Close (to the Edit Check Tools): The Art of IDC’s Innovative Online Resource

Episode 36


Release Date: November 9, 2023

Guests: Terry Long and Chris Thacker, IDC


Don’t want to go out? No problem. Sometimes you just want a date closer to home. In this cozy episode of A Date with Data, host Amy Bitterman is doing just that, welcoming our very own Terry Long and Chris Thacker to learn all about IDC’s edit check tools, an online resource that allows users to visualize and review SEA and LEA EDFacts 618 data files. From Child Count and Educational Environment to Discipline and Personnel data, they’ll cover it all. Join them to get close (to the edit check tools).

Listen to the Podcast

Episode Transcript

00:00:01.52  >> You're listening to "A Date with Data" with your host, Amy Bitterman.

00:00:07.34  >> Hey, it's Amy, and I'm so excited to be hosting "A Date with Data." I'll be chatting with state and district special education staff who, just like you, are dealing with IDEA data every day.

00:00:19.50  >> "A Date with Data" is brought to you by the IDEA Data Center.

00:00:24.64  >> Hello! Welcome to "A Date with Data." I am Amy Bitterman, and this is a very special episode because I'm so excited to be joined by two of my wonderful IDC colleagues, Terry Long and Chris Thacker. And they're both IDEA TA providers among wearing a number of other hats, and they're going to be talking about IDC's Edit Check Tools with us. So welcome, Chris and Terry. Thank you for being here.

00:00:51.12  >> Thank you for having us.

00:00:52.56  >> Hey, good to be here, Amy.

00:00:54.50  >> So the Edit Check Tools, I actually back in the day worked with Terry on them many years ago. So we've had them for quite a while now but definitely have been making improvements and changes, but for those maybe who aren't familiar or haven't used them before, can you just give us a brief overview of what the Edit Check Tools are and how states can use them?

00:01:15.60  >> Sure. Chris, do you want me to jump in?

00:01:17.73  >> Yeah, I'm going to just defer to you in most of them, Terry, and I'll just follow up if I feel the need to add anything.

00:01:23.55  >> Sure, thank you. Okay, so IDC does have a suite of Edit Check Tools for SEA EDFacts files and LEA EDFacts files. We also have a couple of tools that we aren't going to focus on a whole lot today, but I do want to mention that we have Edit Check Tools also for MOE CEIS data and dispute resolution data that are submitted via EMAPS.

00:01:49.89  >> Mm-hmm.

00:01:50.31  >> So the suite of tools that we're focusing on today will be the ones that are the tools that help us visualize and review the EDFacts files that are submitted for childcare and education environment, exiting, discipline and personnel data, so all of those 618 data files.

00:02:20.70  >> Okay.

00:02:22.40  >> And I would just add that both Terry and I are former state data managers, so this is probably a project that's been near and dear to our hearts because it's something that we saw as a need in the field before ever coming to IDC. And I think Terry has led the way on developing these tools and done an outstanding job in making it as easy as possible to get the data into the system and to be checked and to make sure everything is accurate.

00:02:49.97  >> Yeah, these were definitely tools that when we were Part B data managers together, Chris, that we saw a need for way back then, and we always wanted to be able to make them but it seemed like we never had time to do that. So I was so grateful when we started working as TA providers with IDC, and they gave us the opportunity to make these tools a reality.

00:03:15.82  >> Yeah, these are really wonderful tools and are so helpful to states so they can run their files through and see if there's any issues or anything that might be flagged before they have to go into EdPass and actually submit, so they can get those addressed quickly. And then I think one of my favorite parts, like you mentioned, is that data visualization piece where those files are not easy to read for anyone in and of themselves. So these tools have the capability and are able to aggregate and display all of that data in really user friendly ways.

00:03:58.34  >> Yes, so some ...

00:03:59.48  >> And I like, too, Amy, the way that the tools will present those data displays in alignment with how the EDFacts file specifications will group those different items together. I think that's very helpful, and as you noted, the raw EDFacts file isn't a reader friendly document at all. And by having those displays built into the system, it makes it real easy to share that information internally with your state-level staff, and then you could even use it for external purposes as well once you get it vetted.

00:04:35.08  >> But it is an easy way that, adding your EDFacts file data in, you literally ... To put that data in, you literally copy and paste a copy of your EDFacts file, whether it be child count, the FS002 or 089.

00:04:52.14  >> Mm-hmm.

00:04:52.76  >> You actually copy and paste those into the tool, and there are a lot of handy formulas and some macros in the tool that then allow the data to be displayed into some real user friendly tables as well as some edit check messages display that are easy to read and include hyperlinks to take you right back to the original file to find the location, the row where an error may be occurring. So it ... The tools really are a great way for EDFacts coordinators to communicate with their Part B data managers as far as reviewing the data in the files. It just makes it so much easier than just taking that raw file and then having to put headers on it and do a lot of other more complex manipulation in Excel to review the file.

00:05:54.81  >> Right, and that's, I think, something you mentioned among many things that really a lot of states like is, when they are getting those error messages, it can be hard to track down exactly what data the error message refers to, what the problem is, and this tool, I think, really helps to better pinpoint where the problem is in the data.

00:06:17.76  >> It does. It does. It actually has hyperlinks that will take you back to that version of the file that you had pasted into the tool so you can identify exactly which row or rows may be involved potentially in an error or something that just needs to be reviewed to make sure it's accurate.

00:06:38.15  >> And like you said, too, it's not ... There's really no work involved in using this tool. It's just a matter, like you said, of copying and pasting your EDFacts file right in, and then the rest happens magically due to Terry and Chris' amazing programming. So it is a very, very cool suite of tools. So talk a little bit about, now that we are moving to using EdPass, are there any changes that you have needed to make to the tools, and if so, why and what have those been?

00:07:11.84  >> Well, we definitely ... When we learned about EdPass, we had to stop and ask ourselves, "Well, these tools are doing the same sort of work that is now completed in EdPass as far as doing edit checks to the data prior to submission." So we spent some time really thinking and talking as a group at IDC about whether ... Are these tools now obsolete? Do we not need them anymore, or do we need to go ahead and keep them up to date, keep them available for state use? And after a lot of discussion, we decided that, yes, indeed, we would want to keep them in place because we know that for EdPass, it's only available about 6 weeks prior to the submission deadline for the files. And so having these tools out there and available at any time, a SME can pick up, if they have their exiting data, for instance, available early ...

00:08:20.27  >> Mm-hmm.

00:08:20.74  >> ... and EdPass is not yet open for that submission, they can pick up that tool, the SEA tool, paste in the SEA data, or the LEA tool and paste in the LEA data to review what's happening, run those same sorts of edit checks that are used in EdPass but be able to do it prior to the opening of that EdPass window. So we decided that having that, allowing for that flexibility for states was important. So IDC decided to move forward with continuing to update and maintain these tools and improve the tools.

00:08:57.00  >> Mm-hmm.

00:08:57.24  >> So one of the improvements that we've done is to add ... very recently add our year-to-year ...

00:09:03.64  >> Mm-hmm.

00:09:04.65  >> ... check capability in the tools.

00:09:07.00  >> I might add, too, that Terry mentioned the fact that the EdPass window is only open for 6 weeks or so, but it's also been pushed back much later than what it was previously under the old system so that it will be much later in the year that you would, as the data manager, have the opportunity to go in and check the data the way the EdPass is checking it were it not for these tools. Right now the tools are available for download. They can ... As soon as you get the data together there at the state level, you can start creating those EDFacts files, putting them into the system and doing some checking long before the EdPass system is ever up and running. So it gives you that ability to know sooner rather than later how well your data are coming together.

00:09:56.89  >> Yeah, and that year-to-year comparison, too, is really important, especially now because it's not ... It was not part, at least for the child count net environment submission in EdPass. Those checks were not automatically run in EdPass, so having the Edit Check Tools to do that is incredible.

00:10:16.32  >> Yeah, I think the EdPass right now doesn't have the historical data in it to do ...

00:10:20.20  >> Yeah.

00:10:20.30  >> ... those year-to-year comparisons. I believe it will at some point ...

00:10:24.09  >> Mm-hmm.

00:10:24.30  >> ... down the road. This tool where Terry updated it for the child count, and it will be updated for the other tools as well, gives that ability to check your current data to a prior year data. Usually it would be the most recent year, but you would have the flexibility, if ...

00:10:40.37  >> Mm-hmm.

00:10:40.62  >> ... you chose to add in a different prior year to look at it more historically if you were inclined.

00:10:46.37  >> Mm-hmm.

00:10:46.62  >> Yeah, if you really wanted to take a look at, say, what your data looked like prior to COVID ...

00:10:52.18  >> Mm-hmm.

00:10:52.48  >> ... during COVID, after COVID, that kind of thing, you can ... It's up to you which years you compare in the tool. So you can use it for that straight year-to-year comparison that OSEP uses for looking at data quality, but you can also use it for other analysis purposes as well.

00:11:13.11  >> Yeah, think outside the box. There's a lot of uses, I think, for this tool other than the standard way that folks might think about it. I know IDC has provided technical assistance to states in using these tools. We've also done other events. Can you talk about how IDC supports states with these tools?

00:11:37.25  >> Sure. We can definitely, at any time, you can contact your IDC state liaison and set up a time to walk through these tools on an individual basis, if you'd like, anytime that service is available to you. Also, I think, Amy, you're referring to getting some groups of states together to spend some extended time using and reviewing data in these tools.

00:12:08.72  >> Mm-hmm.

00:12:08.95  >> We've been able to do that through IDC's Hands-On Learning Academies. We've had two of those now. We had one about a year and a half ago and then one just this past August, and we were able to bring a few states together into a room for a couple of days to spend time. We asked them to bring their EDFacts file data with them, and we had copies of each of the IDC edit check and data disability tools available to them, and we just literally spent time plugging in their state and LEA-level data into the tools and just really spending time examining the data in those tools, looking for any errors that may have existed.

00:12:59.27  >> Hmm.

00:12:59.36  >> Most of these files that they were bringing to us, of course, were files that had already been submitted ...

00:13:04.33  >> Mm-hmm.

00:13:04.58  >> ... in EDFacts, so they were ... had already been vetted that way. So most of them were error-free, but it did give them a chance to see these data displayed in the data tables, and like Chris was saying, we have all of the subtotals that are represented in the EDFacts files as well as all of the category sets. So each of the subtotals and category sets that are required in the EDFacts files are displayed as data tables in the tools, and it gave these states time to really spend a good amount of time that they don't ... may not typically have when they're sitting in their offices, moving through their crazy daily schedules to actually stop and pay attention to the data that they're seeing in this table format.

00:13:58.26  >> That time component that Terry just mentioned there, I think, is very important. Something that I was thinking about as she was going through this, at these Hands-On Learning Academies, it does give the data manager or the EDFacts coordinator or perhaps an SPP/APR lead, ever ... who comes from your team an opportunity to work together and look at that away from the office where they're not as likely to be interrupted on things, and it also ... There's a real advantage at these groups of having other states there in the same room with you that might present ideas or situations or circumstances that might not have come up in your state, but you get to hear it from a different perspective or look at it from a different angle, and that turns out to be very, very helpful. So the two that we've had so far, we've been well pleased with the participation of the staff from the various states who have attended and the feedback that we've gotten from them, and we hope to be able to do some more in the future. In addition to those events, I know that at some of the various conferences that we've put on, like our Interactive Institutes where we will have tools that we share ...

00:15:04.46  >> Mm-hmm.

00:15:04.82  >> ... We shared this at a couple of institutes in the past and gotten a lot of participation from states. I know I work with a number of states as a state liaison, and many of those states have asked for explain on how to use these tools, and I've sat with them, as Terry described a while ago, and gone through the process of loading the information in there and to look for errors and to diagnose problems and issues, and it's a real great, useful tool, I think.

00:15:33.18  >> Yeah, so if anyone out there listening needs any support, wants a tutorial, has questions, feel free to reach out to your state liaison, and we will connect you most likely with either Terry or Chris or someone else that knows these tools inside and out.

00:15:49.68  >> And we do try to jump in when you make one of those requests. We know that you're working on that data right at that time and that you typically need an immediate response. So we try to be super responsive when you ask for assistance with the tools. We try to jump right in there and schedule something within the next few hours or the next day or two to talk with you about these tools and especially when it's nearing data submission due dates.

00:16:21.08  >> Mm-hmm. Yeah, when it's crunch time.

00:16:23.53  >> Yeah.

00:16:25.33  >> So what's going on now related to these tools? Is there anything new that you're working on, something coming out in the near future?

00:16:34.85  >> Well, like Chris said, we recently, with the child count that was due back in August, we had updated the SEA tool to include that year-to-year check ...

00:16:49.34  >> Mm-hmm.

00:16:49.55  >> ... Since OSEP was asking states to go move forward with doing a year-to-year check even though one is not available in EdPass at this time because there is no historical data there. There's only the 1 year that's just ... was recently submitted, 1 year of child count and education environment data. So that ... We made that change to the child count tool, and now we're moving forward with adding the same year-to-year check also for the exiting tool that ...

00:17:21.99  >> Mm-hmm.

00:17:22.67  >> ... reviews FS009 ...

00:17:25.60  >> Mm-hmm.

00:17:26.14  >> ... EDFacts files, also the discipline tool, adding year-to-year check to that, and that handles all six of the discipline EDFacts files, and the year-to-year check will also be added to the personnel edit check and data display tool ...

00:17:42.65  >> Mm-hmm.

00:17:43.44  >> ... that ... And that handles your FS70, 99 and 112 files.

00:17:51.52  >> I would also add, though, this is new, as it the comparison, but the fact that we have the LEA version ...

00:17:58.30  >> Mm-hmm.

00:17:58.62  >> ... of the tool is very, very helpful and fairly recent in comparison to the state tool itself, and the LEA tool, a really good function or feature that it has, it displays or does those data displays just like the state tool does, but it will do it for individual LEAs.

00:18:15.18  >> Mmm.

00:18:15.39  >> And that's something that you can share with your monitoring team or others that ... in the office that might have specific interests about a specific LEA that there's concern about or just part of your routine risk assessment that you do. You can look at individual LEAs and look at it in those data display options to get a better feel for the data. So I hate to overlook the significance and importance of that addition of the LEA tool ...

00:18:42.69  >> Mmm.

00:18:42.97  >> ... not too terribly long ago itself.

00:18:44.81  >> Yes, those are much newer tools, too, Chris. Thank you so much for reminding us about those.

00:18:51.11  >> Mm-hmm.

00:18:51.70  >> The LEA tools do give states a way to dig down into their LEA-level data and can be used by monitors as they prepare for monitoring visits and for the other ... all kinds of things that ... reasons why you need to pay attention to your LEA-level data. This gives you an easy way to see those data that have been submitted in EDFacts files at the LEA level. I was just wanting to also invite those out there who are using these tools to send any feedback they have ...

00:19:30.52  >> Mmm.

00:19:30.70  >> ... about them, anything that they would like to see, any additions, any functionality additions they would like to have added to these tools. We would love to hear from our state folks out there using the tools and have them give us that kind of feedback, tell us how ... Are there additional features that they want to see in the tools? We would love to hear that kind of feedback from states, and we would definitely take it into account and see if we can make it happen.

00:20:02.97  >> And also share the good news that you might have and how well the tools work for you. The positive comments are always great to hear, too, and it might be something that if states themselves share some value that this has provided them, that other states might see some value in the tool as well.

00:20:21.29  >> Sure, and we do know that some states actually use the tables that are provided, the data display tables in the tools as a part of their requirement to publicly report their 618 data.

00:20:36.43  >> Mm-hmm.

00:20:36.86  >> So we know that that's one of those additional uses of the tools that's out there. So like Chris said, we would love to hear from others about how they're using the tools and spread the news out there. So to their colleagues, give them ideas about ways to utilize these tools in creative ways to ... that help them do their work at the state on a daily basis and also help their LEAs and schools better understand their data.

00:21:11.46  >> Yeah, absolutely. All right. Well, exciting things happening in the Edit Check Tool world, and hopefully those of you who haven't used these yet might give them a try. If, again, any questions or support that's needed, we have Terry and Chris waiting and willing to jump in and provide that support, and I'm sure we'll probably be doing more of those Hands-On Learning Academies and other events in the future. So thank you both so much, Chris and Terry, really appreciate you being on.

00:21:47.67  >> Thanks so much for having us. It was great talking with you, Amy.

00:21:50.98  >> Yes, it was, as always. Take care.

00:21:54.13  >> To access podcast resources, submit questions related to today's episode, or if you have ideas for future topics, we'd love to hear from you. The links are in the episode content or connect with us via the podcast page on the IDC website at ideadata.org.