AUSTIN, TEXAS (TEA) — The Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced today it will establish an Office of Complaints, Investigations and School Accountability to conduct investigations into school accountability, educator misconduct, and misuse of state and federal funds. The new agency office will be responsible for accepting, screening, and investigating complaints submitted to TEA.
Creation of the Office of Complaints, Investigations and School Accountability is one recommendation from a State Auditor's Office (SAO) report regarding TEA's 2010 investigation of the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD). The SAO report, conducted at the request of Commissioner of Education Michael Williams, concluded that TEA failed to perform a thorough and effective investigation of serious cheating allegations in the EPISD three years ago.
"The Texas Education Agency appreciates the insights the report provides regarding the overall management oversight and processes concerning school accountability investigations," said Commissioner Williams. "With the recommendations of this audit, we now have a road map to help strengthen our agency's work in this critical area."
In July and August 2010, the U.S. Department of Education directed TEA to investigate cheating allegations against EPISD. The allegations made at that time involved cheating in El Paso schools designed to circumvent federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements. The SAO reviewed TEA's actions surrounding that specific investigation.
"Resolution of all EPISD issues has been a priority from my first day as commissioner." said Commissioner Williams, who took office in September of last year. "Difficult decisions have been made with the goal of restoring community trust in one of our state's largest school districts."
Commissioner Williams met with State Auditor John Keel and members of the SAO audit team to personally review the report findings, detail TEA's response, and outline the reforms already put into place by Williams to strengthen the agency's investigative responsibilities. Beyond creation of the Office of Complaints, Investigations and School Accountability (which will be formally in place by Sept. 30), TEA is taking (or has already taken) the following action recommended in the SAO report:
Modify its procedures to accept anonymous complaints concerning falsification or misrepresentation of information used for school accountability, confidentiality and test security, and misappropriation of state or federal funds. (Already Implemented)
Analyze the nature and volume of complaints received in fall and spring of each year to identify trends and patterns related to noncompliance with student accountability requirements.
Establish an internal hotline and email address to allow TEA employees to anonymously report concerns about violations of school accountability. (Already Implemented)
Establish a process to inform the Governor's Office and members of the Texas Legislature of agency investigations. (Already Implemented)
To review the complete SAO report, its recommendations, and TEA's formal response, visit www.sao.state.tx.us .