oversight

Idaho State Department of Education's Oversight of Online Charter Schools

Published by the Department of Education, Office of Inspector General on 2017-09-28.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                             UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
                                             OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL

                                                                                                                   AUDIT SERVICES
                                                                                                                  Atlanta Audit Region


                                                          September 28, 2017

                                                                                                      Control Number
                                                                                                      ED-OIG/A04N0010

   Ms. Sherri Ybarra
   Superintendent of Public Instruction
   Idaho Department of Education
   650 West State Street
   Boise, Idaho 83720

   Dear Superintendent Ybarra:

   This final audit report, “Idaho State Department of Education’s Oversight of Online
   Charter Schools,” presents the results of our audit. The objectives of the audit were to
   determine whether the Idaho State Department of Education (Idaho) and the two online
   charter schools we selected for review had adequate oversight to ensure that (1) students
   received intended services in accordance with Title I, Part A (Title I) of the Elementary
   and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA); 1 (2) students received
   intended services in accordance with Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education
   Act, as amended (IDEA); and (3) schools hired highly qualified teachers (HQT) in
   accordance with applicable program requirements. Our review covered oversight
   activities during school years 2011–2012 and 2012–2013 at Idaho, the Idaho Virtual
   Academy (IDVA), and the Idaho Connections Academy (Inspire).

   We found that while Idaho exercised oversight of Title I and IDEA, Part B programs,
   including provisions of HQT requirements, there were significant issues at Inspire
   regarding its documentation of service delivery to at-risk students and students with
   individualized education programs (IEPs), as well as its compliance with HQT
   requirements. Idaho required the school to take corrective action to address these
   deficiencies, but we concluded that further actions were required to ensure that the school
   is meeting its obligations to provide services to students under both Title I and IDEA,
   Part B.




   1
     All ESEA citations in this report are referenced to the provisions in effect during our audit period. The
   ESEA was amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act on December 10, 2015. The act made a number of
   changes to ESEA programs, including eliminating Federal highly qualified teacher requirements. Teachers
   in schools receiving Title I and IDEA, Part B funds now need only to fulfill their State licensing
   requirements.
The Department of Education’s mission is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational
                                                  excellence and ensuring equal access.
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                     Page 2 of 31

Idaho concurred with the finding and recommendations. It stated that as a result of our
finding and recommendations, Idaho has implemented corrective actions and made
changes to policies, procedures, documentation, and technical assistance to address the
recommendations. Idaho comments are summarized at the end of the finding. The full
text of Idaho comments to the draft report is included as Attachment 2 to the report.



                                  BACKGROUND


The U.S. Department of Education (Department) administers grant programs that support
States and local educational agencies (LEA) to provide services to disadvantaged
students and students with disabilities. The two largest formula grant programs to States
are Title I and IDEA, Part B, which were funded at $15.5 billion and $12.0 billion,
respectively, in fiscal year 2017.

Title I

Under Title I, the Department provides financial assistance to States for LEAs and
schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families to
help ensure that all children meet challenging State academic standards. For Title I
schools with at least 40 percent of students from low-income families, an LEA may
consolidate and use Title I funds, along with other Federal, State, and local funds, to
operate a “schoolwide program” to upgrade the instructional program for the entire
school. The purpose of a schoolwide program is to improve academic achievement
throughout a school so that all students, but particularly the lowest achieving students,
demonstrate proficiency related to State academic standards. While schools operating
schoolwide programs have flexibility in determining how to spend their Title I and other
program funds, they all must undertake certain activities, including conducting a
comprehensive needs assessment, identifying and committing to specific goals and
strategies that address those needs, creating a comprehensive schoolwide plan,
conducting an annual review of the effectiveness of the schoolwide program, and revising
the plan as necessary to ensure continuous improvement. During annual evaluations,
schools use data from the State assessments and other indicators of academic
achievement to determine whether the schoolwide program has been effective in
addressing major problem areas and increasing student achievement, particularly for the
lowest achieving students.

To evaluate whether students received intended Title I services, we reviewed Idaho’s and
both schools’ oversight to ensure that the schools were implementing their schoolwide
plans as designed, which would include annual evaluations and revisions to their plans as
necessary. We focused on documentation related to those additional intervention
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                                         Page 3 of 31

services 2 for at-risk students that the schools stated they would provide in their
schoolwide plans.

Idaho awarded almost $1.8 million of the $109.4 million in Title I funding that it received
in school years 2011 and 2012 to the two schools we reviewed during our audit scope, as
shown in Table 1. In carrying out their schoolwide programs, both schools reported
spending Title I funds on teacher salaries, benefits, other services, supplies, and
materials.

Table 1. Title I Funding for the School Years Reviewed (2011–2012 and 2012–2013)

              School                        2011–2012                 2012–2013                     Total
              IDVA                           $739,775                  $799,951                   $1,539,726
              Inspire                         $99,702                  $125,438                    $225,140
               Total                         $839,477                  $925,389                   $1,764,866

IDEA, Part B

Under IDEA, Part B, the Department provides financial assistance to States to assist in
meeting the excess costs of providing special education and related services to children
with disabilities. To be eligible for funding, States must make available a free
appropriate public education to all children residing in the State between the ages of 3
and 21, including children with disabilities who have been suspended or expelled from
school. 3 States must ensure that an individualized education program (IEP) is developed,
reviewed, and revised for each eligible child with a disability. 4 The IEP must include,
among other things, a statement of the special education and related services 5 and
supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child, as well as a projected date
for the beginning of the services and the anticipated frequency, location, and duration of
the services.

To evaluate whether students received intended special education and related services, we
reviewed schools’ documentation related to providing services included in selected
students’ IEPs. We focused on student logins and instructor notes to determine whether
students received special education services and on provider invoices to determine
whether students received related services.

2
  Intervention services are additional support activities beyond core classroom instruction that help students
with learning difficulties attain proficient or advanced levels of academic achievement. Common examples
include extra instructional time in reading or math.
3
   34 C.F.R. § 300.101(a).
4
  An annual IEP meeting is held to review, revise, and update a child’s IEP.
5
  Related services are defined under IDEA as transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other
supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education.
Common examples include counseling, physical and occupational therapy, orientation and mobility
services, and speech-language pathology and audiology services.
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                                    Page 4 of 31

Idaho awarded just over $1.1 million of the $109.9 million in IDEA, Part B funding that
it received in fiscal years 2011 and 2012 to the two schools we reviewed during our audit
scope, as shown in Table 2.

Table 2. IDEA, Part B Funding for the School Years Reviewed (2011–2012 and
2012–2013)

           School                     2011–2012                  2012–2013                      Total
           IDVA                        $447,465                   $491,591                     $939,056
           Inspire                      $96,775                    $97,077                     $193,852
            Total                      $544,240                   $588,668                    $1,132, 908

Highly Qualified Teachers

During our audit period, States and LEAs were required to ensure that teachers in schools
receiving Title I and IDEA, Part B grant funds were “highly qualified” according to the
Federal definition of the term 6 For public charter schools in Idaho, the HQT requirements
are set forth in the State charter school law. In Idaho, teachers in both traditional public
schools and charter schools are considered highly qualified if they hold a valid Idaho
teaching certificate and one of the following:

    •   an approved out-of-State, content-specific test or letter indicating HQT status
        from another State;
    •   an American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence test or certificate;
    •   a high, objective, uniform State standard of equation evaluation of 100 points or
        higher (before July 1, 2008);
    •   a passing score for one of the Praxis II content areas; 7
    •   a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification;
    •   an undergraduate major or equivalent 30 credit hours in content area; or
    •   a graduate degree in core subject area or 30 credit hours in content area.

As previously stated in footnote one, the Every Student Succeeds Act eliminated the
Federal HQT requirements.




6
  The law required teachers to have a bachelor's degree and full state certification and to demonstrate
content knowledge in the subjects they teach.
7
  The Praxis II assessments cover different subject areas for teacher certification. Each state requires
different combination of Praxis II exams for certification. In many States, these include a content
knowledge and a pedagogy exam. Many States use the Praxis II tests as a way to determine highly qualified
teachers status under the No Child Left Behind Act.
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                       Page 5 of 31

Idaho

For the 2012–2013 school year, Idaho had seven full-time online charter schools that
served K–12 students. As of the 2015–2016 school year, Idaho had eight such schools.
Online charter schools—also known as virtual charters or cyber charters—are publicly
funded schools of choice that use technology to deliver education to students in their own
homes instead of a physical school building. Idaho defines an online charter school as
one that delivers full-time instruction primarily using technology via the internet to
students at various locations.

In Idaho, accountability for online charter schools is two-fold. The Federal Programs and
Special Education departments within the Idaho State Department of Education are
responsible for accountability of Federal programs and related provisions.

Idaho State Department of Education

Idaho is responsible for ongoing Federal program monitoring. To fulfill its
responsibilities, Idaho conducts on-site and desk monitoring of its 149 LEAs and
provides technical assistance on Federal program requirements. Idaho also relies on
assurances from the LEAs, including online charter schools, that they have met Federal
and State reporting requirements and, if operating schoolwide programs, have completed
required annual evaluations of their schoolwide plans.

For Title I, Idaho’s Federal Programs department conducts ESEA/Consolidated Federal
Monitoring visits at each LEA on a 3-year cycle. During these visits, the State verifies
that the LEA met Federal program requirements and, if applicable, completed annual
schoolwide plan evaluations. For IDEA, Part B, Idaho’s Special Education department
operates on a 5-year monitoring cycle designed to identify and track noncompliance.
However, according to Idaho’s Special Education Coordinator, the State also reviews
3 percent of (or at least 5) special education files from all 149 LEAs annually, which is
about 850 student files.

Idaho Public Charter School Commission

Since 2004, the Idaho Public Charter School Commission (the Commission) has been
responsible for authorizing public online charter schools. As the authorizer, the
Commission is charged by State law to approve and oversee the performance of charter
schools. The Commission’s responsibilities include (1) determining whether an
application to start and operate a charter school merits approval and approving the charter
school’s performance certificate; (2) conducting ongoing oversight of charter schools to
evaluate performance, monitor compliance, and enforce the terms of charter schools’
performance certificates; and (3) revoking or not renewing charter school performance
certificates if the school does not meet a minimum of three stars on Idaho’s Five-Star
statewide accountability rating system.
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                                      Page 6 of 31

Management at the Online Charter Schools

Both IDVA and Inspire are their own LEA, rather than being part of an LEA. They are
authorized by the Commission to operate as independent public schools and organized as
Idaho nonprofit corporations with charter school performance certificates that allow them
to operate in Idaho for 5 years. Both schools’ certificates expire in June 2018.

Both schools contracted with education management organizations 8 to deliver curricular,
administrative, technological, and financial services. IDVA contracted with K12, Inc.,
and Inspire contracted with Connections Education. A board of directors is responsible
for governing and overseeing each of the two online charter schools. The boards oversee
all administrative, operational, and financial activities but delegate certain responsibilities
for day-to-day school functions to school administrators. The administrators at IDVA are
employees of the contractor, K12. Inspire’s administrators are employees of the board of
directors. The school administrators oversee the Title I and IDEA, Part B programs and
related HQT requirements.

According to a February 2014 study from the National Charter School Resource Center,
“Virtual Schools: Assessing Progress and Accountability,” online charter school
education can be offered as (1) full-time instruction, in which a student’s entire course
schedule is taken online via the internet or through the use of technology;
(2) supplemental online programs that serve as part of full-time traditional school
programs; or (3) blended learning models, which combine online and face-to-face
instruction. Both IDVA and Inspire focused on schools offering full-time online
instruction. Some challenges noted in the study regarding online charter accountability
included (1) a lack of a physical school building for charter-authorizer monitoring
practices, such as site visits; (2) special accountability challenges presented by certain
types of students, such as highly mobile and over-age, under-credited 9 students; (3) the
need to create new student enrollment, attendance, and engagement tracking because of
the use of more flexible student schedules; (4) assessment timing not fitting well with the
flexibility of students’ schedules that the online charter schools provide; and (5) the roles
of teachers and other adults in delivering online course content.

The Department has also recognized the challenges of implementing Federal programs in
a virtual environment and issued guidance to clarify grantees’ roles and responsibilities.
For example, regarding IDEA, Part B, the Department issued a Dear Colleague Letter in
August 2016 to clarify some of the critical requirements that apply to virtual schools after
having received a number of questions from stakeholders. The Department advised
States and LEAs to carefully review their policies and procedures to ensure that they
address virtual schools, with a particular focus on monitoring to identify and correct
8
  An education management organization is a for-profit or nonprofit organization that manages at least one
school that receives public funds and operates the public school it manages under the same admissions
rules as regular public schools.
9
  An under-credited student is defined as an at-risk student who is over-age and does not have the
appropriate number of credits for their age and intended grade.
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                         Page 7 of 31

noncompliance with IDEA, Part B requirements; timely collection and reporting of data;
qualifications of personnel serving children with disabilities; availability of dispute
resolution procedures to implement program safeguards; and provisions to ensure the
confidentiality of student records. The Department also stated that, given some unique
challenges, LEAs should review their States’ and their own policies, procedures, and
practices to ensure that children with disabilities who attend virtual schools are identified,
located, and evaluated. The Department concluded its letter by stating, “The educational
rights and protections afforded to children with disabilities and their parents under IDEA
must not be diminished or compromised when children with disabilities attend virtual
schools that are constituted as LEAs or are public schools of an LEA.”



                                  AUDIT RESULTS


We found that Idaho’s oversight of the Title I and IDEA, Part B programs was adequate
to determine whether services were being provided to students and that teachers were
highly qualified, or that deficiencies were identified and corrective actions were required.
Specifically, we found that Idaho’s Federal Programs and Special Education departments
had sufficient policies and procedures for overseeing schools’ compliance with Federal
program requirements. Idaho also conducted monitoring activities—including visits to
IDVA and Inspire—that supported implementation of these policies and procedures.

However, we also found that one of the two schools reviewed—Inspire—had significant
weaknesses regarding its documentation of service delivery to at-risk students and
students with IEPs, as well as its compliance with HQT requirements. Our conclusion on
the adequacy of Idaho’s oversight was due, in part, to the fact that it identified similar
weaknesses at Inspire during monitoring visits by its Federal Programs and Special
Education departments. Idaho required that the school take corrective actions to address
these deficiencies, but we note that Idaho needs to improve its process for following up
on the implementation of required corrective actions.

In its comments on the draft report, Idaho concurred with our finding and
recommendations and provided documentation of corrective actions that it has taken to
address our recommendations. We summarize Idaho’s comments at the end of the
finding and include the full text of its comments as Attachment 2. Because of the number
and length of attachments included as part of Idaho’s comments, we have not included
them here. Copies of the attachments are available on request.
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                         Page 8 of 31

FINDING – Idaho Needs to Ensure Full and Prompt Implementation of
          Corrective Actions and Improve its Federal Program Oversight
          Efforts

We found that Idaho’s monitoring of the Title I and IDEA, Part B programs—including
related HQT provisions—was generally effective in identifying instances of
noncompliance with the program requirements. This included the discovery of
weaknesses regarding documentation of the delivery of intended services as described in
the schoolwide plans and in students’ IEPs, and HQT designations. Idaho found
significant issues at Inspire, where we found nearly identical issues; we concluded that
further actions are required to ensure that the school is meeting its obligations to provide
services to students under both Title I and IDEA, Part B. Idaho needs to improve its
oversight and focus its efforts to assure corrective actions are implemented to improve
schools’ administration of Federal programs.

Intervention Services Under Title I

Idaho

Idaho generally had sufficient oversight to determine whether students received Title I
intervention services as described in their schoolwide plans, or that deficiencies were
identified and corrective actions were required. Idaho monitors LEAs every 3 years
using a monitoring tool that it developed that includes key statutory and regulatory
program requirements. Using this tool, Idaho reviewed each school’s schoolwide
program during this monitoring cycle—IDVA’s in 2012–2013 and Inspire’s in 2011–
2012 and again in 2013–2014. Key indicators were reviewed to ensure that schools had,
among other things, (1) schoolwide reform strategies incorporated in the overall
instructional program, (2) instruction by HQTs, and (3) additional activities to ensure that
students who experience difficulty attaining proficient or advanced levels of academic
achievement were identified timely and provided with sufficient support.

To determine whether the schoolwide program has been evaluated, State monitors
reviewed the annual evaluation to see who was involved in the program evaluation;
identified data from which information was gathered and analyzed for evaluating the
effectiveness of the schoolwide program; and reviewed evidence from meetings,
including any dated agendas and attendance logs. Idaho also required schools operating
schoolwide programs to provide an annual assurance that they had completed their
schoolwide program evaluation. According to Idaho officials, the monitoring protocol
was not adjusted for reviews of online charter schools because online charter schools are
considered the same as public brick-and-mortar schools.

When it monitored the school in 2013–2014 for the 2012–2013 school year, Idaho found
that Inspire did not complete its annual schoolwide program evaluation. Idaho also found
that the school could not provide evidence that its schoolwide program adequately
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                                      Page 9 of 31

reflected the components of a schoolwide program as described under Federal law. One
such component is implementation of additional support activities (intervention services)
for students who experience difficulty attaining proficient or advanced levels of academic
achievement. The State required Inspire to develop an action plan to correct deficiencies
in the administration of its schoolwide program, and Inspire made revisions to address the
findings, as discussed in further detail below.

IDVA

We found that IDVA evaluated its schoolwide plan in 2011–2012 and 2012–2013, in
accordance with Federal requirements. IDVA’s schoolwide plan contained reform
strategies for its overall instructional program, provided for instruction by HQTs,
included engagement with parents, required offering additional academic support for
students when needed, and discussed implementation of student transition programs.
IDVA evaluated students for Title I intervention services on an ongoing basis. IDVA
also established an alternative high school for at-risk youths in the 2012–2013 school
year, where it offered recovery courses to high school students who needed additional
academic services.

We found sufficient documentation to support that IDVA provided the Title I
intervention services required in its schoolwide plan. We reviewed a sample of
28 student files, of which 22 were identified as needing Title I intervention services—
12 students from the 2011–2012 school year and 10 from the 2012–2013 school year. 10
We confirmed that all 22 students received services. In support of the services provided,
IDVA’s documentation included the intervention list identifying at-risk students in need
of additional services to meet academic standards, login histories, and teacher progress
reports.

Inspire

We found that Inspire did not evaluate its schoolwide plan in 2012–2013, in accordance
with Federal requirements, despite providing to Idaho an assurance that it had done so.
We also found no evidence that Inspire followed Idaho guidance on schoolwide program
planning and intervention services. Specifically, we did not find sufficient
documentation to support that Inspire provided the Title I intervention services required
in its schoolwide plan. We reviewed a sample of 32 student files—15 from the 2011–
2012 school year and 17 from the 2012–2013 school year—and could not confirm that
any of these students received services. Inspire’s schoolwide plan identified specific
interventions that Inspire stated it would provide to at-risk students to increase academic
achievement. However, Inspire could not provide sufficient documentation to support
that it provided such services. Inspire had a learning management system designed to
record intervention services and student histories, but officials stated that the school did

10
  Six students in our sample did not receive services for valid reasons—four because of truancy issues and
two because they had already graduated or were attending the school to obtain work credit only.
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                   Page 10 of 31

not record and track specific student interventions during the 2011–2012 or 2012–2013
school years. They used the system to track only attendance. Inspire explained that
student interventions were recorded in each individual student’s log, but not in any
systematic manner, and that printing the volume of logs that would be necessary to
support the provision of Title I intervention services would be an unmanageable task,
even at an aggregate level.

We noted that Inspire took steps to improve the administration of its schoolwide program
following Idaho’s monitoring visit in 2013–2014. Inspire implemented a new
intervention process that year that integrated academic instruction with behavioral
supports and included ongoing progress monitoring.

Section 1114 of the ESEA describes schoolwide program requirements. The
implementing regulation at Title 34 Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R) § 200.26 (c)(1)
specifies that schools operating a schoolwide program must (1) annually evaluate the
implementation of, and results achieved by, the schoolwide program, using data from the
State’s annual assessments and other indicators of academic achievement; (2) determine
whether the schoolwide program has been effective in increasing the achievement of
students in meeting the State’s academic standards, particularly for those students who
had been furthest from achieving the standards; and (3) revise the plan, as necessary,
based on the results of the evaluation, to ensure continuous improvement of students in
the schoolwide program. The Department’s March 2006 nonregulatory guidance on
“Designing Schoolwide Programs” notes that one of the purposes of the annual review of
the schoolwide program is to ensure that the program described in the schoolwide plan is
being implemented as designed.

According to 34 C.F.R. § 80.40, which was applicable during our audit period, grantees
were required to monitor grant and subgrant-supported activities and performance goals
to ensure compliance with applicable Federal requirements. The Department has since
adopted the Office of Management and Budget’s “Uniform Administrative Requirements,
Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards,” which states at 2 C.F.R.
§ 200.331 that all pass-through entities must monitor the activities of subrecipients as
necessary to ensure that subawards are used for authorized purposes, in compliance with
Federal statutes, regulations, and the terms and conditions of the subaward, and that
subaward performance goals are achieved. Pass-through entities must also consider
imposing specific subaward conditions on subrecipients or taking enforcement actions
against noncompliant subrecipients if appropriate. Regarding internal control, 2 C.F.R.
§ 200.303 states that non-Federal entities must establish and maintain effective internal
control over their Federal awards that provides reasonable assurance that they are
managing the awards in compliance with Federal statutes, regulations, and the terms and
conditions of the awards. These internal controls should be in compliance with guidance
in “Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government,” issued by the Comptroller
General of the United States, or the “Internal Control Integrated Framework,” issued by
the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission.
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                     Page 11 of 31

Special Education and Related Services Under IDEA, Part B

Idaho

We found that Idaho provided adequate oversight of IDEA, Part B implementation by
monitoring LEAs through file reviews and onsite followup visits for areas of
noncompliance, consistent with the law and the Department’s Office of Special
Education Programs’ requirements for reporting. In March and April 2013, Idaho’s
Special Education department conducted file reviews at all of its LEAs using its
Individual Student IEP General File Review checklist, which contained 17 compliance
indicators. Reviewers entered all identified instances of noncompliance in the Special
Education department’s compliance tracking tool. In May 2013, the Special Education
department’s quality assurance and reporting coordinator issued letters to LEAs
specifying findings of noncompliance that needed to be addressed within 1 year.

The Special Education department identified 8 findings of noncompliance at IDVA and
16 findings of noncompliance at Inspire. IDVA resolved all 8 of its findings of
noncompliance by May 14, 2014, within the 1-year period. Inspire was working to
resolve its 16 findings of noncompliance when a complaint alleging a failure to provide
free and appropriate education to students was filed against the school in February 2014.
Idaho completed an investigation of the complaint, and gave Inspire 1 year to resolve all
of its outstanding findings of noncompliance and complaint-related issues. Idaho also
provided an approved trainer to Inspire to provide training to the school’s administrators
and teaching staff. The training included instruction on a variety of issues, including
developing proper compliant IEPs, measuring and documenting student progress toward
IEP goals, timeliness for evaluation and eligibility, timely implementation of IEPs, and
determining who should attend IEP meetings. Training was completed by October 2014,
and Inspire submitted agendas and sign-in sheets to Idaho.

IDVA

We found that IDVA was generally able to provide sufficient documentation to support
that it provided special education and related services in accordance with IDEA, Part B,
and that students received such services. We found issues with only 3 of the 27 students
in our sample. Specifically, supporting documentation was missing for 1 of the 27
students in our sample. IDVA could not provide any service reports for the student
because the student’s teacher resigned and permanently deleted all information from the
teacher’s computer. Two students who transferred to IDVA with IEPs that expired
shortly after they arrived did not receive special education and related services. IDVA
did not provide comparable services to the students upon transfer and did not timely
reevaluate or develop new IEPs for the students. One of the two students received no
services for 5 months; the other student received no services for 2 years.

We found that IDVA generally followed State and internal policy and procedures for
providing special education and related services. The school’s special education staff
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                    Page 12 of 31

provided special education services such as reading or writing instruction and
documented the services with records that listed instructor login, service/class
description, and student login. Third parties provided related services such as speech
therapy or occupational therapy and documented through invoices. For virtual special
education instruction, teachers instructed individual students through chat room sessions
that used webcams to ensure student engagement. When a student missed a service
session, the staff contacted parents to coordinate a make-up session and documented
attempts to provide the service. Live service sessions were tracked and logged in the
school’s electronic system. Hardcopy records, such as service invoices from third-party
providers, were scanned and then shredded. Teachers reviewed student records annually
to verify that all the special education records were maintained.

For the 2013–2014 school year, IDVA implemented new procedures that include monthly
data conferencing with all IEP teachers and a requirement that teachers turn in monthly
progress monitoring reports for their assigned students. In addition, under IDVA’s new
procedures, the special education administrator is required to (1) review the monthly
teacher monitoring reports to ensure the teachers are working through the IEP goals as
required and (2) observe teachers providing services during live online sessions.

Inspire

We found that Inspire did not have sufficient documentation to support that it provided
special education and related services in accordance with IDEA, Part B for
13 (52 percent) of the 25 students in our sample. For 8 of the 25 students in our sample,
Inspire did not provide documentation of student login histories or sufficient
documentation that the school attempted to provide required services. For 4 of the
25 students, Inspire did not provide sufficient documentation that services were provided
according to the frequency and duration required by the students’ IEPs. For one student
in our sample, Inspire did not have documentation confirming that it developed a new
IEP or subsequently provided special education and related services when the student
transferred into the school with an expired IEP.

Inspire’s education management organization also identified issues with its special
education program when it conducted an internal review in March 2012 for the 2011–
2012 school year. The internal review identified significant deficiencies, including
concerns regarding special education leadership, instructional leadership, communication,
data management, time management, and personnel management. The education
management organization concluded that the special education program needed
leadership and reorganization for the 2012–2013 school year, and offered to work with
Inspire to design and improve its special education program. Inspire hired a new special
education director for the 2013–2014 school year.

Inspire was also required to complete a corrective action plan in response to Idaho’s
findings and subsequent investigation of a complaint filed against the school in February
2014. As part of the corrective actions undertaken, Inspire’s board formally adopted the
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                      Page 13 of 31

Idaho Special Education Manual; Inspire’s administrators and teaching staff completed
trainings required by Idaho and submitted supporting documentation in the form of
agendas and sign-in sheets; and Inspire provided Idaho with a detailed description of its
continuum of services. Inspire completed its corrective actions on October 31, 2014.

To comply with IDEA, Part B, an LEA must ensure that

   •    a reevaluation of each child with a disability must occur at least once every
        3 years, unless the parent and the LEA agree that a reevaluation is unnecessary
        (34 C.F.R § 300.303(b)(2));
   •    as soon as possible following development of the IEP, special education and
        related services are made available to the child in accordance with the child’s IEP
        (34 C.F.R § 300.323(c)(2);
   •    the IEP team reviews the child’s IEP periodically, but not less than annually, to
        determine whether the annual goals for the child are being achieved, and revises
        the IEP, as appropriate (34 C.F.R § 300.324(b)(1)); and
   •    It continues comparable services for a child with a disability transferring from
        another school during the school year with an existing IEP until it adopts the
        previous IEP or develops and implements a new IEP (34 C.F.R § 300.323(e) and
        (f)).

According to 34 C.F.R § 300.600(a) and (b)(2), the State must monitor the
implementation of Part B under IDEA. The primary focus of the State’s monitoring
activities must be on ensuring that LEAs meet the program requirements under Part B,
with a particular emphasis on those requirements that are most closely related to
improving educational results for children with disabilities. According to 34 C.F.R
§ 300.600(e), in exercising its monitoring responsibilities, the State must ensure that
when it identifies noncompliance with program requirements by LEAs, the
noncompliance is corrected as soon as possible, and in no case later than 1 year after the
State identifies the noncompliance.

Highly Qualified Teachers

Idaho

We found that Idaho had sufficient oversight to ensure that schools complied with HQT
requirements. During its Federal monitoring visits, Idaho pulled an HQT report to
determine what content and core areas the selected teachers were assigned to teach.
When on-site, Idaho reviewed the teachers’ files and supporting documentation that
corroborated the teachers’ HQT status and verified that the teachers were teaching in the
content and core areas in which they were credentialed. Idaho identified the following
deficiencies related to HQT at the two schools in our review:
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                                    Page 14 of 31

     •    During its school year 2012–2013 review of IDVA, Idaho found that three
          teachers did not comply with HQT requirements.
     •    During its school year 2011–2012 review of Inspire, Idaho found that 25 teachers
          did not comply with HQT requirements.

As a result of these deficiencies, Idaho provided technical assistance to Inspire and
required both schools to provide support that all teachers were highly qualified and had
Idaho teaching credentials. Idaho officials stated that IDVA corrected its deficiencies
immediately. Idaho officials stated that Inspire showed improvement in the 2012–2013
school year, although some issues remained.

IDVA

IDVA maintained adequate documentation to support that it hired highly qualified
teachers. We found that IDVA had sufficient documentation, including valid teaching
credentials, to support HQT status for all 30 of the teachers reviewed that were required
to be highly qualified. 11

Inspire

Inspire did not ensure that it hired highly qualified teachers as required and did not
appropriately maintain supporting documentation for teachers’ HQT status. Specifically,
we found that 6 (37 percent) of the 16 teachers we reviewed (5 from 2011–2012 and
1 from 2012–2013) were not highly qualified. These six teachers did not hold valid
Idaho teaching credentials. In addition, Inspire did not maintain supporting
documentation for the teachers’ HQT status on-site, as required by Idaho. Instead,
Inspire’s education management organization maintained the supporting documentation
in a facility in Baltimore.

Title 34 C.F.R. § 200.55, which was applicable during our audit period, provided
requirements for all teachers of core academic subjects. Specifically, each State that
received Title I funds and each LEA in these States was required to ensure that all public
elementary and secondary school teachers in the State who teach core academic subjects
were highly qualified as defined in 34 C.F.R. § 200.56. As noted previously, the Every
Student Succeeds Act eliminated Federal HQT requirements. It does, however, require
that teachers in schools receiving Title I and IDEA, Part B funds meet their State’s
licensing requirements.

Title 34 C.F.R. § 300.156, which was applicable during our audit period, provides the
requirements for special education teachers. Specifically, each person employed as a
public school special education teacher in the State who teaches in an elementary school,

11
  Two of the 32 teachers we selected for review were not required to be highly qualified: one teacher was a
speech pathologist, and the second teacher was a long-term substitute who was teaching non-core courses
during our audit scope years.
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                       Page 15 of 31

middle school, or secondary school must be highly qualified as a special education
teacher. After the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, states a special education
teacher in a public charter school is qualified if the teacher meets the requirements in a
State’s public charter school law and holds a bachelor’s degree (section 9214(d)(2)).

Recommendations

We recommend that the Acting Assistant Secretaries of the Office of Elementary and
Secondary Education and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
require Idaho to—

       1.1     Have its Federal Program and Special Education departments determine
               whether Inspire has fully implemented all previously required corrective
               actions for Title I and IDEA, Part B.

       1.2     Obtain from IDVA evidence that it has developed and implemented
               procedures designed to ensure that all students with disabilities—including
               transfer students—are provided agreed-on IEP services and that adequate
               supporting documentation is maintained.

Idaho Comments

Idaho concurred with our finding and two recommendations, stating that it has
implemented changes in its policies and procedures to ensure compliance with
Department program requirements and enhanced the technical assistance that it provides
to all schools and districts in the State. Idaho also discussed specific corrective actions
that it has taken to address the recommendations for the two schools that we audited.

In response to recommendation 1.1, Idaho stated that it determined that Inspire was a
“high-risk” school based on our audit and adjusted its 2015–2016 monitoring schedule to
include Inspire for a full Federal programs monitoring visit. The monitoring visit
included a review of the school’s Title I and Title II programs and corresponding
financial documentation. The monitoring team observed regular and supplemental
instruction; interviewed parents, teachers, administrators, and support personnel; and
reviewed documentation related to programmatic changes based on our findings. This
included new policies and procedures on providing and tracking student services and the
implementation of an annual Title I program evaluation. Idaho further noted that the few
findings identified were corrected within a couple of months, as evidenced by its review
of a corrective action plan and related documentation. The monitoring team also met
with Inspire’s special education teachers and director and observed changes in the
school’s process for providing services outlined in students’ IEPs. Idaho stated that the
monitoring team conducted file reviews and found that Inspire met all requirements in its
IDEA, Part B monitoring protocol, a positive change from previous years when the
school was found to be noncompliant in multiple areas.
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                                   Page 16 of 31

In response to recommendation 1.2, Idaho stated that it conducted file reviews to assess
IDVA’s administration of the IDEA Part B program and determined that it also met all
requirements in its monitoring protocol. Idaho stated that IDVA provided documentation
demonstrating the school’s development, implementation, and ongoing review of its
IDEA Part B program and developed a Special Education General Procedures Handbook
that is unique to the school. IDVA also provided Idaho with information on its Child
Find process and its policy regarding providing services in a virtual setting.

OIG Response

We appreciate Idaho’s commitment to implementing corrective actions to address our
finding and recommendations. We encourage the State to continue its efforts to ensure
full and prompt implementation of corrective actions and improve its Federal program
oversight efforts.



                                     OTHER MATTERS


We identified two areas of concern that we brought to Idaho’s attention. The first is
regarding discrepancies in Inspire’s attendance reporting. The second is regarding the
lack of a formal mechanism for the Idaho Public School Charter Commission and Idaho
to report and track findings to mitigate risks to Federal, State, and local funds.

Inspire Attendance Reporting

We noted that Inspire was not reporting student attendance according to Idaho’s
requirements in the Idaho System for Educational Excellence. 12 Specifically, Inspire
(1) included weekend hours in its student attendance calculation, (2) aggregated the
weekly attendance hours instead of reporting them on a daily basis, and (3) did not record
half-day attendance for students. Idaho law gives online charter schools the options to
report attendance either based on actual hours of attendance on a flexible schedule or the
percentage of course work completed. Inspire selected actual hours of attendance on a
Monday through Friday reporting schedule.

We reviewed the attendance reports at Inspire through Connexus, Connections
Academy’s proprietary learning management system. We found that Inspire recorded
student attendance on a 7-day (Sunday through Saturday) schedule; however, it reported
attendance to Idaho on a 5-day schedule (Monday through Friday). In response to Idaho

12
   The Idaho System for Educational Excellence is Idaho’s K–12 longitudinal data system that supports the
State’s budgeting processes, streamlines data submissions, and delivers information to educational
stakeholders to facilitate data-driven decisions. The database includes information on students and
teachers, among other things.
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                                    Page 17 of 31

law requiring an approved school day calendar, Inspire submitted a calendar with a
schedule for a 5-day week rather than the 7-day week it was using.

According to Connections Academy’s Director of External Reporting, Inspire aggregated
the weekday and weekend hours for the student and divided the total by five to arrive at
the daily attendance for the week. For example, if a student logged 20 hours from
Monday through Friday and 5 hours on a Saturday, Inspire credited the 5 Saturday hours
to weekdays. Students could get credit for a maximum of 25 hours per week, regardless
of when they logged on. According to the Idaho Finance Coordinator for Attendance and
Enrollment, Idaho does not consider the weekend to be an active school day. Inspire
should report attendance for weekdays only rather than adding weekend hours to 5-day
reporting format.

Idaho law requires daily attendance to be reported in full or half-day increments.
However, Inspire reported daily student attendance only in full-day increments.
According to Idaho Administrative Code 08.02.01.250.03, a full day of attendance is
satisfied when the school is open and students are under the guidance and direction of a
teacher engaged in the teaching process for at least 4 hours. Inspire did not record half-
day attendance for students; instead it rounded up student attendance based on the
instruction hours reported. As a result, Inspire overstated its average daily attendance.
Idaho Code 33-5208(10) (a) provides that each student attending a public virtual school
will be funded based on either the actual hours of attendance based on a flexible
schedule, or the percentage of coursework completed, whichever is more advantageous to
the school, up to the maximum of one full-time equivalent student. 13 Idaho recommends
that public virtual schools maintain attendance documentation for each student and have
written policy on how they will track attendance for State reporting.

Inspire officials stated that as a virtual school, Inspire’s program is designed to meet
individual student needs for a variety of learners. Students may follow a flexible
schedule that allows them to complete schoolwork at different times and days within the
week. Student attendance is based on a flexible schedule in accordance with Idaho Code.
Inspire believed that it was meeting the statutory requirements for attendance based on
this flexible schedule allowance. However, Inspire was working with Idaho and its
school board counsel to review current attendance practices, make modifications if
needed, and ensure the school’s attendance reporting met the statutory requirements. We
suggest that Idaho verify Inspire’s attendance calculation, and provide technical
assistance to the school to ensure it correctly calculates and reports attendance.

In its response to our draft report, Idaho provided evidence that the Inspire board
developed and implemented procedures for collecting and reporting attendance in
accordance with Idaho Code and incorporated these changes into the school’s attendance
policy.

13
  In 2011, this provision was located in Idaho Code 33-5208(8)(b); in 2012, the provision was in 33-
5208(8)(a).
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                       Page 18 of 31

Lack of a Formal Mechanism for the Commission and Idaho to Report and Track
Findings

Although the Commission is not responsible for overseeing Title I and IDEA, Part B, as
the authorizer, it has key oversight responsibilities. The Commission issues reportable
findings that could relate to the administration of Federal programs and should formally
share these findings with Idaho. As part of its reviews, the Commission conducted
annual site visits, which included a limited review of special education files as well as
classroom observations. While the Commission and Idaho acknowledged informal
sharing of the results of their reviews, neither entity had a formal process to coordinate or
track reportable findings. By working collaboratively and developing a formal
mechanism for tracking findings, the Commission and Idaho can determine whether
schools with problematic or systemic issues should be reviewed more frequently for
compliance with Federal requirements. We suggest that Idaho and the Commission
develop a formal mechanism for sharing and tracking findings on Title I and IDEA,
Part B issues.

In its response to our draft report, Idaho stated that to improve oversight, it will provide
quarterly updates about Commission-authorized schools to Commission staff. The
updates will include program-specific information for both State-funded and federally
funded programs, as well as any concerns related to State and Federal reporting
requirements. In turn, Commission staff members will share information from their site
visits, annual reviews, and charter school performance certificate renewals. This process
will be implemented starting with the 2017–2018 school year.



              OBJECTIVES, SCOPE, AND METHODOLOGY


The objectives of our audit were to determine whether Idaho and the two selected schools
had adequate oversight to ensure that (1) students were provided intended Title I services;
(2) students were provided special education and related services in accordance with
IDEA, Part B; and (3) schools hired HQTs in accordance with applicable program
requirements. The scope of the audit was school years 2011–2012 and 2012–2013.
To achieve our audit objectives, we—

   •   Obtained background information on Title I; IDEA, Part B; and HQT
       requirements under ESEA and IDEA, and Idaho’s laws on online charter schools.
   •   Reviewed Office of Management and Budget Circular A-133 compliance audits
       for Idaho.
   •   Reviewed a Department ESEA monitoring report for Idaho to identify areas of
       potential internal control weaknesses related to our audit objective.
   •   Interviewed key Department officials from the Office of Elementary and
       Secondary Education, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                       Page 19 of 31

       Services, and the Office of Innovation and Improvement to gain an understanding
       of the responsibilities for oversight and monitoring of Title I and IDEA, Part B,
       including HQT requirements for both programs.

At Idaho and the Commission, we—

   •   Interviewed key officials to obtain an understanding of their oversight and
       monitoring responsibilities.
   •   Reviewed written policies and procedures for administering Federal programs and
       training documents for key officials.
   •   Reviewed complaints regarding Title I; IDEA, Part B; and HQT in Idaho.

We gained an understanding of the online charter school authorization and approval
process, monitoring and oversight responsibilities (to include the schoolwide programs),
responsibilities for verification of teacher hiring and the HQT monitoring process, and
responsibilities for verification that students were provided Title I and special education
and related services under IDEA, Part B. Specifically, we—

   •   Reviewed the Title I schoolwide comprehensive plans and annual evaluations at
       the two selected online charter schools.
   •   Reviewed the rubric used to approve the selected online charter schools’
       schoolwide status.
   •   Assessed the internal controls significant to our audit objectives.

At the online charter schools, we—

   •   Interviewed key officials to determine how Title I and IDEA, Part B services were
       provided to students.
   •   Obtained policies and procedures regarding oversight of the Federal programs.
   •   Reviewed board policy documents and meeting minutes for each school.
   •   Reviewed policy and procedures for oversight and monitoring of Title I; IDEA,
       Part B; and HQT.
   •   Obtained an understanding of the hiring and verification process for teachers.
   •   Reviewed the schoolwide comprehensive plans, evaluations, and the required
       annual update.
   •   Reviewed the parental involvement policy.
   •   Obtained and reviewed supporting information to determine whether the schools
       followed their policies and procedures.

To evaluate Title I services, we focused on the additional intervention services that the
schools stated they would provide as part of their schoolwide plan and also reviewed
annual evaluations. To evaluate IDEA services, we relied on (1) the students’ IEPs for
key dates and information such as current IEP date, last evaluation date, and required
special education and related services which included type, frequency, and duration of
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                                       Page 20 of 31

those services; (2) documentation of staff and student logins found in service records;
(3) invoices submitted by third-party service providers; and (4) teacher notes
regarding attempts to provide services. To evaluate HQTs, we used Idaho criteria to
verify that teachers had a valid Idaho teacher certificate.
Sampling Methodology
State Selection

We created a matrix that identified 27 States that had public, full-time, online charter
schools. We reviewed the online charter schools within each State in a National Center
for Education Statistics database to determine whether the schools received Title I and/or
IDEA, Part B funds. We judgmentally selected Idaho because it had seven online charter
schools that received Title I and/or IDEA, Part B funds.
School Selection

We judgmentally selected two schools out of Idaho’s seven online charter schools based
on the amount of Title I, and IDEA, Part B grant funds received. We selected IDVA and
Inspire because they received the highest amount of both grants. The results are not
projectable to all online charter schools in Idaho.

Sampling for Title I Testing

We used a risk-based approach at both online charter schools to select students to
evaluate for receipt of schoolwide intervention services. First, we limited our scope of
students tested for Title I services to those that (1) were eligible for free and reduced
lunch, 14 (2) were not in special education, and (3) were not dually or fully enrolled in the
alternative high school program 15 to arrive at an applicable universe. We judgmentally
selected students from both schools for both sampling periods based on grade, enrollment
period, and attendance profile. Specifically, we selected students based on the following
criteria: (1) grade; (2) enrollment duration, where we considered whether the student had
more or less than 90 days enrollment; and (3) attendance rate, where we considered
whether the student averaged more or less than 15 days of attendance per month. We
sought to span selections to maximize grades included and ensure inclusion of students
with both shorter and longer enrollment durations and both high and low attendance rates.
Table 3 describes the applicable universe and sample sizes for students selected for Title I
testing.




14
   The Title I grant is intended for students from low-income families that are eligible for free and reduced
lunch.
15
   This only applied to IDVA.
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                      Page 21 of 31

Table 3. IDVA and Inspire Sampling Universe and Number of Students Selected
for Title I Testing
                                                     Number of Students
                  Item          Applicable Universe         Selected
           IDVA, 2011–2012                     2,337                      12
           IDVA, 2012–2013                     2,884                      16
           Inspire, 2011–2012                   457                       15
           Inspire, 2012–2013                   350                       17

To determine whether selected students received schoolwide intervention services, we
reviewed the intervention services listed in the schools’ schoolwide plans, selected a list
of students eligible to receive intervention services, and then reviewed login histories for
the students selected for testing and monitoring reports created by teachers if applicable.
We used the information provided to determine whether the school made Title I services
available and whether its students received those services. If none of the testing elements
were available, we concluded that we could not confirm that students received
schoolwide intervention service. In addition, we performed limited testing to understand
IDVA’s process for assessing its students’ needs for intervention services. We were not
able to do a similar test at Inspire because Inspire did not have supporting documentation.
The results from our testing cannot be projected to the entire universe of students.

Sampling for IDEA, Part B Testing

We judgmentally selected the students identified as students with IEPs from both schools
for both sampling periods from all grades using a risk-based approach based on grade,
attendance, and enrollment period at both online charter schools. Table 4 shows the
sampling universe and number of students selected for testing.

Table 4. IDVA and Inspire Sampling Universe and Number of Students Selected
for IDEA, Part B Testing
                                                            Number of
                   Item                  Universe        Students Selected
               IDVA, 2011–2012                        383                   11

               IDVA, 2012–2013                        436                   16
               Inspire, 2011–2012                     69                    13
               Inspire, 2012–2013                     64                    12

We reviewed selected students’ special education files at IDVA and Inspire for
documentation substantiating the provision and receipt of IDEA, Part B services. Our
review process included verifying that each student had a timely evaluation/reevaluation
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                      Page 22 of 31

and current IEP, identifying the special education and related services prescribed in each
IEP (such as type, duration, and frequency of service), and comparing the available
documentation of services provided (such as instructor logins, notes regarding service
attempts, and service provider invoices) to the terms of service detailed in the IEP. For
example, if a student was required to receive 1 hour of math intervention, 1 day per week,
for 4 consecutive weeks per month, we reviewed the service record for logs
substantiating that the instructor and student logged in for an hour of math intervention at
least once a week for four consecutive weeks of the month.

We also reviewed and considered teacher notes when such documentation pertained to
LEA attempts to provide services. For example, if a service was not provided, we
reviewed the teacher notes to determine whether a missed intervention notice was sent to
the student or learning coach and whether the school provided followup services. We
discuss documented attempts to provide services separately from cases for which there
was no documentation of service provision in the Audit Results section.

Our review of the student files and conclusions regarding service provision and receipt
were based on the adequacy of existing documentation rather than any judgments
regarding the nature or quality of services. We did not verify the actual receipt of
services by students delivered virtually or in-person through a third-party provider. The
results from our testing cannot be projected to the entire universe of students.

Teacher Selection

In selecting teachers to review for compliance with HQT requirements, we established
our universe based on the number of teachers who had unique Idaho identification
numbers and taught core courses. We selected a sample of teachers for each school year.
For IDVA, we judgmentally selected teachers based on teacher roles (substitutes, regular,
and special education) and grades taught from both schools for both sampling periods.
For Inspire, we judgmentally selected teachers based on course assignment from those
listed as having HQT status as indicated in Idaho’s reports. Table 5 shows the sampling
universe and the number of teachers selected for testing.

Table 5. IDVA and Inspire Sampling Universe and Number of Teachers Selected
for HQT Testing
                                                   Number of Teachers
                Item                 Universe            Selected

            IDVA, 2011–2012                     74                     16
            IDVA, 2012–2013                     82                     16
            Inspire, 2011–2012                  50                      8
            Inspire, 2012–2013                  44                      8
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                         Page 23 of 31

To determine whether the selected teachers were highly qualified, based on Federal and
Idaho’s HQT criteria, we reviewed whether the selected teachers had a valid Idaho
teaching certificate and one of the additional qualifications, as listed in the Background
section of this report.

The results from our testing cannot be projected to the universe of teachers at these
schools.

We relied on computer-processed data provided by Idaho and the selected online charter
schools. Idaho provided the attendance, demographic, and enrollment data for students
enrolled in the two online schools and teacher rosters reviewed for the 2011–2012 and
2012–2013 school years. Idaho’s data comes from the Idaho System for Educational
Excellence, which is the system in which LEAs upload data monthly. We also relied on
student attendance data that the schools provided for the selected samples. To test the
reliability of the data, we performed tests to look for missing data, the relationship of one
data element to another, values outside of a designated range, and dates outside of a
designated range. Based on our tests, we determined that the data Idaho and the schools
provided were sufficiently reliable for the purposes of our audit.

We gained an understanding of the internal controls concerning Idaho’s oversight of
online charter schools. We determined that control activities were significant to our audit
objectives. We reviewed Idaho’s control activities for its monitoring and oversight of
Title I; IDEA, Part B; and HQTs. We concluded that Idaho generally had adequate
controls in place to determine whether students received intended services under these
programs, or that deficiencies were identified and corrective actions were required.

We performed our audit work at Idaho, the Commission, IDVA, and Inspire periodically
from June 2013 through April 2014. We completed additional fieldwork in the Atlanta
Regional Offices from July 2014 through June 2017. We discussed the results of our
work with Idaho officials during our exit conference on June 27, 2017.

We conducted this performance audit in accordance with generally accepted government
auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain
sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and
conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained
provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit
objectives.



                         ADMINISTRATIVE MATTERS


Statements that managerial practices need improvements, as well as other conclusions
and recommendations in this report, represent the opinions of the Office of Inspector
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                       Page 24 of 31

General. Determinations of corrective action to be taken will be made by the appropriate
Department of Education officials.

If you have any additional comments or information that you believe may have a bearing
on the resolution of this audit, you should send them directly to the following Department
of Education official, who will consider them before taking final Departmental action on
this audit:

                              Jason Botel
                              Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Elementary and
                              Secondary Education and Acting Assistant Secretary for
                              Elementary and Secondary Education
                              U.S. Department of Education
                              400 Maryland Avenue, SW
                              Washington, DC 20202

                              Kimberly M. Richey
                              Deputy Assistant Secretary and Acting Secretary for
                              Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
                              U.S. Department of Education
                              400 Maryland Avenue, SW
                              Washington, DC 20202

It is the policy of the U.S. Department of Education to expedite the resolution of audits
by initiating timely action on the findings and recommendations contained therein.
Therefore, receipt of your comments within 30 calendar days would be appreciated.

In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. §552), reports issued by
the Office of Inspector General are available to members of the press and general public
to the extent information contained therein is not subject to exemptions in the Act.

We appreciate the cooperation and assistance extended by Idaho, IDVA, and Inspire
employees during our audit. If you have any questions or require additional information,
please do not hesitate to contact me at 404-974-9417.

                                              Sincerely,

                                              /s/

                                              Christopher A. Gamble
                                              Regional Inspector General for Audit

Attachment(s)

cc: Matt Freeman, Idaho State Board of Education
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                  Page 25 of 31

                                                                  Attachment 1

          Acronyms, Abbreviations, and Short Forms Used in this Report

C.F.R.              Code of Federal Regulations

Commission          Idaho Public School Charter Commission

Department          U.S. Department of Education

ESEA                Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended

HQT                 Highly Qualified Teacher

Idaho               Idaho State Department of Education

IDEA                Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

IDVA                Idaho Virtual Academy

IEP                 Individualized Education Program

Inspire             Idaho Connections Academy

LEA                 Local Educational Agency

Title I             Title I, Part A
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                           Page 26 of 31

                                                                                Attachment 2

                          Idaho Response to the Draft Report


  J uly 17, 2017

  Control Number: ED_OIG/A04N0010

  Christopher A. Gamble
  Regional Inspector General for Audit
  U.S Department of Education
  Office of Inspector General
  61 Forsyth Street SW, Suite 19T20
  Atlanta, GA 30303

   Dear Mr. Gamble

   In connection with the Office of Inspector General’s audit of Idaho State Department of
   Education’s (ISDE) monitoring and oversight of online charter schools, we are providing a
   response to the draft report of the OIG’s audit.

   Overall, the Idaho State Department of Education concurs with the findings and
   recommendations of the audit. Starting with the initial visit of the audit team in July 2013, the
   ISDE Federal Programs, Special Education, Certification, and School Choice directors and
   coordinators have been implementing changes in policies and procedures to insure compliance
   with the US Department of Education’s program requirements; as well as enhance the technical
   assistance provided to all schools and districts in the state.

   In addition to the response, we are providing documentation to support the corrective actions
   that have already occurred, based on the initial findings of the OIG team’s audit. As part of the
   documentation we have provided an index of the documents. We have labeled the files or
   documents with the recommendation number, school name, and program name related to those
   documents.

   We hope the response and documentation will satisfy the audit requirements and allow for the
   issuance of a final audit report.

   Respectfully,

   /s/
   Sherri Ybarra
   Superintendent of Public Instruction
   Idaho State Department of Education


   Cc: Rich Rasa, State and Local Advisory & Assistance Team Director, OIG
   Enclosures
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                              Page 27 of 31

                             ISDE Response ED-OIG/A04N0010

Idaho State Department of Education (ISDE) concurs with the findings and recommendations of
the Office of Inspector General’s draft audit report “Idaho State Department of Education’s
Oversight of Online Charter Schools.” Starting with the Office of Inspector General’s (OIG)
initial visit in July 2013 and continuing through the present the ISDE has implemented corrective
actions and changes to policies, procedures, documentation, and technical assistance. The
corrective actions and changes were made as a result of the ISDE’s monitoring of the schools, as
well as the auditor’s initial findings. While the corrective actions were specific to the two schools
audited, related changes have been implemented with all schools and districts as appropriate.

Note: Any corrective action documents referenced include the item number from the document
index. The document item numbers are correlated with the audit team’s recommendations and
also the program area for each school. Items with an “A” relate to Title IA and items with a “B”
relate to IDEA Part B.

Recommendation 1.1: “Require Idaho to have its Federal Program and Special Education
departments determine whether Inspire has fully implemented all previously required corrective
actions for Title I and IDEA, Part B.”


                                  Response for Title IA:
Based on the OIG initial audit findings, ISDE Federal program team determined Inspire was a
“high-risk” school and adjusted the 2015-16 monitoring schedule to include Inspire for a full
monitoring visit. The monitoring included a review of the schools Title IA and Title IIA
programs as well as the corresponding financial documentation. The review team followed the
monitoring protocol (1.1.A1) used for all Local Education Agencies (LEA) and districts. In
addition reviewing supplied documentation, the team observed regular and supplemental
instruction; interviewed parents, teachers, administrators, and support personnel; and reviewed
documentation related to programmatic changes based on the OIG team’s visits and findings.

As stated in the monitoring team’s report (1.1.A1), the reviewers found Inspire and Connections
Academy had made significant changes in their processes, procedures, and policies. Essentially,
they were not the same school that was monitored in 2013 and participated in the initial visits
with the OIG audit team. Changes include the following: an entirely new, experienced leadership
team; new policies and procedures related to providing and tracking student services; and the
implementation annual Title IA program evaluation. The few findings were corrected by the
Inspire team within a couple of months as evidenced by their submitted corrective action plan
(1.1.A2) and our review (1.1.A3) of the results. The monitoring documents and the school’s
responses are included in the documentation provided.

When a district or LEA isn’t being monitored, they are required to submit a self-assessment of the
program requirements and whether they are meeting them or not. Inspire submitted the self-
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ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                             Page 28 of 31

assessment (1.1.A4) during the 2016-17 school year certifying they continued to meet the
requirements and had implemented the corrections related to the 2015-16 monitoring.

                              Response for IDEA Part B:
Inspire had two areas of concern related to IDEA Part B. The first was related to the
documentation of special education services and the overall program. The second related to a
complaint filed against the school in February 2014. The two areas of concern are inter-related
and corrective actions related to the complaint helped resolve the issues related to the overall
program.

A corrective action plan, based on the allegations of the complaint (1.1.B1), was implemented
beginning April 2014. The complaint corrective action plan (1.1.B2) detailed the requirements
for resolving each of the allegations cited in the complaint. The corrective actions included
actions to be taken by the school’s board; training for the administration and staff; documentation
related to special education policies and procedures; and implementing the changes to special
education policies and procedures. The school was required to provide specific evidence
demonstrating the completion of the corrective actions. (1.1.B3) ISDE formally closed the
complaint in November 2014 after all of the corrective actions had been completed and sent the
school and the complainant a letter (1.1.B4) stated that it was closed.

In December 2015, the team conducting the federal program monitoring had an opportunity to
meet with the special education teachers and director. The team saw the school’s changes in their
process for providing services. This process aligns to the Title IA process and helps ensure
students are receiving the services outline in their Individualized Education Plans (IEP).

In order to ensure the on-going implementation IDEA Part B program requirements and any
required corrective actions, the ISDE special education team conducts general file reviews
(1.1.B5) based on the compliance indicators in the IDEA Part B State Performance Plan. For the
Federal Fiscal Year 2015 (FFY15), covering school year 2015-16, Inspire met the requirements in
all nine of the reviewed areas as evidenced in the “Meets Requirement” letter (1.1.B6). This was
a positive change from previous years when they were found to be non-compliant in multiple
areas, as the ISDE and OIG teams noted.

                                     Response Overall:
Inspire is an entirely different school than it was in July 2013. Not only has the leadership team
changed, but they have implemented a culture promoting what is best for the students and
insuring that is carried out. Members of the ISDE team noticed this while conducting monitoring
and review visits. It was also noted as a “powerful practice” by the accreditation team that
conducted the schools accreditation review in February 2017. Inspire submitted their
accreditation report (1.1.C1) as evidence of an external reviewers evaluation of the school.
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                            Page 29 of 31

Recommendation 1.2: “Require Idaho to obtain from IDVA evidence that it has developed
and implemented procedures designed to ensure that all students with disabilities – including
transfer students – are provided agreed on IEP services and that adequate supporting
documentation is maintained.”


                                     Response IDEA:
Idaho Virtual Academy (IDVA) did not have the same type of findings during the audit. The
concerns related to the school were related to the ISDE ensuring on-going compliance and
continual implementation of the IDEA Part B procedures and policies they had made during the
audit.

IDVA also participated in the general file review (1.2.B1) conducted by the ISDE special
education team for FFY2015. Again the review is based on Idaho’s IDEA Part B State
Performance Plan. IDVA also met the requirements in all nine of the performance areas. This is
documented in the “Meets Requirements Letter” sent to the school (1.2.B2).

Additionally, IDVA has provided documentation demonstrating their development,
implementation, and ongoing review of their IDEA Part B program. IDVA has developed a
“Special Education General Procedures Handbook” (1.2.B3) which is unique to their school. It is
designed to outline the general procedures unique to their program and is used in conjunction
with the” Idaho Special Education Manual.” Also specifically documented are the school’s
“Child Find” process (1.2.B4) and an explanation (1.2.B5) of how they provide services in a
virtual setting.
                                    Response Title IA:

Although not specifically mentioned in the recommendation, we wanted to note that IDVA has
completed the annual self-assessment (1.2.A1) for the federal programs. Additionally, the
school’s federal programs (Title IA & IIA) will be reviewed as part of the monitoring cycle in
November 2017.
                      Other Matters: Inspire Attendance Reporting:

Idaho State Department of Education does not require the virtual/on-line schools to submit their
policies or procedures for collecting and reporting attendance. However, based on the findings of
the OIG audit team, the ISDE did ask the Inspire Board to develop a procedure for collecting and
reporting attendance consistent with Idaho Code. The board developed and implemented
procedures consistent with the code and incorporated the changes into the school attendance
policy (OM.1).
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ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                             Page 30 of 31

  Lack of Formal Mechanism for the Commission and Idaho to Report
                       and Track Findings
The Idaho Public Charter Commission is a separate entity from the Idaho Department of
Education. In an effort to improve the oversight responsibilities of the Commission and ensure
they have a complete picture of what is happening in the charter schools they oversee, the ISDE
will be providing quarterly updates about the Commission authorized schools to the Commission
staff. The updates will include program specific information for both state and federally funded
programs; as well as any concerns related to state and federal reporting requirements. In turn, the
Commission staff will share information from their site visits, annual reviews, and
charter/performance certificate renewals. This process will be implemented starting with the
2017-18 school year.
Final Report
ED-OIG/A04N0010                                                                        Page 31 of 31

                             Idaho Response Document Index:

1.1.A1 2015-16 Federal Programs Monitoring Report

1.1.A2 Inspire Federal Programs Monitoring Corrective Action Plan

1.1.A3 ISDE (Idaho State Department of Education) Review of Inspire Corrective Action Plan

1.1.A4 2016-17 Inspire Federal Programs Self-Assessment

1.1.B1 Inspire IDEA (Individual’s with Disabilities Education Act) Complaint

1.1.B2 Inspire IDEA Complaint Corrective Action Plan

1.1.B3 Inspire & ISDE Evidence of Corrective Action Plan Completion

1.1.B4 ISDE Complaint Closure Letter

1.1.B5 Inspire IDEA General File Reviews

1.1.B6 Inspire IDEA “Meets Requirements” Letter

1.1.C1 Inspire AdvancEd Accreditation Report

1.2.B1 Idaho Virtual Academy (IDVA) IDEA General File Reviews

1.2.B2 IDVA IDEA “Meets Requirements” Letter

1.2.B3 IDVA Special Education General Procedures Handbook

1.2.B4 IDVA Child Find Process

1.2.B5 IDVA Explanation of Services in a Virtual Setting

1.2.A1 IDVA Federal Programs Self-Assessment

OM.1 Inspire Attendance Policy