Bad charter sponsors, bad policy

It comes as little surprise to anyone who follows the development of what some call Ohio education policy to learn that Ohio's charter school laws have serious flaws.

The Ohio Department of Education has just released their charter school sponsor rankings. As StateImpact notes

The sponsor role is different from the role of a charter school operator. Charter school operators, which include both for-profit and non-profit groups, manage schools’ day-to-day operations while sponsors are supposed to play more of an oversight role.

These rankings are important because under HB153, sponsors who fall into the bottom 20% cannot authorize any more charter schools until their schools improve. LSC (page 216):

(New R.C. 3314.016)
The act prohibits a community school sponsor from sponsoring any additional schools, if it (1) is not in compliance with statutory requirements to report data or other information to the Department of Education or (2) is ranked in the lowest 20% of all sponsors on an annual ranking of sponsors by their composite performance index scores. The composite performance index score, which must be developed by the Department, is a measure of the academic performance of students enrolled in community schools sponsored by the same entity. Presumably, if a sponsor is subject to the prohibition due only to its ranking, it may sponsor additional schools if it later raises its ranking above the lowest 20%.

We have published the ranking list below. People who posses the ability to think critically will already have concluded 2 things about this prescriptive law.

  1. Marion City with a performance score of 69.2 is barred from authorizing any more charters, while Lorain City with a performance score of just 69.4 can continue to operate as it just misses the 20% cut.
  2. No matter what performance sponsors have there will always be a bottom 20%

Why didn't the law specify an actual performance measure? The legislature saw fit to do exactly this for teachers under SB5, but not for sponsors of charter schools.

To complicate matters further, the Ohio Department of Education which is tasked by law to create these rankings, will also be getting back into the business of being a charter school sponsor. A task it once had taken away from it because of abysmal performance that made Ohio charter schools the laughing stock of the nation.

Now, under HB153, ODE will not only be responsible for sponsoring charters again - but producing the rankings - including their very own. This doesn't strike us at Join the Future as a very wise situation.

Will ODE be able to exert enough independence between its sponsorship role and its evaluation of sponsors, even if its own performance is substandard as it was in the past? That's an obvious question that should not have to be asked if state education policy was properly thought through and developed in a collaborative manner.

In the meantime, we can take solace in the fact (as the Disptach reports) that Mansfield, Marion, Ridgedale, Rittman, Upper Scioto Valley and Van Wert school districts; the Richland Academy; and the educational service centers in Hardin and Portage counties cannot open any more charter schools.

Ohio Charter School Sponsor Rankings