CPS holds news conference on Wed. on attendance data violations - Cincinnati News, Weather, Sports from FOX19 NOW-WXIX

CPS speaks out on 'scrubbed' attendance data allegations

Mary Ronan, CPS Superintendent Mary Ronan, CPS Superintendent
CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -

The Tri-state's largest school district is speaking out against allegations the district "scrubbed" school attendance records.

The Ohio Auditor of State David Yost announced Cincinnati Public Schools was added to a list of districts it alleges removed poor-performing students from their rolls; a practice known as scrubbing.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, the practice can improve performance ratings and potentially impact federal funding.

In Cincinnati's case, the state found issue with the district not reporting 98 students who transferred from one school to another within the district and instead recorded the transfers as withdrawals. The state auditor argues that school-to-school transfers should be reflected in the district-wide report card.

One the other hand the report states CPS maintains it is justified if the student fails to immediately attend the new school on the day of the transfer.

CPS Superintendent Mary Ronan told FOX19 Wednesday she is not anticipating any sanctions or licenses being revoked and argues their own investigation did not find employees manipulated any data.

"The perception is that we did something horribly wrong," Ronan said. "This is a business rule technicality that would not have changed the district's report card or we believe six of the seven schools looked at."

Ronan argues taking unaccounted for students off the rolls actually kept the district from benefiting from extra attendance-based state funds.

"We're trying to take them out saying ‘They're not with us, don't send us the money'." She said. "That's what I'm afraid of if I'm keeping 1,000 students on a roll who we don't have and I know we don't have."

Ronan says the district sees 12,000 withdrawals a year which is roughly a third of the district's student population.

She argued pursuing truancy issues through the court, as suggested in the auditor's report, would not be feasible due to the sheer number of students.

"When you have an urban especially with a large population of children in poverty you do have a higher mobility," explained Cincinnati Federation of Teachers President Julie Sellers.

Sellers says students have become more difficult to track down in part because the number of school social workers has been cut in half in the last few years. She says attendance records can have a direct influence on teacher evaluations.

"That impacts every teachers evaluation right now so when you start looking at how attendance is taken, how it is recorded, it has a definite impact on every teacher it the state," Sellers said.

The state auditor's report alleges the breaks in enrollment resulted in students' test scores getting eliminated from the district's report card.

"We don't believe six of the seven schools looked at would change," Ronan said. "There's a possibility of a change for one school and we certainly think the auditor should do that if that's the case."

The state auditor maintains the district miscoded student transfers within the district as withdrawals. The practice allegedly violates a Department of Education policy that Ronan says is buried in a document hundreds of pages long.

"It is very bureaucratic and very difficult to sort through," she said showing the binder.

Nonetheless, she says the district plans to work with the Department of Education to get thing sorted out.

"We'll comply, I mean I'm just going to be brutally frank, but we feel like [we need] clarification because I don't know if they belong in the school they were in August or the school they show up in months later," she said.

Ronan says they believe the school in question is Hays/Porter Elementary and she says that school's report card could reflect a drop from its former continuous improvement grade to academic watch or emergency.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education tells FOX19 they can legally withhold funds from the district and says that option is still on the table pending their own investigation.  He says they have yet to determine if the district benefited by receiving a higher rating on any school report cards due to the manner they recorded transfers and withdrawals.

State-wide school report cards will be released at the end of the month, but the schools in question will receive grades with the understanding they are pending a full investigation by the department.

Copyright 2013 WXIX. All rights reserved.

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