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State Auditor Finds Evidence of Student Data Scrubbing at Four More Districts

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Monday, February 11, 2013 at 5:10 PM


Four more districts have "scrubbed" student attendance data, according to a report by state auditor Dave Yost.

That brings the total number of school districts found to have intentionally changed their student enrollment data to nine statewide.

Scrubbing refers to removing students from enrollment without lawful reason.

Scrubbing of that kind could lead to increases in funding or scoring higher on the state report cards.

The final audit found evidence of scrubbing at Canton City Schools, Cincinnati City Schools, Northridge Local Schools in Montgomery County and Winton Woods City Schools in Hamilton County.

[related_content align="right"]An earlier interim investigation found that scrubbing had occurred at Campbell City Schools, Cleveland Municipal Schools, Columbus City Schools, Marion City Schools, and Toledo Public Schools.

Yost singled out Ohio's annual "count week" as a practice that should be changed. Count week is a single week in the fall during which schools' attendance figures are taken and used to determine their funding for the entire year. Schools often offer incentives to students to boost attendance during that week.

In a press release, Yost says the state's attendance reporting system needs to be fixed:

"Kids count every day, all year long," Yost said.  "They deserve better than what we're giving them — Ohio's current system for measuring attendance and performance is obsolete and in too many places, filled with error and bad information and even outright fraud. It's amazing that it works at all, and sometimes, it doesn't.”

In his report, Yost made a list of recommendations for how to avoid similar scrubbing problems in the future. His recommendations are:

·         Base State Funding on Year-long Attendance Counts
·         Increase Oversight of School Districts
·         Monitor Programs for At-Risk Students
·         Increase EMIS Training
·         Increase Use of Automation to Protect Data and Process Integrity
·         Statewide Monitoring of Student Withdrawals
·         Allow ODE access to Student Names (SSID) with privacy protections
·         Establish Separate Tracking for Community School Withdrawals
·         Protect Report Card Results from Security Vulnerabilities
·         Centralize Accountability Resources Online
·         Statewide Standards for Student Information System (SIS)
·         Document Student Withdrawals
·         Clarify Rules Over Withdrawal of Foreign Exchange Students

Yost also says the Ohio Department of Education should take a more proactive role when it comes to student data.

Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles reports that the Ohio Department of Education rejects that notion:

The Ohio Department of Education’s John Charlton says most school districts are reporting correct data as required.

"We are talking about almost a thousand school districts and only nine of them were unable to follow the rules," Charlton says.

Charlton rejects the notion that the department doesn’t provide enough oversight.  He says the department is accountable and has discovered problems on its own in the past.

"The Department of Education has never been designed as a watchdog agency.  We are an agency that collects information and shares reports.  If we need to be more aggressive and we know we need to be more aggressive with some checks, we can make those changes," he says.

A separate investigation into Columbus City Schools is ongoing, and the FBI has launched their own investigation into data fraud at the district.

You can read the auditor's entire report below.

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