Report Criticizes Recovery School District's (La.) Oversight

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Louisiana's Recovery School District has failed to provide strict enough oversight of the charter schools it oversees in the areas of academics, finances and legal compliance, according to a report released Monday by state legislative auditor Daryl Purpera.

But the district nevertheless has made significant strides in boosting student performance and, contrary to claims made by many of its critics, is not getting more funding to do it than other districts around the state, the audit shows.

The report covers fiscal 2010, corresponding to the 2009-2010 school year. It faults the district, as well as the state's charter office, for lacking an effective way to monitor academic performance at charter schools whose students aren't old enough to take standardized tests.

It also found that many charter schools were tardy in turning in the financial reports they are required to provide the RSD. And it criticizes the district for collecting and reviewing data on legal compliance only for schools whose charters were up for renewal that year. The district must make sure charters are complying with laws related to health and safety, special education needs, and other areas.

The audit comes at an important juncture for the RSD, which has responsibility for more than two-thirds of public school students in New Orleans. It provides a third-party checkup for a still-evolving district as the state's reform efforts come up for popular referendum with elections to the state board of education next month.

The RSD represents the state's vision for transforming public schools. The district has no locally elected school board questioning decisions by individual school leaders. And there are no union-negotiated contracts tying their hands.

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