Report 2015-112 Recommendation 18 Responses

Report 2015-112: Student Mental Health Services: Some Students' Services Were Affected by a New State Law, and the State Needs to Analyze Student Outcomes and Track Service Costs (Release Date: January 2016)

Recommendation #18 To: Education, Department of

Education should analyze and report to the Legislature, by May 30, 2016, on the outcomes for students receiving mental health services statewide, including outcomes across the six performance indicators we identified, in order to demonstrate whether those services are effective. Once it has reported this statewide information, Education should provide each LEA throughout the State a report regarding the outcomes for the students the LEA served.

Annual Follow-Up Agency Response From November 2017

Education continues to not concur with this recommendation. However, Education is complying with SB 884, Chapter 835, Statutes of 2016, sections 3 and 4. A draft report is currently in process and will be sent to the Legislature.

California State Auditor's Assessment of Annual Follow-Up Status: Will Not Implement


1-Year Agency Response

Senate Bill 884, chaptered September 29, 2016, added Section 56415 to the California Education Code. Pursuant to that statute, Education will create a report on pupil outcomes for pupils receiving mental health services through an individualized education program. Pupil outcomes will include graduation rates, dropout rates, statewide assessment results, suspension and expulsion rates, participation in general education classes, and postschool data. Education will send this report to the appropriate fiscal and policy committees of the Legislature by June 30, 2017, as required by the statute.

  • Estimated Completion Date: June 30, 2017
  • Response Date: January 2017

California State Auditor's Assessment of 1-Year Status: Pending


6-Month Agency Response

Education continues to not concur with this recommendation. Education questions the auditor's rationalization that the quality of mental health services a student receives can be measured by the student's academic outcomes given the various factors that influence those outcomes. Education is concerned that observers may assign direct causality between IEP-based mental health services and a student's educational outcomes based on the data proposed for collection by this recommendation. Given that there are numerous factors that affect a student's educational performance, it would not be practical to attribute increases or decreases in performance based on any single factor, or to determine the relative benefit of one element of a student's educational experience on the student's performance.

However, changes in current state law could impose additional obligations on LEAs that may create new reporting requirements. For example, although in draft form, Senate Bill 884 (SB 884) would require LEAs to annually provide data needed to document student outcomes on the six key performance indicators recommended for any student receiving IEP-based related services. If this legislation is enacted, Education could use the available data to report to each LEA the student outcome data for students with disabilities the LEA served in accordance with the State Systemic Improvement Plan for special education.

While Education currently collects outcome data, the auditor's recommendation would require Education to acquire additional outcome data and incur new responsibilities concerning how the data would be reported. Consequently, Education would need additional resources to implement the reporting aspect of the recommendation. Furthermore, given that the recommendation would impose a new reporting requirement on LEAs, Education anticipates that there will also be a fiscal impact on LEAs.

  • Response Date: July 2016

California State Auditor's Assessment of 6-Month Status: Will Not Implement

As it did in its 60-day response, Education continues to believe that it is constrained to performing a very narrow analysis in order to implement our recommendation. As we highlight in our audit report, if Education analyzed academic outcomes for students receiving mental health services as they compare to the outcomes for students who did not receive mental health services, then it would be able to reach a conclusion about the effectiveness of those services because the services would be the only factor that distinguished the two groups from one another.

We are unclear why Education believes it would need to collect additional information to implement our recommendation. As we discuss in our audit report, state law already requires SELPAs to forward outcome information to Education, and Education publishes a report that describes the outcomes for the entire population of students receiving special education, including the six key areas we included in our recommendation. Further, Education already collects information about the services that are included in students' IEPs, which would allow it to identify, from the entire population it already reports on, those students who received a mental health service. Therefore, it is puzzling that Education is claiming it does not have all the information it would need to implement our recommendation.


60-Day Agency Response

Education continues to not concur with this recommendation. Education questions the auditor's rationalization that the quality of mental health services a student receives can be measured by the student's academic outcomes given the various factors that influence those outcomes. Education is concerned that observers may assign direct causality between IEP-based mental health services and a student's educational outcomes based on the data proposed for collection by this recommendation. Given that there are numerous factors that affect a student's educational performance, it would not be practical to attribute increases or decreases in performance based on any single factor, or to determine the relative benefit of one element of a student's educational experience on the student's performance.

However, changes in current state law could impose additional obligations on LEAs that may create new reporting requirements. For example, Senator Beall's office has sought Education's input and assistance in drafting legislation, Senate Bill 884* (SB 884), that would require LEAs to annually provide data needed to document student outcomes on the six key performance indicators recommended for any student receiving IEP-based related services. If this legislation is approved, Education could use the available data to report to each LEA the student outcome data for students with disabilities the LEA served in accordance with the State Systemic Improvement Plan for special education.

While Education currently collects outcome data, the auditor's recommendation would require Education to acquire additional outcome data and incur new responsibilities concerning how the data would be reported. Consequently, Education would need additional resources to implement the reporting aspect of the recommendation. Furthermore, given that the recommendation would impose a new reporting requirement on LEAs, Education anticipates that there will also be a fiscal impact on LEAs.

  • Response Date: April 2016

California State Auditor's Assessment of 60-Day Status: Will Not Implement

Education continues to believe that it is constrained to performing a very narrow analysis in order to implement our recommendation. As we highlight in our audit report, if Education analyzed academic outcomes for students receiving mental health services as they compare to the outcomes for students who did not receive mental health services, then it would be able to reach a conclusion about the effectiveness of those services because the services would be the only factor that distinguished the two groups from one another.

We are unclear why Education believes it would need to collect additional information to implement our recommendation. As we discuss in our audit report, state law already requires SELPAs to forward outcome information to Education, and Education publishes a report that describes the outcomes for the entire population of students receiving special education, including the six key areas we included in our recommendation. Further, Education already collects information about the services that are included in students' IEPs, which would allow it to identify, from the entire population it already reports on, those students who received a mental health service. Therefore, it is puzzling that Education is claiming it does not have all the information it would need to implement our recommendation.


All Recommendations in 2015-112

Agency responses received are posted verbatim.


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