A first-ever comprehensive look at how Alternative Learning Experience programs work in Washington

a_students_in_map.pngToday we are publishing the culmination of four years of audit work on Alternative Learning Experience programs, available here. There are more than 250 ALE programs across Washington, taking shapes as different as alternative high schools, online courses, or specific classes or programs in public schools.

We have seen significant improvement in compliance with the requirements ALE programs must meet. We have also documented the special role these programs have in our education system. Most students seek out ALE as an educational choice, but for students who find traditional school settings overwhelming, who have significant medical issues, and many others, these alternative approaches to education are invaluable.

In 2013, the Legislature asked us to review ALE programs by auditing their finances and measuring student outcomes. Since then, we’ve audited the compliance of every ALE program in the state with more than 10 full-time students. We’ve visited ALE programs in person, interviewed educators and surveyed students and parents. The reports released today meet the intent of the Legislature’s request.

The financial audits show more school districts are following ALE compliance requirements, resulting in lower levels of questioned costs. The performance audit work on student outcomes used qualitative analysis of information from educators, parents and students to document the value ALE instruction has within the state’s educational system. But because of ongoing data quality issues, we were not able to independently verify the effectiveness of these programs.

Improving academic data will enable Washingtonians to make better choices in our education system overall. Better data will require continued effort from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the more than 300 school districts and education programs, the Education Research and Data Center, and others. We have offered recommendations for data improvement in our report, as well as recommendations to resolve common noncompliance issues we’ve found in audits of individual programs.

Please visit our website for an interactive map of ALE programs statewide, our reports and other materials. We want to empower every Washingtonian with information about their public services.Pat McCarthy

Thank you,

patsig

 

 

 

Local governments remain vulnerable to cyber attack: repost from the New York Times

cybersecurity_200880859.jpgAs local governments in Washington and across the United States deal with increasingly sophisticated attacks aimed at bringing down vital government services residents depend on, the need for careful controls and cyber security measures grows ever more crucial. At the Office of the Washington State Auditor, one of the resources we provide local governments with is helping them increase their cyber security in anticipation of just such events as outlined in the New York Times below. Are you interested in learning more about how we can help? Click here to read cyber security resources.

A Cyberattack Hobbles Atlanta, and Security Experts Shudder

By ALAN BLINDER and NICOLE PERLROTH

MARCH 27, 2018

ATLANTA — The City of Atlanta’s 8,000 employees got the word on Tuesday that they had been waiting for: It was O.K. to turn their computers on.

But as the city government’s desktops, hard drives and printers flickered back to life for the first time in five days, residents still could not pay their traffic tickets or water bills online, or report potholes or graffiti on a city website. Travelers at the world’s busiest airport still could not use the free Wi-Fi.

Atlanta’s municipal government has been brought to its knees since Thursday morning by a ransomware attack — one of the most sustained and consequential cyberattacks ever mounted against a major American city.

The digital extortion aimed at Atlanta, which security experts have linked to a shadowy hacking crew known for its careful selection of targets, laid bare once again the vulnerabilities of governments as they rely on computer networks for day-to-day operations. In a ransomware attack, malicious software cripples a victim’s computer or network and blocks access to important data until a ransom is paid to unlock it.

“We are dealing with a hostage situation,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said this week.

Read more:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/27/us/cyberattack-atlanta-ransomware.html

Useful lives of capital assets: An important estimate

construction_212793112.jpgWith the condition of infrastructure serving as a point of national discussion, useful life estimates for capital assets make for a timely accounting topic. Governments must maintain support for the useful life estimates they use for assets, and have a process to reassess the estimates periodically. As auditors, there are times we find governments have not kept the documentation to support the estimates they used for reporting or have not performed a recent reassessment, making it difficult to determine whether the reporting is accurate. To further complicate the matter, long-lived assets such as infrastructure and buildings can prove challenging when estimating useful lives. If the useful life of an asset, or class of assets, appears questionable and a government cannot support the useful life estimate it used or has not reassessed that estimate in many years, then this can quickly become an area of audit concern. Continue reading

How your public auditors spent 2017

FB_IMG_1519406480411Your public auditors were busy in 2017. The Office of the Washington State Auditor published more than 2,000 reports covering a wide spectrum of topics.
While many people are familiar with our work in their area, fewer know the full scope of what the Office does across Washington. We are making a concerted effort to increase trust in government, and a key part of that goal is making audit work accessible and easy to understand.
This year, the annual report conveys the same detailed information in a more visual form. The Office’s teams do excellent work across the state, and we want you to know about it.
The 2017 annual report discusses the types of audits performed, our satisfied clients, training public servants and how the Office saves taxpayers money. Click here to check it out!

Kenmore showcases love of community

At the Office of the Washington State Auditor, one of our primary functions is to evaluate the finances of governments across the state. But did you know that what we do goes beyond the bottom line, and into the very heart of what makes a government function well and connect to its residents? This emotional connection is what is at the heart of our newest video, “For the Love of Kenmore.” It’s about helping local governments in Washington find, as Kenmore City Manager Rob Karlinsey puts it, “value beyond the purely financial.”

In 2015, the City of Kenmore invited Peter Kageyama, a community development consultant and author of “For the Love of Cities,” to speak. The goal was to develop what Peter calls the “emotional capital” for both the people of Kenmore and the public servants who work to make Kenmore a great place to call home. The City invited engaged residents to hear Peter speak, and a new private-public collaboration was born, with amazing results.

Fast-forward to 2016, when the Government Performance Consortium (GPC) (a collaboration between the State Auditor’s Office, University of Washington-Tacoma and the Municipal Research and Services Center) invited Kageyama to come to speak at several cities across the state. You can watch that video summary here. After that event, many governments reached out to GPC asking how they, too, could learn more about creating this type of emotional investment in their government — to engage residents and increase trust in their government, and thereby to work better together.

This video shows one response to that demand — that along with good financial management practices, sound budgeting guidance and performance improvements, local governments can find a path toward creating meaningful (and, dare we say, loving ) relationships with the people they serve. For more information about this, and other assistance for local governments, please visit our Performance Center page.