- Associated Press - Friday, July 17, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio education officials retracted evaluations of charter school sponsors operating across the state Friday after discovering an official excluded F grades received by online schools from the reports.

In a statement, the Ohio Department of Education said it was taking the action in response to concerns and its own preliminary review.

“The department will be seeking input from independent experts to make sure the methodology for evaluating all sponsors, including those already evaluated, is credible, accurate and compliant,” it said.

School Choice Director David Hansen confirmed this week under questioning by the state school board that he had excluded failing grades for online and dropout recovery schools from the evaluations because he felt the marks would “mask” successes elsewhere.

The board said Hansen was legally bound to report all the grades. The omission boosted the ratings of two oversight agencies, which could make them eligible for more state perks.

Hansen’s wife is chief-of-staff to Republican Gov. John Kasich. She takes a leave next week to work for his 2016 presidential campaign.

The flap comes as Ohio’s charter schools have been under intense scrutiny.

State lawmakers frustrated by attendance, accountability and performance troubles plaguing the schools - pitched as an alternative to traditional public schools - introduced bipartisan legislation in April to tackle the problem.

The bill stalled before legislators’ summer recess and at least one education reform group, StudentsFirst Ohio, was pushing Friday for House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger to call legislators back to Columbus to pass the legislation. A spokeswoman said there were no immediate plans to do so.

State Rep. Teresa Fedor, a Toledo Democrat, sent a letter to Superintendent Richard Ross, the state’s top education official and Hansen’s superior, asking Ross to resign.

“Your duty as state superintendent is to follow the law, period,” she wrote. “I am outraged by the recent revelation that your subordinates unlawfully manipulated key charter school evaluations in order to cover for failing online charters. State officials do not get to pick and choose which Ohio laws to follow. That this gross violation of the law was allowed to occur under your leadership is entirely unacceptable.”

A message was left with an Education Department spokesman seeking comment.

Fedor and Senate Democratic Leader Joe Schiavoni asked Ohio Auditor Dave Yost to investigate. Yost, a Republican, has made allegations of records tampering and data manipulation at both charter and traditional schools a priority of his administration.

Yost told The Columbus Dispatch for an article published Friday that he is concerned about the situation but has not launched an official investigation. A spokeswoman said she could not immediately comment on direct requests for action issued Friday.

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