Tuesday, September 12, 2017

2013 Ohio State Study Shows ECOT Bad at Preventing or Recovering Dropouts. Now ECOT wants to Specialize in It.

Four years prior to the school's application to be considered a dropout recovery school this summer, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow -- the state's oldest and largest online school -- was found to be Ohio's leading producer of high school dropouts while only recovering 1.5 percent of those dropouts.

In a 2013 report completed by Ohio State University's Education Research Center, the authors concluded that between 2006-2010, ECOT produced 13,000 dropouts, or 21.5 percent of all dropouts in Ohio's charter schools. In 2010 alone, ECOT had 2,908 dropouts -- nearly double the number of the Cleveland Municipal School District's 1,600. At the time, Cleveland had nearly double the students enrolled as ECOT had, according to the report.

In the interest of fairness, the ECOT enrollment data included in the report differs greatly from reported enrollment data at the Ohio Department of Education. It is not clear from the report how the researchers reached their enrollment figures when they calculated the dropout rate, but it appears they only included students who were 16 years or older.

In addition, the researchers found that of those 2,908 students, only 75 returned to ECOT. Of the 13,000 lost during the previous 5 years, ECOT only recovered 194 -- a dreadful 1.5 percent recovery rate.

The researchers concluded that
"it is clear that the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow strongly influences the dropout numbers of this region (Ohio's urban districts). Reducing dropouts at this one school could improve the problem significantly."
What is critical to remember is that this study compared ECOT's impact on dropout prevention and recovery with urban districts in the state -- traditionally the top producers of high school dropouts among Ohio school districts. And among even those, ECOT was particularly awful.

If ECOT's 53 percent dropout rate reported by the Ohio State researchers held consistent for all its eligible students since the school opened in the 2000-2001 school year, ECOT could be said to have produced about 40,000 dropouts during its existence.

That's about how many people live in Lima.

Yet now ECOT, which the state has known for at least four years is the largest single contributor to Ohio's dropout problem while recovering barely any of those dropouts, wants to be called a dropout prevention and recovery school -- a special designation that brings with it plenty of protections from accountability and perpetual existence.

As the Plain Dealer reported today, ECOT's claims to have an impossibly difficult population of students to educate are clearly out of line with its actual population. If ECOT received the dropout designation, it would have among the least challenged populations in any dropout recovery school. Yet it would be paid far more than any other.

The Ohio Department of Education, which is reviewing ECOT's application, should heed the warnings it received four years ago and not allow ECOT to hide from scrutiny, insisting instead that ECOT improve its performance dramatically for its kids.

Perhaps the department should at least insist that ECOT stop producing the most dropouts of any school in the nation before it says ECOT should specialize in preventing and recovering dropouts.

That, I believe, would be a great place to begin.


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