As I talked about on a few occasions recently, the powerful Charter School Lobby effectively neutered a potentially powerful accountability provision in the Cleveland Plan.
The Transformation Alliance is a public-private collaboration that the originators of the Cleveland Plan wanted to have sign off authority over Charter Schools in Cleveland and hold Sponsors to greater account for their schools. The idea was to have the community have a greater say over Charter Schools. For after all, the state does call them "Community Schools."
However, the new version of the Cleveland Plan gives the Ohio Department of Education the sign off authority, turning the Alliance into a mere recommendation body.
One wrinkle that was particularly interesting to me was the one that said Charter Sponsors will only be subject to Alliance review once their sponsorship agreements were up for renewal. Couple that with the fact that the new version of the bill sunsets the Alliance after five years, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that if a Charter Sponsor isn't up for renewal before five years (which is the duration of many contracts), then the Alliance will have nothing to say.
In addition, Sponsors only have to come before the Alliance once. Ever.
So I decided to look to see what Charter Schools are operated in Cleveland and when their contracts are up. What I found was pretty interesting. And thanks to ODE for providing me the spreadsheet here.
Two schools -- Ohio Connections Academy, Inc. and Horizon Science Academy's Dennison Middle School -- aren't up for renewal until 2018, meaning they escape scrutiny all together.
Of the 63 Charter Schools currently operating in Cleveland, 17 have their contracts up June 30. That means if they renew for five years, they will never come before the Alliance. Among the 13 of those 17 Charters that have been rated by the state, 8 rate D or F on the state report card, 2 rate a C, and there's two Bs and an A. The average Performance Index Score of these schools is 74, which is about a point below the Cleveland District average. Remove the top score and the average drops to 70 -- significantly lower than Cleveland's average.
Another 18 Charters are up for renewal June 30, 2013. It is not inconceivable that those schools could seek early renewals to avoid Alliance scrutiny.
However, it is interesting to note that they are rated disproportionately well, with only 5 of the 15 that are rated making D or F. That means the first round of Charters that would potentially be scrutinized by the Alliance will be among the most accomplished. And since most sponsors sponsor more than one school, the sponsors' best schools will likely show up in this grouping. That means they aren't as likely to be scrutinized over their poor performing schools, but rather their more highly performing ones.
And since the sponsor won't come before the Alliance but once, it may not ever have to answer for its poor performing schools, unless the Alliance is permitted to bring in the performance of their other schools.
With the new version of the bill, the Alliance has to develop their review standards with ODE and the Charter School lobby. I would hope the standards would permit the Alliance to consider the Sponsor's complete body of work when making its recommendations to the Department, as was the original intent of the legislation.