Ohio Department of Education have said that six Ohio school districts improperly tossed out the absences and test scores for more than 4,000 students, which might have led to better-than-deserved school report cards for the districts.
The state's Office of Professional Conduct will investigate employees in those districts, which include Cincinnati, Cleveland and Toledo, as the division can move to suspend or revoke educator licenses. Department spokesman John Charlton said that it will find the individual wrongdoers and that employees in a seventh district, Marion, will be referred for different "questionable practices". The department added that reporting inaccurate data to the state violates Ohio law.
"Misreporting of attendance data, or âscrubbing,' jeopardizes the entire accountability system in Ohio and will not be tolerated," state Superintendent Richard Ross said in a news release yesterday announcing the investigation's end.
In 2010-11, the school year that was investigated, Cleveland improperly withdrew 3,540 students — more than 8% of its enrollment. Roughly comprising 2% of its students, Toledo removed 425 kids it shouldn't have. Meanwhile, Cincinnati took out 130, which is less than half a percent of its students. Citing they thought they were following state rules but that the rules were fuzzy, all of those districts have defended their actions.
State Auditor Dave Yost launched a statewide investigation into student-data problems began after reports in the media emerged that administrators had been altering student data. Nine Ohio school districts, including Columbus, had withdrawn and then quickly re-enrolled students who hadn't left, a practice known as "scrubbing." Students were absent frequently or had low test scores in most cases.
Districts could exclude their absences and test scores from state report-card calculations by withdrawing them. After Yost completed his own statewide investigation last year, the education department began examining whether students had been improperly withdrawn. Because it was investigated separately by Yost and the FBI, Columbus wasn't included in the department's report. The findings of those probes are yet to be released.
According to Jennifer Smith Richards of The Columbus Dispatch, they will also examine withdrawals and recalculate report cards for the 2011-12 school year.
A spokeswoman for Cleveland schools says the district "has acknowledged problems in our record-keeping process that have since been addressed". But, said Roseann Canfora in an email, "We do not believe there was any effort to intentionally manipulate our student data."
On the same day the Ohio Department of Education announced news of the six schools, Cincinnati said in a release that it looks forward to having its report card recalculated, as it has already done so internally and found that including the 130 students makes no difference in its overall rating that year.
The week of January 27th will see the results of Yost's investigation into Columbus. Afterwards, the department will launch its own examination of the effect scrubbing had on the district's report-card ratings.