Auditor faults charter school oversight

The state Department of Education failed to properly monitor some operations of charter schools, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera said in a report issued Monday.

The review says the Louisiana Department of Education, or LDOE, did not verify that data used to calculate how charter schools are faring is reliable and failed to do all the required academic oversight.

State education officials disputed some of Purpera’s conclusions.

Charter schools are public schools run by private boards.

They are designed to offer innovative alternatives to traditional public schools.

About 45,000 students attend 104 charter schools in 15 parishes, including East Baton Rouge.

One of the findings focused on school performance scores, which stem from test results and other factors that determine state-issued grades.

But the report said the department accepts self-reported data from charter schools without verifying its accuracy.

“According to LDOE, it stopped conducting on-site audits in 2008 because of a lack of resources,” Purpera’s review says.

While department test results oversight appears solid, the review says, questions remain about the accuracy of attendance, dropouts and graduation rates.

Department officials disagreed with that part of the report.

They said attendance data will be dropped from the calculations after this year and dropout data will count for just five percent of the scores for seventh- and eighth-graders.

In another area, the department failed to provide 10 new charter schools with baseline measures of previous student performance, which is used to track student progress.

The agency agreed with that finding.

Purpera’s report also said the department, after placing eight charter schools on probation in 2010 because of financial issues, should have made sure that the schools met state standards in 2011.

If not, the review says, the department should have taken action to revoke the schools’ charters.

“However, LDOE did not determine if any of these schools met required standards to continue operating,” the study says.

One of the schools closed, according to the report, but the seven others were allowed to operate in 2012 without the department ensuring that they met state rules.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2011 repealed the requirement that the department determine if schools on probation met standards to remain open.

All eight schools were grandfathered in.