By Victor Skinner
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Department of Education is reviewing data submitted by public schools after officials in some districts allegedly doctored graduation and attendance records used by the state to rate school performance.
A state investigation found that officials in Hamilton County’s Lockland School District withdrew 36 students from the attendance rolls to prevent their test results from being included in the district’s report to the state. The students were then re-enrolled after a short time, DaytonDailyNews.com reports.
State officials Wednesday downgraded Lockland’s school report card rating from “effective” to “continuous improvement” as a result of the investigation, and vowed to comb through the records of all districts and charter schools to identify similar problems.
“ODE also is investigating Columbus and Toledo city school districts after the Columbus Dispatch reported allegations that the districts may have scrubbed attendance records to improve their report card numbers,” the news site reports.
The problem with school officials manipulating student records to fake student performance gains isn’t uncommon. EAGnews recently reported on similar situations in individual schools in Oklahoma City, and have highlighted problems in other districts in the past.
Some argue that the issue stems from increased pressure on school officials to constantly improve student academics, but we’re not buying it. We think some people are simply cheaters who sacrifice the public’s trust for their own personal gain, or to avoid the embarrassment of what the real numbers reveal.
How can school administrators justify their next five figure raise if student performance is down? How would the school board react if it realized academics aren’t improving?
These so-called school officials are no better than students who cheat on exams, and they should be treated in the same manner.
We commend state officials for reviewing data from all schools to ensure the public has a clear picture of how their local districts are performing. The next logical step should be to fully investigate the individuals involved in the cheating, and hold them accountable with license revocation, significant fines, jail time, or a combination of the three.
The Dayton Daily News reports that the Lockland case is now under investigation by the ODE’s Office of Professional Conduct to determine if “that district’s employees participated in conduct unbecoming the teaching profession.”
“Upholding the integrity and accuracy of Ohio’s education accountability system is essential to ensuring the trust of parents, the public and taxpayers,” Ohio Superintendent Stan Heffner said. “Dishonest actions that inflate results are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
Those are encouraging words, but the critical component in ensuring the public’s trust in the integrity of the system will center on how the state deals with those who break the rules.