Wednesday, August 23, 2017

ECOT's Latest Gambit May Already Be In Trouble.

I wondered when this was coming. But apparently, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow -- the most scandal-ridden charter school in the state that owes taxpayers $60 million in overpayments from just one year of instruction -- now wants to be classified as a dropout recovery school.

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;

I don't think ECOT -- as currently constituted -- can meet this definition, unless they un-enroll a bunch of kids.

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.



  1. Dear Stephen Dyer, I would love the opportunity to sit down with you and have a serious conversation about the state of education in Ohio. I would also like to point out to you all of the "misinformation" you have shared regarding online schools, point by point. I will listen to you and hopefully you will listen to me. In an ideal world, politics should have nothing to do with the quality of a student's education. In Ohio, politics rule, and the child is forgotten. I see behind your words and can see very clearly your political agenda, and I see children being hurt every day in our public school system, a public school system that includes charter schools. I can honestly say that I don't have a political agenda. I have a student agenda and want to see all public schools in Ohio serve children so that all children can be successful. I hope we can set this meeting up late September or early October.

    1. Ruth: I appreciate your respectful words. I would be happy to meet with you about this issue. I am in Columbus generally on Mondays, if those work for you. If not, I'm happy to clear schedules, etc. Look forward to chatting. In the meantime, I would urge you to read this series of stories from the Akron Beacon Journal about the beginning of the charter school program in Ohio.

      You will see pretty clearly that the choice movement in Ohio began most assuredly as a political one. Like you, I agree that politics have too long dominated this discussion. Which is why I try to point out the politics whenever I can.

  2. I am truly disturbed at this posting and with the tone of this and other ignorant articles. ECOT has helped my already brilliant children who were straight A students to become more than they ever could have otherwise in the traditional public education setting. One of my children who will be graduating this year will be worth over $100,000 a year as a high school graduate thanks to ECOT's flexibility and encouragement of things like Credit Flexibility (which other traditional schools do NOT encourage and I have had talks with school leadership as to why not and the reasons are many and diverse, but it all boils down to a failing educational system even according to some of the highest leaders).

    If we could get our heads out of our proverbial rear ends as a society and really start empowering schools like this, we can see miracles. There is more that can be done, yes. For example, Computer Science needs to replace Math across the entire board as it does a far more effective job at teaching mathematics and logical principles and gives children something to hold on to and truly understand. There are a lot of other areas of improvement, but at the end of the day this kind of innovation is a remarkable boon and aid to students.

    ECOT's demise would be an absolute disaster.

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