Rankings of two Cincinnati schools drop after state recalculates test scores

Downgrades part of larger state audit

CINCINNATI -- Ohio has lowered the state rankings of two Cincinnati Public schools for the 2011-12 school year after officials added the scores of students whose tests were incorrectly excluded.

Hays Porter Elementary School in West End and South Avondale Elementary were both downgraded to rankings of "continuous improvement" from "effective" by the Ohio Department of Education.

The revisions were part of a much larger audit of test scores that led to changes announced Wednesday for the school districts of Cleveland, Toledo and Northridge in Montgomery County. Auditor of State Dave Yost issued a report last year that found improper exclusions of student test scores that led to the review of nearly 18,000 records statewide and the recalculation of 5,324 student scores that should have counted.

According to the state, CPS wrongfully excluded the scores of 130 students in the 2010-11 school year; 89 students in 2011-12; and 24 students in 2012-13. With enrollment staying steady at about 33,000 students, that means an average of 0.25 percent of scores were excluded while 99.75 percent were included.

The Office of Professional Conduct is conducting a separate investigation to determine if any teachers or other licensed professionals contributed to the submission of inaccurate data, according to the state.

CPS has conducted an internal review to determine whether the errors were done intentionally to "scrub" low scores from its records to boost rankings.

"We found no evidence anywhere of any kind of deliberate manipulation of data," said Janet Walsh, CPS communications director.

Previously, the state boosted the 2010-11 rankings for James N. Gamble Montessori High School in Westwood and Roselawn Condon Elementary School and lowered the ranking of Hays Porter.

Walsh said the revisions have been a distraction at times but that teachers and administrators are focused on students despite the problem.

"The good news moving forward is that Ohio Department of Education has clarified what the rules are for the reporting of that data and we're to the point that there are very few mistakes and no changes in school ratings for 2012-13," she said.

In Columbus, 20 schools' rankings were lowered Wednesday after the state officials recalculated the 2011, 2012 and 2013 report cards.

Previously, the state determined overall district rankings of Cincinnati, Cleveland and Toledo's districts were unchanged, but Northridge's rank was downgraded from "excellent" to "continuous improvement" and $28,000 state bonus money for excellent academic performance had to be returned.

State officials said the revisions are part of their efforts to ensure parents and taxpayers have accurate information.

“Giving a full and accurate accounting of how students are being educated is vital. Actions that mislead the public about the performance of our education system are unacceptable and do a disservice to kids,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Richard A. Ross said. “Local communities should have confidence that schools are giving a complete and honest accounting of how they are educating our children. By recalculating the report cards, we are taking an important step to restore that trust.”

School and district rankings have been replaced with an A to F system that Ohio is rolling out in phases. Rankings based on 2013-14 school year tests are due to be released in mid-September.

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