Dave Yost
Dave Yost

An unannounced, statewide head count of community school attendance found as few as zero students in one school, according to a report released by Auditor of State Dave Yost.

The report also notes that no issues were found at nearly half the schools.

“If we as taxpayers can’t trust the numbers, what do we have left?” Auditor Yost said.

“Change is needed in our community schools, and I look forward to working with the General Assembly and the Ohio Department of Education to strengthen our system through increased accountability, transparency and data integrity.”

In response to reports of irregular attendance and enrollment practices within several Ohio community schools, the Auditor of State’s office (AOS) completed an unannounced student head count at 30 of Ohio’s site-based community schools on Oct. 1, 2014. More than 30 Auditor of State auditors and/or investigators conducted the student attendance counts. Student head counts were compared to the enrollment estimates reported to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) in July 2014.

Out of the 30 schools reviewed, seven were identified as having unusually high variances in students counted by AOS staff versus the number of students the schools reported to ODE.

For example, when AOS staff went into the Academy for Urban Scholars in Youngstown, they found zero students in the school where 95 students were supposed to be enrolled.

The other six schools had attendance variances between 34 percent and 83 percent when compared to July 2014 enrollment estimates.

In other words, all seven schools’ attendance rates are significantly lower than the enrollment numbers reported to ODE. All seven schools are classified as Dropout Recovery and Prevention schools by ODE and serve predominantly dropout recovery students.

The Auditor of State’s office is referring these schools to ODE and their sponsors for further investigation.

A second set of nine schools were identified as having attendance variances of 10 percent or more, but were considered less severe or substantiated in some way.

Several of these schools will be referred to ODE for review. The remaining 14 schools were found to have attendance variances of 10 percent or less, and the Auditor of State’s office does not believe they require further investigation by ODE.

The report provides four policy recommendations to the Ohio Department of Education and one policy recommendation for community school sponsors. Yost stressed that Ohio needs legislative reform to strengthen the integrity of community schools and restore public confidence.