Audit: Extra high school money had little effect

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Department of Education spent more than $67 million to help low-performing high schools meet federal academic achievement goals from 2005 to 2009, but to almost no effect, according to an Auditor General report, the Michigan Information & Research Service Inc. reported.

The department tried various support initiatives designed to boost student achievement, but proficiency rates in troubled high schools didn't improve any faster than those in non-Title I high schools, the report said, according to MIRS. Improvement was seen in less than two percent of high schools that received financial assistance designed to boost math and English proficiency from 2007 to 2008.

Conversely, math scores rose in Title I elementary and middle schools that received financial assistance.

MDE spokesman Martin Ackley told MIRS that school districts typically focus assistance on lower grades and that it can take years for reform to show measurable results. Officials also told MIRS that the standardized test used in high school changed during the time period audited, and that the audit compares proficiency levels in one year's junior class with the following year's junior class. Those classes are composed of different students, officials told MIRS.

The Auditor General report also noted that the department didn't check on whether the money was spent on student achievement efforts; one district spent only 19 percent of the school improvement grant it received for fiscal year 2008, MIRS reported.

Michigan Information & Research Service Inc., "Audit Questions if MDE Helping Troubled Schools," May 7, 2010 (Subscription required)

Michigan Auditor General, "Performance Report of High-Priority Schools," May 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "New Research Suggests 'Reforming' Rather Than Closing Failing Schools a Forlorn Hope," March 30, 2010