Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Audit Committee Doesn't Want To Touch School Attrition Rates

Posted by on Wed, Nov 20, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Ordering auditors to comb through the city’s attrition rates at charter and traditional schools would “politicize” the large-scale Metro audit of the local school system, the city’s audit committee agreed Tuesday.

Metro Nashville School Board Member Will Pinkston asked the panel to include charter school attrition rates in the scope of the large-scale audit last month, although the committee had already settled on the audit's framework. A request by the Tennessee Charter School Center soon followed, asking the group examine attrition at traditional schools, too.

“It would only politicize” the audit, said Rich Riebeling, the city’s director of Finance who sits on the audit committee. Other members of the five-member committee agreed, and decided to stick with the original scope, arguing another body can take up the attrition data.

Frustration over charter school attrition rates flared up this spring after Metro Schools released charts highlighting the rates of students exiting charter schools. Charter advocates admitted some charters have high attrition rates, but pushed back by questioning the high rates at other traditional schools.

The Coalition of Large School Systems is also eyeing attrition, according to MNPS School Board Member Amy Frogge who is helping to draft state legislation proposing student test scores be attributed to whichever school they spent the majority of their time in.

“There continue to be a lot of anecdotal stories about charter schools educating students and dumping them around testing time,” said Frogge who is critical of charter schools.

While she has heard similar stories within traditional public schools, she said crafting legislation that would be applicable statewide to all schools would “address the problem rather than to quibble about it or finger point.”

Frogge said her and members of CLASS are in the beginning stages of drafting the bill and have yet to look for a legislative sponsor.

In other business, the committee also agreed to ask vendors wanting to perform the audit to agree to a public evaluation of their proposals. Although the committee's legal counsel advised the move could be illegal because it prematurely exposes contractor proposals, members said they wanted the meeting open in part because state law recognizes the two council members sitting on the committee are not allowed to deliberate in private, per the state's Open Meetings law.

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