Fraud Allegations Cause Delay in Ohio State School Report Cards
State school board members have voted to delay the release of Ohio's annual school report cards pending an investigation of questionable attendance numbers in Columbus, Toledo and other districts by the state auditor’s office
(August 22, 2012) – The Ohio State Board of Education has voted unanimously to postpone the release of the 2011-2012 Ohio school report cards until the accuracy of attendance data reported by local school districts has been investigated. The annual report cards, which offer a detailed view of how students in grades 3 to 10 scored on state tests, as well as attendance and graduation rates, had been scheduled to be released Aug. 29, 2012.
Ohio Auditor Dave Yost's investigation into the accuracy of the data provided by the school districts began after a report in the Columbus Dispatch which alleged that Columbus district administrators had selectively withdrawn and then re-enrolled students that had a high number of absences. By manipulating the student's enrollment periods so that the students were not enrolled during the bulk of the school year, the district prevented those students’ state test scores and their absences from lowering the district's report card.
Unfortunately there are signs that the Columbus incident is not an isolated case. The Ohio Department of Education recently investigated the Lockland district near Cincinnati and decided to lower that district’s state rating because of findings that low-performing students were being improperly removed from attendance rolls to improve school performance rankings. Meanwhile the superintendent of the Toledo district told the Toledo Blade that administrators there had made questionable withdrawals of low-performing students from the school registers before he stopped the practice.
Given these widespread allegations of fraud, in July 2012 Auditor Yost decided to expand his enquiry to include all Ohio districts and charter schools. Given the sheer number of schools involved, it is unclear how long this investigation will take. Yost has only said that he hopes to present his findings sometime in the fall, even though Federal officials had originally required Ohio to issue the local report cards during August 2012 as a condition for having certain requirements of federal No Child Left Behind Act waived.
However, Acting Ohio Superintendent Michael Sawyers has reported that because of the ongoing investigation by the Auditor's Office, federal education officials agree that questions about the integrity of the underlying data need to be answered before the reports can be issued. As a result, Sawyers said the U.S. Department of Education has authorized a temporary delay in issuing the school report cards until the Ohio State Board of Education meets again in September.
The US Department of Education is not the only one waiting for the school district report cards. These ratings, which range from Excellent with Distinction down to Academic Emergency, are widely used by everyone from parents to homebuyers to taxpayers to make decisions about where to live or how to best educate their child. Teachers and principals are frequently judged by the data that goes into the calculations as well, and schools that receive poor ratings face repercussions from both the state and federal government.
More information about the current state of the Auditor's investigation and the status of the school report cards can be found at Ohio State Board of Education website www.ode.state.oh.us/
"We feel it is very important to get the news out about how student enrollment manipulation can falsely raise the ratings of a school and prevent parents from making the best choice for their child," notes page administrator S.S. Ober-Lehn. "And Facebook's international appeal makes the Proud to be from Ohio fanpage a natural place for anyone who is concerned about this issue to come together to discuss the situation and help spread awareness about it."