Politics

Audit finds some educational service providers at a Northampton non-profit were not licensed or evaluated

BOSTON (WWLP) – An audit released by the Office of State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump (OSA) of the Collaborative for Educational Services (CES) showed some of its active and former educators did not have proper state licensing or complete required annual teacher evaluations.

CES is a nonprofit in Northampton that provides educational support services to school districts in Franklin and Hampshire Counties.

The full audit report is available here.

The audit examined the organization’s records from July 1, 2017 through March 31, 2019. Auditors found that 18 CES educators did not have DESE-issued licenses or waivers for the subjects and/or grades for which they were contracted to teach. At least four of them were not licensed at all or had received a waiver to teach upon their hiring. Under DESE regulations, a superintendent or individual with similar authority at an educational collaborative, like CES, may request a waiver for a teacher which shows the educator’s satisfactory progress toward licensure. The audit notes that some active and former CES educators went unlicensed or without a DESE waiver for periods of 55 to 507 days.

The audit also found that during the 2017-2018 school year, CES did not ensure that 30 of its educators completed all annual teacher evaluation requirements. Of the educators reviewed, 8 did not complete self-assessments, 6 did not complete goal-setting forms, and 18 did not maintain documentation of progress toward goals. Additionally, some CES employees who conducted teacher evaluations did so without receiving the appropriate authorization, did not consistently observe teachers during the academic year and did not complete all formal written assessments. The audit notes, this has directly impacted CES’ ability to meaningfully assess teacher performance.

The audit found DESE’s contract with CES was missing required provisions under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which guarantees the right of every student with a disability to receive free and appropriate public education. The audit encourages CES to work with DESE and the Department of Youth Services to ensure these educational requirements are being met.

The report found that inadequate teacher licensure and assessments can result in students receiving a substandard education. In its response, CES stated that it will work with the state, including the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), to better streamline the teacher licensing process and improve its oversight of annual educator evaluations.

Dr. Todd Gazda, Executive Director at the Collaborative for Educational Services, provided this statement to 22News:

“The Collaborative for Educational Services recognizes and appreciates the deep and very detailed work of the Office of the State Auditor across the Commonwealth, in order to promote accountability, transparency, and performance improvement. These are values we share at CES.
With respect to the findings from the audit period of July 2017 through March 2019, CES worked closely with the OSA during this process and has already begun a review of the related information systems and documentation to ensure that any needed systems improvements are identified and implemented; as noted in the OSA report.
We are committed to providing the highest quality public education possible in every setting in which we serve. Further, we have a longstanding and firm commitment as a Massachusetts Collaborative to supporting, ensuring and advocating for the right of every student with a disability to receive not only a free and appropriate public education, but an education grounded in excellence and opportunity.”

Dr. Todd Gazda, Executive Director at the Collaborative for Educational Services

CES provides educational services to 36 member school districts across Franklin and Hampshire Counties and in institutional settings across the state. It is one of 25 educational collaboratives operating across the Commonwealth. CES is governed by a board of directors consisting of one representative each from the 36 member districts. During the audit, it had 977 full- and part-time employees. In fiscal year 2019, it received $39,878,917 in total revenue from various state agencies, including the Department of Youth Services, DESE, the Department of Early Education and Care, and the Department of Public Health.

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