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La. Audit Finds State Department of Ed. Lagging on Charter School Evaluation

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The Louisiana Department of Education did not properly monitor all required aspects of charter school performance to determine whether those schools should remain open,an audit by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor has concluded.

The audit says that department "did not perform all required academic monitoring activities and did not verify that the school-reported data used to calculate school-performance scores ... and make charter school operating decisions is reliable."

In addition, the legislative auditor found the the education department "could not provide evidence that it comprehensively monitored the legal/contractual performance of these charter schools and did not determine in fiscal year 2011 if schools placed on probation during fiscal year 2010 met required standards to continue operating during fiscal year 2012."

Charter school performance in Louisiana is monitored based on three factors: academic, financial, and legal and contractual performance. How well charter schools perform in those three areas determines whether those schools remain open the coming years.

The audit provided several recommendations to help close the gaps in the department's reporting, half of which the department of education disagreed with, in a written response to the auditor's report released as an appendix to the audit. For example, the audit recommended that the department of education implement a process, such as data audits, to ensure that the school-reported data used to calculate school-performance scores is accurate and reliable. The department responded to the recommendation by defending its current practices of collecting information from schools, saying, in part, "we believe that recommendation ... would be an additional and ineffective use of resources."

The audit also recommended developing a more comprehensive process to assess charter schools' legal and contractual performance, but the department said it had already implemented a more comprehensive review process during the 2012-13 school year. "The Department is confident that current practice ... is sufficiently comprehensive to satisfy all requirements," it said in response.

The audit reviewed the department's practices during the 2011-12 fiscal year, during which time 99 charter schools serving 45,684 students operated in the state.

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