School administrators have an advantage their students don't: In effect, they grade some of the tests used to determine how well they are performing. Some of them are cheating, according to the Ohio Department of Education.
Much of the data used by the state - as well as taxpayers and students' parents - to learn whether schools are doing a good job is prepared by school district administrators. Information on matters such as student attendance is submitted to the state, which posts it online. It is in school district officials' best interests for the numbers to look good, of course.
This week the ODE revealed the Loveland school district, near Cincinnati, reported false data on student attendance, in an effort to improve its state "report card" appearance. Evidence of cheating on attendance numbers in the big Columbus and Toledo districts also has been found.
State school Superintendent Stan Hefner hinted this week that other districts may have been caught manipulating the statistics, too. He added investigations may lead to criminal charges against those responsible.
Where the evidence merits it, criminal charges should be filed. This is fraud, after all. And again, it is self-serving.
Hefner added that state law gives him the option of withholding some state aid to school districts caught cheating. But he noted he doesn't "want to do anything that hurts the opportunities of students because of bad behavior by adults."
Of course not. State funding should not be withheld - providing dishonest school administrators are rooted out and kicked out of the education profession.
State school officials should conduct a thorough investigation - including at least a spot-check of district reports throughout the state. The findings of that probe should be reported. Anyone involved should, at the very least, be fired and if intent to deceive is involved, criminal charges should be filed.
Students caught cheating on tests suffer consequences. So should education administrators.