Auditor probe fails to turn up more problems

Just two weeks before school districts across Ohio ask voters for more money, state Auditor Dave Yost reported that his team has not uncovered any more evidence of scrubbing student attendance data.

Yost’s office is investigating whether districts inappropriately disenrolled students who were absent, possibly in an attempt to boost schools’ scores on standardized tests. Scores from enrolled students are used to calculate district and building report cards but scores from disenrolled students are not.

In the latest update, Yost said auditors examined records at 81 schools in 47 districts and cleared all but eight of the 81. Testing at those eight buildings as well as 15 other buildings from the first interim report is still underway, Yost said. A final report is due sometime around Jan. 1.

Twenty of the 81 schools examined in this round had reporting errors but not enough to suggest scrubbing. For example, Yost said, Centerville Schools did not have complete records because it improperly allows a vendor to destroy relevant material without preserving the attendance information on microfilm. Enrollment and withdrawal records are supposed to be kept for five years after a student graduates, he said.

“Odds are most districts are reporting their attendance data accurately and they’re not scrubbing,” Yost said at a press conference Tuesday.

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Earlier this month, Yost said auditors found evidence of data scrubbing in five Ohio districts: Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo, Marion and Campbell, which is in the Mahoning Valley. All five districts improperly withdrew students from their enrollment, according to Yost.

At the same time, seven of the nine Miami Valley districts that were reviewed were cleared of wrongdoing.

The audit results of the remaining two districts — Hamilton and Northridge — are expected to be included in that final report in January.

The state auditor began the statewide probe in response to news reports of possible tampering in Columbus, Toledo and a suburban Cincinnati district. So far, the investigation has cost $375,700.

Yost said his office continues to work on a separate but parallel investigation into Columbus’ records.

All told, 184 of Ohio’s 613 school districts have issues on the Nov. 6 ballot.

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