On Monday, Dave Yost released the final report of his review of student attendance and withdrawal practices in Ohio schools. With the state auditor’s assessment in hand, the state Department of Education must move quickly to rectify policies that are an incentive for what Yost described as the “widespread nature of data irregularities and questionable attendance practices.”
The statewide investigation was launched in July in response to allegations that the Columbus City School District, among others, manipulated attendance data, withdrawing students who were likely to drag down test scores and re-enrolling them when it counts for state funding.
Altogether, the audit identified nine districts, including Cleveland and Canton, where students were withdrawn improperly. The state will review their data and reassess report cards. The districts will be referred also to the federal Department of Education for possible violations. In addition, the audit flagged more than 70 districts or schools (two in the Akron Public Schools) with reporting errors that did not amount to “data scrubbing.”
To reduce the temptation for districts to play the numbers game for ratings advantage, the auditor recommends that state funding be based on yearlong attendance rather than the count during one week in October. While Yost was careful not to assign motives for scrubbing, the report is clear that as currently formulated, state policies and procedures make it difficult to monitor and hold districts accountable for the accuracy of reporting.