COLUMBUS, Ohio – Four Ohio school districts have been added to the list of those the state auditor’s office says are engaged in data-rigging to improve their evaluations.
The Columbus City Schools were among five districts named in October in a preliminary report on an investigation into districts accused of rigging student attendance data, Auditor Dave Yost announced Monday.
The third and final report from Yost’s office named the Canton City Schools, Cincinnati City Schools, Northridge Local Schools in Montgomery County and the Winton Woods City Schools in Hamilton County, bringing the total number of districts Yost says “scrubbed” attendance data.
Cincinnati school officials say they did nothing wrong and lose thousands of students each year.
The latest report cleared Hamilton school officials of any wrongdoing.
A separate investigation of the Columbus City Schools is not complete, Yost said.
Along with the findings on the districts who were manipulating data to improve state test scores and federal funding, Yost also blasted the state’s current method of tracking student attendance.
“Ohio’s current system for measuring attendance and performance is obsolete and in too many places, filled with error and bad information and even outright fraud.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,” Yost said.
Yost was particularly critical of state policy that leads to focusing on a single “count week” in October and recommends tracking attendance all year long.
He also charged the Department of Education with monitoring data collection and reporting more closely, instead of relying on an “honor system.”
The probe has found school leaders withdrew and reenrolled students without explanation in an apparent attempt to improve districts’ performance scores on state evaluations.
The Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo, Marion and Campbell schools were named in the October report as manipulating or scrubbing student attendance data.
The investigation began when results of an internal audit at Columbus City Schools revealed irregular attendance and enrollment practices and similar allegations surfaced at Toledo Public Schools and Lockland City Schools.