MDE Begins Teacher Professional Development Audits

Some districts recently received a letter from the Michigan Department of Education’s Office of Professional Preparation Services—Professional Accountability Unit (“OPPS”) notifying them that they have been selected for an audit of their professional development records. The notification letters sought records showing proof of compliance with either Section 1526 or 1527 of the Revised School Code.

Section 1526 requires that new teachers “receive intensive professional development induction into teaching” during their first 3 years of employment, which must consist of, in part, at least 15 days of pro­fessional development over 3 years. Section 1527 requires districts to provide “at least 5 days of teacher professional development each school year.” The 15 days required by Section 1526 must be in addition to the 5 days annually required by Section 1527. The Michigan Pupil Accounting Manual specifies that pro­fessional development sessions must last at least one hour.

MDE has not conducted professional development audits in recent years. OPPS was directed, however, by the Auditor General in the fall of 2014 to develop a plan for professional development audits and to begin conducting such audits. Accordingly, many districts have received a letter requesting copies of profession­al development records from the previous three school years. The letter also includes a list of individu­al teachers for whom records must be provided.

OPPS further requests evidence of dates, times, and topics covered in professional development. For each date listed, OPPS requests at least one form of documentation, which may include:

  • sign-in sheets
  • attendance logs
  • flyers or other notices announcing the event
  • agendas
  • meeting minutes
  • travel vouchers
  • food receipts
  • district calendars with the dates of the profes­sional development noted

Districts must submit proof that the professional development was offered to the listed teachers, not necessarily that the listed teachers attended the pro­fessional development. This documentation must be submitted electronically.

Professional development is required by law, and penalties are possible for noncompliance. Under Sec­tion 1804 of the Revised School Code, “a school official or member of a school board or intermediate school board or other person who neglects or refuses to do or perform an act required by this act, or who violates or knowingly permits or consents to a violation of this act, is guilty of a misdemeanor.” However, the State School Aid Act does not require any state aid deduc­tion for noncompliance with the professional development requirements.

If OPPS determines that your district violated the provisions of Sections 1526 or 1527, it is unlikely that a state aid penalty will be assessed. MDE has indicated that noncompliant districts will receive a letter notify­ing them that they are not in compliance and request­ing that they bring themselves into compliance.

MDE also stated that the selection process for audits was not random. Although the selection process is unclear, if your district receives a letter from OPPS stating that the district failed to conform with either Section 1526 or 1527, your district may be audited again in the future.

If your district receives notification of a Section 1526 or 1527 audit, it is important to send the docu­mentation within the timelines specified in the letter. Failure to adhere to the timelines will result in written notification that your district is not in compliance and, likely, future professional development audits.