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September 23, 2009
October 02, 2009
Last week, Ohio’s State Board of Education voted unanimously to delay the release of annual school performance report cards as state officials investigate allegations of data-tampering. It came to light this summer that some Ohio school districts (Auditor of State Dave Yost is working to determine just how many) retroactively un-enrolled and re-enrolled truant or low-performing students in order to break the students’ enrollment records with the district. Those students’ test scores and attendance records would then not count toward the district’s overall report card rating because the students hadn’t been continuously enrolled from October to spring testing. (To be clear, there is no evidence yet that data-tampering was taking place in all, or even most, of the state’s 600+ districts, and there is conflicting opinion about whether the data changes were actually on the up and up.)
The state board’s decision was the right one. They simply cannot make public extensive data about school performance unless they have faith in the accuracy of that information. However, the decision has widespread ramifications for Ohio’s districts, schools, and students. There are a number of policy provisions triggered by the annual report cards and the test data they are based on that will now be put on hold while the state awaits Auditor Yost’s findings.
Five major accountability policies are affected:
Additionally, smaller decisions and policies are impacted. For example:
If the auditor winds down his investigation soon and confirmed data are released, this delay will have been more of a frustration than a serious impediment to various school improvement and accountability efforts (online guidance from ODE suggests this will be the case). But that’s a best-case scenario. What if the investigation lingers on, past the fall? Or worse, what if the auditor finds that some districts have been tampering with enrollment records for years? That could call into question more than a decade of school performance data and the state and local decisions that were made based on them.