State rates its own oversight of charter schools "ineffective": How did that happen?
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio's new charter school oversight ratings raised a few eyebrows last week, including over the state rating itself as "ineffective."
The state rated last week the work of all 65 organizations that help start and monitor charter schools as part of an effort to make Ohio's $1 billion charter school industry better and stop the national ridicule of it.
The state issued ratings of "poor" to 21 overseers, known as "sponsors" or "authorizers," which blocks them from doing any more work with charters if they cannot win an appeal.
The Ohio Department of Education also rated 39 of the organizations as "ineffective," which gives them two more years to improve their work or they will also be shut down.
Among them: the department's own Office of School Sponsorship.
That drew sharp comments from the state's largest charter school, the online Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT).
"Either the sponsorship ratings are out of whack or ODE is so bad that it's going to go out of business at the same time they are judging others," ECOT spokesman Neil Clark said. "It's like having a student who doesn't know his alphabet teaching the rest of the class how to read Shakespeare."
ECOT and the state have been feuding in court all year over how attendance and participation in online schools is counted - a battle which puts more than $60 million of ECOT's state funding in jeopardy.
The department did not back down from that "ineffective" rating today, but offered reasons for it.
A different part of the Ohio Department of Education performed the reviews from the part that was under review, spokesperson Brittany Halpin said.
The main reason for the low rating, she said, was the equivalent of an F grade for the academic performance of all 18 charters overseen by the state. Though academics make up one third of a sponor's rating and the state scored very well on the other two portions, Halpin noted that state law caps the rating of any sponsor at "ineffective" if its fails any of the three portions.
Because of that cap, poor grades at the 18 schools made a better rating impossible.
But why did the state oversee such bad schools? Why didn't it oversee them better?
State law wouldn't let it, Halpin said.
The state has to take over oversight of schools when a sponsor goes out of business, as the Educational Service Center of Portage County did last year. Three of the 18 schools, including Imagine Akron and Global Village Academy in Parma, were forced on the state by that closure.
In addition, state law used to require the state to sponsor the first few schools that applied each year. Other than making sure some minimum standards were met, the state had no discretion over whether to approve them.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and his school quality panel the Transformation Alliance were among those objecting to that law, after some charter schools were approved in Cleveland in 2013 without anyone being able to object to their operator's track record of the schools' education plans.
But that requirement ended last fall through House Bill 2, a state charter school reform bill passed last November.
"Prior to House Bill 2 becoming effective, we did not get to choose which schools we sponsored," Halpin said. "Since the legislation became effective on Feb. 1, 2016, we now have the ability to approve or deny sponsorship to schools based on academic quality, financial position and other criteria."
Last spring, after the law took effect, the state denied all 10 requests to sponsor schools, she said.State rates its own oversight of charter schools "ineffective": How did that happen? | cleveland.com: