Auditor Finds Changed Grades, Altered Attendance Data & Bad Records In Columbus Schools

UPDATED: Wednesday January 29, 2014 5:41 AM

The Ohio Auditor said his investigation into the Columbus City Schools found a district with bad record keeping and employees with "bunker mentalities" who were worried about their jobs.

"This has been one of the most troubling things in the 14 years I've been in public service, that I have ever come across," said Auditor Dave Yost.

Yost outlined his findings about the state's largest school district in a news conference Tuesday morning.

The Auditor's office was looking into allegations its employees manipulated attendance data. District employees have been accused of altering attendance records for struggling students to improve performance ratings, which can be used to determine government funding and employee bonuses. The practice is called scrubbing.

During the 18-month investigation, the state auditor served search warrants, seized evidence and interviewed around 300 employees.

Yost called the teachers the "heroes" of the investigation and said the issue was a problem with the Columbus Schools' administration. He said the staff believed it needed to manipulate data for face negative consequences on the job. He said the culture was encouraged by administrators.

"This was a top-down situation. This was directed, beginning in 2002, by a fellow named Steve Tankovich who was the data director for the school system," said Yost.

According to interviews the Auditor's office conducted, many of the grades that were changed by administrators were done without the knowledge of the teacher who was involved. There were also absences erased by administrators without documentation.

Yost said an unusually high number of grade changes were made by a few individuals, including one person at Marion Franklin High School who changed 662. At the school, a total of 1,796 grades were changed from 'F' to 'D'. According to Yost, the administrator had a motto: "D them up."

Columbus School officials have recommended that four principals be fired over the investigation. They are Tiffany Chavers (Linden-McKinley STEM Academy), Christopher Qualls (Independence HS), Jonathan Stevens (Mifflin High School) and Pamela Diggs (Marion-Franklin High School).

"Let me be clear, we intend to continue holding accountable those who willful, deliberate, and inappropriate actions can be clearly documented," said Dr. Dan Good, current CCS Superintendent.

Yost's review of Columbus was spun from a broader review he conducted last year that identified more than 70 Ohio schools or districts that made attendance reporting errors and a handful that scrubbed.

When contacted by 10TV, former Columbus Schools Superintendent Gene Harris said she could not comment until she fully understands the report.

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