Cobb County’s school board is exploring hiring an outside firm to perform an academic audit.
The audit, which could cost anywhere from $50,000 to $350,000 — and perhaps more — would give the public, administrators and the board a road map on how to improve waning test scores and close a widening achievement gap between minority and white students, board member David Morgan said.
Critics said the audit would burden an already financially strapped district, pile on redundant information about where the district stands academically and take time away from class time.
The board will soon be asked to close an $80 million budget deficit.
“I’m very strong on protecting academic time,” said Connie Jackson, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators. “Anything that pulls teachers outside of their classrooms should be very carefully scrutinized.”
But Morgan said the district’s academics should be scrutinized by outside vendors just as its finances are. Annual financial audits are required by the state.
“If that’s the barometer we use for money, that’s the barometer we should use for academics,” Morgan said. “We’re sending a mixed message if what we are doing with children doesn’t deserve the continual scrutiny as what we do with money.”
Academic audits involve a team of experts analyzing test scores, interviewing groups of students, teachers, parents and administrators and conducting classroom observations. Auditors then provide the district with an analysis of several areas such as school academic climate, leadership and teaching strategies based on their standards.
The district’s academics are periodically audited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and through the Georgia Assessment of Performance on School Standards (GAPSS), said Amy Krause, the district’s chief academic officer. But those audits are done periodically upon request and rarely system-wide.
The last time the district had an outside organization conduct an audit was in 1995, Krause said.
Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said the Dallas Independent School District conducted a $350,000 academic audit while he led the system.
“On this one, it’s going to cost some money to do it right,” said Hinojosa, the Cobb superintendent. “I don’t feel comfortable proceeding with it when we’re cutting money.”
At the request of the school board, the administration will come back with a request for proposal by April. The issue passed 5-2.