It should have become painfully apparent to Ohioans by now that one of the keys to public education reform in the state is deeply flawed. Before anything else is done on school improvement, that needs to be addressed.
Ohio, like most other states, relies on statistics to gauge how well schools are performing. Good student scores on standardized tests, good high school graduation rates, low drop-out rates and other indicators are evidence of adequate performance.
But what if the numbers are lies? What if school officials falsify statistics?
It has been happening in Columbus, right under the noses of state legislators and the Ohio Department of Education.
Some school administrators have used tactics such as temporarily withdrawing students from school, then re-enrolling them to ensure their low scores on standardized tests did not drag the district's averages down. All the while, the students were in school.
About a decade ago, only half the students enrolling in Columbus schools could be expected to graduate from high school. Now the rate, using the same formula as was in effect then, is higher than 85 percent. A state Board of Education member has said such an improvement "would be a miracle if it were true."
Ohioans, particularly those in Columbus, just don't know. They also don't know whether the graduation rate was achieved by other underhanded methods such as handing diplomas to students who haven't earned them.
A mind-boggling array of tactics used to cheat, in effect, has been uncovered in Columbus schools.
Columbus isn't the only place where school administrators have lied. The state Auditor's Office says such practices have been found in several other districts.
Clearly, statistics reported by school systems cannot be relied upon to evaluate their performance.
In reforming Ohio public schools, results need to be used as an indicator of performance. For example, the absolutely ridiculous number of high school graduates who need to take remedial courses in college is proof the public education situation is not as rosy as some would have us believe.
Cheating school administrators appear to be the exception, not the rule. Still, the fact many are being identified means what they report no longer is acceptable as a means of letting Ohioans know whether public schools are working.