Major scandal brewing

As news that at least three Ohio school districts, Columbus, Toledo and Lockwood, are being investigated for manipulating student attendance records in order to boost their report card ranking, the State Superintendent, Stan Heffner, began issuing threats.

Ohio’s school superintendent says the investigation of changes made to student attendance data in several districts could lead to criminal charges for any educators who commit fraud.

Heffner may have spoken too soon, as his own department is now in the cross hairs of the Auditor of State.

Saying that student attendance-data fraud in Ohio appears to be systemic, the state auditor will take his Columbus schools investigation statewide, including questioning whether the Ohio Department of Education was complicit.

State auditors will scrutinize every school district, charter school and the department, said Carrie Bartunek, spokeswoman for state Auditor Dave Yost.

“In short, it appears that attendance report rigging is not a localized problem with Columbus Public Schools, but that it may be more systemic — and that raises the question of what role ODE played during the time that false reports were made by multiple schools,” Yost said in letter to Debe Terhar, president of the State Board of Education. Terhar didn’t respond to calls or an email seeking comment.

ODE has long been criticized for its poor oversight ability, famously for failing to properly oversee charter schools it was sponsoring. Now it is being alleged that it has failed to oversee school report card data - the very piece at the center of the Governor's corporate education plans.

It was recently proposed that Ohio's school report card be changed to an A-F grading system, and made more rigorous. A move supported by the State Superintendent.

State officials say the new system presents a clearer picture of how Ohio schools are actually performing, and corrects the rating-inflation they say has crept into the state system over time. During a statewide speaking tour in the fall, state schools chief Stan Heffner said Ohio’s school school evaluation system sets the bar too low and creates “a false sense of achievement.”

Stan Heffner was quoted as saying

“We need to tell the truth. No one wants to hear bad news, and we are not in the business of making people look bad. The goal is to get edu-speak out of the report cards and get common English in.”

Right now, lots of people are looking bad, with few knowing the truth. It has been proven repeatedly that with corporate education reform policies and the high stakes attached to them, comes corporate type behaviors. Worse than that however, one educated commenter points out

A child misses 100 out of 180 days. Will their scores accurately reflect what has been taught the whole year?! Will the teachers that have these students be judged based on these scores? Yes. Will the principals and districts be judged on the scores? Yes

Ohio's efforts to created "Accountability" has instead created an unfair mess. As Greg Mild at Plunderbund notes, This is going to be big, folks. Real big.