Friday, November 05, 1999

School safety report inaccurate

Area schools get a surprise

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Kentucky's first comprehensive report on the state of school safety, released Monday,contains some significant numerical errors.

        Example: Pendleton County Schools expelled 21 students last year, not the 353 shown in data released by the Kentucky Center for School Safety at Eastern Kentucky University.

        Other mistakes:

        • Newport expelled no students in the 1998-99 school year; the report cites 50 expulsions.

        • Campbell County expelled six students, not 17.

        • Covington Schools does not use corporal punishment. The report cited four cases.

        The report was created as part of the state's new school safety program. School districts across the state reported problems with the numbers.

        “When they asked us for all this information, we hadn't really been keeping up with it and we didn't get much information on how to do it,” said Patrick Clore, Pendleton County superintendent. “This is going to be an annual thing. We need to get the bugs out.”

        Schools reported their data electronically to a North Carolina research firm that created a database for the school safety center. The center analyzed the figures and released them to the public.

        Education Department officials and safety center director Lois Adams-Rodgers said Thursday that minor problems and glitches were not unexpected, especially in the project's first year.

        “It's really critical, I think, that whenever we use baseline data we have to use it as an opportunity to begin,” Dr. Adams-Rodgers said. “It's like trying to decide where it starts raining. There may be some mistakes, but it calls people's attention to the issues.”

        Schools will get a chance to fix information in December and June, when they report safety data for the 1999-2000 school year, said Jim Parks, Education Department spokesman. Inaccurate data would not affect schools' ability to receive grants for school safety programs.

        Superintendents said they want more specific training before filling out this year's report.

        Report errors could be attributed to typos, a misunderstanding of how to report the data or differences in how schools define certain violations. Yet the state taught schools how to report the data. Every district was given the same descriptions for reporting categories.

        Schools had to interpret their own data before completing the state report, said Peter Lefaivre, Kenton County Schools' director of student support services. That's be cause districts that use dozens of categories to report violations had to make them fit the nine groups delineated by the state.

        David Feldmann, Campbell County Schools' director of pupil personnel, said, “I realize that this is the first year for the electronic report and errors may occur; however, when they are reported inaccurately to the public, it can be misleading and give the wrong impression.”

        That Covington Schools would use corporal punishment disturbed Superintendent James Kemp. “We don't paddle anybody. We have never done that.”

        In Pendleton County, school records verify expulsion hearings for 21 students, who were then placed in alternative programs.

        “The incorrect numbers sent out the wrong information on the school district, which creates a problem,” Pendleton's Dr. Clore said.

        Newport Superintendent Dan Sullivan said his district placed students in alternative programs instead of expelling them. The state reported that the district expelled 50 students.

        “This is much ado about nothing,” Mr. Sullivan said.


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