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!