Frequently Asked Questions
Why this tool?
This exercise is about prioritizing and making the necessary adjustments to achieve your instructional goals in the context of budget tightening. The tool format enables district leaders and others to step outside of the constraints of their day to day decision-making to look at program and budget choices in a new and more integrated way. The lessons can be applied to transform their district strategic budgeting process.
Where do I start?
Create a scenario by entering your district's name into the search bar on the home page. DREAM will provide you with a list of possible matches from which to choose. If you cannot find the district you are looking for, try entering less information. For instance, enter “Boston” instead of “Boston Public Schools”. DREAM searches the NCES Common Core of Data (CCD), so your district will be listed as it is listed in the CCD.
Once you choose your district, DREAM will automatically create an estimated cost model for your district and take you to the modeling page. For more information on how this model was created, see How did Dream come up with my numbers?
Still having trouble getting started?
Some people may find approaching their budget from a purely conceptual standpoint is more helpful. If so, consider playing School Budget Hold'em before using DREAM. Hold'em allows you to consider specific trade-offs and their budget implications without getting bogged down by the specifics of your district. Then, once you have finished working through the process with Hold'em, return to DREAM to test out the trade-offs you chose.
How does each slider or lever impact my budget?
To learn more about what each slider represents and how it impacts your performance and your budget, click on the question mark to the right of the slider and choose “What's This?”
How did DREAM come up with my numbers?
DREAM uses the most recent available (2010-11 data in most areas, 2009-10 financial data) NCES Common Core of Data (CCD) to generate a cost model for your district. This model is represented as a series of “sliders”, each representing a key cost lever. By adjusting the sliders, you can drive changes in cost and other important measures of quality and efficiency.
Where CCD does not provide specific information, DREAM estimates values by using data that ERS has gathered through our extensive work with districts and from other publicly available sources. More specifics about how we estimate each slider can be found in the “What is this?” link in the detail menu for each slider. However, because these values are just estimates, you may need to adjust them to better represent the actual conditions in your district. If you need to adjust any of these initial values, use the “Edit Base Values” link found in the Tools menu.
What if the numbers for my district are wrong?
DREAM uses the most recent available (2010-11 data in most areas, 2009-10 financial data) NCES Common Core of Data (CCD) to generate a cost model for your district.
Where CCD does not provide specific information, DREAM estimates values by using data that ERS has gathered through our extensive work with districts and from other publicly available. However, because these values are just estimates, you may need to adjust them to better represent the actual conditions in your district. If you need to adjust any of these initial values, use the “Edit Base Values” link found in the Tools menu.
Why are some sliders read only?
Some of the sliders in DREAM cannot be directly edited because they depend on the value of other sliders. At the same time, we feel these values are important benchmarks for the user to see, so we include them among the sliders. If you want to change the value of a Read Only slider, you must adjust the other sliders that directly impact the Read Only slider. Not sure where the value comes from? Click on the arrow next to the slider to find out “What's this?”
How can I reset the sliders to my initial values?
If you are trying to reset all sliders, you have two choices: in the scenario's “Tools” menu, click “Reset all sliders” or click “New Scenario” button at the top of the page. Additionally, each individual slider can be reset by using the “reset to current base value” link in each slider drop down menu.
Can I save my scenario?
Yes! If you sign up for an account, you will be able to save as many scenarios as you would like. The “Sign Up” button is located in the top-right corner of the page. When you return to DREAM, make sure to sign in, and then you can access all your scenarios by clicking on the “My Scenarios” link also located in the top-right corner. There you will be able each of your scenarios and track all the different budget DREAMs you're working on.
Where can I learn more about ERS' approach to district resource allocation?
ERS has a series "Practical Tools for District Transformation" that is both a series of online self-assessments and in-depth guides to help districts reallocate their resources to improve instruction and make every dollar count. What are the common mistakes? What are short-term and long-term actions to take? How can districts accurately measure what they're doing now? ERS guides are available to download at no cost or for purchase on our website.
Who funded DREAM?
DREAM is funded by the Noyce Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. For a complete list of ERS funders go to erstrategies.org.