It seems kind of fitting that a day after the release of the third annual NEPC report that indicated virtual schools remain unproven that this item scrolls across my electronic desk.
The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) is the largest charter school in the state of Ohio. The online school is easily the largest charter school in Ohio, is larger than the vast majority of Ohio’s traditional school districts, and received over $88 million in state funding last school year. This year that amount is expected to jump to over $92 million.
On the latest report cards released by the Ohio Department of Education, ECOT continues to rank below all of the 8 large urban schools that are often-criticized by legislators and in the media for their “sub-par” performance.
For graduation rate, a key indicator for the long-term success of a school/district, ECOT’s 4-year graduation rate is a paltry 35.3%, while their 5-year graduation rate of 37.8%, which is only slightly higher, was still over 25 points worse than the lowest urban school district, Cleveland, which checked in at 63.3%. While we now see the legislature writing laws to specifically regulate Cleveland and Columbus more tightly, the charter school laws that apply to ECOT continue to be more lax.
And while the data on performance for this school of 13,836 students (11th largest “district” in the Ohio) is bad enough, the financial games played by the school’s owner/operator are even worse. We wrote a comprehensive piece about ECOT back in 2011, but since then the school has continued to grow and continued to siphon ever larger sums of money away from higher-performing schools.
On December 8, our post, Ohio’s Largest Taxpayer-Funded Charter School, ECOT, Receives Bonus Check, described how the school was up for approval of an additional $2.9 million dollar bonus from Governor Kasich’s Straight A Fund.
On December 10, we posted a follow-up, ECOT Founder Living VERY Well Off Ohio’s School Funding Dollars, where we went into greater detail about the financial games being played and won by ECOT’s Founder, William Lager.
Today, we have another update to the political donations and financial windfall experienced by Lager.
I say interesting because the NEPC report found several things that are key to this blog item:
- Research into student performance in full-time K-12 online learning environments shows cyber schools (like ECOT) do quite poorly overall.
- Generally legislation and regulation are not based on what we know from the available research.
It also highlights something that the NEPC report alludes to, but doesn’t come right out and say:
- Most cyber charter policy is being driven by corporate interests that look to profit from K-12 education.
And profit they do, according to the Ohio’s First Public School Hundred-Millionaire: ECOT Founder William Lager entry. It seems that annual donations over a 14 year period of just under $1.5 million is good enough to help fetch you just over $110,000,000 for your companies from the public education trough!!!