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Ohio Ed. Department Revises Report Cards in Data-Scrubbing Scandal

The Ohio Department of Education revised the report cards of five districts—including Columbus—involved in the long-running data-scrubbing attendance scandal in the state.

The revised Columbus report cards led to lower ratings in 20 Columbus schools after the department included test scores for students whose results were improperly excluded from the 2011, 2012, and 2013 report cards.

Here are some highlights for Columbus from the state revisions:

  • In the 2011 report card, 18 of the district's 117 buildings saw a reduction in ratings.  
  • In the 2012 report card, two buildings saw ratings reductions, while two actually increased.  
  • In 2013, there were no ratings on the state report cards because of a new grading system, but the results in seven schools were changed as a result of the investigation.
  • The changes did not impact the district's overall continuous improvement on  the 2011 and 2012 report cards.
  • The state found no evidence of scrubbing (withdrawing students who took state achievement tests so that their results would not be counted in the school's or district's reports) in the 2013-2014 school data.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that as a result of the data scrubbing nearly 600 Columbus employees received bonuses of up to $390,000  based on results showing that their schools had improved academically. One-third of those who received the bonuses should not have been eligible to get them. Principals at the schools that showed improvement got the maximum $3,000 awards, the paper reported.

But the data scrubbing didn't just allow for ill-gotten bonuses, it also meant that students who should have qualified for state vouchers or scholarships to transfer from low-performing schools to private schools didn't get the opportunity to do so because of their schools' inflated performance.

As a result of the investigation, the education department added three more schools—one each from the Maple Heights City School District, the Columbus City School District, and the Akron City School District—to the list of those in which students are eligible for private school scholarships. The Akron and the Maple Heights schools were not implicated in attendance scrubbing, the department said .

Students at other Columbus City Schools may also be eligible for scholarships, the Dispatch reported.

The results were mixed in the other school districts for which revised report cards were issued. Two schools in Cincinnati and one in Cleveland, for example, saw their ratings lowered in the revised 2012 report cards, while another in Cleveland improved. But the state also made multiple changes to individual schools' report cards in all of the districts — Cleveland Municipal School District, Cincinnati City School District, Toledo City School District, and Northridge Local School District. 

The new report cards come as some of the individuals implicated in the Columbus scandal have started to face the legal action for their alleged roles in the affair.

Stephen B. Tankovich, the district's former chief information officer and the first to be criminally charged, pleaded no contest to attempted tampering with government records less than two weeks ago. In doing so, Tankovich also agreed to testify against some of his former colleagues.

In June, about 60 educators, including former Superintendent Gene Harris and 32 active principals and assistant principals, were issued subpoenas for records in connection to their alleged roles in the data-rigging scandal.  Harris has denied knowledge of the scheme.

In addition to the criminal investigation, the state is also exploring whether the educators who have been implicated should lose their licenses.

Dan Good, Columbus' superintendent, told the Dispatch that he plans to put together a group to determine the next steps, which will include a review of the payouts.

State Auditor Dave Yost, whose office investigated both Columbus and the other school districts after the Dispatch broke the story, said the schools should find the students who were in attendance when administrators tampered with the records. 

"Looking backwards, the damage isn't to some database," he told the Dispatch. " It's to the kids in these schools, and these kids are still out there, and the odds are that they still are having trouble with reading or math or whatever it is that they struggle with."

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