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March 13, 2019
Bullying in New York City goes undercounted due to confusion about what incidents to report, audit finds
Confusion among principals and teachers about just what constitutes bullying is one reason New York City schools are not doing enough to track…
Follow the money
August 11, 2017
Audit: NYC issued $2.7 billion in noncompetitive education contracts — and often violates its own rules
"This investigation shows that DOE acts as though the rules don’t matter."
December 2, 2014
Audit: City losing track of thousands of school computers, tablets
Thousands of computers and iPads that belong in city schools are missing or unused because of poor record-keeping, according to a new audit from Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office.
May 6, 2014
Shelby County Schools board calls for improved tracking system, discusses splitting property in demerger
Shelby County board members have asked district officials to provide a timeline and a cost estimate for an entirely revamped process for tracking its assets…
February 26, 2014
First DOE audit from Comptroller Stringer raises questions about milk contracts
Updated with response from Elmhurst Dairy. In his first audit of the city’s Department of Education, Comptroller Scott Stringer said Wednesday that the…
December 10, 2013
Shelby County administrators say missing items in audit worth less than $5 million
Shelby County administrators told board members today that the missing items cited in a scathing audit last week were only worth about ten percent of the estimated $48 million.
December 3, 2013
Audit finds $48 million of equipment missing
During one of the largest school mergers in the nation's history, Memphis and Shelby County School officials lost track of more than $48 million worth of school equipment, according to a recent audit.
July 22, 2013
Liu eschews own audit to focus on Medicaid reimbursements
Liu at a press conference outside Tweed Courthouse, where he discussed Medicaid reimbursement for special education students. New York City Comptroller John Liu’s audit into the city’s embattled special education data system, released today, hammered home well-established issues, but found few new problems with the three-year-old initiative. Liu, who is running for mayor, instead used the occasion to highlight a challenge not mentioned in the audit — the city's ongoing struggle to get reimbursed for low income students with disabilities who are entitled to federal Medicaid dollars. Over the last two years, the city has collected just 25 percent, or $74 million, of the $284 million amount that the city had hoped to be reimbursed for, Liu said today at a press conference. Liu took the finding from a city budget report published this spring. But he said that responsibility for the losses lies with the city's data system, which his audit criticized. The data system, built to track 190,000 special education students with Individualized Education Plans, makes it "practically impossible" to file for reimbursements, Liu said, a claim that a city spokesman later disputed. Schools began using the Special Education Student Information System (SESIS) in 2011 to keep better track of students with disabilities. School staff working with special education students are required to log information about all stages of their IEPs, including details about initial assessments, meetings with parents, services provided, and changes made to the plan.
June 13, 2013
City to monitor selective schools' student choices after Liu audit
A chart in the audit released by Comptroller John Liu released today into selective schools' high admissions practices shows that some admit students who do not meet their selection criteria. The Department of Education will increase monitoring of city high schools' admissions practices after an audit by Comptroller John Liu found opportunities for abuse, and possible evidence of it. Every year, eighth-graders in New York City rank up to 12 high schools that they would like to attend. And the city's more than 500 high schools rank the students who apply, in accordance with criteria that the schools themselves set. Then the city runs an algorithm and students are matched with a school. The architect of that algorithm won a Nobel Prize last year for his work. But Liu's office concluded that the department's lack of oversight meant that selective schools are able to accept students who do not meet their admissions criteria while turning away others who do.
April 25, 2013
Liu audit questions department's ability to tell networks' value
An audit by Comptroller John Liu into one of the Department of Education's school support networks found that it was doing its job — but concluded that the department can't know just how much networks help schools in them. Since 2007, the department has required principals to select support networks based on their philosophies and services, rather than grouping schools by geography. The shift means that support organizations, some run by the department and some by external nonprofits, essentially compete with each other for contracts to offer schools help with teacher training and administrative tasks, in a controversial arrangement that could potentially end when the Bloomberg administration does. Scrutinizing just one of the city's 55 networks, Children's First Network 406, Liu's office found that evidence that it was providing solid support for its schools. Principals in the network said they were satisfied with it, according to the report, released today. But Liu concluded that the department cannot show how much networks cause schools to thrive or struggle. The report recommends that the department solicit more feedback on network performance and also develop "quantifiable criteria and standards" to isolate the impact of the network on a school's performance.
January 3, 2013
City's school spending practices dinged for cash card misuse
A receipt photocopy from a school's p-card purchase that officials say was created only after the school was audited. Principals and teachers spent thousands of dollars from their city-issued cash cards on purchases that they were later unable to justify, including furniture, Kindles and $200 worth of movie tickets, according to an audit released today by Comptroller John Liu. Liu found that of the $130,000 in audited transactions, $85,551 was spent illicitly. Receipts were unaccounted for, transaction logs didn't match spending records, and, in one case, pizza receipts appeared to have been doctored to make up for the missing documentation. Liu's office targeted 500 receipts from five high schools that had suspicious records. The selected sample represented just a slice of the $17.2 million that city schools spent using the debit cards in 2011, called procurement cards, or p-cards. The city adopted the purchasing method in 2003 to provide more flexibility over budget spending. A teacher can use p-cards to pay for admission into museums or zoos for class trips; a school, meanwhile, could use them to quickly buy a new ink cartridge at a Staples instead of ordering through a vendor, which takes longer and costs more in processing fees. Liu's audit concluded that the flexibility had come in exchange for lax oversight. Although the city requires that schools follow considerable compliance when using the cards, Liu's report suggests that the audited cardholders were not being required to follow the rules. Cardholders must file receipts and fill out transaction logs detailing why the purchases were made. To maintain a tax exempt status, cardholders must complete a form at the time of their purchase. Some types of meals are banned from being expensed to the p-cards. And for individual purchases over $250, cardholders are required to first solicit bids from at least three vendors before deciding on the lowest-priced options Sixty-three of the 541 audited transactions — worth about $30,000 — did not have documentation that proved it was an "educational need." That includes $775 on five Kindle from Amazon.com, $194 in movie tickets from Costco.com and two sofabeds from Target worth nearly $700.
August 1, 2012
Audit: DOE did not gather data to justify expanding tech initiative
Comptroller John Liu's office found that the Department of Education's five-year plan for NYC21C was not followed. The Department of Education never checked to see whether an initiative to transform city schools for the 21st century that was announced with a splash in 2009 was paying off, according to an audit released today by Comptroller John Liu. The audit is the latest in a series by Liu's office to conclude that the department does not adequately evaluate its programs and initiatives, which the Bloomberg administration has always delivered in rapid succession. The audit also has the department insisting that a technology initiative once billed as "the most exciting work we are now embarking on here in New York City's public schools" was actually a "small educational initiative" in just a handful of schools. The initiative, called NY21C, was unveiled in May 2009 at the iSchool, a centerpiece of the department's efforts to rethink schools using technology. Then-Chancellor Joel Klein said the program, which the city billed as a "research and development project" in promotional materials, would quickly expand across the entire city. The initiative did expand — but it also quickly evolved. In 2010, NYC21C became the 81-school Innovation Zone, and seven of the original 10 schools were dispersed into different branches of the zone. Since then, Klein and John White, another official who championed the Innovation Zone, have left the Department of Education, and the department's focus has shifted away from innovation and toward making instruction more rigorous in all schools through new learning standards. Figuring out just whether NYC21C accomplished the goals set out in its original five-year plan was lost in the shuffle, the audit concludes.
July 11, 2012
Teachers give new Regents exam scoring system mixed reviews
The brand-new library at Evander Childs opened so teachers from other schools could grade Regents exams there. Last year, the Evander Childs Campus got a new library, replete with rows of new computers and a mural depicting scholarly pursuits. The library opened its doors for the first time last month — but not to students. Instead, it housed teachers from other high school campuses, who convened there to try out a new model for grading students' final exams. Regents exams, which students must pass to graduate from high school, have been scored by the teachers who administered them since the Regents exam program began in the nineteenth century. But mounting concerns about cheating — spurred on by the finding that students hit the minimum passing score at a disproportionately high rate — have prompted the city and state to make changes to how the exams are graded. The state’s test security overhaul calls for schools to stop grading their own Regents exams by June 2013. The changes are meant to reduce opportunities and incentives for teachers to inflate their students’ scores, which under state law could factor into teachers’ evaluations in the future. The shift would bring Regents exam grading in line with how most states score high-stakes exams and with New York State's requirements about elementary and middle schools' exams. Buoyed by its own concerns about cheating and softer forms of score inflation, the city has sped that timeline up. In January, a handful of schools tested out a system to ensure that teachers do not grade their own students’ exams. Department of Education officials expanded that system, known as "distributed scoring," to more than 160 schools this spring. Most of the schools deployed teachers to centralized locations such as Evander Childs, and teachers from 17 schools tested a system for grading exams online. In total, about 107,000 exams were graded under distributed scoring last month. Teachers who participated in the pilot gave it mixed reviews. Some said the system made them better graders because they considered only the answers, not the students, when assigning scores. But others said the system of musical graders was complicated, time-consuming, and likely to lead to unfairly deflated scores. And a small number of missing tests highlight the potential cost of logistical mishaps.
June 11, 2012
Student journalists report more proof of P.E. crediting problems
Searching for an explanation behind their school's mid-year physical education scheduling shakeup, two Staten Island student journalists arrived at a conclusion familiar to Department of Education insiders: It's hard to know just how many P.E. courses students must take, and for how long. Travis Dove and Juliana Zaloom, students at CSI High School for International Studies, launched their investigation in their journalism class after CSI seniors were thrust into extra P.E. classes last semester. Today, they share their report in the GothamSchools Community section. Dove and Zaloom write: The physical education scheduling conflicts could be due to mistakes by school administration and faculty. ... But the city Department of Education can also be blamed for its unclear handling of physical education. As it does not monitor schools’ physical education programs, some have not even been aware that there are requirements at all. CSI High is not the only school to have reshuffled its physical education offerings in the middle of this year. An internal Department of Education audit released in February found that some principals had been unaware of crediting rules, particularly around P.E.
December 13, 2011
Audit: DOE paid too much for parsley and other food products
An audit by Comptroller John Liu's office found that the Department of Education overpaid for food about .003 percent of the time two years ago. Liu's latest DOE audit looked at the way the Office of SchoolFood contracts and pays vendors for food that is served in schools — at about 850,000 meals annually, according to the city. It concludes that of the $113.9 million spent on school food in the 2009-2010 school year, more than $400,000 could be recouped because records showed the city had paid too much or because there was no record that the city had received any food at all. The DOE is paying an 862 percent markup for fresh parsley and more than 400 percent the real cost of several other vegetables and herbs, according to a spreadsheet that Liu's office compiled. The department is paying more than the real value for 76 kinds of food, according to the spreadsheet. An even broader issue, according to the audit, is that department doesn't always check when contractors says they require payment or have made deliveries. “The DOE paid $113 million for which it got receipts, but never looked inside the bags to see if the groceries were there,” said Matthew Sweeney, a Liu spokesman, in a statement. The audit urges the city to tighten controls over school food spending. Last time Liu's office released the results of a DOE audit, about the use of pre-kindergarten funds, department officials said they were submitting their response "under protest." But Eric Goldstein, head of the Office of SchoolFood, signaled no such resistance in a letter accompanying the DOE's response to today's audit.
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