- Office of the State Auditor
Media Contact for Audit Recommends Improvements to Waitlist and Attendance Monitoring at Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Adult Education Providers
Boston — In an audit released today of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump identified weaknesses in its new systems to administer access to and operation of adult education (AE) programs. Areas singled out for improvement included maintenance of waiting lists, accuracy of attendance records and monitoring visits at AE providers. The audit examined the period of July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019.
“The Commonwealth’s adult education program provides these learners ways to improve their lives and those of their families, and has wider community and economic benefits. We all benefit from a robust adult education system. Our finding recommends specific ways to get the most from DESE’s new system,” Bump said of the audit. “I commend the agency for responding thoughtfully and resolutely.”
Bump’s office reviewed attendance records for 60 AE courses and found inaccuracies in 59 of them, including instances of students who were recorded as absent but were present and students who were recorded as present but were actually absent. In its response, DESE points to a transition between data systems as the source of this issue and indicates it is taking steps to resolve it. The audit notes AE program funding is awarded based on student attendance, and without accurate attendance data, DESE cannot ensure equitable distribution of funding to AE providers.
Additionally, the audit showed DESE did not ensure waitlist information tracked by third-party AE providers was complete, accurate, and up to date. The audit notes this could prevent interested students from accessing AE programs and could result in ineffective planning and assessment of demand. DESE indicated the same transition between data systems was the source of this issue and committed to addressing it. A 2014 audit of DESE found similar issues related to waitlists for charter schools.
Finally, the audit found the agency did not always perform regularly scheduled site visits for AE providers and did not consistently follow its risk-based approach for scheduling these provider monitoring visits.
The AE program offers free educational assistance to Massachusetts residents who are 16 years and older and who are not enrolled in high school. Students can access education services ranging from basic literacy and math courses, as well as English for speakers of other languages, to high school equivalency and college and career readiness skills. The AE program is delivered by independent providers. Providers include community-based organizations, religious institutions, local governments (through their school systems), and correctional facilities. The program is funded by both state and federal grants administered by DESE. During our audit period, DESE granted $39,927,932 to AE providers; $30,019,765 of this consisted of state appropriations and $9,908,167 consisted of federal appropriations.
As of June 30, 2019, DESE had 414 employees and had state appropriations of approximately $5.6 billion and federal appropriations of approximately $1 billion.