There are new questions Wednesday about whether East Cleveland City School District really failed its third consecutive state report card after News 5 obtained documents just filed in the district's case against the state over a school takeover.
"East Cleveland City School District did not receive an overall F grade for the 2017 - 2018 report card and the 2017 - 2018 overall grade for the district is based upon flawed, unreliable data," according to an allegation in the complaint, just filed in East Cleveland City Schools vs. the State of Ohio.
This suit, currently in the Franklin County Common Pleas Court, is fighting the state's takeover of the East Cleveland School district through HB70. As we've told you, the controversial law that allows state takeovers of public school districts is itself under fire.
According to the complaint, East Cleveland was getting two different grades in one portion of their district report card, just two days before it was released by the Ohio Department of Education.
A chain of emails, between Ohio Department of Education employees, were brought to light through the lawsuit. They involve troubleshooting data errors three days before the final report cards were released.
The emails also reveal a discrepancy between East Cleveland's Report Card grade, a D, and something called a Trend Grade, an F.
East Cleveland ended up with an F on its state report card.
Four other school districts were listed in the ODE emails as having a different report card and trend grades.
One day after the report card was released, an ODE official admitted she "found some errors in her black box files," related to East Cleveland and "needs to re-run them and have them included in the next release of the report card." Referring to next years report card, but as we know, the district is already under state control.
The other thing unclear Wednesday — exactly what a trend grade is and how the State came up with it.
News 5 reached out to the Ohio Department of Education's media relations contact and the state superintendent Wednesday morning with requests as soon as we reviewed the complaint filed in the case.
We asked: "In the most recent Ohio School Report Cards, I understand East Cleveland had a trending grade of an F within ODE's system, but a final report card grade of a D. Why was the district given their trending grade rather than the grade they earned? Looking for clarification and a definition of Trend vs. Report Card grades previously mentioned."
Brittany Halpin, Ohio Department of Education's Deputy Director of Communications and Outreach got back to us with this: "The Department does not issue 'trending grades.' There are only final grades issued on report cards, and East Cleveland earned an overall grade of “F” for the 2017-2018 school year. You can see their final report card grade here."
The Ohio State Department of Education later clarified with the following:
"Prior to the release of the report cards, districts submit data to the Department, and the Department uses that data to calculate grades. Prior to the release of report cards, districts have access to preliminary data that they have an opportunity to update and correct. As data is added and updated in the system, districts see that. However, none of the results prior to the release of the final report cards may be construed as final, and Progress component grades are calculated at the very end of the process. Final report card grades are the only grades districts receive.
Report cards are generated using data that districts report to the Department. During that process, districts are afforded an appeal window to correct any errors in their data. After the close of the appeal window, East Cleveland notified the Department that the district misreported data to the Department and requested a watermark on the report card. However, the issues do not impact the district’s report card grade in a way that changes their overall grade."
Halpin's response did not clarify errors or inconsistencies, considering the emails detailing East Cleveland's trending grade of an F, report card grade of a D.