Ohio charter school authorizer outlier deserves to lose right to sponsor schools

As part of our ongoing look at 2010-11 Ohio school performance data, earlier this week Jamie shared an analysis showing that charter authorizer type (e.g., non-profit, educational service center, district, or university) didn't correlate to school quality. ??While this may be true about authorizer type, a deeper look at the data for individual authorizer performance illustrates that not all authorizers are equal. Specifically, there are outliers, and the troubled Cleveland-based Ashe Culture Center jumps out as a true underachiever worthy of being booted from the authorizer business for good.

We took a closer look at the 10 largest authorizers (aka ???sponsors??? in the Buckeye State) in Ohio by the number of students enrolled in their sponsored schools. Taken together these authorizers sponsor about two-thirds of the state's 339 charters, and enroll about 80 percent of all Ohio charter students. In all three analyses (looking at academic ratings A-F, value-added growth, and Performance Index score) there is some fluctuation between authorizers that do well and those that struggle. For example, the Fordham Foundation stands out in Graph I because it has no schools rated in Academic Emergency, but in graph II Fordham's value-added results are lacking.

For Ashe, however, there is no fluctuation as its results are poor no matter how you cut it. ??This is backed up by the fact that Ashe has seen more of its schools closed automatically under the state's charter school academic ???death penalty??? than any other sponsor.

Graph I: 2010-11 Academic Ratings by Percent of Students Tested

Graph I provides the percent of students in schools by building academic ratings for the state's ten largest charter authorizers. The Ashe Culture Center sticks out with almost half of the students in its sponsored schools enrolled in a school rated Academic Emergency (F), while the authorizer with the next highest percentage of students enrolled in schools rated Academic Emergency is the St. Aloysius Orphanage with about one in five students. Further, an additional 48 percent of students in an Ashe-sponsored schools were in a building rated Academic Watch, meaning that more than 90 percent of children in an Ashe-sponsored school attended a building rated D or F by the state.

Graph II: 2010-11 Value-Added Rating by Percent of Students

Graph II shows the percentage of students in schools by building value-added rating, again for the state's 10 largest authorizers. This measure shows how much progress a school's students made in reading and math over the course of one year compared to how much the state expected them to improve. Value-added data are available in Ohio for grades four through eight. (For more on Ohio's value-added system see?????From ski slope to a bell curve: Ohio's evolving value-added measure.???) Here, again, Ashe is one of the lowest achievers with 59 percent of its students enrolled in schools achieving below expected gains and only ten percent of the students were in a school that exceeded expected gains.

Fordham, unfortunately, also sticks out in this category with 38 percent of our students in schools achieving below expected gains (this is caused by one school with a large enrollment falling below expectations), but this is balanced somewhat by more than 57 percent of students making above expected gains. No sponsor saw a greater percentage of its students making above expected gains.

Graph III: 2010-11 Performance Index Ratings by Percent of Students Tested

Graph III shows the Performance Index (PI) Score by percentage of students tested. The PI Score is an indicator of student achievement on state tests ??? it takes into account how well students perform on the exams and does not factor in whether they are making academic gains. More specifically, a school's PI Score reflects the average of the school's students' achievement in all tested subjects. The PI runs on a scale from 0 to 120, with a state goal of 100 for all schools.

Overall, the thing that jumps out here is how few students there are in schools that actually meet or exceed the state target of a PI of 100. And, again the Ashe Culture Center jumps out as atrocious among a weak group with 94 percent of its students enrolled in a school with a PI Score below 80.

This deeper look at authorizer performance in Ohio shows us that all of Ohio's authorizers (including Fordham) need to do more to help improve student performance in their schools. But, the data make obvious that the Ashe Culture Center is a truly troubled outlier. Such remarkably poor results should be considered seriously by the State Board of Education, which is expected to consider at its September meeting whether Ashe should be allowed to continue as an authorizer.?? If accountability is to have any meaning in Ohio, then Ashe should lose its ability to continue authorizing charter schools in the Buckeye State.

-Terry Ryan

*Analysis done by Bianca Speranza

* There was a minor error in the 2010-11 charter school enrollment data provided by the Ohio Department of Education.?? The department fixed the error and posted the correct data on its website on September 1, 2011, and the charts above have been updated accordingly.?? The error did not impact any calculations for Ashe Culture Center.

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