Ohio Charter Schools Face New Three-Strikes Policy

Published October 24, 2009

Charter schools in Ohio will face closure at the end of this school year if their performance and growth are not up to par. Legislation passed in 2005 and modified in subsequent years created a task force that will shut down schools that do not make the grade.

Matt Cohen, executive director of the Ohio Department of Education, said the state began reporting value-added data on fourth-graders in 2006, and expanding the data collection for other grades since then. Last year, he said, the state began grading schools based in part on that information.

“There are three value-added categories—’plus,’ ‘check,’ and ‘minus.’ They represent, respectively, exceeding the growth standard, meeting the growth standard, and not meeting the growth standard,” Cohen explained. “A score and value-added category is assigned to each grade level (4-8) and for each subject—reading and math only. A composite score and rating is computed for each school and district. Only the composite score is used for purposes of affecting the overall report card designation for a school or district.”

Unequal Application

Only charter schools that encompass grades four through eight are vulnerable to the task force closures, a policy which affected two schools before the beginning of the current fall semester, said Terry Ryan, vice president for Ohio programs and policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit organization. However, “Sixteen additional schools have been put on notice that at the end of the 2009-2010 school year their doors will close. This affects schools across the state, not just in the major cities,” he said. “The auto-closure law only applies to charter schools. Regular district schools with the same failures will not face closure.”

‘Fair Policy’

Ryan agrees failing charters should be closed.

“This is a fair policy to apply to underperforming schools showing neither academic achievement nor growth. In fact, the law was first introduced by Republicans in the state who favor charter schools and want to provide viable alternatives to district schools for children in Ohio,” he said. “The goal of charter schools is, ultimately, to improve educational opportunities for children, especially those in needy communities. If the school is not meeting that need, it should be closed.”

Emmy Partin, director of Ohio policy and research at the Fordham Institute, says the policy should apply to all public schools, not just charters.

“Ideally the charter school authorizers should be closing failing charter schools rather than lawmakers, but since many authorizers are not doing so, the auto-closure laws are needed,” she said, “but they should be applied to all public schools, not just the charter schools.”

Sarah McIntosh ([email protected]) teaches constitutional law and American politics at Wichita State University in Kansas.