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OREA Report Examines Effectiveness of Extended School Hours on Learning

Press Release from the Office of Tennessee Comptroller Justin P. Wilson, Feb. 6, 2014:

Many schools across Tennessee are increasing their classroom hours, but it’s difficult to measure what effect that’s having on student achievement, a new report from the Comptroller’s Offices of Research and Education Accountability (OREA) indicates.

The report, which was released today, examines common practices, funding and effectiveness of extended learning time and profiles Tennessee schools that are using it.

Extending the length of the school day or increasing the number of school days are strategies low-performing schools sometimes use in an effort to boost student achievement. That may increase students’ time in school anywhere from 90 to 300 additional hours per year.

OREA’s report found that 79 traditional schools in 38 districts in Tennessee were using some level of extended learning time in 2012-13 school year. In addition to the traditional schools, 49 charter schools – which typically offer extended learning time as part of their education models – were operating in Tennessee that year. This year, 15 more traditional schools and numerous charter schools have implemented extended learning time.

Because extended school hours are often implemented in conjunction with other education reforms such as improving the quality of instruction, using existing time effectively and developing data to pinpoint student needs, the effect of extended learning time on student achievement is difficult to isolate. Researchers have yet to establish a strong link between extended hours and student achievement.

Research has indicated, however, that academic benefits are most likely to come from additional time that is structured and focused with students fully engaged in learning. Disadvantaged students are most likely to benefit.

Many schools currently implementing extended learning time are doing so through the use of federal school improvement grants. These grants – intended to help the lowest performing school improve academic achievement – require numerous reforms, including extended school schedules.

OREA is an agency within the Comptroller’s Office that is charged with providing accurate and objective policy research and analysis for the Tennessee General Assembly and the public.

To view the report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/OREA/

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Audit: Former Cheerleading Coach Pocketed Thousands in School Funds

Press Release from Comptroller Justin Wilson; August 24, 2011:

Former Pigeon Forge Cheerleading Coach Pockets School Funds

An investigation by the Comptroller’s Division of Municipal Audit has revealed that the former cheerleading coach at Pigeon Forge High School and Pigeon Forge Middle School kept thousands of dollars in fees and revenues from fundraising activities that should have been turned over to the schools.

From 2008 through 2010, Pamela Schleif, the former coach, failed to turn over at least $11,950 in cheerleading fees that were supposed to cover costs such as uniforms, cheer camp expenses and shoes. Team members who paid the fees didn’t always receive the equipment they were promised.

Prospective cheerleaders were also required to pay tryout fees between $20 and $25 per person. Auditors discovered that Ms. Schleif failed to submit at least $700 in tryout fees.

Auditors also determined that Ms. Schleif submitted less money from fundraisers to the high school’s bookkeeper than parents and cheerleaders said should have been available.

· For instance, parents and cheerleaders said one pancake breakfast should have netted $1,700, but Ms. Schleif turned in only $260 – 45 days after the event was held.

· In another case, Ms. Schleif turned over at least $600 less than expected from a doughnut sale.

· For a car wash and a peanut sale, she did not hand over any money.

· Also, the cheer team sold advertisements to local businesses for t-shirts that were to be worn by team members. Ms. Schleif submitted more than $4,500 in checks to the bookkeeper, but no cash for advertising – even though at least one business claimed to have made payment in cash. Also, some parents, cheer team members and business owners said the shirts were never distributed to the team.

The investigative report, which was released today, also noted that Ms. Schleif failed to maintain proper documentation of money raised through fundraising activities and the school principals didn’t provide adequate oversight of those activities.

“It is important to remember that coaches and others involved in school support organizations are in positions of public trust, so they need to act accordingly,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “When people give money to fundraisers held by these organizations, there is an expectation that money will ultimately benefit the students. It is unacceptable for adults to abuse positions of public trust for their own personal gain.”

The findings of the report have been referred to the local district attorney general.

To view the report online, go to: http://www.comptroller1.state.tn.us/RA_MA_Financial/Report_Investigative.aspx

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Rutherford Co. Gov’t Nationally Recognized for Accuracy in Accounting

Press Release from the Senate GOP Caucus, Aug. 10, 2011:

(NASHVILLE, TN) — Rutherford County is one of eight counties in Tennessee that recently received national recognition from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) for outstanding accounting practices.

The GFOA presents certificates of achievement to state and local governments across the country that exceed the minimum requirements of generally accepted accounting principles and prepare comprehensive annual financial reports that provide high levels of transparency and disclosure about their operations.

“I want to congratulate officials in Rutherford County for their excellent work in preparing their financial documents,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “In order to maintain credibility with the public, I think it is extremely important for governments to be open in their financial dealings. The citizens of Rutherford County should be pleased that the people who represent their interests in county government have chosen to do far more than the minimum in making financial information available.”

“This is a significant recognition,” said Sen. Bill Ketron, who is chairman of the Fiscal Review Committee, which serves as the state’s watchdog on financial matters. “In current economic times, it is more important than ever that we have the highest level of financial scrutiny in handling taxpayer money. I heartily congratulate our local officials for their outstanding work.”

“This award recognizes the counties that are doing an outstanding job in tracking their finances,” Sen. Jim Tracy said. “People who live in Rutherford County have good reason to be proud.”

“When it comes to handling the taxpayers’ money, it’s important for government officials to do more than meet minimum requirements,” Rep. Pat Marsh said. “And this award demonstrates that officials in Rutherford County are doing more than meeting the minimum requirements.”

“I commend Rutherford County for being recognized by the GFOA,” Rep. Mike Sparks said. “This is an award that may not be familiar to many people in the general public, but it’s very important to people who work as government accountants. Counties that earn this distinction can serve as role models for their peers across the country.”

“Once again, under the more than capable leadership of Mayor Ernest Burgess, County Trustee Teb Batey and the County Commission, Rutherford County moves forward with tried and true conservative principles of efficient and accountable government,” said Rep. Joe Carr.

“I’d like to commend Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess for his outstanding leadership and attention to detail when it comes to the finances of Rutherford County,” Rep. Rick Womick said. “He is a true asset and a huge benefit to the people of Rutherford County.”