Ohio's weak charter school system needs a massive makeover

A recent Stanford University report points out in detail what many education critics in Ohio have long realized: Far too many children in Ohio's 390 charter schools are falling behind their traditional public school peers in math and reading – except for youngsters in Cleveland's charter schools, the best of which have partnered with the city school district. Clearly, the rest of the state must catch up.

Macke Raymond, director of Stanford's Center for Research on Educational Outcomes or CREDO, which worked in partnership with the nonprofit Fordham Institute, a charter school advocate, blames disengaged charter school boards and charter school authorizers, known as sponsors, for failing to eliminate or improve mediocre schools.

One improvement is on its way: Ohio's new evaluation system for sponsors, which begins in January, will rate sponsors according to the academic performance of their students. If the evaluation system doesn't work, it ought to be tweaked.

Meanwhile, the CREDO study should spur Gov. John Kasich, who recently said he wants better regulation of charter schools, and the charter school reform committee created by state Sen. Peggy Lehner, a Republican from Kettering who leads the Ohio Senate Education Committee, to improve the system. Lehner hopes to present legislation later this year. 

Another recent Fordham Institute study -- this one done with Bellwether Education Partners -- also deserves the attention of Lehner's committee. It recommends that Ohio's charter law clearly outline the responsibilities of authorizers, school board and management companies. It also advocates giving charter schools more money. 

The latter should not happen as long as so many charter-school youngsters learn less in reading and math than students in Ohio's traditional public schools, a key finding of the CREDO study.

Read more at Cleveland.com)