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DESE Did Not Ensure That Its Contracted AE Providers Maintained Complete, Accurate, and Up-to-Date Waitlists.

The audit notes this could prevent interested students from accessing AE programs and could result in ineffective planning and assessment of demand.

Table of Contents

Overview

During the audit period, DESE did not provide adequate oversight and guidance to ensure that the waitlist information entered in LACES by third-party AE providers was complete, accurate, and up to date. DESE did not ensure that 20 of our sample of 32 providers surveyed had contacted waitlisted students at least annually to determine whether they were still interested in services. Also, all 32 providers in our sample indicated that DESE did not provide them with guidance to follow to ensure that waitlists were complete, accurate, and up to date.

Without adequate assurance that waitlist information is properly maintained, DESE cannot ensure fair and equitable access for individuals who would like to benefit from the AE program. Also, a lack of accurate waitlist information may result in ineffective planning and oversight as well as negative policymaking consequences, such as an inaccurate assessment of demand for AE services.

Authoritative Guidance

DESE’s “FY19 Massachusetts Policies for Effective Adult Education” require providers to do the following:

  • maintain an active waitlist for applicants who are unable to enroll in instructional classes due to capacity constraints;
  • contact students placed on the waitlist at least annually to determine whether they are still interested in services;
  • remove the names of individuals who cannot be contacted or are no longer interested in services; and
  • submit a “Waitlist Update” in the ACLS data management system each year attesting that waitlist information is accurate and up-to-date.

Additionally, this document states that DESE “requires that programs submit a data quality checklist . . . annually,” certifying that these waitlist requirements are met. The waitlist requirements are listed on the data quality checklist under Indicator of Program Quality (IPQ) 2: Access and Equity. As previously mentioned, the National Literacy Act of 1991 requires DESE, as the overseer of the Commonwealth’s AE program, to use IPQs to evaluate AE providers.

Reasons for Issue

DESE had no internal policies and procedures to provide guidance and oversight, nor did it have controls, to ensure that its AE providers maintained complete, accurate, and up-to-date waitlists in LACES.

Recommendation

DESE should implement policies and procedures to provide guidance and oversight, as well as controls, to ensure that its AE providers maintain complete, accurate, and up-to-date waitlists in LACES.

Auditee’s Response

ACLS concurs with the finding. One reason DESE procured the new MIS was to address the limitations for the SMARTT waitlist functionality. None of the MIS bidders had waitlist functionality so development and implementation were contract requirements. Unfortunately, the contractor did not develop a workable solution until late October 2018 when the SMARTT waitlist was migrated, nearly a month after the system deployment. The migration was smooth for providers who had maintained accurate and up-to-date waitlists in SMARTT. For others, the migration resulted in even more duplicate records as their staff were just beginning to learn the new MIS.

Because so many programs were struggling to catch up with their data entry, ACLS updated expectations in a January 23, 2019 memorandum and required that programs remove duplicates and update their waitlists by July 12, 2019. Then, recognizing that providers were struggling to meet the requirement, ACLS adjusted the deadline and provided detailed steps and a listing of potential duplicates in a July 2019 mailing to directors.

ACLS will provide ongoing guidance and oversight as well as develop and implement controls to ensure that its AE providers maintain complete, accurate, and up-to-date waitlists in LACES.

Auditor’s Reply

Based on its response, the ACLS Unit is taking measures to improve the quality of the waitlist information for AE programs.

Date published: June 2, 2020
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