By Tom Blumer | Special to Ohio Watchdog
At the Cleveland Plain Dealer, there’s a great story by Edith Starzyk on public school attendance “scrubbing.”
Starzyk described the practice as not including the test scores of students “who are not continuously enrolled from October through the testing dates in March and May” in results submitted to the Ohio Department of Education.
Instead, “they simply disappear — at least from the calculations that make up a district report card.”
Excluding such students who tend to score low on standardized tests will raise a district’s overall average test score.
Other Ohio media outlets have identified additional forms of “scrubbing.” On Sunday, The Columbus Dispatch‘s Bill Bush reported that Columbus City Schools “mysteriously withdrew students during the 2009-10 school year who came to school every day.” A former district data analyst contended that “It’s about excluding low test scores” from state submissions.
Although the details in Starzyk’s report primarily related to Cleveland Metropolitan School District, where “from 14 percent to 32 percent of the scores in grades 4 to 10 were eliminated,” she clearly indicated that manipulated attendance reporting might be a serious statewide problem:
- She specifically named several other districts. including Columbus, East Cleveland and Warrensville.
- She identified concerns about larger districts: “In Ohio’s eight big-city districts, an average of about 15 percent of the scores were not counted.”
- Finally, she included a potentially damaging general assertion by the state’s former deputy schools superintendent that “at least 6 percent of Ohio students who took tests … were not reflected in final district performance data.”
Starzyk’s write-up appeared on Sept. 8, 2008, almost four years ago. The Plain Dealer’s alarming output begs some pretty obvious questions:
- Why did Starzyk’s work not set off alarm bells and calls for investigations at the Ohio Department of Education, including in the office of then-Superintendent of Public Instruction Deb Delisle, who has moved on to a post at the U.S. Department of Education? In covering her March 2011 resignation, the Plain Dealer reported that “former Gov. Ted Strickland had a strong say in her hiring in 2008.”
- Where has the State Board of Education been?
- Why did it take a Columbus Dispatch report nearly four years later detailing degrees of “scrubbing” even beyond what Starzyk reported to generate action?
- Given that current State Auditor Dave Yost has announced that his office’s “scrubbing” investigation will be statewide, why did then-Auditor, now-Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor apparently not respond in any public way to what the Plain Dealer found? I have contacted Taylor’s office about this matter, and will relay any statement or response I receive in a future post. If you don’t see one, that means there wasn’t one.
It’s hard not to believe that showing Ohio residents good results in their public schools has become far more important than legitimately achieving them.