While we are on the subject of education data, ed data, let’s take a look at what ed data the ALSDE is looking for when they monitor our local schools and school districts. Part of the ed data life cycle includes being accountable, right?
It is important to understand in which areas the ALSDE considers important enough to conduct compliance monitoring. These are the areas in which a school district will supposedly focus its efforts. Monitoring is conducted by the ALSDE for both state and federal regulation compliance.
Schools are highly regulated, even if there are no consequences for noncompliance in most cases. In other words, there are many rules to follow, but it is rare that a school or district is punished for breaking a rule.
The only punishment, um, I mean sanction, for noncompliance is to withhold state or federal funds from a school district, which ultimately doesn’t punish the adults who broke the rules, but instead punishes the children. I’ve never been a fan of group punishment, and withholding money from an entire school district seems like the Ultimate Group Punishment to me.
If compliance in these areas is that important, shouldn’t we develop meaningful consequences for noncompliance? No one has to lose their job, but how about personal financial penalties (as in “fines”), or even community service? Wouldn’t a school employee be more likely to comply if there were some meaningful consequence if they didn’t?
So why does the ALSDE conduct compliance monitoring in the first place? The reason stated on the LEA Compliance Monitoring Process page is as follows:
“Our goal continues to be one that will protect your school system as well as the state from any financial charge back that could possibly be imposed as a result of non-compliance of legal requirements that may be identified through the annual audit process performed by the Alabama Department of the Examiners of Public Accounts or by your system’s private audit firm. Our monitoring efforts have been designed to protect your system’s financial interest as specified in the cooperative agreement each of you have with the United States Department of Education.”
So compliance monitoring is about checking boxes and making sure all of the paperwork is in order so it doesn’t cost the system any money. And here I thought the reason for compliance monitoring was to ensure children are well-served. Perhaps if the boxes are checked, the children will be well-served.
The Monitoring Process
Once every four years, a team from the ALSDE visits the district to conduct additional monitoring. Here is the manual for on-site monitoring.
There are 100-plus pages of items in the self-assessment, and nearly 90 pages in the on-site manual on which school districts are monitored. Everything from federal programs (except for special education and gifted education, which have their own requirements) to policy and budget items to transportation to harassment forms (yay!) to textbooks is monitored.
The items on which districts are monitored can change a bit from year to year due to legislative and policy changes.
Here’s the schedule for compliance monitoring through 2017.
Save both manuals to your computer, and when you have time, page through it. It’s a fabulous way to learn what the rules are for our schools. And with which rules the ALSDE and the feds consider it important for our schools to comply.