Introducing the updated and expanded Data Collection and Reporting Tool, or DCRT, version 2.0.
Thanks everybody for joining us today. My name is Laura Johnson and I am the main developer for the DCRT, where we are rolling out version 2.0. So what is the DCRT? The DCRT is a tool to enter data on state funds made available for special education and related services. This includes SEA funds and other state agency funds. The DCRT calculates and displays MFS results over time, both total and per pupil.
What’s new in DCRT version 2.0? The main improvement is that we have extended it from 5 years to 12 years. Anyone who used the prior version knew that we had year 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and now we’ve added 6 through 12. This was the most common request we’ve had about the DCRT over the past, so we went ahead and did this. We also added a new chart for per pupil funds and we’ve done some changes in the background that you might not notice that will improve the user experience. One change is with the dropdowns, they’re a little more dynamic now.
So I’m going to go ahead and show you the DCRT version 2.0, demo the tool. What I will be showing you today is from our sample file, which has data from a hypothetical state. So here we have the MFS DCRT 2.0. This is our sample, which is a hypothetical SEA, so these are not actual numbers from an actual state. And this is just our title page, which gives you some information about the tool and the citation and all that. And the first three tabs you’ll notice are color coded purple, and I chose purple because it’s the best color.
The tab where you’ll start is called Getting Started, and this tab is similar to what we’ve had in the past. You need to start by entering the start and end of your fiscal year and then what fiscal year you want to use as year one. And It could be a year in the past or it could be the current year that you’re working on. It just depends on what you want to show, if you want to include some historical data. And then once you choose year one, it will tell you what period that covers. So you can see how your fiscal year fits in and what state fiscal year 2020 is defined as. And this is just for clarity.
Then you need to enter some information about the last time your state met MFS. So the first thing you need to enter is what was the last state fiscal year in which you met MFS, and for this state they met last year, 2019. Then you need to enter the total amount that funds made available in the prior year where MFS was met, and here we’ve entered $111 million. And then you need to enter the number of individuals with an IEP for that fiscal year. And so here it calculates the per pupil amount for that year.
So just one thing to point out to you, any of these cells that are shaded this blue, these are for data entry and are unlocked. These cells that are shaded white or unshaded, those are formulas or headers and they are locked, so you cannot edit them. So you’ll see here this has a formula and it calculates your per pupil amount the last year MFS was met.
The next key tab is the Contact Information tab, and this is where you’re going to enter some really important background information on where you collected the data for your MFS. This is important in case you win the lottery and you’re not doing MFS next year, or in case maybe you don’t have such a good memory, you don’t remember all the people you talked to in the prior year. This is for you to keep track of who you talked to. It’s also very important, this first column is where you enter your SEA office or division, and this will populate dropdowns on later tabs. And the reason we did it this way is to make sure that things are spelled the same way and correctly so that we can do some calculations later on for each of these offices or divisions. Was there a question or comment?
There aren’t any questions at this time, no. There is a comment, “Love the tool.”
Great, I love to hear that. So here you’re going to enter first up in the top, this is for SEA information. So this is the different departments or offices or divisions that you talk to. You may want to enter the name of the person you spoke to. Again, this is fake data, so we made up names. I assume you probably don’t have so many named John Doe, but you might. And then their title, again, these are made-up phone numbers and then their email address, and then the years of data that they reported for you. And at this point we’re pretending it’s 2031, you’ve collected data for all those years, so the tool is fully filled out for this sample.
And then you may want to make some notes. For example, when Sally Jones replaced Jane Smith, we made a note that this was a new director appointed over the summer. And then at the bottom you need to enter the same information for other state agencies because if you remember, MFS is not just SEA-level data, but it is funds made available for the entire state for special education, so you do need to reach out to some of those other state agencies. And this is where the Contact Information tab is especially important because you may lose track of which state agencies do I need to reach out to and what’s the name of the person in that state agency?
So you see here we’ve entered the different state agencies, the name of our contact, their title, their fake phone number, their fake email address, and then the years of data that are reported. And again, we’re covering each agency over the whole 12-year period. And we keep track. James replaced George, Molly replaced Florence. And this is just a good way, so you know next year who you need to reach out to and who you need to contact. Or again, if you retire or win the lottery, someone who takes over the role of MFS will know who to contact. Any questions about the Contact Information tab?
If not, we’ll move on to the year tabs. And these are shaded orange and they’re all the same color, and all 12 year tabs are exactly identical except for the information about which fiscal year it’s covering. So here you’re going to have a dropdown in this first column where you’re going to select your SEA officer division, or down below you’re going to select your other state agency from the pre-populated list that you created on the Contact Information tab.
And each list is going to end with a zero, and that’s just an Excel necessity so that we can make the list dynamic and unique. So you will choose your SEA officer division here and then enter an identifier or budget code. This is going to vary by your state, and then you’re going to enter a description. And this could be something more specific, a more specific budget code, or it could just be a brief description of what these funds are for. The most important element here is that you need to enter the amount of state funds made available under this line item, and then you can put any notes you want to yourself.
And this column should expand if you want to write a really long note about a particular item. And then it will give you a total for your SEA funds. Down below, it will repeat the same thing for other state agencies. The dropdown will pull from the other state agencies on the contact information, you can again enter identifier or budget codes, any descriptions. And again, the most important thing is you enter the amounts. And then again, you can put in your notes to describe what this really is. And this is for your purpose, this is for your note-taking, for your information later if you want to go back. If you have an issue, you want to look at the data, you may want to look at these notes to see what’s going on.
So that is year one. Year two is exactly the same except up at the top, now we’ve moved into state fiscal year 2021, and you’ll notice here the total says “Total SEA financial support for fiscal year ending June 30th, 2021.” And it will have the same dropdown from the Contact Information tab. So if you get reorganized and have new offices or divisions or new state agencies you have to reach out to, it’s very important that you update that on the Contact Information tab first before entering your data on the year tabs, and then it will give you three totals.
One is your SEA amount, the second is your other state agency amount, and the final is your total state financial support for the fiscal year, and this is your total MFS amount. Are there any questions about the Year tabs? Great, we’ll move on to the final tabs because years three through 12 are going to look just like year one and two. So in green we have some summary tabs. The first one is an MFS Summary Table. And this is going to pull all of your data from the whole 12 years of the worksheet and calculate, did you or did you not meet MFS?
First, it pulls in your total amount from each year. The one piece of data entry that you must do on this tab if you want to calculate the per capita method, which is now something you do have to report on your application, you do need to enter in row nine the number of individuals with an IEP in your state, and then it will be able to calculate your per capita amounts. And then for each year it will determine, did you or did you not meet MFS by total amounts, by per capita amounts? And then if you met either way, you have met MFS.
And you can see in our sample there are a couple years where they did not meet by the per pupil amount because their child count went up more than their spend, their funds made available did. But overall, they’ve met every single year in this tool. Down below it will break down for every year the SEA versus other state agency amounts, so you can just see how those change over time. And then for the other state agencies, it does a breakdown for each other state agency, how much was spent every year. And this is one of the places that the Contact Information tab feeds into, so it’s important to make sure you’re entering those correctly on that tab.
And here you can track over time to see, have there been large changes over time if you’re having some MFS? If your numbers aren’t adding up or they don’t look right, this will break it down for you. And we can see here the Department of Rehabilitation Services dropped by half a million dollars between 2020 and 2021. And if we hadn’t failed that year, we might want to look into that and see, was this number reported correct? And we still honestly might want to look into that anyway to see what was this change. I imagine it was likely due to COVID given the timing.
Next up is a Summary Chart, and this will show you your MFS summary for the entire 12 years in the file broken down by other state agency and SEA spending. And instead of having long numbers, it does show it in millions of dollars. So you can see in pink, this is your other state agency spending. And in blue, this is your SEA funds made available. The next tab does it per capita, and we just have all the amounts combined so you can see how your per capita changes over time. And sure enough here you can see there are a couple years where per capita is decreased from the prior year. So they did fail by the per capita method those years, but they passed by the total method each year, so it’s okay.
And then the final tab is the Blank Worksheet, and this is blank, completely unlocked. You can do whatever you want with this. If you don’t have enough rows on the prior tabs, you may want to do some summing here. If you just want to take more notes and there’s room for, you can do that here as well. And I did want to point out that the charts are not locked. If you want to edit these, for example, if you only got three years of data in the file, you may want to copy the charts somewhere else and then edit the data to remove those extra years. You could change the colors to match your state template, you can change the header to put your state name in it. So these are editable charts. Are there any questions about the tool at this point?
Laura, there are a few questions in the chat.
The first question from Jerry Rogers is, “Why did we decide to include 12 years of fiscal data? Is it to keep a rolling history only or is there a significance with exactly 12 years?”
There is no significance to exactly 12 years, but the number one request I’ve received over time for the DCRT is they want it to cover more years because they really want to track that history and see over time what has happened. And so I have created in the past a 12 year DCRT that I shared with states, so this is a more official version of the 12 years. And we chose 12 because that seemed to be what states wanted, and we had also discussed doing as many as 20 years, but that seemed like too many, so we settled on 12.
And Laura, one more question. Where did you say that you enter, and Jerry, tell me if I’m asking this incorrectly, the number of students with disabilities, the child count?
Great question, Jerry. You enter the number of individuals with an IEP on row nine of the MFS Summary Chart, and you can see that you need to do that because it’s shaded in this light blue instead of unshaded or in the gray that we have for distinguishing header rows. And it is covered, we do have instructions that will cover all of this.
So there are some supplemental materials that we have available for the DCRT. We have a PDF of our instructions, and it’s not quite as long as the PDF instructions for some of our other tools. We recommend reading this through, printing it out, having it available as you start working on it. We have the sample DCRT that I was showing you, and the data there are unlocked, so if you really want to play around with it and see what happens when you change numbers, you can do that in the sample.
We have an MFS calculation checklist that Amanda’s going to tell you a little bit about later, and then we also have some tools to help you as you reach out to other state agencies. We have a sample letter that you can modify to send to your other state agencies to collect those data, we have a data entry form that you can send those agencies. It’s just a Word file, but it’s a simple table where they can enter the data for funds made available. And then we also have a copy of the Letter to Morton, which can be shared with other state agencies who might be concerned about double reporting of funds. All right, Amanda, take it away.
Good morning everyone. I’m going to tell talk about a few parts of the MFS Toolkit in addition to the DCRT 2.0. All right, here’s… Oh, thank you, Allison. Allison just dropped the link in to the MFS Toolkit. So when you click on that link or when you look on CIFR’s website for the MFS Toolkit, it will bring you to this page, click Get This Resource to see the entire toolkit page. And this is what the page looks like. You can download the entire toolkit by clicking here and you’ll download everything that you see on this page, or you can click individual documents to download them individually.
First, I want to highlight the practice guide for developing MFS procedures. If your state is looking to improve their procedures, or revisit their procedures, or write new procedures, this guide can help. Also, we recommend reaching out to your CIFR TA liaison and we can work through that together. We also have some training materials, we have a video introduction of the toolkit that you can click on here. Documents that we have, we have the Quick Reference Guide, which is great for giving to those stakeholders to explain what MFS is. This document just gives a basic understanding of MFS.
We have the Funding Flow Ideograph Tool, which allows you to graphically share your state’s MFS with others. And then we have the Timeline Development Tool, which allows you to show your state’s timeline for collecting MFS and so that you can keep track of what steps need to be done and when. If you’re using the Fiscal Timeline Tool, you may not need to use this tool, but you may find this to be a simpler version, because it just is dealing with MFS. So additional options there. And then we have of course the DCRT 2.0, we have Letter to Other State Agencies, the DCRT Sample and Instructions to be downloaded here.
And what I want to talk about today is this MFS checklist. I’m going to go ahead and open it for you to share this checklist. This was created by CIFR to make sure that you’re including everything in your MFS calculation, that you’re presenting a complete calculation of MFS. And just as the name says, it is a true checklist, you can go through and you can check boxes. So if you’re like me and you really want to make sure it feels good to show your accomplishments and calculate in the collection of your calculation, you can do that here through this checklist. And this goes through everything that you might need to know about information to make sure that you are in fact including items and that you are not including items that shouldn’t be included in your calculation.
So Amanda demonstrated the MFS Toolkit, and this is a list of all the tools in the toolkit. We have the Quick Reference Guide, the Funding Flow Ideograph Tool, Timeline Development Tool, the Developing Written Procedures for Maintenance of State Financial Support, The MFS Calculation Checklist, and of course DCRT 2.0. And we are going to be making some revisions to the site to incorporate the MFS checklist and the procedures practice guide more organically as part of the toolkit.
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