Section 55A. In order to support the commissioner, department and board in fulfilling their duties under the provisions of chapter 69, including sections 1J and 1K, there shall be within the department an office of school and district accountability, hereinafter referred to as the office. The office shall provide a mechanism to review and report on the efforts of schools, charter schools and school districts, including regional school districts, to improve the academic achievement of their students and shall inform and assist the board and department in fulfilling their broader responsibilities to promote high levels of achievement in the schools and districts of the commonwealth.
The office shall be under the direction and supervision of 1 individual who shall be appointed by the commissioner. This individual shall also be responsible for the direction and supervision of the targeted assistance and intervention efforts of the department under chapter 69, such assistance efforts as the commissioner deems necessary to correct deficiencies identified by the office and compliance with the accountability provisions of federal law. This individual shall ensure that the auditing and assistance functions of the department are aligned to promote collaboration and communication across the auditing and assistance functions.
The office shall ensure that school and district review teams include experienced practitioners in the field of education, but no member shall have been previously or currently employed by the school, district or charter school being reviewed or so employed by a district, charter school or education collaborative serving a common student population with the school, district or charter school being reviewed.
The office shall act as an auditing body objectively reviewing the results of educational measurements and tests conducted by or for the department in implementing chapter 71 of the acts of 1993. The office shall perform not less than 40 school district audits annually, not less than 75 per cent of which shall be in districts whose students achieve at low levels either in absolute terms or relative to districts that educate similar student populations. The remainder of the audits shall be divided equally among districts whose students achieve at high levels relative to districts that educate similar student populations and randomly selected districts. The office shall ensure that no school or district is audited during the administration of any statewide assessments, and shall coordinate with other entities in the department to ensure that a school or district is not subject to multiple comprehensive audits or reviews by the department or any accrediting body within a 9 month period unless the board specifically votes to do so on an emergency basis.
The office shall have the following duties relative to school district audits: (1) objectively review the accuracy of the school and district reports by conducting or contracting for periodic program and fiscal audits as necessary; (2) undertake inspections of schools, charter schools and school districts, including regional school districts, to evaluate efforts to improve and support the quality of instruction and administration; (3) review the district’s MCAS success plan, so-called, if any, submitted to the department pursuant to section 1I and evaluate the implementation of that plan; (4) review the district’s implementation of any MCAS grants received to develop or enhance academic support services for students scoring in level 1 or 2; (5) evaluate the alignment of curriculum and professional development plans with the state curriculum and assessments; (6) review the progress of overall student achievement and; (7) evaluate student performance, school and district management, overall district governance and any other areas deemed necessary by the office. Such audits shall be in accordance with standards established by the board of elementary and secondary education, pursuant to section 1B of chapter 69. Following the school district audit, the office shall produce a comprehensive report detailing its findings and observations which the commissioner shall present to the board along with any recommendations for necessary action to be taken by the board. After the board’s receipt of the report, the commissioner shall issue recommendations to districts not requiring further action pursuant to sections 1J and 1K of said chapter 69 relative to methods for improving any deficiencies identified by the office. The recommendations shall be transmitted to the reviewed district’s superintendent and school committee within 90 days of the board’s receipt of the report.
The office shall support the commissioner and the board in carrying out their duties under sections 1J and 1K of chapter 69. Nothing in this section shall be construed as limiting the ability of the department to contract with individuals, external partners or other entities to support the assistance functions established by said sections 1J and 1K of said chapter 69.
The office shall annually compile a report of best practices from the list of audits conducted that year and distribute the compiled list to all school districts in the commonwealth.
For the purposes of any inspection or audit, the office shall have access to all necessary papers, vouchers, books and records pertaining to a school, including a charter school, a school district or a regional school district. In establishing protocols for the conduct of school or district audits, the office shall, to the extent practicable, minimize the administrative burden on schools and districts by using existing, recently compiled or readily available data sources. Schools, school districts and school personnel shall cooperate with the office for any inspection or audit conducted pursuant to this section including, but not limited to, participating in interviews and producing books and documents. Each school district, including regional school districts, and charter schools shall annually file with the office, on or before October 1, a copy of its current personnel contracts and collective bargaining agreements in a form and manner prescribed by the commissioner. The office shall ensure that any noncompliance with law, misfeasance or malfeasance shall be referred to the commissioner for appropriate action.
The department shall transmit the office’s findings, audit reports, recommendations and follow-up reports to the secretary of education, the board of elementary and secondary education, the attorney general and a local public library in the audited districts. The department shall report to the general court the results of its findings, audit reports, recommendations and follow-up reports and file such reports with the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate, who shall forward the same to the senate president, the speaker of the house of representatives, the joint committee on education and the house and senate committees on ways and means.