Friday, August 25, 2017

How to Turn an Ineffective Charter Sponsor into a High Performing One: Make ECOT a Dropout School

In a little-noticed detail of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow's (ECOT) attempt to become a Dropout Recovery School, potentially the greatest beneficiary of the shift would be ECOT's sponsor -- the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West.

Here's how.

Under current law and the school's current configuration, the ESC of Lake Erie West is hammered on its sponsor evaluation grades because such a large percentage of the students it oversees come from ECOT. According to the Plain Dealer, "Poor grades, largely from the 15,000-student ECOT, dragged that ESC's rating down to 'ineffective.'"

ECOT and its allies tried to change the House Bill 2 provision that weighted enrollment during the evaluation because they wanted the 15,000 student school's grade to be counted just as heavily as a school with 60 or 100 students.

The legislature did not grant that request, so ECOT's poor grades have a tremendously negative impact on the ESC of Lake Erie West's ability to sponsor schools and collect their 3 percent sponsorship fee.

This put the ESC in a bind because as an "ineffective" rated sponsor, it had to improve its rating in three years or get shut down, yet if they cut ECOT loose, they would lose about $3 million in fees they currently collect -- a gravy train for the ESC.

Switching the school to a dropout recovery school solves the problem. Why? Because performance is so dreadful at dropout recovery schools, and state regulation so lax, that even ECOT's poor performance would grant them exceedingly high grades under the much more lenient dropout recovery accountability system.

So the weighted system that hurt the ESC when ECOT was getting Ds and Fs under the regular report card will not help the ESC because those Ds and Fs will turn into As under the more lenient system.

And all they need to do is change the school's designation.

For example, ECOT's graduation rate of 39.6 percent rates as a very low F on the regular state report card. However, under the dropout recovery report card, that 39.6 percent four-year graduation rate "exceeds standards", which means it will be graded on the sponsor report card the same as an A on the regular report card. The ESC will then have that "A" weighted by the 15,000 students in ECOT, making the A a kind of Mega-A.

So, not only does this let ECOT suddenly promote itself as receiving the highest grades possible by the state (even though there's no real improvement), but it allows the ESC to continue collecting millions all while having its sponsorship grade improve dramatically, potentially allowing it to collect millions more in sponsorship fees from additional schools.

But nothing has changed at ECOT.

Just because dropout recovery schools are worse performing than ECOT doesn't mean ECOT is high performing. It means that once again, ECOT is gaming a system its politically connected founder, William Lager, helped create with legislative blessing.

Those who suffer most are the students and parents at ECOT who will undoubtedly be roped into thinking ECOT is a high-performing school for their kids, even though it is a national embarrassment.

Only in Ohio's feebly regulated dropout recovery school system would ECOT be considered anything other than a failure.


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