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Ohio Auditor Finds "Happy Surprise" in Second Phase of School Data Scrubbing Investigation

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 7:36 PM

Auditor Dave Yost announced the findings of the second part of a state investigation into attendance data scrubbing at a Columbus press conference today.

The Ohio Auditor of State's office is investigating whether some Ohio schools withdrew students to make the school's performance look better, particularly on state report cards.

Auditor Dave Yost released his office's second report on that investigation today.

Q: What did the report look at?

A: This report examined student records in 47 of the 184 school districts that have levies or bond issues on the November ballot. It makes great "bedtime reading," Yost says.

Q: What did the state auditors find?

A: Of the school districts the auditor's office looked at for this report, none had evidence of scrubbing, which the auditor's office defines as withdrawing students from enrollment "without lawful reason."

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"The happy surprise is that we didn't find evidence of scrubbing out of this group of schools," Yost says.

The auditors looked at 81 individual school buildings within those 47 school districts: 53 buildings were considered “clean” with no issues identified to date; 20 buildings had records containing sporadic errors; and eight buildings are still trying to locate requested records.

"Sporadic errors" included things such as missing student records and documentation, and, in the case of the Centerville school district, an annual policy of destroying student enrollment and withdrawal forms.

An earlier report looked at schools with the highest number of students whose test score didn't count towards their schools state report cards because of a break in attendance. (Students must be continuously enrolled in a school for their test score to count for that school's state report card.)

That first report also looked at 28 other school districts in order to gather data for future audits. That report found evidence of scrubbing in five districts.

Q: What about the 137 other districts with levies on the ballot?

A: The auditor's previous report found that both Cleveland and Toledo had engaged in scrubbing. Both districts have levies on the November ballot.

Yost says he can't say whether the remaining 135 districts improperly scrubbed student data. That's because the way that the auditors selected schools to audit for scrubbing doesn't allow the auditors to say that the results from this round of audits can be applied to the entire group of districts.

But Yost says, "It appears that the odds are that most districts are reporting student attendance accurately and they're not scrubbing."

Q: What happens next?

A: The auditor's office is aiming to release a final report on data scrubbing in Ohio schools in January. Yost says that keeping to that timeline depends on finding a method to plan an audit that can suss out scrubbing without requiring auditors to visit every school in the state.

Yost has said he won't say whether or not anyone actually meant to do anything wrong until then.

Auditor of State Press Conference - Oct. 23, 2012

School Districts with Levies Included in Data Scrubbing Audit

[spreadsheet key="0Ars3eyO0VAaYdFRQZmRfZTlQMURFY3NYT1pKZWZrSkE" source="" sheet=0 filter=1 paginate=1 sortable=1]

Source: Ohio Auditor of State

Notes: Auditor of State Dave Yost said none of the districts on this list engaged in data scrubbing.

This audit was conducted by looking at individual school buildings in each district. State auditors categorized each building as "clean" ( no student records errors), "with errors" (errors in student records but not evidence of scrubbing), or "indeterminate" (the audit could not be completed). District may have schools in one or more of those categories.

In addition to the districts on this list, the report identified 26 school districts that were very unlikely to have engaged in data scrubbing. Of those districts, three have levies on the November ballot: Kirtland, Ottawa Hills and South Range.

Also in addition to the districts on this list, Cleveland and Toledo have levies on the November ballot and were included in an earlier auditor's report on data scrubbing. That report found that both districts had engaged in the practice, but did not make a finding about whether staff in either district intended to break the law.


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