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Published: Monday, 9/10/2012

Auditor: Publish school report cards


COLUMBUS -- Go ahead and publish the on-hold school report cards, state Auditor Dave Yost told state education officials Monday.

It won't affect the ongoing statewide investigation into attendance-data manipulation by schools, he said. Continuing to withhold them paints everyone as guilty. And besides, he said, it probably wouldn't be the first time incorrect data were published.

"This is not a brand-new issue,' said Mr. Yost, who attended Monday's State Board of Education meeting. "I understand publishing would be, in some instances, producing bad data. But I would submit to you the data was probably bad last year too."

The board debated whether it should publish report cards and, if so, how. Though varied in their opinions, members are to set decide today. The grade cards were supposed to be released on Aug. 29.

Mr. Yost offered new details on the scope and complexity of his probe. His office has logged more than 7,000 hours of work. Although some work will be finished this fall -- giving priority to finding answers in districts that have tax issues on the ballot -- the entire investigation might not wrap up until after the first of the year, he said.

"We have found good reason to be doing what we're doing. And we have found questionable activities," he said. But a majority of schools, he said, likely did nothing wrong.

A staggering number of Ohio children took exams but weren't included in their schools' overall passing rates, Mr. Yost said -- as many as 50,000. There are legitimate reasons not to include some students' test scores, including when the student switches schools midyear. But part of the inquiry centers on whether students were falsely withdrawn, incorrectly discounting their scores from the school-level totals.

"It's a large number, at least the equivalent of an urban school district out there, that is not included in anyone's report card," he said.

Even in schools that Mr. Yost said are "gaming the system," it's difficult to tell whether anyone "acted with criminal intent." He said he'll leave that to local law-enforcement agencies to determine, but he said it was clear that "report cards are impacted by the various tactics or acts by various schools."

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