Reports Show Education Data Can be More Accurate

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JACKSON, Miss. – Some public school records may be incomplete or contain errors, potentially skewing school program assessments or affecting local school district funding. Two reports released by State Auditor Shad White’s office today offer recommendations to ensure Mississippi public schools produce and report accurate data.

“Getting
the numbers right is critical for public education in Mississippi,” Auditor
White said about the report findings. “These audits make some important
recommendations about how to make sure that education data are reliable.”

Auditors
first reviewed the Mississippi Student Information System (MSIS) – the primary
source of data about things like student attendance – and found some of the
attendance data local school districts submit to the Mississippi Department of
Education (MDE) goes unverified and is, in some cases, incorrect. For instance,
some districts “excused”
absences without having paperwork to show why they were excused. Other districts
called students present in one attendance-tracking software but called the same
students absent on the same day in a different piece of software. Auditors also
found many school districts are lacking strong data security policies.

Recommendations
for addressing these problems include:

  • The MDE should conduct an internal audit to ensure
    attendance data are correct.
  • School districts should complete periodic data
    checks to confirm collected data are accurate before submission to the MDE.

The
second report focused on the state’s Career and Technical Education (CTE)
program – a nearly $50 million annual investment into Mississippi public
schools that trains students for careers like carpentry or engineering. The
report found that the CTE programs were supposed to track whether its students go on to graduate and get a
job, but they failed to follow kids if they participated in CTE before their
last year of high school. Given this problem, it is impossible to know how
many students used their training to obtain a job.

Auditors
also found MDE submitted
the exact same number of CTE participants in two consecutive years, suggesting
the number may not have been accurate.

Auditors
made several recommendations, including the following:

  • Reports about CTE’s effectiveness should include all
    students who participate in the program.
  • Internal controls should be put in place to prevent
    data errors.

“As
a product of our public schools, making sure the education system’s data are accurate
is important to me personally,” said White. “We’ve got to know if kids are
being adequately prepared for a career. If we can’t find a way to measure the
effectiveness of our career training, then we can’t know where to invest more
resources. We’ve also got to know the attendance numbers are right, because
that determines school funding.”

Both
the MSIS
report
and the CTE
report
can be found online at the Auditor’s website under the “Reports”
tab.

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