Three Lorain schools were included in the 100-school sampling the state auditor’s office used to conduct its attendance reporting investigation.
While state officials do not believe Lorain “scrubbed” students or purposely withdrew them to manipulate performance on state report cards, the interim report released Thursday by state Auditor Dave Yost does highlight areas of concern when it comes to the district’s record keeping.
The Ohio Department of Education requested the statewide probe after discovering attendance reporting irregularities in Columbus Schools, Toledo Schools and a suburban Cincinnati district.
In Lorain, important documents and sometimes entire student files were missing or could not be provided for 18 students — seven at New Beginnings Academy, six from General Johnnie Wilson Middle School and five at Longfellow Middle School.
In many instances, grades could be found for some of those same students showing they did well during the 2010-11 school year, which was the year the state looked at for all districts.
“This information is helpful to me because the state found some things that I may not have,” said Superintendent Tom Tucker, who is in his first year as leader of the district. “Before this report came out, I had already begun taking steps to improve the way we collect and maintain data. This just shows me more areas we need to clean up.”
In picking the schools to sample, the state chose the top 100 schools with the highest number of student withdrawals for testing. Districts are not responsible for the test scores of students who aren’t continually enrolled from October through spring, when the tests are administered.
The three Lorain schools landed on that list, Tucker said. That, he said, did not surprise him as Lorain has a high percentage of mobile families that move from one rental property to another throughout the city and often during the same school year.
There are some students who attend two or three schools in the district during one school year, he said.
“In addition, a number of our schools have closed in recent years and we have shifted students around from building to building,” he said. “Often, student files remain intact. This report looks at six or seven incidences in three schools. Still, I say that all student files need to be exactly where ODE says it needs to be.”
Tucker said the district of roughly 7,200 students — likely 7,500 in 2010-11 — has several people responsible for student data, including those who handle registration and enrollment, building secretaries and two Education Management Information System coordinators.
“What I am most pleased about in this interim report is the fact that there was no misleading or any kind of manipulation on the district’s part, but we do have some internal issues that we need to correct,” Tucker said. “This is something all districts should do on an ongoing basis, and my guess would be if they looked at other districts of our size, there may be similar issues. Or maybe not, but I know we just need to do a better job here with every student file.”
Five school districts, none of which are in Lorain County, were identified in the report for improperly withdrawn students from their enrollment. They are Campbell Schools in Mahoning County, Marion Schools in Marion County, and Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo schools.
The report is the first phase of the state probe. Yost said a second report will be made public before the November general election. Additional discrepancies will be reported at that time if they are found when the state conducts examinations of other districts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.