Ohio Auditer Calls for Changes to Online School Funding

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

Ohio's auditor is pushing for the state to change the way it provides funding for online charter schools by connecting state dollars to student achievement.

State Auditor Dave Yost argues that how much a student learns should affect funding for these schools. He said funding for online charter schools should be connected to performance and proof that students are actually learning, which he says can be accomplished by tracking the computers used by students in real-time.

Currently, the state measures the amount of time students receive instruction. However, Yost believes this method to be outdated.

Yost went on to say that the change is necessary, as it is too difficult to determine the level of participation by students in virtual instruction.

"This idea of paying for time in class what we're getting is no better than time in class in a lot of situations and so the idea is pay on the basis, measure the payment on the basis of what you're trying to buy an educated, numerate, literate citizen," Yost said.

While Senator Peggy Lehner, chair of the Senate Education Committee, was receptive to the idea, she said a number of questions still need to be answered before the state can proceed. For example, she wonders how certain positions will be paid for within these schools that are not directly tied to student performance, such as counselors.

Meanwhile, Chad Aldis with the pro-charter Fordham Institute has spoken out, saying standards that increase performance within charter schools and help them to perform at a higher level should be implemented. He said that recent discussions have revolved around the weaknesses of online charter schools. However, he argues that e-schools, in fact, have many strengths, including the ability to track performance through online quizzes and courses, reports Andy Chow for WOSU.

"The key is, whether it's through course completion or whether it's through completing individual components of courses, like think of math chapters or sections – funding on little increments so we can make sure that students are making progress."

The state has recently shown concern over the attendance record of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, ECOT, with the state Department of Education currently involved in a legal battle with ECOT over the issue.

While the state is seeking the release of log-in information by ECOT in order to determine how long students are learning, ECOT argues that educational opportunities are not only offered online.

Yost said the litigation highlights the issues within the state's system, saying it is impossible to count students when the classroom exists everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

Yost announced the proposal late last week during a charter school summit he had hosted in Columbia. During the two-day event, attendees received training opportunities, tips for record-keeping, and best enrollment practices.

The summit comes at a time when lawmakers throughout the state are increasing the reporting, accountability, and transparency requirements that charter schools must follow. The changes came as a result of a scandal within the state's charter-school oversight office, in addition to continuous performance lags and irregularities in attendance.

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