Up to 26 Ohio charters could be shut down in 2011

"Closed for business" by Flickr user maistora

Ohio charter schools enrolled nearly 90,000 of more than 1.3 million Ohio students during the 2008-2009 school year.  According to the charter school “Watch List”, up to 26 Buckeye state charter schools that enroll more than 7,800 Ohio students could be closed by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) at the end of the 2010-2011 school year.

Released jointly by The Education Voters of Ohio and The Forum for Education and Democracy, the charter school “Watch List” list shows that students in 10 Ohio counties could be affected by up to 26 potential charter school closures at the end of the 2010-2011 school year. Closure of each charter school depends on their academic performance on the next set of ODE’s school report cards, scheduled for release in late August of this year.

Largest number of potential charter school closures located in Franklin County

Franklin County has eight charter schools eligible for closure that enrolled a total of 2,685 students in the 2008-2009 school year. A total of 113 Columbus City School teachers received layoff notices in April due to a projected enrollment drop of 2,500 students for the 2010-2011 school year. The district based its enrollment projection on the closure of nine schools as well widespread school boundary reassignments.

The eight Franklin County charter schools identified by the “Watch List” that could be eligible for closure at the end of the 2010-2011 school year include: Academy of Columbus, Columbus Arts & Technology Academy, Columbus Preparatory Academy, Crittenton Community School, Granville T Woods Community School, Millennium Community School, Northland Preparatory and Fitness Academy and  Scholarts Preparatory and Career Center for Children.

Charter school closure criteria as defined by House Bill 1

The passage of Ohio House Bill 1 in July of 2009 tightened state laws in regard to academically failing charter schools. The criteria designated by HB 1 for charter school closure is differentiated, based on the grade levels offered by a particular charter school. Schools that do not offer a grade higher than three or offers any of grades 10 to 12 must have earned an Academic Emergency rating (F) from ODE for three of the four most recent school years. Charters that offer grades four through eight (but no grade higher than nine) must have earned a rating of Academic Emergency and showed less than one standard year of academic growth in reading or math for at least two of the three most recent school years.

Exemptions to charter school closure criteria

Schools that are designated as “Dropout Recovery” schools are allowed to seek a waiver from ODE, exempting them from mandatory closure for academic failure. A total of 58 of 332 charter schools currently operating in Ohio have been approved for dropout recovery waivers. Charters that serve a majority of students with disabilities are also automatically exempt from closure due to academic failure. Currently, 32 schools are designated as special education charters in Ohio. Additionally, ratings that are earned by charter schools during their first two years of operation cannot be considered towards state-mandated closure criteria. According to the charter school “Watch List”, more than 51 percent of the 332 charter schools currently operating in Ohio are exempt from state-mandated closure due to these three exemptions.

History of Ohio charter schools closed for academic failure

In the fall of 2009, ODE announced two charter schools (Toledo Academy of Learning, and Summit Academy Community School for Alternative Learners) were permanently closed for academic failure.  Additionally, ODE announced that 10 schools would be closed at the end of the 2009-2010 school year, including:  Academy of Business and Technology (Lucas County),  Academy of Cleveland (Cuyahoga County), Academy of Dayton (Montgomery County), Greater Achievement Community School (Cuyahoga County), George Washington Carver Preparatory Academy (Franklin County), W.E. B. Dubois (Hamilton County), Montessori Renaissance Experience (Franklin County), Englewood Peace Academy (Lucas County), Eagle Heights Academy (Mahoning County), and Paul Laurence Dunbar Academy (Lucas County).