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Charter Schools

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Vivian Moon View Drop Down
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Joined: May 16 2008
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    Posted: Dec 18 2014 at 11:06am

Posted: 6:00 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014

Reports pan charter schools, call for change

State senator aims for full rewrite of Ohio charter school laws.

By Jeremy P. Kelley and Rick McCrabb

Staff Writer

MIDDDLETOWN — 

A national education group called for comprehensive changes to Ohio’s charter school laws on Tuesday, just one week after a multiyear study from another agency described Ohio charters’ academic performance as “grim.”

Bellwether Education Partners said Ohio’s charter school law too often “protects powerful vested interests, smothers schools with red tape … and tolerates academic mediocrity,” rather than protecting students’ best interests.

Bellwether’s report recommended multiple changes. Among them were prohibiting school sponsors from selling services to schools they oversee, creating stronger conflict-of-interest provisions for charter school board members, and increasing funding to charter schools by allowing all state and local funding to follow the student if they go to a charter school.

“Fixing Ohio’s charter law is no easy task,” Bellwether’s report said. “The law itself is roughly 40,000 words and has … many peculiar exceptions, loopholes, and restrictions.”

State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, agreed, adding that she’s had a working group of educators, industry experts and state leaders examining potential changes to the law for months. Lehner, chair of the Senate Education Committee, said most, if not all of Bellwether’s recommendations on school sponsors are issues her group has discussed.

“We’re not looking at just tweaking current law. That’s happened 19 times in 17 years and as a result, we have a lot of provisions that don’t align or that contradict each other. So we’re going to be drafting it fresh,” Lehner said, adding that the process could take a year or two. “This is not going to be an easy lift. There are high stakes for so many people in the charter world, or in opposition to the charter world.”

Ohio Department of Education officials say they’ve already been taking some of the steps Bellwether suggests during the last year – mostly via tighter controls aimed at keeping subpar sponsors from opening new schools.

“We’re well aware of the shortcomings of (charter) schools in Ohio and we’re trying to improve that,” said ODE spokesman John Charlton. “We’ve improved the regulations and hope that will help improve the performance.”

Report on academics

Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes reported last week that Ohio charter school students, as a whole, perform worse on state reading and math tests than comparable students at traditional public schools that share the same student base.

Dom Williams, president of the Middletown Teachers Association, addressed the board of education at its meeting this week. He said Middletown area charter schools are performing “worse” than the public schools and spending at least $2,000 more per student.

“Our teachers are doing an outstanding job,” Williams told the board.

According to the Ohio Charter School Accountability Project, Middletown City Schools received a C on its performance index while spending $3,960 per student.

Williams and board members said they were concerned that $6.8 million of taxpayers’ money is transferred to charter schools.

The Middletown Prep and Fitness Academy scored a C on its performance index, while spending $6,814 per student, according to the report. The academy receives $1.6 million in funds from the district. But Myrrha Satow, performance academies president, contends MPFA outperformed the local public district and said the numbers reported were inaccurate.

She said her school performed better than Middletown with key demographics, including African-American students and students with special needs. Her school, she said, provides “a great education” for Middletown families and is “a consistent performer and has the best middle school in the area.”

She said MPFA achieves this despite receiving 29 percent less funding per pupil than the public option.

At Marshall High School, the performance index wasn’t available, and the charter school spends $8,090 per student and receives $1.2 million from the district, the report said.

Chuck Hall, Marshall’s principal, said the school isn’t competing with public schools. Instead, he said, Marshall provides another option for students, who for various reasons, didn’t fit in public schools.

Marshall held its third graduation ceremony Wednesday night and Hall said 21 students received their diplomas.

Summit Academy Community School for Alternative Learners of Middletown received a D for its performance index. The school spends $14,232 per student with the financial support of $735,000.

Both the Bellwether and Stanford reports had ties to the Fordham Institute, a group that sponsors charter schools itself, and advocates for better oversight of charters.

The Stanford study measured charter schools’ lower performance in terms of how many fewer days of academic gain students made, based on a 180-day school year. The study reported a statewide average that Ohio charter students had 14 fewer days of learning in reading and 36 fewer days in math compared to similar traditional public schools. A multiyear 2009 Stanford study found similar results.

Ron Adler, president of the Ohio Coalition for Quality Education, a charter school advocacy group, questioned whether the study sufficiently accounts for how often students in urban settings switch schools. The Stanford study does show that students who are in their first year at a charter school score much worse than those who stay with that charter school for multiple years.

“Our feeling is that it is impossible to measure those results without taking into account student mobility,” Adler said. “When a student has been to six different schools, it changes the whole dynamic.”

The money factor

David Taylor, principal of the high-performing Dayton Early College Academy charter school, said some charters’ struggles have to do with their focus.

“Some are built to be profitable, and to appeal to parents in nonacademic ways, like that it’s safe, and personalized to our community,” Taylor said. “But academically they’re failing the kids. … With our structure here, everything is about how we move students forward.”

One of the biggest controversies in Bellwether’s report is their call for all state and local per-pupil funds to follow the student if he or she goes to a charter school. Currently, a voucher of about $5,800 follows the student, regardless of whether the home school district gets more or less than that in per-pupil state funding.

Taylor argued that it can be hard for a charter school to educate a child for thousands less than the surrounding public district gets, asking why it’s fair for two students who are neighbors to have different funding rules. But other groups such as Innovation Ohio and the Ohio Education Association argue that some districts get far less than $5,800 per pupil from the state, meaning they have to cover the difference with locally generated funds.

“I don’t think anyone votes for a school levy with the intent that that money is going to go somewhere other than their specific local school district,” said Damon Asbury, director of legislative services for the Ohio School Boards Association.

Lehner said she took one clear positive from the Bellwether study — that charter schools are “knocking it out of the park” in urban areas of some states.

“If it said charter schools were failing everywhere, that would be different,” she said. “But other states with better or different policies are doing very well, while Ohio seems to be really lagging. Our students aren’t different, but our policies are, and that’s what we have control over, so that’s the first place I would look.”

 

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VietVet View Drop Down
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Joined: May 15 2008
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote VietVet Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 18 2014 at 11:41am
"Dom Williams, president of the Middletown Teachers Association, addressed the board of education at its meeting this week. He said Middletown area charter schools are performing “worse” than the public schools and spending at least $2,000 more per student.
“Our teachers are doing an outstanding job,” Williams told the board."

Sorry Mr. Williams, but your public school test scores and indicators do not reflect your comment "our teachers are doing an outstanding job".......that is, unless you have lowered the bar so that mediocrity now equates to outstanding. How much "worse" can it get based on the ongoing low academic reports from the Midd. schools, the ranking with regard to area schools and to the overall state ranking in the 600's?


"Chuck Hall, Marshall’s principal, said the school isn’t competing with public schools. Instead, he said, Marshall provides another option for students, who for various reasons, didn’t fit in public schools"

We had a school that "offered another option for students, who for various reasons, didn't fit in public schools".   It was called Garfield Alternative School and they tore it down years ago. The Midd. school system probably educated the Garfield student at a fraction of the 8 grand used to do the same at Marshall. Knowing this, what was to be gained by demolishing Garfield? And what about the Life Skills school in the old Manchester Jr. High building? How does this school break out in all of these comparisons?

"Summit Academy Community School for Alternative Learners of Middletown received a D for its performance index. The school spends $14,232 per student with the financial support of $735,000"

If private donations, it's up to the donors to keep giving with this 14 grand per student versus the "D" rating. If taxpayer money is being used, shut it down. It's not a good investment.

I'm so proud of my hometown and what it has become. Recall 'em all. Let's start over.
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