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HB2 legalizes Tipping Scales In Favor of Awful e-Schools

HB2, the charter school reform bill recently passed by the Ohio General Assembly, legalizes the scale tipping activities of ODE.

The "Chartergate" scandal, reported widely, had the school choice director for the Ohio Department of Education resigning after throwing failing grades for online schools out of charter school evaluations. Without the grades from the pitifully performing e-schools, authorizers could look like they were doing a decent job.

The discovery of this scheme however has forced ODE to include those e-schools in their sponsor ratings.

In order to prevent this causing the inevitable ineffective grade, ECOT proposed changing the way their grade would be calculated. Instead of being weighted by the number of students they taught, they would simply be weighted as a single school, equal to a school with only a handful of students.

Needless to say, that got a lot of pushback too. That is, until last minute changes were introduced into HB2.

Part of why the e-schools were left out is that their large enrollments would dominate the ratings, if they were weighted by the number of students.

The compromise gives e-schools part of what they want -- to be counted just as a school, not weighted by enrollment -- but not exactly. Schools will now be counted both ways.

The new rules call for the academic rating of sponsors to be partly done by counting each school as a single unit and partly by weighting the rating by enrollments of each school.

Colleen Grady, the main education advisor for the House and a key player in the adjustments to the bill, said the bill does not spell out the percentages that each way will count, leaving that up to ODE.

That makes how the department decides to calculate the ratings a key issue in the coming weeks.
ODE has already signaled a willingness to fix the sponsors grades, what's the betting that their weightings will now legally benefit terrible e-schools? We won't have long to wait to find out.

Expect Mass Teacher Exodus At Ohio Charter Schools

One of the reasons Ohio's charter schools perform so poorly is because they suffer from a large amount of annual teacher turnover. Classrooms are overpopulated with rookies learning on the job with few veterans to mentor them. This happens because underpaid quality educators get snapped up by traditional school districts, while charter operators like to churn their staff in order to keep payroll low. Everyone but the bottom line is a loser.

HB 2, the recently passed charter school reform bill, will make matter worse.
A last-minute addition to the state's charter school reform bill would block some teachers - those teaching at charters run by for-profit companies - from being part of the state pension system.

The change, which would apply only to new teachers at those schools and not to any current teachers, was a surprise amendment to House Bill 2 on Tuesday and drew angry complaints from some legislators and the Ohio Federation of Teachers.

Details about the change, how it came about and exactly who it would affect were difficult to verify last night as teachers unions and legislators made a flurry of phone calls to sort it out.
It's not complicated to understand why this was snuck into the bill at the last minute. Pushing charter school teachers out of the State Teachers Retirement System, and into social security will save a charter school operator about 8% on their payroll. Employers typically pay 14% into STRS on behalf of their employees, but only 6.2% into Social Security.

Because it will only apply to new employees charter operators will now be incentivized to fire existing staff, who have no union protections, and replace them with staff that are 8% cheaper. Further more, the closing of the door to STRS only makes becoming a teacher in a charter school even less appealing - further damaging the teaching quality.

Don't Expect Charter Quality Improvement Any Time Soon

With the passage of HB2, the charter reform law, many might be tempted to think we'll quickly see the horrendous quality of Ohio's charter schools to rapidly improve. That won't be the case.

HB2 is written to mostly address the sponsors of the schools, and not the schools themselves. But where the law does address sponsor quality that might impact actually schools, the law is laborious in how it deals with low performers


The law required the Ohio Department of Education to develop, then annually rate charter school sponsors. But as we have seen, this is the first giant loophole the poor quality truck can drive through. ODE is already under intense pressure after it was proven it had manipulated the rating system to give sponsors much higher ratings than they deserve. Without a fair and honest accounting of a sponsors performance, the law cannot operate as many would hope - by revoking poor performing sponsors authority to manage charters.

If, and we contend it will be a big if so long as ODE is packed with charter school cronies and ideologues, we eventually get to a fair, transparent and honest rating system for charter sponsors, the law is still tilted against action. For example, the law:

Revokes the sponsorship authority of a sponsor that receives an overall rating of "ineffective" for three consecutive years, subject to an appeals hearing that is conducted by an officer appointed by the Superintendent of Public Instruction and decided by the State Board under specified deadlines. (R.C. 3314.016(B)(7)(b)(ii).)
A sponsor needs to perform poorly for 3 consecutive years, almost an entire school career for a high school student, before any meangingful action can be taken. Even at that point, ideologues at ODE can hear an appeal.

The law also has another brake applied to acting quickly. The law authorizes ODE, for the 2015-2016 school year only, to choose to not assign an overall rating to a sponsor that meets a broad range of conditions. This means that the absolute worst sponsors are likely to avoid any direct consequences until the end of the 2018-2019 school year, and even then have an avenue to appeal to potentially sympathetic ears.

You will note that it requires 3 consecutive poor ratings. Should a sponsor game the system to achieve a satisfactory rating for just one year, the whole clock will resets, and another generation of students will be harmed.

HB2 is a welcome step to improving Ohio's charter schools, and we expect the financial management of the schools to improve, but sadly and most importantly we do not expect the quality of the schools themselves to improve - though the game is now on to make it look like they are - a game ODE has already begun to play.

Something is Very Wrong With Cleveland Charter Schools

A new study by the Shanker Institute looked at teacher diversity across a number of large cities, including Cleveland. Their results were broken down between the district and charter schools. What they found is very troubling.

Since 2000, while the share of black teachers in the district has remained constant over time, the teaching population in Cleveland's charter schools has been getting dramatically whiter.

In Cleveland public schools, at the end of our study, roughly 80 percent of students were Black or Hispanic, compared with under 30 percent of teachers. Between 2000 and 2011, the proportion of Blacks in the city’s teaching force declined modestly, while the (small) share of Hispanics remained stable. In terms of population shifts, the numbers of White, Black and Hispanic teachers all decreased, but the decline was considerably larger for Black teachers, with a loss of 1 in every 3 Black teachers. The racial and ethnic composition of new hires in district schools over these years generally increased diversity. Charter schools, in contrast, hired more teachers than district schools, but their hiring patterns had a negative impact on citywide teacher diversity. Concurrently, sector leaving patterns in district schools generally had little impact on teacher diversity either way, while charter school leavers were disproportionately Black, relative to their shares of the teacher workforce.
Here is the startling graph

What could possibly account for this? Why are Clevelands charter school teachers getting whiter? This seems like yet another serious administrative problem being exhibited by charter schools.

Corporate Ed Reforms Have Created a 400,000 Teacher Shortage

The Economic Policy Institute took a look at the number of teachers in the workforce. Turns out defunding public education, cutting pay, benefits and job security isn't attractive.
With the September data in hand, we can look at the number of teachers who are starting work or going back to school this year. The number of teachers and education staff fell dramatically during the recession, and has failed to get anywhere near its prerecession level, let alone the level that would be required to keep up with an expanding student population. Along with the dismal shortfall in public sector employment, due to the Great Recession and the ensuing austerity at all levels of government, public education jobs are still 236,000 less than they were seven years ago.

The number of teachers rose by 41,700 over the last year. While this is clearly a positive sign, adding in the number of public education jobs that should have been created just to keep up with enrollment, we are currently experiencing a 410,000 job shortfall in public education. Short sighted austerity measures have a measurable impact, hitting children in today’s classrooms.
Their graph is more startling

Charter School Operators Admit They Didn't Know What They Were Doing

In a report about the closing of another Ohio charter school, the full depth of the problem this sector suffers from is blindingly obvious
Posey, who started the FCI Academy Charter School a decade ago said he doesn't want to throw in the towel. FCI 's sponsor is the Toledo-based Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West, which suspended the school's charter late last month. "They didn't say they were going to shut us down, they said they were gonna put us on probation," said Posey. "We started this from scratch, we had no particular knowledge of running a school, that's why we had a sponsor."
First, why is a Columbus school sponsored by a Toledo authorizer? How can the Toledo ESC reasonably monitor a school from half a state away?

Second, and most shocking, how on earth does a sponsor think it is wise to authorize people to open a school when they literally have no experience, or know what they are doing?

Parents are entrusting their children to dozens of schools that are operating like this. These failing charter schools are not the only problem, the authorizers who are allowing them to open and operate may be even more negligent.

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