Created on Monday, 11 February 2013 Written by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Four more Ohio districts removed poor-performing students from their rolls, state Auditor David Yost said Monday in the final step of his investigation into a practice whereby schools attempted to improve performance ratings.
More than 70 schools or districts also had attendance reporting errors, though these didn't appear to be purposeful, Yost said.
The four districts bring to nine the number that Yost has identified in his investigation of the data withdrawal practice known as "scrubbing."
The districts Yost identified Monday are Canton and Cincinnati city schools, Winton Woods city schools in Hamilton County and Northridge Local schools in Montgomery County.
Yost's top recommendation Monday was requiring the state to peg school funding on yearlong attendance figures to encourage attendance through the entire year. Now, attendance figures are based on a count in October.
"Importantly, schools that break enrollment under such a system would suffer a loss of funding as a result," Yost's report said.
Yost also said the state should require independent oversight of districts' data reporting instead of the current honor system, and the state should also independently monitor transfers by at-risk students.
Yost previously said Campbell, Cleveland, Columbus, Marion and Toledo city schools improperly removed students.
Yost's auditors spread out across the state to investigate a statistically selected sampling of districts.
He launched the review in response to unusual practices discovered in Toledo and suburban Cincinnati districts, as well as in Columbus. In November, federal authorities joined the investigation into the Columbus schools and Yost separated the district from the rest of the state probe due to the likelihood of criminal referrals.
Columbus Superintendent Gene Harris plans to resign at the end of the school year, in a move she says is unrelated to Yost's probe.
Another district employee, data analyst Stephen Tankovich, also announced his resignation effective next month. Tankovich had served stints as the district's chief information officer and accountability director. He's been a key figure in unfolding events.
A former district superintendent in the southwestern Ohio district of Lockland sued last year to keep their jobs amid the state investigation. Donna Hubbard and her son alleged the school board violated open-meetings laws when voting 3-1 to oust them.
Yost identified five districts for questionable attendance methods during the first round of investigative findings. A second round of results was issued ahead of November's election to aid districts seeking levies. It turned up no additional irregularities.
Amid the investigation, the state Board of Education opted to delay release of district assessments, known as report cards, which are eagerly anticipated by educators, parents and communities. Board members said they were concerned that widespread inaccuracies may exist in attendance data that could have compromised the rankings.
Yost appeared before the board and urged release of the information. He said it wouldn't interfere with his work.