Auditor Faber Issues Performance Audit of the Ohio Department of Education

Tuesday, January 26, 2021


For Immediate Release:                                                      

January 26, 2021                                                                    


Auditor Faber Issues Performance Audit of the Ohio Department of Education

Columbus – Auditor of State Keith Faber’s Office released the performance audit of the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). The report reviewed student assessments, student success, the Foundation payment process, Education Management Information System (EMIS), and internal IT.

One of the key findings made by the Auditor’s Performance Audit Team is the correlation between student success and district spending per student.  The audit focused on the 79 highest performing districts in this regard and found that their spending to achieve success varied greatly. The conclusion being expenditure per pupil does not always determine student achievement in Ohio.

“The state legislature is once again evaluating school funding, this report can provide important insight into student and district success and its correlation to spending,” said Auditor Faber. “ODE is one of the most important state agencies, working to provide our kids with the tools they need to be successful now and into the future, so it’s imperative that we help ensure the Department and the local educational agencies are working effectively. The opportunities and suggestions we offer can help to make sure our investment in Ohio’s schools provide our children with the assistance they need to be their best.”

The performance audit shows that simply spending more money will not by itself result in better student performance. ODE awards school districts Performance Index (PI) scores which serve to quantify their success as it relates to the overall achievement of each student.  An important takeaway in relation to PI scores is that while spending in some priority areas has a positive correlation on student performance, often times spending tends to have very little statistical bearing on student achievement. Districts that spend just above $8,000 per student perform as well as districts that spend $25,000 per student.

The study did not include an examination of socio-economic conditions that also impact student performance. It concentrated mainly on the 79 highest performing districts and compares their achievements to the costs associated on a per student basis, though the findings were consistent within each band of district letter grades assigned by ODE. It is important to note that as total district spending increases, there is no single expenditure category driving the increase and categories typically increase across the board.

Recommendations stemming from this analysis of spending and student success include;

  • ODE should monitor districts the Department deems to be high performing or high improving, particularly those that achieve results at lower-than-average expenditure levels in order to determine how other districts might achieve more cost-effective outcomes.


  • ODE has 68 separate programs directly or tangentially related to improving student achievement and invests significant financial and personnel resources in deploying these programs. Although many federal and some state programs have activity measures, the Department has not established a routine, timely, consistent objective method to measure the efficacy of these program outcomes or whether the programs achieve their goals.

The Auditor’s Ohio Performance Team website contains an interactive maps showing the achievement versus per pupil spending data provided by ODE and used in this report from school districts across the state. These maps are accessible to the public here.

Auditors analysis also showed that while Ohio meets federal and state required testing, ODE should examine whether the significant cost of a state developed and administered testing is the most efficient and effective method of determining student assessment.

Additional recommendations about Student assessments, student success, the Foundation payment process, EMIS, and internal IT are available in the report online.

In addition to the eight recommendations, our audit identified two noteworthy accomplishments, one of which is in regard to how the Department manages IT projects and the other details how it ensures adoptions of new systems, programs, and processes.

ODE’s IT team has used Agile Method project management practices for several years, which is considered a best practice within the IT sector. This method leads to an agency being able to deliver better and more successful projects faster, and at a lower cost.

Additionally, during the course of the audit, auditors identified that ODE leadership had created a project implementation team, responsible for ensuring implementation and adoption of major undertakings. They are currently focused on three major areas: policy, program and technology. This team has assisted the Department in making the organization more efficient and effective in regards to project management and implementation.

The Auditor of State is required to complete four performance audits of state agencies or institutions of higher education during each biennium. This performance audit was also mandated by House Bill 166 of the 133rd General Assembly. Performance Audits examine the efficiency and effectiveness of government programs and functions to improve operations, identify cost savings, and ensure programs are achieving their intended purposes. Members of the Auditor’s Ohio Performance Team consulted with ODE to determine the scope of the audit.

This report is part of the required performance audits of four state agencies per biennium.




The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio is responsible for auditing more than 6,000 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Keith Faber, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies, and promotes transparency in government.