Canton City Schools is named in the Ohio Auditor’s report released Monday as one of the school districts with faulty attendance data.
Canton City Schools is one of nine Ohio school districts that the state says manipulated attendance data.
That’s according to Ohio Auditor Dave Yost’s final attendance audit, which was released Monday.
The practice, called “scrubbing,” is the improper removal of students from enrollment figures. Yost’s report said the term is used regardless of the district’s intent, and does not imply “malicious intent.”
Yost said that based on the state’s analysis, nine school districts used questionable attendance policies and practices, which the state believes is an indication that these schools were at a higher risk for scrubbing attendance data to improve their local report card scores.
These districts, the state audit showed, mixed data to withdraw students based on a pattern of absences, which could have been influenced by lower test scores.
Test scores of students who miss too much school are not used in determining a district’s report card ratings.
Among the audit report’s findings for Canton City Schools:
• The district included four adult education night school students in the data it submitted to the state as part of the 2010 -11 report cards.
• It incorrectly included seven Passages students on the state report card. Those students belonged to one of the other four districts — North Canton, Lake, Jackson and Plain — that send students to the alternative collaborative school.
• The district wrongly “scrubbed” Passages students by using the code for its adult education program when reporting them.
• Twenty-nine of 162 Choices Alternative School students had no documentation to support placement or withdrawal from the program, and the district does not maintain daily attendance records for any of its Choices students.
• The district used a faulty code to withdraw students that had stopped attending Choices, which the state rejected due to the lack of attendance records. The district then changed the code to reflect that the student moved, then resubmitted. The report states that incorrectly reporting student withdrawals due to truancy and nonattendance skews a district’s report card results.
Marnie Carlisle, a state auditor who worked on Canton City’s case, explained that to take a student off the rolls for truancy requires an attendance record. None existed for Choices.
According to Yost’s report, Canton City’s problems are due to its misuse of a six-digit number code known as IRN (Information Retrieval Number). The state assigns the unique number to each school building. School districts use the codes to identify schools when submitting data to the state.
Canton City Superintendent Adrian Allison said his district did not purposefully manipulate data to improve test scores.
He said it was a coding error related to students attending the Passages alternative program and adult education night school students. He blamed the error on the complicated nature of the state’s reporting system.
Page 2 of 3 - Allison contends that the Ohio Department of Education does not have adequate guidelines in place to account for students in alternative programs such as Choices and Passages.
No traditional Canton schools were found to have any attendance data discrepancies.
“It was not intentional with the goal of manipulating the data. The system didn’t have a way to properly code those students,” Allison said Monday afternoon. “The bottom line is, there has not been evidence of Canton City Schools intentionally manipulating data to improve test scores.”
In January, Allison appealed to the state to reverse its findings based on his belief that the errors were unintentional, but the auditor declined.
Carlisle said Canton City offered no evidence that it submitted requests to the state education department to give Choices or Passages its own IRN.
“ODE could have walked them through the system,” she said, adding that the auditor’s office is recommending that ODE clarify the rules for alternative schools and its system of reporting those students.
The report has been submitted to ODE, and the U.S. Department of Education, Office of the Inspector General.
Yost is recommending that ODE stop what he calls its current practice of passive oversight, and instead actively monitor district reporting, with support from the General Assembly where necessary.
He is particularly critical of state policy that leads to focusing on a single attendance “count week” in October, and subsequent practices by districts to boost attendance during only that week, rather than through the entire year.
Yost suggests changing count week from a one-time October practice to a year-long continuing practice. He charged ODE with the duty of more closely monitoring data collection and reporting. Currently, ODE relies upon an honor system of district self-reporting.
An attendance report by Ohio Auditor Dave Yost, released Monday, offers 13 recommendations to correct problems with some school districts submitting incorrect data to the Ohio Department of Education. Canton City was one of nine school districts in Ohio that the state says manipulated attendance data for the 2010-11 school year.
• Base state funding on year-long attendance counts.
• Increase oversight of school districts.
• Monitor programs for at-risk students.
• Provide more training on the state’s data tracking system known as EMIS (Education Management Information System).
• Increase use of automation to protect the integrity of the data and the process.
• Conduct statewide monitoring of student withdrawals.
• Allow the Ohio Department of Education access to student names with privacy protections.
• Establish separate tracking for community school withdrawals.
• Protect report card results from security vulnerabilities.
• Centralize accountability resources online.
• Establish statewide standards for the Student Information System.
Page 3 of 3 - • Document student withdrawals.
• Clarify rules over withdrawal of foreign exchange students.
Source: Ohio Auditor’s office