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Scrubbing Districts Referred for Professional Conduct Investigation

Release date: 1/13/2014

COLUMBUS –– Seven school districts found to be improperly reporting attendance data or using questionable practices have been referred to the Ohio Department of Education’s Professional Conduct office to determine if any licensed professional participated in conduct unbecoming the teaching profession by contributing to submission of inaccurate data.

The department of education completed investigations into eight school districts identified by the Auditor of State as having “evidence of scrubbing” in its 2010-2011 attendance data and confirmed that seven of those districts did improperly report its Education Management Information System (EMIS) data during the 2010-2011 school year.

“Misreporting of attendance data or ‘scrubbing’ jeopardizes the entire accountability system in Ohio and will not be tolerated,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Richard A. Ross said. “These actions will be investigated and may result in professional conduct sanctions up to and including suspension or revocation of licensure.”

After reviewing more than 8,500 student records, the department of education’s investigation led to significant concerns regarding the inaccurate reporting of data.

“We are committed to collecting accurate data and will require districts to submit corrective action plans to address these concerns,” said Dr. Ross. “We also determined that approximately 50 percent of the records reviewed indicated the improper withdrawal of students from schools and should be included in the district and school report card calculations.”

Report cards for the 2010-2011 school year will be recalculated and reissued for the six districts with the improperly withdrawn students added back into the calculations.

 District Student Records Reviewed Students Improperly Withdrawn
Campbell City School District 39 37
Canton City School District 34 0
Cincinnati Public School District 148 130
Cleveland Metropolitan School District 7624 3540
Marion City School District 58 0
Northridge Local School District 63 44
Toledo Public School District 614 425
Winton Woods City School District 14 11

In addition, the department concluded that, despite concerns with questionable practices, Marion City School District did accurately report its EMIS data during the 2010-2011 school year.  For this reason, the department’s data accuracy investigation into Marion City School District is now closed, but the district will be referred to the professional conduct office for further review.Although the investigation found Canton City School District used the wrong withdrawal code for 29 of the 34 records examined, the department does not believe the error warrants a referral to the Office of Professional Conduct. However, since incorrect information was submitted Canton is required to submit a corrective action plan. The investigation into Canton City School District is now closed.

Six of the districts listed above failed to demonstrate that they made a good faith effort to properly report attendance data as required by law. Furthermore, the misreporting of attendance data may have wrongfully benefitted the 2010-2011 district and school building report cards. Misrepresenting student enrollment status, and thus, reporting inaccurate data to the EMIS, is a violation of Ohio law.

The Investigation Process

After the State Auditor’s referral last February, the department reviewed all of the data and documents secured and utilized by the Auditor for the statewide attendance audit. The department then reviewed student records from each district and conducted a statewide analysis to determine whether these students were reported by another public district or community school as enrolled.

The department gave each district an opportunity to provide documentation to prove the students in question had been properly reported to EMIS as withdrawn. Based on each districts’ responses, and the comprehensive statewide analysis of enrollment data, the department determined that more than half of the students whose records were reviewed were improperly reported as withdrawn during the 2010-2011 school year.

These improper submissions could result in inflated accountability ratings as  these assessment results rolled up to the state for accountability purposes when they should have been included in the district and school report card accountability results. 

Next Steps

In addition to reissuing 2010-2011 report cards, the department will investigate districts’ 2011-2012 school year EMIS data to determine whether improper reporting of student withdrawals occurred. 

Because of the ongoing data accuracy investigations and potential professional conduct investigations, each district is now under a legal duty to preserve all evidence, whether printed or electronic, that is or might become relevant to this matter, including information regarding student withdrawals, data changes made to student records, who made any data changes, and district policies and practices for data changes and withdrawals.