Friday, February 3, 2017

The ECOT Debacle: When Charter Schools Dodge Accountability

The ECOT Debacle: When Charter Schools Dodge Accountability:

The ECOT Debacle: When Charter Schools Dodge Accountability




Last September, the Ohio department of education audited the attendance records of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), the largest online charter school in Ohio. At issue was whether the virtual schools had been inflating their attendance to maximize state funding.
The audit confirmed the suspicions. According to the DOE, only 40 percent of ECOT students met the requirements to be considered full time and therefore eligible for funding. Most students were not participating in the minimum 920 hours of “learning opportunities” required by the state. Suddenly, the school was facing penalties of more than $60 million.
ECOT officials chafed at the investigation, calling it a “charade” and insisted that they were not obligated to demonstrate that students were staying logged on to complete coursework. ECOT’s superintendent Rick Teeters argued that the state had no right to conduct the audit. Funding depended on enrollment, he saidnot whether students were actually staying online. And enrollment was high – more than 15,000 students in 2016.
ECOT, along with six other virtual schools, has so far failed to invalidate the state audit in the courts, and lawmakers have been hesitant to come to the rescue.
“ECOT usually gets what ECOT wants,” says Sandy Theis, executive director of ProgressOhio. a leading public interest group based in Columbus. “But it’s become very difficult to ignore its poor performance.”
While ECOT boasts about graduating 2,674 students last spring, you won’t find in any of its slick marketing materials any mention of the 3,252 students who dropped out. In fact, one out of every six dropouts in Ohio are ECOT students. More ECOT students either leave or fail to finish high school within four years more than at any other school in the nation. And ECOT repeatedly scores F’s on state report cards.
Despite all this, ECOT executives want and expect the legislature to continue shelling out more than $100 million in taxpayer money annually.
“ECOT is the poster child for the worst of Ohio’s struggling charter schools’” said Becky Higgins, president of the Ohio Education Association. “From persistently poor performance to a stubborn refusal to be held accountable, ECOT is a disservice to the students it purports to be educating.”
The burden on Ohio taxpayers, adds Higgins, is “untenable.”
ECOT’s failures are so towering that even charter school advocates in Ohio and The ECOT Debacle: When Charter Schools Dodge Accountability:

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