The University of Cincinnati has officially named Santa Ono as its new president in a unanimous approval by the UC Board of Trustees today.
Ono, who joined UC's staff in 2010, was UC's interim president since Aug. 21, when former President Greg Williams abruptly resigned due to “personal reasons.” Previously, Ono served as UC's provost.
“I am honored to serve as the 28th president of the University of Cincinnati,” Ono said in a statement. “I am not a new face on campus, but in many ways, the fact that I have been a part of the UC family for two years now makes today even more special for me. I am so very fortunate to be asked to serve in this capacity.”
Williams' retirement came with some controversy. After he resigned, the UC Board of Trustees gave Williams a $1.3 million severance package. The package was criticized by Ohio Rep. Connie Pillich, a Cincinnati Democrat who said in a statement, “I was disappointed to learn that the University agreed to continue paying former President Greg Williams a sum of $1.3 million over the next two years, considering the former president abruptly resigned six days before classes were to start this fall. It is disheartening to see such a great deal of public money spent in a manner that is inconsistent with the financial realities many colleges, students, and families face in the current economy. … The University’s tuition increase of 3.5 percent this year means students and families must incur a greater financial burden at a time when many are struggling to make ends meet. Certainly Mr. Williams’ payday will weigh on the minds of these students and parents, leaving them to wonder, ‘Does this kind of decision result in tuition and fee increases?’”
There was also some controversy involving The Cincinnati Enquirer. The newspaper's publisher and president, Margaret Buchanan, was serving on the UC Board of Trustees when Greg Williams stepped down, but The Enquirer failed to mention asking her about the resignation — an omission that raised questions for Jim Romenesko, a popular journalism blogger. In at least six follow-up stories, the newspaper also failed to mention Buchanan's connection to UC. Buchanan later resigned from the UC Board of Trustees to end the potential impression of a conflict of interest.
A new report from the state auditor found Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) and Winton Woods City Schools were manipulating attendance data for the 2011-2012 school year, but the report seems to lay much of the blame on state policy, not just irresponsible school districts.
CPS and Winton Woods were cited among nine school districts by State Auditor Dave Yost for improperly withdrawing students from enrollment. More than 70 other schools had errors in their attendance reporting, but they were not found to be purposely manipulating — or “scrubbing” — attendance data.
The report largely focused on flaws in state policy that enable bad attendance reporting — particularly a single “count week” in October that encourages school districts to boost attendance during that one week and no other time in the school year.
“Kids count every day, all year long,” Yost said in a statement. “They deserve better than what we're giving them — Ohio's current system for measuring attendance and performance is obsolete and in too many places, filled with error and bad information and even outright fraud. It's amazing that it works at all, and sometimes, it doesn't.”
As a solution, Yost is calling on legislators to change school funding so it’s based on year-long attendance reporting.
The report also made 12 other recommendations, including increased oversight and monitoring, more programs for at-risk students, better training, use of automated data reporting, more accessibility to pertinent information for the Ohio Department of Education and clearer rules.
Winton Woods was one of the few schools to self-report issues to the auditor. Jim Smith, interim superintendent of Winton Woods, admits the school made mistakes and will make adjustments. But he says most of the issues were explained away as errors, not intentional data manipulation. Only four of the 15 issues couldn’t be reasonably explained, according to Smith.
Smith says the Education Management Information System (EMIS), which is used to report attendance data, is problematic for highly mobile
students, particularly in urban school districts. He argues the system
is too complicated and difficult to use for tracking such students.
In a Feb. 8 press release, Winton Woods claimed the reporting issues were related to confusion regarding expelled students, poor record keeping and a lack of well-defined procedures and reporting systems.
In an emailed statement, CPS Superintendent Mary Ronan wrote the school district made mistakes, but internal audits did not find evidence of data manipulation or scrubbing. She linked the errors to confusing state policy and issues with highly mobile students.
School attendance data is one of many ways states measure school performance, as required by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
Update (Feb. 12, 10:29 a.m.): Originally, this story did not include comments from CPS. It was updated to reflect comments CityBeat obtained after publishing.
When an Ohio charter school consistently fails to meet academic standards, the state automatically shuts it down. It’s an aspect of Ohio law that’s touted as one of the toughest standards for charter schools in the nation, but a report from Policy Matters Ohio found some charter schools may be evading the rule altogether.
In Cincinnati, the W.E.B. DuBois Academy was put on the Ohio Department of Education’s (ODE) closure list in 2009. According to the Policy Matters report, the same school and some of the staff remain, but under a different name: Cincinnati Speech and Reading Intervention Center (CSR).
Before 2009, Dubois Academy was CSR's sister school. Dubois Academy focused on grades four to eight, and CSR took up kindergarten through third grade. But when Dubois Academy was asked to shut down, CSR suddenly decided to expand to teach kindergarten through eighth grade, and it conveniently moved to the Dubois Academy building in the process.
The report also found some staff remained at the former DuBois Academy facility. Out of eight teachers from Dubois Academy, three still work at CSR.
Still, the school did change its sponsor from Educational Resource Consultants of Ohio to Richland Academy — a sign of some institutional changes.
Before it was placed on ODE’s closure list, Dubois Academy gained three straight “Academic Emergency” ratings. Between 2007 and 2010, it received more than $3.6 million in state funds. In the preliminary 2011-2012 report card, CSR gained a rating of “Continuous Improvement” after receiving an “Academic Emergency” rating in the 2010-2011 report card.
The story of Dubois Academy and CSR is apparently being replicated around the state. Six other facilities reopened under new names shortly after state-mandated closure. Some schools, including the Eagle Heights Academy in Youngstown that reopened as Southside Academy, even kept the same sponsors.
An eighth school in Cleveland — Hope Academy Broadway —
shut down one year before the state mandate kicked in,
citing an inability to find a sponsor. A year later, it reopened under a
new name — Broadway Academy. In the process, the school retained 11 Hope Academy Broadway staff members.
In a statement, Piet van Lier, the report’s co-author, called the loophole a “systemic flaw” that undermines Ohio’s education system: “Until Ohio strengthens its charter-closure law, the state will continue to fall short of the goal of improving public education for all Ohio’s children.”
The report suggests legislators revamp charter school closure laws and strengthen ODE’s oversight of charter schools. It also wants legislators to direct ODE to refuse the kind of expansions and mergers that keep closed facilities open and hold charter school companies more accountable.
A survey released April 29 found Ohio schools are making cutbacks in response to budget cuts previously approved by Republican Gov. John Kasich and the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature.
The 15-question survey from left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio, which received responses from 42 percent of the state’s K-12 school districts in 82 counties, found 70 percent of Ohio schools made cuts for the ongoing 2012-2013 school year, 82 percent cut positions, 84 percent reduced or froze compensation and 62 percent expect budget shortfalls next year if the state doesn’t increase funding.
“Long-term investment in education is the best way to build opportunity for Ohioans,” said Piet van Lier, education researcher at Policy Matters Ohio, in a statement. “Instead, Ohio’s cuts to school funding have forced schools to get rid of staff, reduce pay, cut materials and increase class sizes.”
The survey found the cuts have led to a reduction in
education quality, with 43 percent of Ohio schools reporting larger
class sizes, 23 percent reporting less course options, 57 percent
cutting materials, supplies, textbooks or equipment for the 2012-2013
school year and 22 percent reducing extracurricular activities or introducing pay-to-play for them.
Policy Matters and Innovation Ohio, another left-leaning think tank, previously found Kasich’s 2012-2013 budget slashed education funding by $1.8 billion.In his latest budget proposal, Kasich proposed increasing education funding, although in a way that disproportionately benefited wealthier school districts (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20). Since then, the Ohio House passed its own budget bill that rejects Kasich’s proposal and increases overall school funding in a more equitable way.
But Policy Matters says the increases aren’t enough. Its analysis found school funding is failing to keep up with inflation, with 2015 funding projected to fall $1.2 billion short of what funding would have looked like if it had kept up with 2006’s inflation-adjusted levels.
“Neither Gov. Kasich nor the Ohio House have adequately addressed the needs of Ohio’s schools in their budget proposals,” van Lier said in a statement. “The Senate must now lead the way in crafting a stronger, more predictable funding system for the next two years and beyond.”
Cincinnati Public Schools said state funding cuts were one reason the school district needed Cincinnati voters to approve a school levy in 2012 (“Battered But Not Broken,” issue of Oct. 3). The levy, known as Issue 42, passed in the November election.
Innovation Ohio previously found Kasich’s budget cuts have led to levies all around the state, effectively increasing local taxes by $1.3 billion since May 2011.
“By cutting taxes primarily for the wealthy at the state level, Gov. Kasich and the Republican-controlled legislature have merely pushed the need for tax increases down to the local level,” said Janetta King, president of Innovation Ohio, in a statement.
Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols previously told CityBeat that the cuts were necessary to balance the budget, as required by state law. “The reality is we walked into an $8 billion budget deficit,” he said. “We had to fix that.”
Cincinnati Public Schools on Monday
voted unanimously to put a levy renewal on the November ballot. The
current levy is set to expire in 2013, and the renewal would be for
$51.5 million for five years.
The second day of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse trial continues today, with a second accuser expected to testify. In his opening statement, Sandusky's lawyer questioned the credibility of the eight young men accusing him of multiple crimes over several years, claiming that they have a financial motive to make false claims. He also acknowledged that Sandusky's behavior and his showering with young boys was “kind of strange” but said it was not sexual abuse.
Mitt Romney says Barack Obama's “Forward” slogan is absurd. And so is the notion that he wants to reduce the number of police, firefighters and teachers. Absurdity.
The LA Times says Obama's complicated message will pose a challenge to convey, especially against Romney's simple argument: Y'all mad and it's Obama's fault.
Obama's counter-argument is layered with nuance and complexity.
It starts with an attempt to undercut Romney. As a corporate buyout executive, Romney shipped jobs overseas and reaped millions of dollars in fees from takeover deals that destroyed U.S. factory jobs, the Obama campaign says. As Massachusetts governor, Romney built a poor record on job creation, the argument continues.
Turning to his own record, Obama tells voters that he inherited an economy on the brink of collapse and averted a depression. He takes credit for a resurgence in manufacturing, the rescue of the automobile industry and the creation of more than 4 million jobs since February 2010.
Obama also slams Republicans in Congress for blocking his plans to stimulate more jobs. To inoculate himself from potential setbacks over the summer and fall, he warns of economic trouble spilling over from Europe.
In the end, Obama says, he would keep the country moving forward while Romney would take it back to the George W. Bush policies that wrecked the economy in the first place.
Verizon is changing up its cell phone plans, moving toward monthly plans that allow users to connect up to 10 devices, including tablets and PCs, to their cell phone network.
There's a new Retina-display-bearing MacBook Pro. Whatever that means.
Sunday night's Mad Men season finale broke a ratings record with 2.7 million viewers.
The Los Angeles Kings won the NHL's Stanley Cup on Tuesday, the organization's first ever championship.
In a party line 23-10 vote today, the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate approved a $61 billion budget plan for fiscal years
2014 and 2015 that takes multiple measures against legal
abortions, aims to cut taxes for small businesses and partly restores education funding cut in the previous 2012-2013 budget.
The budget plan gives a large amount of attention to
social issues, particularly abortion. Most recently, the Ohio Senate added an amendment that could be used by the director of the Ohio Department of Health to close down abortion clinics.
The amendment bans abortion clinics from establishing transfer agreements with public hospitals, forcing the clinics to make such agreements with private hospitals,
which are often religious and could refuse to deal with abortion clinics. Under the amendment, if the clinics can’t reach a transfer agreement, the state health director is given the power to shut them down.
Abortion rights groups claim the amendment will likely be used to shut down abortion clinics or force them to dissolve their abortion services.
The bill also makes changes to family services funding that effectively defund Planned Parenthood, a family planning services provider that is often criticized by conservatives for offering abortion services, even though it does so exclusively through private donations.
The bill also redirects some federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds to crisis pregnancy centers, which effectively act as the anti-abortion alternative to comprehensive family planning service providers like Planned Parenthood.
The changes continue a conservative push on social issues that began in the Ohio House budget (“The Chastity Bunch,” issue of April 24).
Supporters praise the bill for “protecting life” and promoting “chastity” and “abstinence,” but critics are pushing back.
“Today the Ohio Senate turned its back on the health care needs of Ohio’s women and paved the way for family planning centers and abortion clinics to be closed across the state. If Gov. (John) Kasich doesn’t remove these provisions from the budget, the unintended pregnancy rate will rise, cancer will go undetected and women who need abortion care will not have safe, legal facilities to turn to in some communities,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, in a statement. “This budget will put the lives of thousands of Ohio women at risk if Gov. Kasich fails to line-item veto these dangerous measures.”The Ohio Senate plan also scraps Ohio House plans to cut income taxes for all Ohioans by 7 percent and instead aims to cut taxes for small businesses by 50 percent.
Republicans claim the tax cut will help small businesses, which they call the state’s “job creators.” But conservative and liberal groups have criticized the plan.
Given that, Zach Schiller, research director at Policy Matters, says the plan will do little for Ohio’s economy.
“The fastest growing small businesses are not making money because they’re investing heavily in their operations — in marketing, research and sales,” Schiller says. “So if they’re making anything, they’re investing it by and large in the business, so they’re not likely to be able to benefit very much from this.”
He adds, “Meanwhile, you’re going to have passive investors who have no role in adding employees and partners in law firms, architecture firms, accounting firms and other kinds of professional organizations who will personally benefit from this in a way that I think is unlikely to generate more employment.”
Instead of focusing on tax cuts, Schiller argues the state should be increasing direct investments, particularly in education and human services.
“This is bad policy, and many supporters are errantly pushing it under the guise of putting more money in the hands of ‘job-creators.’ But this is based on a flawed understanding of what creates jobs,” wrote Scott Drenkard of the Tax Foundation. “The businesses that actually create jobs are not small businesses or big businesses; they are businesses that are growing. And that type of business is virtually impossible to target with a tax incentive.”
The budget plan restores about $717 million in education funding, but that’s not enough to outweigh the $1.8 billion in education funding that was cut in the 2012-2013 budget, which Kasich and the Republican-controlled legislature approved in 2011.
The education funding increases will disproportionately favor the state’s property-wealthiest districts — effectively giving the biggest funding increases to school districts that can already afford to raise more money by leveraging high local property values.
The chart shows only 15 percent of funding increases will go to the property-poorest one-third of school districts, while a vast majority of the increases will go to the property-wealthiest one-third.
Health care advocates were also disappointed to see the Ohio Senate pass on a federally funded Medicaid expansion, which would allow anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level — $15,856 for a single-person household and $32,499 for a family of four — to enroll in the government-backed health care program.
Kasich proposed expanding Medicaid in his original budget plan (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20), but Ohio legislators are skeptical of the expansion’s consequences.
As part of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the Medicaid expansion would be fully financed by the federal government for the first three years. After that, federal payments would be phased down to capture 90 percent of the expansion, where federal funding would permanently remain.
Republican legislators, backed by Republican State Treasurer Josh Mandel, are skeptical the federal government can afford the expansion. There’s no historical precedent for the federal government failing to meet its obligations to Medicaid, but Republican legislators argue there’s also no historical precedent for the federal government backing such large Medicaid expansions across the nation.
A Health Policy Institute of Ohio study found the Medicaid expansion would save the state $1.8 billion and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.
The budget also fails to restore local government funding cuts that have been carried out during Kasich’s time in office. In comparison to fiscal years 2010 and 2011, local governments are receiving about 50 percent less aid from the state, leading to $22.2 million less funds for Cincinnati on an annual basis (“Enemy of the State,” issue of March 20).
When asked to explain the various cuts to education and local government funding in the 2012-2013 budget, Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols told CityBeat in September 2012, “The reality is we walked into an $8 billion budget deficit. … We had to fix that.”
The Ohio legislature and Kasich must agree on a budget plan in time for a June 30 deadline.
Update: This blog incorrectly said Doug Preisse is the chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party. He is the chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party.
“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine,” Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party, told The Columbus Dispatch in an email over the weekend. The admission to outright racism came at the height of a controversy regarding weekend voting in Montgomery County. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is trying to enforce uniform in-person early voting hours with no weekend voting across the state to avoid any discrepancies that caused a previous controversy, but county Democrats in Dayton wanted to have weekend voting anyway. When county Democrats refused to back down in a Board of Elections meeting, Husted, the state official who is supposed to empower voters as much as possible, suspended them from the Board. The move sparked criticism from state Democrats, which eventually led to Preisse’s admission to playing racial politics.
The Ohio Board of Education is meeting today and is expected to discuss its search for a new superintendent of public instruction. Former Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner had to leave after an investigation found he had been misusing state resources and encouraging legislation that benefited an employer.Taxpayers could be paying $300,000 so county officials can avoid a tough decision. The move would preserve the property tax rollback and let the county hold off on making a payment on the stadiums this fiscal year. Two out of three county commissioners told the Enquirer they like the idea.
Schools in the Greater Cincinnati area seem to be using different grading scales. The disparity could put some students in a worse spot when applying to college.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is suing a Cincinnati man over a Craigslist scam.The Greater Cincinnati area could soon host more film, television and video game production thanks to new tax incentives.
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland could be making an appearance at the Democratic national convention. The convention is a time for parties to show off their new candidates and party platforms.Republican senatorial candidate Todd Akin of Missouri told KTVI-TV, “First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” The extremely offensive, factually incorrect comment was quickly picked up by media outlets, and the senatorial candidate is now saying he “misspoke.” But misspeaking typically means messing up one or two words. Misspeaking does not mean making a clearly spoken argument with a very clear point.
Lack of funding could be hurting national parks.Here is a spider with claws.
The Ohio Graduation Tests will soon be no more. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and Board of Regents have agreed to establish tougher tests with a focus on preparing students for college and beyond.
Michael Sawyers, acting superintendent for ODE, praised the agreement in a statement: “This is a major step forward in our reform efforts to ensure all Ohio students have the knowledge and skills necessary to leave school remediation-free and ready for their post-secondary experience in higher education or workforce training.”
Private companies will soon be able to compete for a contract to design and help implement the new standardized tests. The tests are expected to kick in during the 2014-2015 school year, but state officials acknowledge they could be implemented in time for the 2013-2014 school year if competitive bidding goes well and funding is sufficient. Once the tests are active, high school sophomores will take end-of-year tests to gauge college and career readiness. The tests will cover English, algebra, geometry, biology, physical science, American history and American government.
The reform is part of a bigger effort that reworks Ohio’s education system with higher standards for schools and students. As part of the broader changes, Ohio adopted the Common Core State Standards, which are a commitment to raise the bar on English and math standards for grades K-12.
The overall idea behind the reform has relatively bipartisan support, says Kelsey Bergfeld, a legislative service commission fellow for Ohio Sen. Tom Sawyer. Sawyer, a Democrat, is the ranking minority member in the Ohio Senate’s Education Committee.
The problem is in the details — specifically, the details in a new school report card system established by HB 555, which will be voted on in the Ohio House next week. Bergfeld says the current proposal by Ohio Republicans is too harsh, which could make schools look worse than they are in reality. That problem could be exacerbated by the new tests, she says: If the new tests are too tough, they could make schools and students look bad “because grades are going to drop.”
An early simulation of tougher report card standards in May found Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) would fall under the new system. The simulation showed CPS would drop from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking but Walnut Hills High School retaining its top mark with an A.
A new report from left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio shows the impact of state budget cuts on individual counties. Statewide, more than $1 billion in tax reimbursements and the Local Government Fund was cut between the 2010-2011 budget, which was passed by Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, and the 2012-2013 budget, which was passed by Republican Gov. John Kasich. Additionally, Ohio’s estate tax — a tax that affected only 8 percent of Ohioans, largely those at top income levels — was eliminated, killing off a crucial source of funding. Hamilton County, its jurisdiction, schools, services and levies lost $222.1 million. Health and human services lost $23.2 million. Children’s services lost $4.6 million, and the county children’s agency services “was sent into financial crisis.” In total, more than 5,000 local government jobs were lost in the area.
The Center for Closing the Health Gap is launching a campaign to raise awareness about food deserts in Cincinnati. Food deserts are areas, particularly neighborhoods, where full-service grocery stores aren’t readily available to residents. The campaign hopes to raise awareness and funding to combat the food deserts in the Cincinnati area. With a funding target of $15 million, the organization plans to help build smaller stores with close ties to the local communities.
A new study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital resurfaced Greater Cincinnati’s nuclear weapons legacy. Between the 1950s and 1980s, residents of nearby farm communities were unaware they were being exposed to radioactive materials in the air, water and soil from a Cold War era nuclear weapons plant, located 18 miles northwest of Cincinnati. Apparently, the exposure has led to higher rates of systemic lupus in the area.
Greater Cincinnati’s economic recovery could be slowed or boosted by policy, but it will outpace the nation’s economic recovery, according to local economists. Still, the economists caution that there is a lot of uncertainty due to oil prices, the fiscal cliff — a series of tax hikes and budget cuts scheduled to be made at the start of 2013 if U.S. Congress doesn’t act — and the fiscal crisis in Europe.
Cincinnati’s small businesses are more upbeat about the economy. Eleven percent of local family firms expect the economy to improve, but whether that translates to business expansions remains to be seen.
CityLink Center is scheduled to open today. The initial plans for the facility sought to help the homeless with health services, overnight shelter, food, temporary housing and child care. At one point, the center’s opening was threatened due to legal challenges regarding zoning.
Hostess, maker of Twinkies, says it will close down three bakeries, including one in Cincinnati, due to a national strike. According to reports, union workers walked off the job after a new contract cut their wages and benefits. Hostess insists the factory shutdowns will not affect customers.
Top Cincinnati mortgage lenders saw double-digit increases between Sept. 1, 2011 and Aug. 30, 2012. The rise is yet another positive sign for the housing market, which collapsed during the latest financial crisis and recession.
The state agency in charge of higher education released a report highlighting 20 recommendations to improve degree completion in Ohio. Some of the recommendations from the Board of Regents: Adopt more uniform statewide rules regarding college completion and career readiness, push stronger collaboration and alignment in education from preschool through senior year in college, establish a new system of high school assessment to improve readiness for college, and improve flexibility. The board will attempt to turn the report into reality in cooperation with university and state officials.
Too much school choice may be a bad thing. A new study found Ohio’s varied education system, which offers vouchers for private schools and charter schools as alternatives to a traditional public school, may have passed “a point where choice actually becomes detrimental to overall academic performance.”
The Ohio Farm Bureau (OFB) issued an action alert on Saturday telling members to oppose privatizing the Ohio Turnpike. The Ohio state government, led by Kasich, is currently studying possible plans to privatize the turnpike. In a video, an OFB member argues the current turnpike management is fine.
There are still some undecided seats in the Ohio legislature from the Nov. 6 election.
Once again, a reminder not to drive on a sidewalk to avoid a school bus.
Former George W. Bush adviser Karen Hughes says she will “cut out” the tongue of Republican men making “Neanderthal comments” about rape.
A new way to fight bacteria: coat it with a thin layer of mucus.
The state auditor today criticized both the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and a handful of school districts in an interim report. The report, which will be finalized in the coming months as the investigation is completed, gave some early findings for the ongoing investigation into attendance scrubbing, the practice of “removing students from enrollment without lawful reason.”
Dave Yost, Ohio’s state auditor, has been investigating claims that schools are scrubbing attendance data for better results in Ohio’s school report card, which grades schools and school districts around the state. The grading process helps establish policies for different schools, such as funding needs and whether they require local or state intervention.
The early results of the investigation, which began after Lockland Schools in Hamilton County was caught reporting fraudulent data, found a fundamental conflict of interest in a system in which schools are “on the honor system” to report their own data.
“The current system relies upon local schools and school districts — but these are the very entities that are interested in the outcome of the accountability measures,” the report said, before labeling the setup “a classic conflict of interest.”
The report advised the state government to reform ODE to introduce “independent oversight.” Specifically, Yost asked for oversight to be transferred to “an independent agency or commission appointed by the General Assembly” instead of relying on schools to be honest. This oversight should be conducted throughout the year, not just at the end of the school year like it's done today, according to the report.
The state auditor’s report also asked ODE to develop better methods for tracking students. In particular, the report suggested using SSIDs — ID numbers that are given to students in the Ohio’s school database — to track all withdrawals and transfers for students.
But those were only a few of the many suggestions. The report laid out other proposals: Set clear attendance rules for school boards, provide due process to students being kicked out for poor attendance, require stricter attendance records at each school, stop providing school report card data early, create a centralized source or manual for accountability resources and establish a statewide student information system with clearer uniform rules and standards.
John Charlton, spokesperson for ODE, says the state will look into enforcing “additional safeguards.” He says ODE already “upgraded” EMIS, which is the system used by schools to report data, this year, but more is coming.
“We’ve been cooperative with the auditor’s office, and we’ve established a productive working relationship about his inquiry,” he says. “We’ll take the input that’s provided from the auditor’s office into consideration when we make upgrades for next year’s (EMIS) manual.”
But the report did not just blame ODE and the state government for failures. It also singled out a few school districts with evidence of school scrubbing. Columbus City School District, Toledo City School District, Cleveland Municipal School District, Marion City School District and Campbell City School District were the main offenders. Other school districts were found to have errors but no scrubbing.
“We’re actually encouraged but not surprised that this interim report shows that most Ohio schools and districts that have been visited to date have been following the rules for reporting data to the state,” Charlton says.
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) was partially investigated as part of the auditor's interim report, but results for CPS were found to be “indeterminate” as the school district finishes gathering all its data.
The full report can be read here.