GAO finds shortcomings in oversight of school support and improvement plan

Dive Brief:

  • A report sent to Congress on Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed that only 42% of comprehensive support and improvement (CSI) plans appear to comply with certain federal requirements.

  • The watchdog found that 28% of the reviewed plans addressed only one or none of the required elements, such as needs assessments, resource inequity identification, and evidence-based interventions.

  • Furthermore, the report highlighted significant variation in how districts addressed each element, with some plans focusing on issues like homelessness and poverty rather than evaluating resource distribution. Only 52% of the plans seemed to identify resource inequities.

Dive Insight:

During the pandemic, CSI and other support and improvement statuses were mostly put on pause by the U.S. Department of Education. However, identification has since resumed, and more schools are being put on improvement plans, including approximately 2.5 million students attending K-12 public schools identified for CSI.

According to a school ratings report released by the Houston Independent School District (HISD), HISD has more “D” and “F” rated schools compared to schools receiving passing grades. In preparation for fall 2024, 26 schools will receive district support, and up to 50 schools could eventually require support. While HISD is currently undergoing a state takeover, additional school identification and potentially takeovers are expected in other districts.

The GAO report not only highlighted the lack of compliance in the plans overseen by states and districts, but also identified the need to improve the Education Department’s local compliance monitoring. While the department successfully identified compliance issues in five out of nine states monitored between February 2020 to July 2023, there were still weaknesses in its monitoring approach, according to the GAO. The watchdog recommended updating monitoring protocols to ensure independent review of CSI plans and funding applications. In response, the Education Department stated that it will begin selected CSI plan reviews as part of consolidated monitoring starting in spring 2024.

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