Handling of Student Data Still An Issue in Columbus Schools

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A new internal audit by Columbus City Schools found administrators continued marking students as having withdrawn without providing proper documentation, well after the superintendent vowed the practice would stop.

The audit is a follow-up to one in 2012 that found school administrators improperly altered attendance data with the intention of inflating performance on state report cards.

The follow-up audit concludes that of the eighteen recommendations issued in the original 2012 report, only four have been implemented, nine have been partially implemented and five have not been implemented at all.

The internal auditor's office sampled 84 withdrawal records of nine high schools in October, and found that half contained no documentation to prove they were accurate.

It also found that 37 percent of all withdrawals in those schools were filed retroactively, at least 60 days after the withdrawal had occurred.

In its response to the follow-up audit, the district states:

"At the outset, it is critical to understand the limited scope of the Internal Auditor's follow-up assessment. As confirmed by the Office of Internal Audit and evident from the Report itself, the December 2013 Follow-up Report is not intended to be and should not be read as a determination that any of the 84 withdrawals tested were illegitimate, i.e. the product of "data scrubbing." Rather, the December 2013 Follow-up Report is intended only to document that some of the withdrawals described... were not supported by documents.

The Administration has been and remains committed to digging deeper into the District's data and student information systems to achieve the proper checks and balances throughout the system."

Two Columbus principles were fired in March over alleged data-scrubbing.  Both have filed lawsuits seeking to get their jobs back, claiming they were just following orders.  They're also seeking $400,000 each in damages.

Columbus was one of nine school districts found by the state auditor to have manipulated student data.

The FBI has been conducting its own investigation of data fraud in Columbus schools.


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