This blog is dedicated to the children of Missouri that are being serviced by the Special Education system. They are not receiving the services that they need because they will never make the state or their districts look good.
Results released Friday from a state review of attendance data in Ferguson-Florissant show that someone in the school district made changes in August 2012 that increased the student attendance rate.
But what state and district officials haven’t said is who was responsible.
Student attendance is a factor in the formula that calculates how much money a school district receives from the state. Attendance rates also contribute to a district’s accreditation score.
The findings mean that state officials will now work with the district to make necessary data corrections and recalculate its state aid payment based on the updated attendance numbers. It is estimated the changes could mean a loss of $80,000 this year for the district. The district has an annual budget of about $141 million.
The inquiry followed the controversial suspension of the district’s superintendent, Art McCoy, who has been on paid administrative leave from the district since a Nov. 6 School Board vote. An initial statement from the board said it was not an indication of wrongdoing. On Monday, Ferguson-Florissant School Board President Paul Morris said that the board had received information “serious enough” to be required by law to notify the state education department.
Ron Lankford, a deputy commissioner in the state education department, sent a letter Friday to the district saying the department found information that verified the district’s report of significant alterations to student attendance data on Aug. 6, 2012.
The state review showed that on that date, someone in the district increased the attendance data in files for 3,357 students. The change resulted in about 20,569 more attendance hours than had been previously reported, and an increase in average daily attendance to 10,336 from 10,317.
State education officials plan to work with district staff to make the necessary data corrections. The financial impact will be determined once the adjustments to student attendance data are made. After that, the state department’s role in resolving the issue will be complete, according to a statement released today by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
For its part, the Ferguson-Florissant School Board plans to continue its investigation into the matter. The board met in closed session Friday morning, but no decisions have been made as a result of the letter, district spokeswoman Jana Shortt said. No other district employees have been placed on administrative leave related to this issue.
McCoy has not returned messages from reporters about his suspension and the state’s review. But in a letter he wrote to Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro this week, he said he was ready to respond to any allegation or concern that her department was reviewing.
At a town hall meeting in September, McCoy presented information that showed Ferguson-Florissant had a 95.8 percent overall attendance rate in August 2012. For the year, the average was 94.2 percent. The data that was changed would have been for a previous period.
It’s not the first time the state has investigated irregularities in attendance reporting.
Earlier this month, state education officials found evidence that Hope Academy, a charter school in Kansas City, may have inflated attendance and enrollment information.
A state audit also revealed that the principal of Patrick Henry Downtown Academy in St. Louis had orchestrated the alteration of hundreds of attendance records. The department found that it had paid St. Louis Public Schools an excess of $145,000 as a result. The district repaid that money earlier this month.
Elisa Crouch of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.
Jessica Bock covers K-12 education for the Post-Dispatch. Follow her on twitter @jessicabock