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Up to 100 Ohio Schools Are Potential Targets of Attendance Rigging Investigation

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Monday, August 20, 2012 at 7:32 PM

Michael Sawyers is Ohio's acting superintendent of public instruction.

Up to 100 Ohio schools -- less than 3 percent of all charter and traditional public schools in the state -- may have improperly changed student attendance data to make the school's state report card look better, an Ohio Department of Education official said yesterday.

Acting state Superintendent Michael Sawyers said department staff helped investigators in the state auditor's office identify schools with high numbers of student withdrawals. Those schools may face formal reviews by the auditor's office, which is investigating how schools across Ohio report and alter student attendance data.

Having a high number of withdrawals doesn't necessarily mean those schools did anything wrong. But withdrawing a student means that their test scores no longer count towards his or her school's report card, even if that student later re-enrolls. That means it can be used to drop low-performing students from the calculations that determine's a school's state grade.

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Staff in the Columbus school district have been accused of specifically withdrawing students who might drag the school's report card down and then re-enrolling them.

The Lockland district near Cincinnati also withdrew and then re-enrolled students, artificially boosting the district's state rating, an Ohio Department of Education investigation found. And the Toledo Blade reports that top Toledo administrators told district staff to withdraw and re-enroll and certain students.

The department had said it would conduct its own internal investigation, but that investigation is on hold pending the results of the state auditor's investigation. The state auditor's office declined to comment on the investigation.

"Not all schools in Ohio are guilty. They're not. Not all schools in Ohio are suspect. They're not," Sawyers said today. "Although there may be a few that have figured out something that can enhance their data, we should not be blaming them all."

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