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Stephen Dyer · August 27, 2013

Dropout Recovery charter schools exempt from state report card

As we teased yesterday, new state report cards do not include the state’s 85 so-called “dropout recovery” schools with other charters, nor are these schools issued letter grades in the areas measured by the new evaluation system. This special treatment of dropout recovery schools was the result of intense lobbying by political financier David Brennan, whose chain of dropout recovery schools – Life Skills Centers — form the bulk of his considerable taxpayer funded Charter School operation. Brennan’s received over $800 million in taxpayer money since 1999 without ever testifying before a legislative committee. That’s apparently what $3 million in campaign contributions buys you these days. Life Skills Centers are so bad that one of their locations graduates only 1.2% of its kids, and all of them at one point did not have their diplomas accepted by the military. Since 2005, standards for these dropout recovery schools have been gathering dust on a shelf. Meanwhile, the state was banned from shutting them down — even though their performance was abysmal — before standards were adopted. Now that standards have been adopted, dropout recovery schools are separated from charter schools, which means charters no longer have these terribly performing dropout recovery schools to drag down their averages, theoretically. [see yesterday’s post about charter school performance] It would be as if school districts no longer had to worry about the bottom 25% of their schools being included in any statewide assessments. Imagine how amazing Ohio’s public schools would look if they wouldn’t have the bottom 25% of performers counted? Yet that’s what Charters got to do and still they underperform their traditional public school counterparts, even though the state is doing all it can to try to make them look better. And let’s look at those Dropout Recovery Schools anyway. Even their watered down standards demonstrate terrible performance, especially for Brennan’s Life Skills Centers. The average, non-Life Skills Dropout Recovery Charter has 41% of its students pass the state graduation test. Life Skills? 28 percent. Two Life Skills Centers saw zero of their kids pass the test. The average, non-Life Skills Dropout Recovery Charter has 26% its kids graduate in 4 years, 29% in 5 years and 25% in 6 years. Life Skills? Try 6.6%, 11% and 10%, respectively. Overall, Ohio’s Dropout Recovery Charter Schools see 38.6% of their kids pass the graduation test and 22.8% of their kids graduate in 4 years, 26% graduate in 5 years and 22% graduate in 6 years. Now the loophole that was written into the Dropout Recovery standards that allows Dropout Recovery schools to stay open as long as they improve their test passage and graduation rates by 10% a year seems even more profound. That means that Life Skills Centers can remain open as long as their test passage rate improves from 28% to 30.8% and 33.2% and their graduation rates improve to somewhere in the 8% range on 4-year graduation rates. Does anyone think they should remain open with these data points? But don’t worry, state lawmakers made sure Life Skills had plenty of time to adjust to these “tough” standards. No Dropout Recovery school will be closed prior to 2017.

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Tagged in these Policy Areas: K-12 Education | Ohio State Budget