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Columbus District Employees to Return Bonuses Earned For Bogus Gains

Nearly 600 Columbus, Ohio school district employees will have to pay back about $400,000 in bonuses they received for academic improvements at their schools that later turned out to be bogus.

The bonuses were awarded as part of a district program called "gainsharing," in which employees at schools that demonstrated steady academic growth were eligible to earn bonuses, according to The Columbus Dispatch. 

But state and media investigations into school district records over the last two years have since revealed that some of those gains were phantom, and were only possible through manipulation of student data by some administrators.

Principals and administrators at some of the schools were accused of "data scrubbing" to inflate their individual school's performance. The administrators allegedly removed students—usually those who were low-performing and frequently absent—from enrollment roster and re-enrolled them later. In doing so, those students' records did not count.

The district's former executive director of accountability systems, Stephen Tankovich, pleaded guilty this summer to attempted tampering in connection to the data manipulation. 

The Columbus Dispatch reports that the majority of the employees who will have to return the money are teachers, but also include administrators, secretaries and other workers. Those employees were not implicated in the scandal.

The employees will have to pay back between $74.50 and $3,000, and they have until July 2015 to do so, according to the paper. The district is only asking for a return of the bonuses for the 2010-11 school year. 

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