Friday, August 21, 2015

Why the Delay in Rating Ohio Charter Sponsors?

Recently, there has been much made of the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) rigging the state's charter school sponsor (authorizer in every other state) ratings. Those ratings are critical to any meaningful reform of Ohio's nationally ridiculed charter school system because all the reform efforts currently underway rely on forcing sponsors to do a better job of oversight, or else.

However, if ODE doesn't put together a reliable and accurate rating system, then much of the reform effort will be for naught. That's what makes what David Hansen -- the state's former charter school czar and husband of Gov. John Kasich's presidential campaign manager -- did so pernicious. By rigging the system to benefit poor performing, for-profit operators, he jeopardized the entire charter school reform effort, further cementing Ohio's place as the nation's charter school backwater.

After Hansen resigned, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Richard Ross, withdrew the sponsor evaluations that had been done, and instead of including the scores from the poor performing schools Hansen had apparently illegally discounted, determined to re-invent the wheel. This week, he appointed a three-member panel to help guide the development of a charter sponsor evaluation system.

Here's the thing: The sponsor evaluation system was passed in late 2012. The first evaluations had to be completed by January 1. We're going on three years of development here. Why do we need another 6-12 months with this panel to develop an evaluation system -- a delay that could put off by another year, or even two, any meaningful reform. This would, of course, give big political contributors who run many of the failing schools two more years of collecting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

At, I put together three suggestions for sponsor evaluations.

  1. Take the GPA of all the schools under the sponsor's aegis based on the state report card
  2. Develop an index based on the percentage of students in schools sponsored by the agency who are in schools that receive a C or higher grade on four key report card measures
  3. Use the same overall grade formula that the department will be using for school districts on the new report card
All of these ideas I developed in the course of an afternoon. I'm not saying these are the only three ways of doing it, but ODE has had three years to do this. And they need more time? 

What the ratings systems I developed demonstrate pretty clearly is this: Ohio's charter school sponsors reflect the overall system -- there are a few quite high performing sponsors, but the overwhelming number of them are poor performing.

ODE needs to get this right. And they need to do it now. They've had three years. Our kids can't wait any longer while bumbling (or worse) bureaucrats delay the education reform Ohio's children desperately need.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Price of Ohio House sitting on Charter Reform? Max Donation from Nation's Largest For-Profit School

Just a few days after the Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives declined to take up House Bill 2 (HB 2) -- the most significant charter school reform package since the program began -- the campaign committee meant to re-elect his members got a familiar, maximum level check from William Lager, who runs the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT).

Not to be undone, so did the Ohio Senate's campaign committee.

Both were for $18,798.51.

ECOT is the nation's largest for-profit K-12 school. It is also notoriously poor performing. On the state's 9 report card measures, it got Fs on all but one. And that one was a D. That's worse than any school district in the state, even Youngstown, which the state said late last month was in such bad academic distress that it needed to be taken over by the state.

It is indeed sobering to realize that every single dollar going to ECOT from Youngstown is going to a worse performing school.

Last year, the state of Ohio paid ECOT $104 million to educate the 15,088 students it received from Ohio's local public schools. That $6,921 per pupil is nearly $2,500 more than the average Ohio school district received last year from the state before charters, vouchers and open enrollment were deducted.

ECOT's per pupil state funding is larger than all but 52 of Ohio's 613 school districts. And this is for an electronic school without buildings, custodians, buses, heating, cooling, sports teams, etc.

There was plenty of talk around the House Bill 2 vote that ECOT's lobbyists were all over the statehouse. Now we know why. The question now is this: Will the contributions keep House Bill 2 from moving this fall?

We'll see...