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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.

Monday, June 6, 2016

I Screw Up. And Admit It!

Well, do I feel embarrassed. A couple weeks ago, I posted that the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow failed to graduate more students than all other Ohio school districts combined.

Well, that was wrong.

See, the problem was with Excel's autosum feature. It's supposed to add all numbers in a column so you don't have to scroll through all the cells to figure out which cells you want to add. Trouble is, if there isn't a number in the cell, it will stop at that cell. So, for example, if you want to add all the numbers of students who were eligible to graduate high school in Ohio, but one school district (Put-in-Bay, I'm looking at you) didn't have any, the Ohio Department of Education puts an NC in that cell. Then autosum won't include any numbers above that cell.

Most Excel pros know to double check autosum for this reason. And I do all the time, but for whatever reason, even though it was telling me only 25,000 or so students were eligible to graduate from all Ohio high schools last year -- a number that is obviously low -- I just went with autosum.

Dumb.

Anyway, here are the real figures: There were 121,275 students eligible to graduate from all of Ohio's school districts last year. Of those, 108,373 did graduate. That means 12,902 did not.

ECOT failed to graduate 2,918 students. So they failed to graduate nearly 1/4 of the total of all who failed to graduate from Ohio's school districts. While remaining troubling and awful (and still more than any other single school in the nation), that's not more than all districts combined.

So I apologize to my readers for getting that wrong. I try not to make mistakes here. So far, this, I believe, is the only data error I've reported in this blog's 5-year history.

So I am sorry.

Oh, and thank you to Howard Fleeter -- Ohio's great school data guru -- who caught the problem. I am in his debt.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

ECOT Preens about Graduating Less Than 40% of its Kids Next Week

I came across this amazing news brief in Gongwer (paid service) today:

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) announced that it anticipates graduating more than 2,300 students on Sunday, June 5 at the Schottenstein Center on the campus of Ohio State University. This will make it the second largest graduating class in ECOT history.
As the 16th commencement, ECOT notes it is repeating a trend for the last four years by including a graduate from each of the 88 counties in the state.
Graduates will also be able to apply for jobs right from their phones. Through an ECOT app, students and parents can apply for various job openings for Ohio businesses across the state.
ECOT noted that, "Coupled with the new career technical education (CTE) program, which began in the fall, high school students will be even more prepared for the future ahead. CTE courses are designed to engage students for relevant, real worldlearning experiences. Upon graduation from the CTE program, students will have had the opportunity to earn college credit, certification for various industries and on-the-job training."
"With graduation right around the corner, college or the workforce awaits our ECOT graduates," said ECOT Superintendent Rick Teeters in a statement.
With over 18,000 students having graduated from ECOT, and with an enrollment now of over 17,000, ECOT says it is one of the largest online K-12 schools in the United States."
Of course, ECOT ignores the fact that the class that won't graduate dwarfs the graduating class. In fact, the New York Times found that more kids fail to graduate from ECOT than any other high school ... in the United States!

But the real amazing thing is their discussion of Career-Tech education. In Ohio, there are five categories of Career Tech Education, which are as follows:
  • Category 1: WFD in Agriculture and Environmental Systems, Construction Technologies, Engineering and Science Technologies, Finance, Health Science, Information Technology and Manufacturing Technologies
  • Category 2: WFD in Business Administration, Hospitality and Tourism, Human Services, Law and Public Safety, Transportation Systems and Arts and Communications
  • Category 3: Career Based Intervention Programs
  • Category 4: WFD in Education and Training, marketing, WFD in Academics, Public Administration and Career Development
  • Category 5: Family and Consumer Science Programs
Why do I mention this minutiae? Because it's important to see just what this "real world learning experiences" ECOT declares actually are. Looking through ECOT's state funding report, you can see which categories their students are being funded by the state to take. ECOT has 2 kids taking Category 1 courses -- what most of us think of Career Tech training (plumbing, carpentry, welding, etc.). ECOT has 6 kids taking Category 3 courses. And they have 303 students taking Category 5 -- what I grew up knowing as Home Economics.

I'm not knocking Family and Consumer Sciences, which is a legitimate endeavor, complete with a national association. But let's stop pretending that ECOT is teaching kids how to bead a weld or plumb a house or make sure support beams are appropriately plumb.

They're teaching Home Ec.

Oh, and thanks to new changes in state funding laws, they're getting $380,847 to do it.

So ECOT is bragging about graduating a bunch of kids while ignoring that more won't graduate than any other school in the nation, and they're bragging about all this great Career Tech programming they are offering, which is basically Home Economics taught over a computer.

You'll forgive me if I'm not really excited about ECOT's dizzying proclamation.