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School Administrators Got Bonuses for Deleting Attendance Data

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Monday, August 13, 2012 at 1:50 PM

School officials at Columbus City Schools may have gotten bonuses for scrubbing student data to boost their schools' test scores.

Some Columbus City Schools administrators who deleted student attendance records to boost their schools' test scores were rewarded with bonuses, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

The Dispatch reports that the district has a "gainsharing" program that rewards school administrators and teachers for boosting attendance and graduation rates as well as test scores.

Deleting student absences may boost a district's overall test scores, in turn lifting the grade it gets from the state.

One high-school assistant principal who was paid a $2,250 performance bonus in November deleted more than 11,000 student absences at his school in 2010-11. About 30 percent of those deletions happened in the month before the student data were sent to the state to be used in school report-card calculations.

That high school has about 800 students, which means that the assistant principal erased about 7.6 percent of the possible attendance days. The result: a near-perfect attendance rate for the school year.

In fact, Ohio Auditor Dave Yost told The Dispatch he has compiled a list "that may evolve" of people and schools that could have financially benefited from "scrubbing" student attendance records.

Yost had previously written a letter to the Ohio Department of Education requesting records for all public schools around the state and asking the department to step out of any future investigation on the subject.

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The department has said it welcomes the auditor's investigation, and that schools may see their rankings retroactively dropped if they are found to have been inappropriately manipulating student data.

The student attendance charges broke just before now former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner resigned, following a report by the Inspector General that found he had committed ethics violations. Last summer, Heffner had testified before Ohio lawmakers on behalf of a bill that could have benefited a testing company he had accepted a job with. He also used state equipment and employees for personal business as he prepared to move to Texas for that job.

Michael Sawyers, former Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, is now the state's acting superintendent of public instruction.

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