The state auditor Oct. 4 criticized both the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and a handful of school districts in an interim report. The report, which will be finalized in the coming months as the investigation is completed, gave some early findings for the ongoing investigation into attendance scrubbing, the practice of “removing students from enrollment without lawful reason.”
Dave Yost, Ohio’s state auditor, has been investigating claims that schools are scrubbing attendance data for better results on Ohio’s school report card, which grades schools and school districts around the state. The grading process helps establish policies for different schools, such as funding needs and whether they require local or state intervention.
The early results of the investigation, which began after Lockland Schools in Hamilton County was caught reporting fraudulent data, found a fundamental conflict of interest in a system in which schools are “on the honor system” to report their own data.
“The current system relies upon local schools and school districts — but these are the very entities that are interested in the outcome of the accountability measures,” the report said, before labeling the setup “a classic conflict of interest.”
The report advised the state government to reform ODE to introduce “independent oversight” and asked ODE to develop better methods for tracking students among several other proposals including setting clear attendance rules, requiring stricter attendance records and creating a centralized manual for accountability resources.
The report did not just blame ODE and the state government for failures. It also singled out a few school districts with evidence of school scrubbing. No local schools were singled out.