Ohio DOE Targets 65 Columbus Educators for Data Scrubbing

The Ohio Department of Education has sent letters to 65 Columbus City Schools educators letting them know they are under investigation for data scrubbing.

"Actions that mislead the public about the performance of our education system are unacceptable and do a disservice to kids," State Superintendent Richard Ross said in a statement.

The department served subpoenas to 61 current and former educators this past June, including former Superintendent Gene Harris, as well as 32 active principals and assistant principals. The educators are being investigated for illegally changing student data.

Many of the letters allowed educators the opportunity to turn in their licenses or to meet with investigators and offer an explanation. A negotiated settlement may be offered which may involve the temporary loss of the license needed to hold a teaching position within the state.

Those who choose not to take the settlement can request a public hearing. A recommendation from the hearing will be made to the State Board of Education.

The department subpoenaed Harris' records in June, asking for her personnel file, disciplinary file, emails to and from her pertaining to withdrawing students, grade changes "and the failure to properly account for students' attendance."

Harris testified that she was unaware of any illegal data changes, and that once she did become aware in 2012 she demanded the activity stop.

This week she met for an extended period of time with Franklin County prosecutors. No comment has been made by either side about the meeting.

As a result of the investigation, 18 of the district's 116 schools will receive a lower report-card rating. The schools had been manipulating the data for at least three years to exclude students who were chronically absent or performed poorly on exams. Administrators then re-enrolled the students.

In all, about 1,500 students were withdrawn over the three years by administrators.

"Having the verified reports out helps us move forward with our focus in 2014-15," said Todd Tuney, the district's communications chief.

While many of the districts' schools will receive lower grades, two Columbus schools' ratings will actually go up: Columbus Africentric Early College Elementary will go from an F to a D, and Independence High School will receive a C in place of a D.

According to The Dispatch, about 600 Columbus City Schools employees were given bonuses which totaled $390,000, for academic gains that were constructed by illegal data changes.

No data manipulation was found for the past school year, the first year Columbus Superintendent Dan Good was on the job. State Superintendent Richard Ross applauded Good for his "aggressive steps" in ensuring the data was correct for the district.

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