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Ohio moves ahead with charter school sponsor evaluations

by ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS Associated Press Published: September 2, 2016 12:31 PM

Columbus -- The state said Sept. 1 it is moving forward with evaluations of how well charter school sponsors follow current educational rules and laws.

The announcement by the Ohio Department of Education comes after Republican lawmakers moved to delay the evaluation process last month. Some portions of the charter-school community have opposed the process.

The department said it was determined to meet an Oct. 15 deadline to publish ratings of charter school sponsors.

Doing that meant dropping a proposal requiring that all of a sponsor's charter schools be evaluated. Republicans on a legislative rule-making committee objected to that proposal.

Instead, the department will stick with an existing evaluation method that allows for sampling 10 percent of a sponsor's schools.

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The state still will publish raw compliance data for all schools, in addition to formal published ratings.

"We are confident that this approach is rigorous," state schools superintendent Paulo DeMaria said in a memo to state school board members.

In an interview, DeMaria said the sampling method -- which is already allowed under current rules -- meets the legislative goal of holding sponsors accountable while adhering to the deadline.

Sponsors will earn ratings from "exemplary" to "poor" based on academic performance, following best practices and following rules and law.

The move is a positive step toward meeting the October deadline, said Chad Aldis, vice president for Ohio Policy and Advocacy with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which sponsors 11 Ohio charter schools.

"They're making the best out of a situation that was less than optimal," Aldis said.

Last month, the Legislature's GOP-led rule-making panel put the implementation of the rules on hold. It did so by sending them to a body that assesses potentially detrimental effects that state actions have on businesses.

Tom Gunlock, state school board president, said the evaluations are an important part of improving charter schools and vital to holding them accountable.


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