The U.S. Department of Education should help states states address student testing issues, seclusion and restraint misreporting, and financial risks associated with virtual schools — specifically virtual charter schools, according to an updated list of priority recommendations released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office.
The Education Department should “identify the factors that cause underreporting and misreporting of information on management organizations that contract with charter schools, including virtual charter schools, and take steps to help states report accurate data on these contracts,” the recommendation said.
Previous recommendations also suggested the department work to improve participation in state assessments of students attending public virtual charter schools.
Improving data quality can help measure and properly mitigate elevated risks to financial and programming activities, GAO said.
The report pointed out previous GAO recommendations where the department has made progress and areas that still need attention.
For example, the department has made progress on the collecting and reporting of state and school district spending of certain COVID-19 relief funds, as well as on providing clarity to track spending.
It also has taken steps to improve the accuracy of data collected on restraint and seclusion incidents in public schools. However, the department needs to work with districts to identify and address the underlying causes of misreporting in this area, GAO said.
Until the Education Department “more fully understands why so many school districts are underreporting and misreporting federal restraint and seclusion data, it will likely not be able to help districts improve their reporting, thereby improving the accuracy and utility of the data,” the report said.