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Published: Tuesday, 5/6/2014 - Updated: 7 months ago

TPS mostly unfazed by state investigation

Data-scrubbing probe barely affects rankings

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Jim Gault Jim Gault
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Recalculations of Toledo Public Schools’ 2011 test data following a statewide investigation into data-scrubbing practices led to a significant drop in some schools’ scores, but kept the district’s rating unchanged and actually increased scores at most TPS schools.

In 2012, Ohio districts came under scrutiny for a form of data scrubbing, which involved the removal of students from attendance, and thus test-score rolls. In the scrutinized practice, districts broke enrollments for truant students, which under state reporting guidelines meant that their test scores wouldn’t count toward district report card grades.

The state auditor investigated, as did the Ohio Department of Education. The education department ultimately recalculated the 2011 report cards for six districts, including TPS, for what it considers improper withdrawals.

Toledo’s performance index score, a weighted average of student test scores on a 0-120 point scale, dropped from 83.1 to 82.2. Toledo Public Schools was one of four districts whose overall district-level rating did not change because of the recalculations. While a number of Cleveland schools’ test scores dropped after the review, the majority of both Toledo’s and Cincinnati’s reviewed schools saw scores increase.

Toledo officials took the results as vindication. Of the 27 TPS schools for which scores were recalculated, only seven saw test scores drop. Of those, five had their ratings change. Statewide, 20 schools saw ratings recalculated.

TPS Chief Academic Officer Jim Gault said if the district had been guilty of scrubbing its data, every reviewed school would have seen scores drop.

The most significant drop in the TPS district was East Broadway Middle School, which went from continuous improvement to the lowest ranking, academic emergency. The school was one of only two in the state to drop two levels to academic emergency, according to the ODE.

Leverette Middle School dropped one rank, from academic watch to academic emergency. Rogers High School went from effective to continuous improvement, and Start High School lost its excellent ranking, dropping to effective. Scott High School previously had not been ranked, but its 2011 score now shows it at continuous improvement.

Romules Durant, TPS superintendent, said that most Toledo scores revised up was proof the district had acted with no ill intent. Under the Toledo district’s practice, administrators withdrew then re-enrolled students who missed five consecutive unexcused days and 20 days total. The practice could improve test scores and attendance rates on the schools’ state report cards because only students who are continuously enrolled in a district are counted on those report cards.

TPS officials have said the practice was a good faith effort to comply with state regulations.

But education department officials seemed unconvinced. When asked if most TPS schools’ test scores rose with the revision was evidence that TPS officials had not tried to cheat, an ODE spokesman said no.

“I guess they were not very smart in how they cheated,” ODE spokesman John Charlton said.

Toledo officials took umbrage with the statement.

TPS administrators have argued from the start that the state knew, or should have known, about TPS data-reporting practices and that state education officials failed to provide guidance on how the district should properly report data, despite requests for such guidance.

“I honestly think that’s an unprofessional comment altogether,” Mr. Gault said. “We stand by our integrity.”

Districts are ultimately responsible for providing accurate data.

“Even if it was with good intentions, their policy was wrong,” Mr. Charlton said.

Of the six districts analyzed by the ODE, the Northridge Local Schools had the biggest drop in its report card. The district went from excellent, the second highest rating, to continuous improvement, two notches below.

The education department said that the district received about $28,000 in state bonus money because of its excellent rating, and is demanding a return of the funds.

Campbell City Schools’ rating was lowered from effective to continuous improvement.

“Actions that mislead the public about the performance of our education system are unacceptable,” State Superintendent Richard Ross said in a statement. “Local communities should have confidence that schools are giving a full and honest accounting of how they are educating our children.”

Auditor Dave Yost’s report, released last year, accused nine districts including TPS of improper data practices.

More serious for TPS is a prior move by ODE to refer it and six other districts to its Office of Professional Conduct for further investigation. School officials found to have manipulated data could lose their educator’s license, prohibiting them from teaching in an Ohio public school.

The education department also plans to review the 2011-12 school report cards.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.



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