The Auditor of State has released his interim report on the school attendance erasures issue.
The first observation from reading this 57 page document, is that very few schools have been completely investigated, and of those that have, little if any wrong doing has been found.
Instead what has been discovered are significant levels of bureaucratic oversights, in many cases excused by the complexity of the system designed by multiple layers of state and federal law.
The practices of Toledo are a good example
Cleveland's prevalent practices of removing truants also appears to fall into this category of bureaucratic non compliance, rather than "cheating"
Again, the auditor has yet to fully complete an investigation of this district, noting "AOS is currently obtaining electronic data in an attempt to determine the impact of Cleveland MSD processes and procedures on accountability reporting and we will report results in a later report."
In Marion, another district the Auditor looked at, again no wrong doing was found
AOS identified 46 students transferring to Marion City Digital Academy during the 2010‐2011 school year with no parent or guardian initiation or approval included in Marion CSD’s student files.
Just more bureaucratic mis-steps. And more in Campbell City Schools
And once again the Auditor notes, "AOS is continuing to investigate these retroactive withdrawals and will report further results later."
Forgive us for being unimpressed both with the how these interim findings are not matching up with a lot of the breathless allegations of "cheating" claimed by some in the media, and also by the sloth like progress being made by the Auditor of state.
It appears that the vast number of attendance erasures might in fact be legitimate, but simply not supported by documentation, as districts had poor policies and procedures in place to record and store the documentation. Furthermore, ODE, despite it's claims to the contrary have not been clear on what is required
The Auditors list of recommendations is replete with calls for legislative changes, indicating that the current system is inadequate, and not the fault of districts
The General Assembly should provide authority for ODE to collect personally identifiable information, such as student names, to enable ODE to work cooperatively with the Ohio Juvenile Court system and DYS tracking and reporting truant students.
The General Assembly should establish a single statewide student information system so that all data is uniform, uniformly reported, and accessible for data mining. Alternatively if such is not feasible the General Assembly should require ODE to approve the Student Information System used by each district in the state to ensure it meets requirements.
EMIS monitoring functions should be performed by an independent agency or commission appointed by the General Assembly.
Not mentioned anywhere in this report - how any of this has adversely affected student education. Neither does the Auditor indicate what the cost might be both to districts and to the state if full compliance and his recommendations were implemented.
Acting State Superintendent Sawyer just released the following statement
As anticipated from our communication yesterday, here is a link to the Auditor of State’s Interim Report on Student Attendance Data and the Accountability System released this morning. The report also is available here on our Quick Links page. We are pleased that the report shows that most districts visited to date by the auditor’s staff are compliant with legal and reporting requirements. However, as the report indicates, the investigation is ongoing and the Auditor’s Office will continue to review attendance data for all schools. Regardless of your participation to date in the ongoing investigation, I encourage you to read the interim report to reinforce the attendance policies, administrative guidelines and reporting requirements required by your school or district.
Next Monday during their regularly scheduled meeting, the State Board of Education will hear a report from the Auditor of State’s Office, which will result in discussion related to the impact of the interim report findings and the Local Report Cards. I will update you next week on the status of the Local Report Cards and access to the Secure Data Center.
Michael L. Sawyers
Acting Superintendent of Public Instruction