To take advantage of a provision that allowed Ohio school districts to throw out test scores of students who weren’t continuously enrolled in the school during the academic year, Toledo Public Schools officials manipulated the attendance data on its chronically-absent students in order to keep their test scores from negatively impacting district and state ratings. TPS Superintendent Jerome Pecko confirmed that the practice was ongoing and widespread to The Toledo Blade last week.
Under the regulations governing the computation of school ratings, districts can decline to count scores of students who aren’t enrolled continuously between October and the period when the standardized tests are typically administered. In most Ohio districts, the testing is done between March and May. Instead of including the test scores of students who were truant during a large portion of the school year, administrators instead retroactively withdrew and re-enrolled them, this making their scores ineligible for inclusion.
This first came to light when the media reported last month that Columbus City Schools were taking advantage of the provision in this way. In response to this news, Pecko ordered a review conducted in Toledo, as a result of which, similar malpractice was uncovered.
School officials and a lawyer hired to independently investigate the matter have asked state education officials for an opinion on whether the Toledo schools violated state rules.
Mr. Pecko, who disclosed the information during a meeting with The Blade’s editorial board Friday, said the same practice was in use at Toledo Public Schools, although he did not know for how long nor how many students it affected. He said it would not be done this year and he does not expect it to lower TPS’ “continuous improvement” ranking with the Ohio Department of Education.
During the meeting with The Blade board, Pecko explained that once he heard about goings on in Columbus, he had to make sure that the provision wasn’t being similarly misused in his own district. Pecko added that he wasn’t certain if changing the enrollment status retroactively was a legitimate way to interpret that regulation or not, and chose to bring the practice to an end in Toledo, pending a clarification from either the Board of Education or state lawmakers. He added that once the scores of habitually truant students were figured it, he didn’t anticipate that the ranking of the district, currently listed as “continuous improvement,” will change.
Mr. Pecko said the review discovered that students who fall within the statutory definition of “habitual truancy” are not included in the scores tabulations on building and district annual report cards.
“In particular, I discovered that at end of the year, the district had a practice of retroactively removing from the tabulation students who met that definition and then immediately re-enrolling them,” he said.
Mr. Pecko said he was unsure if the previous two superintendents — Eugene Sanders and John Foley — knew about or endorsed the practice.