Taking our eyes off the ball

Two weeks ago, our friends at KidsOhio.org released a report highlighting the academic progress made by students in Ohio's "Big 8" (large urban) districts and charter schools in those same cities.?? It's fair to lump these two groups together, and to compare them with one another.?? The vast majority of students in urban charter schools hail from those eight districts.?? Yes, there are some stragglers from the suburbs, but not nearly enough to invalidate such research.

Today, the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, also our friends, followed up KidsOhio.org's work with a ??report of its own (not yet available online that I can find) comparing academic achievement, preparation, and progress levels of students in the Big 8 districts with students in the Buckeye State's seven statewide e-schools.?? OAPCS found similar results between the two groups, perhaps providing cause for saving e-schools from the budget chopping block.

The problem is, e-schools don't get their students from the large urban districts like most brick-and-mortar charter schools do.?? In fact, last school year just 22 percent of students at statewide e-schools came from such districts.?? A fairer comparison can be made between e-schools and statewide average performance, like Fordham does in our annual analysis of Ohio school performance.?? Such a comparison shows that Ohio's e-schools routinely under-perform their district peers.?? This is largely due to a few perennially weak performers who drag down the good work being done by the decent cyberschools.

Instead of quibbling about data, or manipulating it to meet our political needs, those of us in the Ohio charter school community need to get serious about quality, once and for all.

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