The cheating will continue until morale improves

Atlanta wasn’t an isolated incident. Neither was El Paso, or Washington, DC, or Columbus. A new General Accounting Office report demonstrates that cheating by school officials on standardized tests has become commonplace despite the use of security measures the report recommends. The only solution is one that Education Secretary Arne Duncan has so far refused—removing the high stakes attached to standardized testing.

The latest embarrassment is in Columbus, where this month Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost seized records at 20 high schools. This is part of a two-year-old investigation into “scrubbing” 2.8 million attendance records of students who failed tests. Yost has recently widened his investigation to look into whether school administrators also changed grades to boost graduation rates.

A GOA reportreleased May 16 recommends adopting “leading practices to prevent test irregularities.” However, the report reveals that while all states and the District of Columbia use at least some of the recommended best practices, 33 states had confirmed instances of test cheating in the last two school years. And states where the worst offenses are occurring already have adopted most of the practices identified in the report, making it unlikely that greater security will improve test integrity.

Ohio employs five of the nine security plans recommended by the GOA report. Atlanta, where the superintendent and 34 other educators were recently indicted for changing test answers, has adopted eight of nine security practices, as has Texas, where the former El Paso superintendant is now in federal prison for a scheme to encourage low-performing students to drop out. And Washington, D.C., where 191 teachers at 70 schools were implicated in a rash of wrong-to-right erasure marks on tests, uses every single security measure.

The Department of Education responded to the GAO’s findings by holding a symposium on test integrity and issuing a follow-up report on best practices and policies. But the federal government convening a meeting and issuing yet another report might be even less effective at stopping cheating than increased security.

The report also noted that linking awards and recognition to improving test scores and threatening the jobs of principals for low test scores “could provide incentives to cheat.” But at a conference of education writers in April, Sec. Arne Duncan denied that linking test scores to career outcomes could drive educators to criminally manipulate the system.

“I reject the idea that the system forces people to cheat,” he said.

Maybe so, but cheating now seems inherent in the system, and our Education Secretary seems incurious as to why. It’s even hard to get him to admit there is an epidemic of test cheating. Asked about the Ohio investigation, Duncan said, “I almost don’t know of another situation like this.”

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Education News for 09-11-2012

State Education News

  • Auditor: Probe not affected by report-card release (Associated Press)
  • COLUMBUS -- Releasing delayed state report cards on school progress won't hamper an investigation into potential tampering with school attendance numbers, Ohio's state auditor told education leaders Monday…Read more…

  • Ohio isn't alone when it comes to school funding mistakes: editorial (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  • After the Great Recession hit, far too many states took out their carving knives and quickly slashed school funding.…Read more…

  • Ohio Board of Education wants school districts to go tobacco-free campus wide (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  • CLEVELAND, Ohio -- There's no smoking inside schools housing grades kindergarten through 12 because a 6-year-old Ohio law prohibits indoor smoking in all public buildings and places of employment.…Read more…

  • Auditor: Release report cards (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Go ahead and publish the on-hold school report cards, state Auditor Dave Yost told state education officials yesterday.…Read more…

  • Auditor: Probe Not Affected By Report Card Release (WBNS)
  • Ohio's state auditor has advised education leaders that releasing delayed state report cards won't hamper his investigation into potential tampering with school attendance numbers.…Read more…

  • School Attendance Scandal Costing Taxpayers Thousands (WBNS)
  • Ohio’s Auditor said on Monday that his staff has spent 7,000 hours and more than $140,000 on an investigating into whether Columbus City Schools officials manipulated attendance records.…Read more…

Local Education News

  • Canton City Schools to follow state law on retaining students (Canton Repository)
  • CANTON — The Board of Education agreed Monday to change the district’s policy regarding retaining…Read more…

  • Wolf Creek Local Schools to seek grant (Marietta Times)
  • Wolf Creek Local Schools hopes to join with 19 other Ohio school districts for a shot at their share of millions of dollars in grant funding to help with dual enrollment and blended learning classes.…Read more…

  • Navy promotes STEM learning at Marion Tech (Marion Star)
  • The Navy is joining educators to encourage more students to seek STEM degrees. Vice Admiral James "Phil" Wisecup visited Marion Technical College recently…Read more…

  • School Districts Hope To Share Services, Save Money (WBNS)
  • Two school districts in Licking County are exploring ways to share services to save money. Licking Heights Local Schools and the Southwest Licking Local Schools’ boards of education…Read more…


  • Lesson about secrecy still unlearned (Canton Repository)
  • The issue: Possible violations of open meetings law
    Our view: Private meetings make it look as if Columbus board is circling the wagons…Read more…

  • Catch Cheaters In Ohio Schools (Wheeling Intelligencer)
  • One hundred public school districts in Ohio are the focus of an investigation of falsified reports on student enrollment and attendance, it was reported during the weekend. That is approximately one-sixth of the districts in the state -…Read more…

Many costs to attendance investigation

The farce that has become the investigation into the school attendance erasures gained a price tag yesterday

Ohio’s Auditor said on Monday that his staff has spent 7,000 hours and more than $140,000 on an investigating into whether Columbus City Schools officials manipulated attendance records.

That price tag is certain to climb as it became obvious that the investigation has barely begun

Ohio Auditor Dave Yost was hoping to wrap up his investigation into attendance rigging at schools statewide well before the November elections.

It looks like that won’t happen.

Many Ohioans will be asked to vote on school levies this fall, and schools worry that uncertainty surrounding accusations of falsified attendance data may hurt their chances at the polls. But state Auditor Yost says he may not complete his investigation until the new year.

You'll notice from the articles and TV pieces we have linked to here, words like "rigging" and "scandal" being thrown around, despite any widespread evidence to date that anything like that has happened. This is a problem when one considers the number of school that are a potential target of the Auditors investigation

Ohio officials looking into potential tampering with school attendance numbers are focusing on 100 schools around the state.

The state auditor’s office tells The Dayton Daily News that investigators are concentrating on schools that have raised concerns based on data that shows they had a high number of student withdrawals.

A great many of those schools are going to be found totally innocent of any kinds of untoward data manipulation, and as the Fordham Foundation points out, even the innocent are being harmed.

Less than one month ago...

Releasing Ohio’s school report cards this month simply wouldn’t be fair, the state’s education leaders have decided.

They'll vote on changing that decision today...

Releasing delayed state report cards on school progress won't hamper an investigation into potential tampering with school attendance numbers, Ohio's state auditor told education leaders Monday.

Time the knee-jerk decision making ended, and some calm contemplation began.

Erasure scandal now a farce

The controversy over school attendance erasures started out life with questionable reporting, layered with supposition and innuendo and is now descending into farce.

Unable to perform their own investigation after years of oversight failure, ODE passed the investigation over to the State Auditor. Now the State Auditor is having to fire his own investigative staff.

State Auditor Dave Yost warned Columbus schools leaders a month ago that contacting the district’s internal auditor as she investigates claims of data rigging could have serious consequences.

Yesterday, a member of Yost’s own staff resigned after he failed to take his boss’s advice. John Davis, who also volunteers as a member of the school district’s audit committee, urged the school district’s internal auditor, Carolyn Smith, to speak with an attorney for the school board who has been meeting with district officials to ask about data rigging.

This comes just days after William Zelei, Associate Superintendent of Accountability and Quality Schools at ODE, submitted his letter of resignation.

It seems more heads are rolling among the investigators than the investigated. The one person from a district that has been fired, the Superintendent of Lockland, is now filing a law suit

Former Lockland Schools Superintendent Donna Hubbard and her son, Adam Stewart, Wednesday sued to keep their jobs, alleging the school board last week violated Ohio’s Open Meetings laws.

The lawsuits are the latest salvo in a battle between Hubbard and Lockland, one of the smallest school districts in Ohio with about 700 students.

The school board Aug. 23 voted 3-to-1 to begin the termination process for Hubbard after a state investigation found she and Stewart, the district’s database coordinator, falsely listed 37 habitually truant students as withdrawn from the district.

This entire scandal has nothing to do with educating students, it has everything to do with corporate education reform policies that require increasing large amounts of data with which to slice and dice. Not one bit of any of this will have any impact on what is going on in thousands of classrooms across Ohio right now - but it sure makes good theater.

Education News for 08-22-2012

State Education News

  • Delay in report card release keeps good news from parents (Middletown Journal)
  • With the state board of education indefinitely delaying the release of the state report cards, some local school districts will have to wait to announce good news to parents
    Read more…

  • Local school district leaders frustrated over delay with state report cards (New Philadelphia Times)
  • School superintendents in the Tuscarawas Valley say a delay in releasing state report cards won’t have a major impact on area districts, but it’s frustrating nonetheless.
    Read more…

  • Ohio school report cards delayed during investigation (Zanesville Times-Recorder)
  • Amid an attendance-tampering investigation, Ohio has delayed next week's release of annual school report cards whose results determine innumerable decisions by schools and families about funding, student scholarships and building and program placements.
    Read more…

Local Education News

  • Cloverleaf, Medina sign deal to share treasurer (Akron Beacon Journal)
  • The neighboring Cloverleaf and Medina school districts have struck a deal to share a treasurer for the next school year.
    Read more…

  • Teachers get closer look at oil, gas drilling industry (Chillicothe Gazette)
  • CHILLICOTHE -- A couple of area teachers recently picked up some first-hand experience with the oil and natural gas industry to take back to their classrooms this fall.
    Read more…

  • Columbus schools hire lawyers in attendance probe (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Despite having a full-time attorney on staff, Columbus City Schools agreed last night to pay up to $100,000 to hire independent attorneys “to advise and represent” the district in an ongoing investigation into data rigging.
    Read more…

  • School safety stressed (Marion Star)
  • MARION - As summer vacation ends and school starts for Marion City Schools students, law enforcement recommends that everyone give themselves a little more time to get to where they need to go.
    Read more…

  • Man mistaken for participant in mock school shooting (Newark Advocate)
  • PATASKALA -- Roy Luckett isn't a school shooter, but the Newark resident said he was tackled like one during a training exercise at Watkins Memorial High School this past week.
    Read more…

  • Parents sue Northridge school board over busing policy (Newark Advocate)
  • NEWARK -- Three parents filed a lawsuit against Northridge Local Schools' board Tuesday, saying their children should be bused to private schools.
    Read more…

  • Judge continues bullying lawsuit against Mentor Schools (Willoughby News Herald)
  • A lawsuit against Mentor Schools that alleges it failed to recognize and stop the bullying that resulted in a student’s suicide was continued on Tuesday in the United States District Court Northern District of Ohio.
    Read more…


  • Sort it out (Columbus Dispatch)
  • The State Board of Education made the right call in voting 18-0 on Monday to delay releasing the state’s annual report cards on public schools’ performance.
    Read more…

  • No excuses for faking records (Warren Tribune Chronicle)
  • Area residents will have every right to be furious if they learn local school districts are among those that have been tampering with data to make it look as if student attendance is better than actually is the case.
    Read more…

Stan Heffner involved in major ethics violantions

The head of ODE and State Superintendent Stan Heffner, has been found in violation of state ethic laws according to an Inspector General report issued today. This investigation was prompted by Plunderbund reporting.

CONCLUSION TO THE INITIAL ALLEGATION At the time of his testimony before the Ohio Senate Finance Committee, Heffner had already interviewed and secured a position at Educational Testing Service (ETS). Heffner negotiated the conditions of his employment with ETS, signed an offer, and began the process of transitioning from Ohio to San Antonio, Texas. He had met with ETS officials out of state and allowed them to pay for his travel; he took time from attending an out-of-state conference on behalf of ODE to meet with ETS officials. Heffner’s testimony supported legislation which would result in an increase of testing for Ohio’s school teachers. Based on the prior relationship between ODE and ETS, it was inappropriate for Heffner to give testimony in support of this bill given the strong likelihood that ETS could stand to profit.

Ohio Revised Code Section 121.41 defines at division (G): “Wrongful act or omission” means an act or omission, committed in the course of office holding or employment, that is not in accordance with the requirements of law or such standards of proper governmental conduct as are commonly accepted in the community and thereby subverts, or tends to subvert, the process of government.

By providing testimony to the legislature as the state’s principal employee for leadership in education, in support of a bill that could and ultimately did benefit a corporation with which he had entered into an agreement of employment, Heffner failed to meet the standards of proper governmental conduct as are commonly accepted in the community and subverts the process of government.

Accordingly, the Office of the Ohio Inspector General finds reasonable cause to believe wrongful acts or omissions occurred in these instances.

The report further details other violations uncovered during their investigation, including the misuse of state time and resources.

While investigating the initial allegations, the Office of the Ohio Inspector General found during the course of negotiating the employment agreement between Heffner and ETS, Heffner advised associates at ETS to use both his state-issued cell phone and his state email account as the preferred method of contact to conduct non-state business arrangements.

Further evidence has Heffner directing state employees to make personal arrangement for him, as he was looking for a new job. Here's just one of many examples uncovered

In addition, Heffner’s former executive secretary also provided documentation of email instructions addressed to her by Heffner for preparing an envelope to send an employment application to USD. (Exhibit 13) She also stated that Heffner instructed her to coordinate a flight to Washington, D.C., for a meeting between Heffner and ETS. She stated that though ETS scheduled the flight, she was instructed to convey the details of the flight to ETS’s executive search company, JRS.

He directed his assistant to prepare and coordinate his move to Texas and the subsequent mortgage arrangements

Heffner’s executive assistant recalled on one particular day, Heffner brought in a brief case full of personal documents which were related to the potential purchase of a home in San Antonio, and for the sale of his home in Westerville. The new executive assistant explained Heffner instructed her to organize the documents and assist in getting the process “finalized” for the mortgage company. She described the documents as Heffner’s personal records such as tax returns, bank statements, letters of financial debt, and anything you would need for a mortgage company. She stated that from the personal documents given to her by Heffner, as mortgage companies would contact her, she would provide whatever documentation they were seeking and would utilize whatever state equipment was necessary to send or transmit them. Occasionally, she stated, Heffner would inquire as to how the process of his home purchase was proceeding and would want to know about “timelines.”
When asked if she believed that she had an option to refuse to perform this work she replied, “. . . and keep my job? Probably not.” She stated she was in “disbelief” that Heffner was instructing her to perform these personal tasks. She said, “My only option was to do what he needed and try to do it well so he, you know, so he would, so he would keep me.”

The Office of the Ohio Inspector General asks the State Board of Education of Ohio to consider whether administrative action is warranted and respond within 60 days detailing its decision.

The full IG report can be read here.
Exhibits from the investigation can be found here.


According to a Dispatch Report, the Superintendent is appologizing but refusing to resign

Ohio schools Superintendent Stan Heffner quickly apologized for ethics allegations outlined in a state watchdog investigation released today but stopped short of stepping down from the post he has held for a year.

“I accept the findings of the Inspector General’s report. I was wrong and I’m sorry for my lack of judgment,” Heffner said in a statement released by the Ohio Department of Education.

“I’ve apologized to my staff, my friends and colleagues at the department, and the board. I have learned from my mistakes, and I will work with the board to take whatever steps they feel are necessary to resolve this matter and move forward.”