Charter school sponsors improved their ratings significantly this year, both on a statewide level and among sponsors of Dayton-area schools, according to new data from the Ohio Department of Education.
Almost half of the state’s sponsors (21 of 45) were rated “effective” — the second-highest rung on a four-step ladder — and three sponsors were graded at the top level of “exemplary” for the 2016-17 school year.
One year earlier, only five of 65 charter school sponsors were called effective, and none were exemplary.
“High-quality sponsors are the key to successful community schools,” said state superintendent Paolo DeMaria. “Their oversight drives effective operations and increased academic achievement.”
Charter school sponsors provide oversight of school management officials, make site visits and decide whether to open or close schools. The state’s evaluation system measured the sponsors on three things — the academic performance of their schools, compliance with laws, and adherence to best practices.
Nine of the 15 sponsors that have charter schools in the Dayton area were rated effective. That includes three that were called effective for the second year in a row — St. Aloysius Orphanage, the Fordham Foundation and Buckeye Community Hope Foundation.
St. Aloysius sponsors Klepinger Community School and Life Skills Center of Dayton. Fordham sponsors Dayton Leadership Academy and DECA Prep, while Buckeye sponsors two local Horizon Science Academies (HSA Downtown and HSA Dayton High School).
Most of the locally involved sponsors that were rated effective received D’s in academic performance — fairly similar to the Dayton, Trotwood and Jefferson school districts where most of the charter schools are located. But they got high marks for legal compliance and best practices.
Three local sponsors were rated in the lowest category of “poor” for 2016-17, meaning their ability to sponsor charter schools will be revoked at the end of this school year unless they win an appeal with the Ohio Department of Education.
Two of those poor sponsors — the Northmont and West Carrollton school districts — already closed their in-house charter schools this summer. The third was the Warren County Educational Service Center, which sponsors the Imagine Woodbury Academy (160 students in Harrison Twp.), as well as the Greater Ohio Virtual School (530 online students). Warren County ESC officials could not immediately be reached for comment about the ratings.
Any sponsor that receives an “ineffective” overall rating is prohibited from sponsoring any new or additional community schools, and the sponsor is subject to a quality improvement plan. Any sponsor that receives a “poor” rating or three consecutive “ineffective” ratings is subject to revocation of their sponsorship authority unless they win a state appeal.
Ron Adler, president of the Ohio Coalition for Quality Education, a charter school support group, strongly questioned the validity of the sponsor ratings last year. This year, he said the group still thought the evaluations could be tweaked, but added, “Overall, we’re very pleased with the end result.”
State ratings of charter sponsors caused an uproar in 2015 when Ohio Department of Education officials attempted to quietly remove online school performance from the calculations. That led to the new, stricter evaluation system, with lower ratings last year. But as with most state ratings systems, school groups improve in subsequent years, once they adjust to the new metrics.