Thursday, March 30, 2000

Report: Ohio's charter schools get poor grades


Most failed to show they're meeting goals

BY ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Most of Ohio's first 15 charter schools failed to provide evidence that they met their educational goals in their first year and didn't explain how they evaluated student performance, according to a report released Wednesday.

        In addition, most did not send their annual reports to parents, as required by law, and most school founders and directors were unfamiliar with their responsibilities for annual reports, according to the report prepared by the nonpartisan Legislative Office of Education Oversight.

CHARTER SCHOOLS
  A report released Wednesday studied the experiences of Ohio's first 15 community schools in the 1998-99 school year. They are:
  • Aurora Academy, Toledo
  • City Day Community School, Youngstown
  • Eagle Heights Academy, Youngstown
  • Harmony Community School, Bond Hill • HOPE Academy-Brown Street Campus, Akron
  • HOPE Academy-Cathedral Campus, Cleveland
  • HOPE Academy-Chapelside Campus, Cleveland
  • HOPE Academy-University Campus, Akron
  • JADES Academy, Toledo
  • M.O.D.E.L Community School, Maumee
  • Oak Tree Montessori, downtownCincinnati • Old Brooklyn Montessori School, Cleveland
  • Toledo Shule School, Toledo
  • Vail Meadows CHOICE Community School, Oregon
  • Youngstown Community School
  Source: Legislative Office of Education Oversight
        The report is the first of several over the next five years on the “community schools” that a 1997 state law allows private companies and organizations to run with public money free from many state regulations.

        “Some people think they're very good, some people think they're very bad,” said state Sen. Robert Gardner, a Madison Republican and chairman of the office's legislative committee. “It's just a matter of, "Let's take an objective look at it.'”

        According to the report, most of the schools enrolled more students from poor families than the district they drew their students from.

        “There appears to be no evidence that community schools in Ohio are "skimming' wealthier students away from public schools,” the report said.

        The schools also enrolled a higher percentage of black students — 82 percent, compared with 63 percent in the corresponding school districts, according to the report.

        Many charter schools reported problems with busing students, a situation the report blamed on a vagueness in state law. While public schools can receive money to buy new vehicles for transporting private school students, such money is not available for busing charter school students, said Brad Gregg, a program evaluator for the oversight office.

        “Community schools risk losing current and future students due to a lack of suitable transportation,” he said.

        On average, teachers in the charter schools had 4.2 years of experience and earned $22,070. Teachers in the corresponding public schools had 14.8 years of experience and earned $43,162.

        Five of the first 15 schools are run by the Akron-based, for-profit White Hat Management Co.

        Asked about problems with annual reports, company vice president Nancy Brennan said the company followed the guidelines set out by the Department of Education.

        Committee staff visited the 15 schools twice from August 1998 through November 1999, interviewed school officials and reviewed school contracts and annual reports.

       



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