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Education


Investigation reveals Columbus schools rigged data and grades for years
Ohio Auditor David Yost says the real victims are the students
by WKSU's ANDY CHOW


Reporter
Andy Chow
 
Ohio Auditor David Yost believes the district's practices should lead to criminal charges.
Courtesy of Ohio Auditor of State
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In The Region:
An investigation into Columbus City Schools, Ohio's largest school district, documents years of rule-breaking in order to improve the district's state ranking. Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow has more on the practices that Ohio Auditor David Yost says should lead to criminal charges.
LISTEN: State Auditor David Yost reveals results of investigation into Columbus City Schools

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“This has been one of the most troubling things in the 14 years that I’ve been a public servant that I’ve ever come across," Ohio Auditor Dave Yost said as he revealed the results of his office’s special investigation into Columbus City Schools,

He said there was a top-down culture of data manipulation and employee intimidation. And his full report claims that top officials have been gaming the system for years in order to improve the district’s ranking.

One school administrator was accused of prodding teachers to change F’s to D’s.

Looking good at all costs
Yost said there was a more complex operation, starting in 2002, where a top administrator with the district would direct staff to withdraw poor-performing students, then re-enroll them. That way, a student’s test score would not be counted to the school’s overall performance.

“They wanted to look good. They wanted their performance measurements to look better than they did. They wanted to avoid the consequences that come from not doing a good job. And I sincerely and devoutly hope that they will have to answer your questions in a court of law.”

There could be bigger consequences for some of the higher officials, such as former Superintendent Gene Harris for example. Yost would not share any details but did say he will send a criminal referral to prosecutors as well as a referral to the Ohio Department of Education for license sanctions.

Who lost out?
In the end, Yost said he believes the real victims of the data scrubbing are the students.

“This is a situation where we have a generation of kids in Columbus Schools ... who were left behind – who didn’t get the resources or the attention or the opportunity that they were entitled to. And that’s because the adults cheated.”

As far as oversight is concerned, Yost said the Columbus school board could do a better job. He added that the Ohio Department of Education, which collects attendance records, mostly operates under the honor system. However, Yost said the department is working on developing better reporting procedures.

Lawmakers are looking closer
Republican State Rep. Gerald Stebelton from Lancaster is the chairman for the House Education committee. He said he wants to take a close look at the auditor’s report and decide whether legislative action is needed. He added that he finds the results disturbing when added to previous data problems in other school districts.

“This is a big issue, a huge issue, perhaps more important than anything else we do in education in this state this year or next year, too.”

Soon after the report was released, Columbus City Schools announced that several administrators would be fired for their roles in changing data.

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