COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — State officials are questioning the amount of learning time received by students at Ohio’s largest online school as they prepare to release findings of an updated attendance audit next month.
The state Department of Education’s letter to the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow was based on preliminary audit results, which could change after another review in June.
Ohio law requires charter school students to spend at least 920 hours a year on “learning opportunities”, which can include classes, field trips and writing papers.
ECOT tried to change that requirement earlier this year so that schools only had to offer 920 hours of learning opportunities, regardless of whether students did the work.
An attendance audit this spring found that students aren’t logging in to ECOT’s website for five hours per day, even when averaged over multiple days, Cleveland.com reported.
“There must be a log-in, but that cannot be the only proof of attendance,” John Wilhelm, of the Ohio Department of Education, told the school. “ECOT is encouraged to develop a system of tracking total hours of student participation.”
School spokesman Neil Clark said ECOT is drafting a response to the education department.
Scrutiny of the 15,000-student school comes as state lawmakers consider changing a rating system that has repeatedly delivered ECOT failing marks.
Charter school supporters have been pushing lawmakers to alter or replace a state value-added system designed to gauge whether a student is getting a full year’s worth of education. This is determined by standardized test scores, which are tracked over years.
Discussions have been taking place about whether the state should implement a California-based progress system that considers student demographics such as disability and poverty.
The Ohio Coalition for Quality Education, a charter school advocacy group, has called this model a fair way to consider real-world circumstances.
ECOT has argued that the current ratings system is unfair because its students tend to be more transient and more troubled.
The latest push, reportedly by charter school advocates, would have added the change as an amendment to Senate Bill 3, which seeks to exempt about 120 of the top-performing districts from some state requirements.
A spokesman for House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, a Clarksville Republican, told The Columbus Dispatch last week that the bill won’t be acted on before the summer-fall break. The proposal could still pass when lawmakers return in November.
Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com