Friday, January 22, 2016

Ohio's Dropout Recovery Schools Embarrassingly Poor Performing

The data on Ohio's dropout recovery charter schools is so bad I'm wondering if anything can ever really be done to repair this portion of the charter sector. Dropout recovery students are inherently more difficult to reach. Look, I get it. But the performance metrics released last week by the Ohio Department of Education are just alarming, especially considering these schools are "educating" our most vulnerable students in desperate need of high-quality educational opportunities to catch them up to speed.

How alarming is this performance?

Try these data points:

  • There are only two Dropout Recovery Schools (out of 93) that have any kids reportedly accomplishing industry credentials, and only two schools have any kids achieving dual enrollment credit in an institution of higher education. And the percentage of kids that have achieved this are 1.3% or less of the Class of 2014 that graduated from each of the schools.
  • The State of Ohio says a Dropout Recovery School meets its "standard" if 28 out of 210 eligible students graduate ... IN 8 YEARS!
  • The State of Ohio says a Dropout Recovery School meets its "standard" if 8.4% of the school's students graduate in 4 years.
  • The Greater Ohio Virtual School graduated a stunning 3 out of 149 students ... IN 8 YEARS!
  • Out of the 1,100 students eligible to graduate in four years from the state's 13 Life Skills Centers (run by major political donor David Brennan's White Hat Management), only 57 graduated -- 18 of whom came from one school. That's a stunningly low 5.2% four-year graduation rate overall. Eliminating the one Life Skills Center with the 18 graduates drops the average in the remaining 12 schools to an incredible 4.4% -- only about 1/2 of the state's minimum graduation rate.

  • Overall, there were 7,324 students eligible to graduate from Dropout Recovery schools in four years. Only 1,590 did. That rate of 22% is actually 3 percentage points higher than the eight-year graduation rate, which was an amazing 19% (1,527 out of 8,015).
  • Schools "exceed" state standards on four-year graduation rates if they have rates higher than 37%. Only 23 schools met that criterion.
I could go on. But suffice it to say, Ohio's Dropout Recovery Schools, on the whole, are utterly failing at their primary purpose -- rescuing dropouts and graduating them. 

And to add insult to injury, they have very little fear from the state. Why's that? Because a loophole in Ohio law allows even a substandard Dropout Recovery school to continue operations as long as it improves its four-year graduation rate by 10% a year for two straight years.

How that would apply to Life Skills of North Akron, which graduated 0 of its 61 eligible kids, is unclear (because 10% of 0 is 0). However, for Life Skills of Toledo, which graduated 1 out of 48 kids (for a 2.1% graduation rate), as long as the school graduates 1.2 kids in two years, it can remain open.

Only in Ohio.

Dropout Recovery Schools and eSchools are two of the biggest problems in the charter school sector here. It is no coincidence that the state's two biggest political players make their money operating Dropout Recovery Schools and eSchools. 

Let's hope our state's leaders finally take a serious look at both sectors and save the kids who are being utterly failed by these dismally performing schools. 

We have to stop helping the politically active adults who run these things and rescue our state's most vulnerable kids from their thieving clutches.


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