Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Eschools say they will appeal audits determining inflated attendance | The Columbus Dispatch

Eschools say they will appeal audits determining inflated attendance | The Columbus Dispatch:

Eschools say they will appeal audits determining inflated attendance



On top of the more than $60 million they may seek to recover from ECOT, the Ohio Department of Education also could demand about $23 million more from eight other online schools for inflated attendance.
On the same day ECOT was dealt a defeat in court, state education officials informed eight other online charter schools that they, too, were unable to properly justify their reported enrollments.
Officials at several of those schools said today they feel they were duped by state regulators and plan to appeal the findings to the State Board of Education.
“We really feel like we were misled,” said Jeff Nelson, superintendent of the Virtual Community School in Reynoldsburg.
The Department of Education, he said, first told him the school would not have to provide data showing how long students were logged in to the school’s computer system for its 2015-2016 attendance review, but would need such information for its 2016-2017 review.
“Then they came back in June and told us we’d have to produce it for 2015-2016,” Nelson said. “ We feel it’s unreasonable for them to go back and ask for information they know we didn’t have."
The department says it could verify the equivalent of 280 full-time students, well below the 835 students Virtual Community School reported, a finding that could cost the school more than $3 million in state aid.
In all, the eight schools reported 4,998 students, but the state verified 1,654 students, one third of the total. That includes Quaker Digital Academy and the Buckeye Online School for Success, which got credit for zero students.
The Department of Education this year beefed up attendance audits of online charter schools, asking for hard data to justify the numbers of students the state was funding. A top department official has said the final decision on asking online schools for log-in duration records this year was made by Gov. John Kasich’s longtime adviser and then-chief of staff, Wayne Struble.
Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Jenifer French on Friday rejected ECOT’s request for a preliminary injunction that would have blocked the state from using log-in durations as a way to verify student counts. French wrote that there is a "public interest in ensuring our children are receiving the education that our taxpayers are funding." State law requires charter students to participate in a minimum 920 hours of “learning opportunities” each year.
LaShawn Terrell, superintendent of Akron Digital Academy, said changing requirements mid-year made it impossible for her school to adjust.
“We respectfully disagree with ODE's improper, unilateral and retroactive implementation of guidelines that we were told would not be effective until the current school year repeatedly,” Terrell said. The academy primarily serves economically disadvantaged students at risk of drop out.
Terrell said like most online schools, Akron Digital Academy did not previously document login duration data for students but recently implemented a new system to capture such data for the current school year.
Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, said Judge French took a hard look at the case and decided the state wasn’t on the witch hunt that ECOT tried to portray.
“Merely providing a computer that a student can use to access coursework isn’t adequate, particularly with children who are really struggling in school,” she said.
State lawmakers are expected to address the attendance issue at some point, either in the post-election lame duck session or next year. ECOT founder Bill Lager has been one of the largest individual contributors to legislative Republicans in recent years.
House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, declined to comment on the ruling or on additional legislation. Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, through a spokesman, stressed that the attendance issue isn’t just about ECOT, but also traditional public schools.
“He has consistently said that we should be paying for outcomes and performance in our schools, not simply doling out tax dollars based on who fills a seat or logs into a computer,” said Faber spokesman John Fortney.
Addressing online attendance is going to take thought and should not be passed until next year, Lehner said. She wants a way to make both schools and parents accountable.
“The legislature does need to take a look to make sure we are being fair both to ECOT and the students who are trying to get an education through this methodology,” she said.
 Eschools say they will appeal audits determining inflated attendance | The Columbus Dispatch:



Big Education Ape: ECOT attendance inflated by 9,000 students, audit finds; $60 million in state funding in jeopardy | cleveland.com - http://bigeducationape.blogspot.com/2016/09/ecot-attendance-inflated-by-9000.html



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