percentages, notes on behavior, etc) was on my Medicaid billing, anyway. Partway through last year, though, I started using IEPPal, which is an app for data collection. Now my data is saved forever or until I decide to delete it, and I don’t have to worry about storing and organizing it.

  3. I keep current kids data in their file. Once they go to Kindergarten or move I plop them in a box (with all the kids leaving that year) marked “inactive” and keep for 3 years. I think some supervisor based that 3 years on the fact that kids must be re evaluated every 3 years in this state….and they have moved on to elementary for 3 years and therefore any services in prek wouldn’t be the reason for court proceedings.

    • Like you both, my previous district followed this same protocol for keeping records. They were on the three year plan. The district is so big, data tracking is something that really needs to be assessed. I’m not sure all the therapists track progress enough to graph or would even know how to formulate a graph if asked to do so.

      Are your directors familiar with your job description? I know that sounds strange, but my director had a doctorate in curriculum. She showed no interest in anything except removing students from caseload regardless of need. I don’t think she would know or provide adequate information on this topic if an SLP would inquire about it.

      • Thankfully my director is awesome. We also have coordinators (one for SLP, 2 for SPED) that are able to answer most questions. My coordinator is not afraid to admit she needs more information and gets back to me – which I respect a lot. I’d much rather wait for a day or so and get accurate information…because when push comes to shove it’s my license on the line not hers.

  4. Do you keep copies of IEPs, etc. in their files also? My “inactive” files were actually the working files for kids who have moved or I’ve dismissed. But, we’re not supposed to keep working files anymore. Apparently what isn’t around can’t be subpoenaed? At least, that’s my understanding of the mandate from my director.

  5. My “working files” contained copies of the current IEP and the pink copies of progress reports, daily/monthly logs, etc. that I needed to keep me on track. I understand the need for confidentiality, but do you think anyone but an SLP can understand that stuff? LOL I think the content (our lingo) is so unfamiliar to the lay person that they wouldn’t understand what they are reading, so it is highly unlikely it could be “told” publicly. At least that was my argument but I did keep them locked in a cabinet…I know I was a law breaker *hangs head in shame* Like you Mary my “inactive files” were my working files on those who were no longer in speech and yes, I was required to keep them.

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