Monday, September 12, 2016

ECOT not alone in online charter schools’ attendance struggles | The Columbus Dispatch

ECOT not alone in online charter schools’ attendance struggles | The Columbus Dispatch:

ECOT not alone in online charter schools’ attendance struggles

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow may be the poster child in the fight over online school attendance, but other recent audits show it is hardly alone in struggling to document whether students are spending enough time on schoolwork.
As the state’s biggest online school, ECOT has taken the lead in fighting efforts by the Ohio Department of Education and Gov. John Kasich to use log-in durations to determine whether students are getting state-minimum “learning opportunities.”
ECOT could lose $80 million or more based on an initial attendance audit in March, which found students were logging in about an hour per day. But attendance reviews of eight other e-schools show millions more in state funding could be at risk as they fail to show students are actually getting the 920 hours worth of “learning opportunities” required by the state.
“If we dock them (funding), it’s going to be a big hit,” said Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee. “But on the other hand, are we uncovering a huge problem here with online learning that absolutely has to be addressed?”
While lawyers tussle over ECOT’s lawsuit to block the state from using new attendance standards to impact funding, the department has continued its scheduled attendance audits.
Unlike past reviews, the audits this year are asking e-schools to provide log-in durations to verify student attendance. Ohio spent about $270 million last year on online charter schools for about 39,000 students.
Examples from the department’s audit letters:
• Software used by Quaker Digital Academy, sponsored by New Philadelphia City Schools, does not total accumulated time, which “makes it impossible to determine how many hours of participation actually occur.”
• Software used by the Buckeye On-line School for Success, sponsored by the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West, also does not accumulate time online.
• Investigators found 39 of 41 programs used by the Virtual Community School, sponsored by Reynoldsburg Schools, do not track student participation. The school said it tracks non-computer activities, but it does not track the time spent on them.
• Student participation was “inconsistently documented” by TRECA Digital Academy, sponsored by the Tri-Rivers Career Center. In none of the student samples did active participation match the log-in minutes. One student logged in three times on one day for 653 minutes, but the time spent working on academic content online was 96 minutes.
• Massillon Digital Academy, sponsored by Massillon City Schools, records hours students were online, but that does not match what is recorded in the state database.
• At Findlay Digital Academy, sponsored by Findlay City Schools, 11 of 25 students reviewed had fewer documented hours than what was reported to the state.
• Non-computer, non-classroom learning logs are not completed or certified by teachers for each student at Southwest Licking Digital Academy.
• Akron Digital Academy is apparently violating state law by ECOT not alone in online charter schools’ attendance struggles | The Columbus Dispatch:

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