District of Columbia Public Schools:

Enrollment Count Still Appears Vulnerable to Errors

T-HEHS-98-91: Published: Mar 13, 1998. Publicly Released: Mar 13, 1998.

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Carlotta C. Joyner
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contact@gao.gov

 

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed its recent report on the enrollment count process that District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) used in school year 1996-97.

GAO noted that: (1) in spite of some changes in DCPS' enrollment count process in response to criticisms, the 1996-97 count process remained flawed in several respects; (2) for example, the Student Information System (SIS) continued to have errors, such as multiple enrollment records for a single student and weaknesses in the system's ability to track students; (3) in addition, verification of student residency remained problematic; (4) although DCPS made some changes in its enrollment count process for the 1997-98 school year in response to GAO's recommendations and plans to make more, the larger systemic issues appear to remain mostly uncorrected; (5) consequently, fundamental weaknesses still remain in the enrollment count process, making it vulnerable to inaccuracy and weakening its credibility; (6) for example, DCPS staff report that although an important internal control--duplicate record checks--has been implemented for SIS, additional internal controls are still lacking; (7) several DCPS enrollment and pupil accounting procedures continue to increase the possibility of multiple enrollment records for a single student; (8) GAO is concerned that duplicate record checks alone may not be sufficient to protect the integrity of SIS, given the many possiblities for error; (9) furthermore, the enrollment count may still include nonresident students; (10) more than half of DCPS' students have either failed to provide the residency verification forms or have provided no proofs of residency to accompany their forms; (11) GAO questions the appropriateness of including students who have failed to prove residency in the official count, particularly students who have not even provided the basic form; (12) in addition, because DCPS has not yet monitored and audited residency verification at the school level, additional problems may exist that are not yet apparent; (13) proposed new rules governing residency will help DCPS deal with residency issues; (14) until these issues are fully addressed and resolved, however, the accuracy and credibility of the enrollment count will remain questionable; (15) in GAO's more recent discussions with DCPS officials, they acknowledge that more needs to be done to improve the enrollment count process, particularly in the areas of further strengthening DCPS' automated internal controls and addressing the nonresident issue; and (16) they have expressed concern, however, that GAO has failed to recognize fully the improvements DCPS made in the enrollment count process for school year 1997-98.

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