Schools leader: Data scrubbing 'unacceptable'

Posted at 3:59 PM, Sep 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-16 15:59:26-04

COLUMBUS -- At a State Board of Education meeting Tuesday, Ohio’s State Superintendent gave his first comment in the ongoing story surrounding data-scrubbing within the Ohio Department of Education.

Superintendent Richard Ross gave official comment on former education director David Hansen purposefully excluding failing charter school grades in reports to boost overall state scores.

“It was inappropriate and unacceptable. If someone had shared it with me, we wouldn’t be here talking about it today,” he said. “It is so counter to what I believe. I believe in accountability for all schools. It doesn’t matter if they’re community schools or traditional schools.”

Emails and text messages released last week showed that ODE employees in Hansen’s staff were aware of the exclusion of failing grades for e-school and dropout recovery schools.

Ross said that the department of education has taken measures to mitigate the damage of the data-scrubbing, including rescinding all completed evaluations with the inflated data, and forming a Data Governance Committee to take over the evaluation process for charter schools.

He also said that the department would develop a whistleblower policy to encourage employees to speak up if they see wrongdoing.

Democratic lawmakers have been calling for Ross to step down and for an independent investigation of the department's inner workings.

When asked if he would pursue that independent investigation, Ross repeatedly referred to his turning over “hundreds of thousands of documents” to journalists, but also the state inspector general and auditor’s offices.

“I think we can sit here and say whatever we want, but I think those are the two appropriate people and entities to take a look at this. They’re both charged with that responsibility,” Ross said.

Democratic Representative Teresa Fedor, a ranking member of the House Education Committee, chastised Ross in a statement.

“It should come as no surprise that Superintendent Ross and Republicans on the Board of Education prefer a GOP-led investigation into the illegal data-scrubbing of failing charter school grades spearheaded by the governor’s campaign manager’s husband,” Fedor said. “I believe it is past time for Mr. Ross to resign, and I fully support the board’s call for an independent investigation.” 

That said, Ross emphasized that an investigation would be beneficial to him and the department, repeating that he committed no wrongdoing.

Ben Postlethwait is a fellow in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau. You can reach him via email or follow him on Twitter @BCPostlethwait