Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said his recent performance audits of the Pennsylvania Department of Education show the department did not provide adequate assistance to 561 academically challenged schools with 310,000 students enrolled.
On this list are several schools in the Coatesville, Octorara and Oxford school districts. These schools include, in Coatesville Area School District: Caln Elementary, Coatesville Area Senior High, Friendship Elementary, Rainbow Elementary, Reeceville Elementary, Scott Middle School; in Oxford Area School District: Penn’s Grove School and Oxford Area High School; in Octorara Area School District: Octorara Junior High School. The Chester County Technical College High School and the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School are also on the list.
The 89-page audit report, which covers July 1, 2010, through Aug. 1, 2015, includes the results of two performance audits of PDE and 30 recommendations for improvement to address four findings:
- PDE failed to provide additional assistance to poor-performing schools,
- Board of Education failed to update the master plan for basic education since 1999,
- PDE failed to monitor special advisors and assistants, and
- PDE relied on retired employees to fill critical positions and violated the state employees’ retirement code.
“The Pennsylvania Department of Education is failing our students and the taxpayers by essentially overlooking 561 academically challenged schools,” DePasquale said. “It is astonishing to me that so many schools — with more than 310,000 students — may not be receiving the extra support they need to help their students succeed academically. If PDE continues to overlook these institutions and the students they serve, more and more children will struggle scholastically further down the road.
“It also is disturbing that for 16 years, the state Board of Education — which is responsible for setting statewide education policy — failed to develop and implement a statutorily required basic education master plan to be issued every five years. The plan should be current, and it should be aligned with the ever-changing education landscape, including technological advances, requirements under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, and the explosion of charter schools,” he said. “The world is far different than it was in 1999, and our educational system must have a plan that can adapt to meet changing demands.”
When auditors used school performance profile scores for 2013-14, they identified 814 academically challenged schools with scores below 70. Of those, 561 schools received no substantial assistance to improve academic performance. The only schools that received additional academic assistance were a fraction of the schools classified by the federal government as “Title I” — schools that have a high percentage of students from low-income families.
Special assistance for academically challenged schools may include specialized staff, referred to as Academic Recovery Liaisons, who work with school administrators to develop and implement programs tailored to each school. … Continue reading →