The problem is, they can't do it unless they once again manipulate student counts. They either have to suddenly drop about 1,200 students off their rolls, or find thousands more students. While that can certainly happen, my guess is they will have to perform all kinds of enrollment gymnastics to do it. Of course, they've been pretty good at that in the past.
Why would they have to do this contortion? Because as a charter school, they have to accept everyone who comes through their virtual door, just like a local public school. They can't just drop a bunch of kids so they can get a new state designation that can save their financial bacon.
Why would they want to do this? Changing to a dropout recovery school means that the state can never really close ECOT, and their grades won't hurt their sponsor -- the Education Service Center of Lake Erie West. Oh, and they can just keep expanding and expanding without fear of recourse.
Dropout recovery schools have been a major embarrassment to Ohio for years. And they are the recipients of one of the last bastions of legislative loopholes for politically connected charter school operators. In order to avoid being shut down, they can improve their graduation and test passage rates by 10 percent a year in two consecutive years. However, this benefits the worst performing schools because improving from a 1.7 percent graduation rate to a 2.1 percent graduation rate over two years is much easier (it can mean simply getting 1 or 2 more kids to graduate) than going from 40 percent to 48 percent.
So, ECOT can't graduate 4 out of 10 kids, which is a failing grade as a start-up charter school as they are currently classified. But their putrid graduation rate would "exceed expectations" as a dropout recovery school.
Kind of tells you just how bad our dropout recovery regulations are, doesn't it?
Of course ECOT wouldn't answer questions about the switch, like why it took them 20 years to suddenly realize they would better serve kids as a dropout recovery school. But here's the other thing: to be classified as a dropout recovery school, the ECOT contract with their sponsor now says that "50 percent of students must be 16 or older, and behind by at least one grade level, or have experienced a crisis that interferes with them attending a traditional school."
State regulations say that dropout recovery schools -- in order to have the designation -- need to have the following requirements:
Any community school in which the majority of students are enrolled in a dropout prevention and recovery program operated by the school that meets the following criteria:
a) The program serves only students not younger than sixteen years of age and not older than twenty-one years of age;
b) The program enrolls students who, at the time of their initial enrollment, either, or both, are at least one grade level behind their cohort age groups or experience crises that significantly interfere with their academic progress such that they are prevented from continuing their traditional programs;
c) The program requires students to attain at least the applicable score designated for each of the assessments prescribed under division (B)(1) of section 3301.0710 of the Revised Code or, to the extent prescribed by rule of the state board of education under division (D)(6) of section 3301.0712 of the Revised Code, division (B)(2) of that section;
d) The program develops an individual career plan for the student that specifies the student's matriculating to a two-year degree program, acquiring a business and industry credential, or entering an apprenticeship;
e) The program provides counseling and support for the student related to the plan developed under division (A)(4) of that section during the remainder of the student's high school experience; and
f) The program's instructional plan demonstrates how the academic content standards adopted by the state board of education under section 3301.079 of the Revised Code will be taught and assessed;
According to ECOT's student enrollment count from October 2016 -- the latest count data available -- ECOT had 13,895 kids enrolled. Of that, 8,167 kids were in grades K-10. That means nearly 6 in 10 kids were likely under 16 years of age, let alone behind by a grade level or going through a crisis.
Now, those other non-age requirements are pretty simple to achieve, but in order for ECOT -- as currently constituted -- to meet those definitions, they have to drop at least 1,200 students and argue that every single 11th and 12th grader in their school is behind by a grade level or in a crisis.
So they will probably need to un-enroll more kids.
Of course, they could also target their ads toward recruiting more 16+ dropout students. But in either case, they will have to once again manipulate their enrollment figures to figure out a way to continue plundering taxpayer money.