ERIC Identifier: ED302900
Publication Date: 1988-00-00
Author: Klauke, Amy
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Educational Management Eugene OR.
The School District Management Audit. ERIC Digest Series Number
According to one estimate, only 5 to 10 percent of U.S. school districts
systematically evaluate their performance (Genck 1987). Boards of education and
central office officials who want to assess and improve their districts'
educational effectiveness can do so by means of a management audit.
WHAT IS A MANAGEMENT AUDIT?
A management audit is a
comprehensive examination of an organization in order to assess efficient use of
resources and program effectiveness. Like a financial audit, a management audit "involves a close examination of certain practices" to see how well the district
is meeting its standards (Buttram, Corcoran, and Hansen 1986). Audits may
address the organizational structure, curriculum, finances, or general
management and may be broad or narrow in scope.
According to Tobyann Boonin and Paul Neuwirth (1983), a management audit is
usually comprised of the following actions:
* identifying management objectives
* determining current facts and conditions that reflect these
* defining problems and pointing out improvement opportunities
* presenting findings to the school board
"The core of the audit," say Buttram and colleagues, "is a series of
interviews and the administration of a questionnaire." Once the data are
gathered, a report presenting the results of the audit is prepared for the
WHAT AREAS ARE COVERED BY AN AUDIT?
An audit typically
assesses a broad range of management functions, such as the following:
decision-making and evaluation processes, policy-making, resource allocation,
communication procedures, and goal setting and verification. The audit can also
examine the districts' work environment, improvement process, and relationship
with the community.
In addition to examining performance of particular functions, William Cooley
(1983) suggests studying the efficacy, quality, and equality of the overall
school system. Likewise, evaluation should consider the continuity and
integration of curriculum, as well as measuring individual programs and
classrooms, he says. Fenwick English (1984) suggests assessing the design,
delivery, and measurement of the taught curriculum and determining how these
areas might be better aligned.
HOW DOES A SCHOOL DISTRICT IMPLEMENT A MANAGEMENT
After deciding to carry out an audit, a school board must then
determine whether to hire an independent auditor, adopt a model that has been
successfully used elsewhere, or create a task force to design and carry out
their own audit. Robert Krajewski (1983) warns that hiring an independent
auditor may be construed as a gesture of bad faith, breeding division between
the board and superintendent. He adds that such evaluations are best done by
someone with comprehensive understanding of a school district. "You can't
measure the achievement of education objectives with the same precision as you
can measure revenues and expenses," he observes.
A successful internally managed audit, according to Barbara Hansen and Thomas
Corcoran (1986), includes the following steps:
* board orientation to the audit process
* audit team selection
* plan development
* interviews and surveys
* data analysis
* preparation of audit report
* revision and presentation to board
English (1979) adds that "the school system should be able to demonstrate how
such information has been coded and examined for reliability and validity," and
to show how these data have been utilized toward program improvement. Cooley,
warning about possible data corruption, suggests collecting multiple indicators
for particular evaluative areas and continuously refining them.
HOW ARE SOME SCHOOL DISTRICTS CARRYING OUT MANAGEMENT
Illinois' Lake Forest School District, Genck reports, applied a
school management model developed through the School Performance Research
Project and sponsored by the Illinois Association of School Boards. The model
targets three areas for management evaluation:
* Board Policy: teamwork and accountability
* Management: systems and responsibility
* Performance: measures and standards
The New Jersey School Boards Association and Research for Better Schools
established a diverse, internal task force to examine research data on effective
school organization and on correlations between district procedures and school
effectiveness. The task force then developed a list of district practices that
support student achievement. These items were then evaluated, modified, and
validated (Buttram and others 1986).
Pittsburgh Public Schools collected data on the district's performance over a
five-year period, permitting examination of trends. These results, Cooley says,
were then organized into priority areas, the problems defined, and specific
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A MANAGEMENT AUDIT?
well-administered auditing system can provide evaluations that reflect how a
school system is managing its human and financial resources. An audit that
possesses valid and measurable objectives keeps a school district true to its
purpose. Using data obtained from the audit to measure the district's success in
meeting its fundamental education objectives allows the district to adjust its
efforts in order to achieve its broader goals. "A well-managed school system,"
English (1979) claims, "is capable of changing its direction when necessary." Other benefits of management audits, Hansen and Corcoran explain, include the
* a clearer picture of which activities affect student achievement
* up-to-date data on which to base improvement plans
* a framework from which to conduct ongoing district evaluation
* a method of organizing and disseminating information about the
Student learning, parent and teacher satisfaction, board confidence,
accountability, and a common sense of purpose between organizational levels can
be results of a well-managed district auditing procedure, Genck reports. Open
communication of evaluations, improvement plans, and their results can lead to
better community relations.
Boonin, Tobyann, and Paul Neuwirth. "Pro: Boards
Need Independent, Impartial Experts to Audit Administrative Performance." AMERICAN SCHOOL BOARD JOURNAL 170, 4 (April 1983): 31-34. EJ 279 476.
Buttram, Joan; Thomas B. Corcoran; and Barbara J. Hansen. SIZING UP YOUR
SCHOOL SYSTEM: THE DISTRICT EFFECTIVENESS AUDIT. Trenton: New Jersey School
Boards Association; and Philadelphia: Research for Better Schools, 1986. 127
Cooley, William W. "Improving the Performance of an Educational System."
EDUCATIONAL RESEARCHER 12, 6 (June-July 1983): 4-12. EJ 283 469.
English, Fenwick. "Curriculum Mapping and Management." ED 251 972. In
PROMOTING SCHOOL EXCELLENCE THROUGH THE APPLICATION OF EFFECTIVE SCHOOLS
RESEARCH: SUMMARY AND PROCEEDINGS OF A 1984 REGIONAL EXCHANGE WORKSHOP, edited
by Beth D. Sates. Charleston, West Virginia: Appalachian Educational Lab,
September 1984. ED 251 968.
English, Fenwick. "Effective Ways to Improve Public Education." MANAGEMENT
FOCUS (November-December 1979): 2-9.
Genck, Frederic H. "How to Improve Performance Results in Your District." THE
SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR 44, 8 (August 1987): 17-19. EJ 359 265.
Hansen, Barbara J., and Thomas B. Corcoran. "Sizing Up Your School System."
SCHOOL LEADER (March/April 1986): 17.
Krajewski, Robert. "Con: If 'Experts' Know So Much, Hire Them as
Superintendents." AMERICAN SCHOOL BOARD JOURNAL 170, 40 (April 1983): 35, 49. EJ
Lindly, Charles A. "Districtwide K-12 Evaluation: An Effective Format for
School Improvement." NORTH CENTRAL ASSOCIATION QUARTERLY 61, 3 (Winter 1987):
387-90. EJ 354 500.