Indiana state education officials must do a better job making sure school districts provide parents with information about students’ opportunities for tutoring and transfer options out of schools identified as needing improvement, a federal Department of Education audit has found.
The audit, conducted by the Chicago office of the department’s inspector general’s office, found that Indiana has not adequately reviewed how schools are complying with provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act that require districts to provide tutoring services and transfer options for students at schools not meeting benchmarks for adequate yearly progress.
Of the six local districts reviewed for the audit, five had inadequate notification letters for parents about options for supplemental education services and school choice options, the audit report says.
Some districts did not notify parents of all students eligible for tutoring. One district failed to inform parents about the choice options through regular mailings. Other districts did not identify schools to which a student could transfer. And another district transferred students from schools identified as in need of improvement to other schools also identified for improvement, a violation of the federal law.
“Because the five local education agencies did not provide sufficient parental notification of school choice, parents were not fully informed about the status of their child’s school and could not make a fully informed decision whether to transfer their children from a school identified for improvement,” the Feb. 18 report says.
Findings Not Disputed
The six districts were selected for the audit based on student enrollment—two large, three medium-size, and one small district—out of 50 in Indiana that had schools identified for improvement during the 2003-04 school year. The districts audited were East Allen County, Gary, Indianapolis, Marion, Muncie, and Whiting.
The Indiana state education department did not dispute the findings of the federal audit.
Linda Miller, the assistant state superintendent, said in a Dec. 22 letter responding to a draft of the audit report that the Indiana department has reviewed the school choice and tutoring requirements with districts during workshops since the draft audit.
The state agency will revise the sample letters to parents that it provides and will create a new data-collection report that will gather school improvement information relevant to school choice and tutoring services.
The Indiana department did not face any federal sanctions based on the audit.
A version of this article appeared in the March 09, 2005 edition of Education Week as Ind. Faulted on Ensuring Districts Convey Choice Options