Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 5:00 AM
Ohio is delaying the release of school report cards indefinitely pending the outcome of a statewide investigation into whether some schools manipulated student data to make their state report card grades look better.
"The report cards are intended to give an accurate picture of how well schools are doing and they shouldn't be released with a cloud hanging over their reliability," acting state Superintendent Michael Sawyers told the state Board of Education today.
The delay means that for now, parents must rely on last year's report cards in evaluating their children's schools and potentially choosing a different traditional public or charter school. And it means that some schools that might become eligible for federal dollars targeted toward low-performing schools this year won't receive that money yet, though they may be able to access other federal funds.
Beyond family decision-making, the state report cards are used for a range of purposes, including determining the school improvement steps low-performing schools must take. They're also used to determine which students are eligible for publicly funded private school scholarships, where new charter schools can open and which charter schools must close.
Sawyers said it would be "irresponsible" to release school report cards before State Auditor Dave Yost releases the results of his investigation into student data manipulation. Yost has said he plans to release those results before November.
At the very least, the report cards will not be released until after the board's next meeting, which begins on Sept. 10, Sawyers said.
Postponing the report cards' release until after their previously scheduled Aug. 29 release required permission from the U.S. Department of Education, Sawyers said. That's because in its application for a waiver from some parts of the federal No Child Left Behind law, Ohio pledged to release school report cards by the end of August.
The Ohio Department of Education will likely also postpone the release of rankings of all public schools until after the Sept 1 deadline set in state law, Sawyers said. But he said how the department could legally delay the release was "an open question."
Those rankings, required by last year's state budget, rank all school districts, traditional public schools and charter schools based on student standardized test performance. Schools and districts at the top get bragging rights. Those at the bottom face consequences including, for charter schools, closure.
The state Board of Education voted unanimously to support delaying the report cards' release. But some board members said the delay and ongoing investigation meant that residents in some school districts are assuming that their local district had done something wrong.
"They're getting a lot of pressure from parents thinking this is the local districts holding this up," board Member Jeff Hardin said.
Sawyers said that was not the case.
"We will take responsibility for the delay," he said. "It is not the decision of the local school district."