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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

HB 2 Working. Progress Still Slow.

There has been a growing swell of media and other reports detailing how HB 2's greater charter school accountability provisions are leading to more charter schools being closed. The Ohio Department of Education said recently it expects as many as 19 charter schools to close.

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad that HB 2's greater accountability is forcing charter school sponsors to pay closer attention to their schools' poor performance. That's good.

But closing 19 schools is only the fifth-highest number of charter school closures since 2000. Here is the number of closed charters by year, according to ODE's October 2015 school closure database:

And according to the latest charter school closure database released by ODE, only 2 have closed so far this year.

I was at the State School Board meeting last week where the board refused to sponsor a failing charter in Cleveland that hadn't followed the proper procedure to receive ODE's sponsorship. That was a nice step to see.

However, it was just one school. And while holding the line on one failing charter is something to be celebrated, there are nearly 400 charter schools in Ohio, 40% of which are in "urgent need of improvement", according to pro-charter national groups. That means about 160 are in such academic trouble they are being noticed by national charter advocates.

And while HB 2 seems to be doing its job, it is only touching about 12% of the charters charter school advocates have identified as being in "urgent need of improvement." And without HB 2, nearly twice as many charters closed in FY14.

This is important because according to the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes at Stanford University, the states that have the greatest charter sector improvement were the ones that moved swiftly to close the worst performing schools.

This is why I urged the legislature to strengthen the state's automatic closure laws, rather than trying to get charter school sponsors to do their work for them. Only 73 of 400 Ohio charter schools receive an A or B on either overall proficiency or student growth on the state's report card.

There are significant numbers of failing charter schools in Ohio. HB 2 is a huge improvement on our state's old regime, especially on transparency and accountability issues. However, it gives you a real sense just how much Ohio's charter schools struggle to know that even HB 2's massive, important and sweeping reform only gets us to about 1 in 8 charter schools that charter school advocates say are in urgent need of improvement.

So let's ease up on the "HB 2's got this" talk. We've got a ways to go until Ohio's charter school system turns into the true quality-based reform measure our kids deserve.

No parades yet.

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