***Post written by Sarah Perkins, Membership Chair, Website Administrator, and President-Elect for WSPA***
I wanted to share a recent tool that I have found that is helping to streamline my paperwork process. On a recent discussion on the NASP communities page, someone mentioned TheFormTool as a way to streamline the process. It is an add-on to Microsoft Word that allows you to customize documents in a huge variety of ways; for example, an assessment report can be customized to each student (including pronouns) and each assessment tool with a single click. They offer free software but I ended up purchasing TheFormTool Pro for $89. If you were implementing the system across multiple users, it might be worthwhile to purchase the even more advanced packages.
TheFormTool’s basic premise is a series of question and answers (established by the form author) that then result in answers being used to complete a word document. Here an example of some of the questions I established for my master form.
Then all of this data can do used to fill in my file review template, my assessment report template, and my parent letter. I may add more forms to it as I move forward. The idea is that you only have to type each piece of information (like the birth date) once and it can be used in every form related to that student.
I’m not going to lie, there is a fair amount of upfront labor because for every template, you need to tell the program where every pronoun, name, or number is. The good news is that you only need to do it once. Now that I have set up my forms, I have one template with every assessment I used loaded into it. When I complete the form, any assessment I didn’t use is deleted and the entire document is formatted so that it looks individually crafted for just assessments. This process takes a minute or two.
Because the grunt work of report writing is reduced, I have found that I spend more times on thoughtfully writing the qualitative and analytical sections. My overall report writing time has gone down some but my reports are certainly higher quality, both because I am confident there are no typos related to names, pronouns, etc. and because I can put my effort toward the sections that cannot be written by computer. I also really like that my template is still a word document that I can tweak any time I want; any changes will automatically carry forward into any future reports.
Overall, I recommend the TheFormTool but I would warn that you need to devote some time to setting it up. It may be a project best left for quiet times at the end of the year or over the summer. If a district were interested in having a basic template for all school psychologists (or any specialist), the upfront work would be similar but it reduce the workload of multiple users.