Vinson Logo


Rotate Your Device

It’s Not Your Fault: Why Accountability for Reporting Must Be Shared Across the District

Michael Nutter

October 25, 2017

The lion’s share of any public school district’s funding depends upon the accurate reporting of its record sets, but many districts struggle to coordinate their reporting processes between thousands of stakeholders.

In the private sector, protecting the integrity of its revenue streams is almost always a company’s top priority. Every factor that contributes to a business’ income is carefully analyzed because without proper funding, the company’s operations fall apart. Unfortunately, that type of care doesn’t typically go into protecting the revenue of America’s public schools.

This is due in large part to the fact that the vast majority of public school funding depends on precise, accurate data reporting, a process that few school districts have effectively operationalized. Reporting is something that requires the attention and diligence of every member of the district, but district treasurers and education management information system (EMIS) coordinators are often unfairly blamed when something goes wrong.

While these administrative officials are ultimately responsible for submitting district data to state and federal authorities, the truth is that effective data reporting is always a team effort. As such, school districts hoping to improve their data reporting processes and ensure that they receive every last penny of funding to which they are legally entitled must make every effort to share accountability all the way up and down the reporting chain.

Getting Everyone on Board

One of the biggest impediments to convincing every public school stakeholder to take responsibility for their own small part of the data reporting process is the disconnect that exists between diligent data reporting and the day-to-day work of education. In the corporate world, the fortification of a company’s revenue stream is one and the same as what the company “does.” In public education, however, the kind of data reporting necessary to secure government funding is often completely divorced from what goes on in the classroom, the hallways, and even the principal’s office.

As a result, even though their paychecks depend on it, many administrators, teachers, and school support staff barely give data reporting a second thought. They have no real incentive to understand how reporting systems work, much less any incentive to optimize them, and thus tend to treat data reporting as a tedious chore rather than an integral part of their job.

Not only does poor reporting increase the likelihood that potential funding falls through the cracks, but it also exposes the school district — and even the EMIS coordinator or district treasurer themselves — to legal liability for any inaccurate claims that are made. In Ohio, for instance, district treasurers are held responsible for the accuracy of any and all information in their schools’ reported records.

Considerable Liability, Limited Control

Because of liability standards like those in Ohio, EMIS coordinators and district treasurers can be punished for the mistakes of thousands of administrators, teachers, staff, parents, and even students. So why can’t these coordinators and treasurers just catch the mistakes before they submit their final reports? One part of the issue is the concurrent use of several different pieces of non-interoperable software.

For example, a school’s athletic department might use one program to report the need for 2,000 gym uniforms, but the school’s general student management software might find that only 1,600 students are eligible for active participation in gym class. If the data created by the athletic department is not compatible with the data that populates the general student management system, somebody will have to spend a significant amount of time manually cross-checking the data in order to sort out the discrepancy.

If a school district doesn’t have any formal protocols in place requiring the athletic department to check and double-check its data before delivering it up the reporting chain, the data validation burden will fall squarely on the district treasurer or EMIS coordinator. Unfortunately, there are simply not enough hours in the day for a single person or even a small team of data specialists to validate each and every piece of data they receive, let alone resolve each and every data discrepancy that emerges.

This is why it is so important for school districts to hold every stakeholder accountable for their own data, no matter where they fall on the chain of command. When a district establishes a clear set of procedures governing data reporting, ownership of specific data sets, and software interoperability, its treasurer or EMIS coordinator can be much more confident in the accuracy and completeness of the data they are submitting.

Partnering with a Data Reporting Expert

Crafting such procedures can be a challenge for any administration, but Vinson Consulting Group has spent years developing the expertise necessary to be the perfect partner for any school district. At Vinson, we recognize that no two districts are identical, and we are prepared to work with you to first understand your current data reporting processes and then help you streamline and improve them.

Through stakeholder interviews, EMIS protocol reviews, and data accountability reports, we inspect every aspect of a school district’s data reporting processes inside and out, and strive to ensure that the district adopts whatever measures necessary to guarantee that it receives as much funding as possible.

get in touch