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September 19, 2007

DiNapoli Audit Finds Insufficient Oversight of
Charter Schools by NYC Dept. of Education

Charter School Reports Incomplete or Missing

The New York City Department of Education needs to improve its process for reviewing the performance of charter schools under its oversight, according to an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

“Charter schools are still an experiment,” DiNapoli said. “Millions of taxpayer dollars are being invested in this experiment. It’s imperative that it’s monitored closely. The city’s Department of Education should establish written procedures for oversight of charter schools. The department agreed with our audit findings, and they’re moving forward to implement them.”

During the period of the audit, the department was responsible for overseeing 23 of New York City’s 47 charter schools. It is charged with reviewing the schools’ annual reports, monitoring the schools’ performances and making recommendations to the state Board of Regents on whether a school’s charter should be renewed and for how long.

The audit found the department failed to develop formal procedures for carrying out its oversight activities. Specifically, areas needing improvement included:

  • reviewing and tracking charter schools annual reports;
  • ensuring annual reports contain all the information required by state law;
  • requiring charter schools to develop corrective action plans when performance deficiencies are identified; and
  • preparing complete charter renewal reports for the Board of Regents.

Annual Reports
Auditors found that for all 11 charters schools tested, their 2004-05 annual reports were incomplete because they lacked critical, required performance information. State law requires annual reports to contain a school report card, a description of the school’s progress in reaching its charter goals and certified financial statements. None of the 2004-05 annual reports included school report cards and six schools failed to include information on the schools’ progress in achieving their charter goals.

The audit also found the department failed to establish a formal process for reviewing and tracking charter schools’ required annual reports. At the time of the audit, the department could not locate seven out of 32 annual reports. Because the department had no formal process for tracking when reports are received, auditors could not determine if the reports were received and lost or if they were never received at all.

The department did not make any attempts to retrieve the missing required information from the schools. In addition, the department did not ask schools to develop corrective action plans when deficiencies in performance were identified.

Charter Renewal Reports
Charter schools are required to renew their charters at least every five years. The department reviews the schools’ applications and prepares a renewal report for the Board of Regents, which makes the final determination if a renewal should be granted and for what period of time.

Auditors found the department’s charter renewal reports lacked important details and in most cases did not document the reports’ conclusions or recommendations. The reports contained few details about what was observed or reviewed at site visits to the schools. The Board of Regents disagreed with two out of four renewal recommendations from the department and only granted one-year renewals to the charter schools instead of the department’s recommended five-year renewal.

The audit recommends that the department:

  • ensures annual reports contain all State-required information and log when the reports are received;
  • creates written procedures for reviewing annual reports;
  • requires charter schools to develop and implement corrective action plans;
  • develops a quality assurance process for renewal reports;
  • ensures that oversight visits address all required areas of school performance; and
  • establishes guidelines for monitoring reports.

The department agreed with the audit’s recommendations and indicated it had already or planned to take corrective action. The department’s complete response is included in the audit.

Click here for a copy of the audit.


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