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Published: Friday, 10/28/2005

Teachers' union claims Toledo charter school withheld test

The Life Skills Center of Toledo charter school near downtown, which serves dropouts and older children, is among 19 in a chain of charter schools under criticism this week by a state teacher's union for failing to administer the state-required high school graduation test.

But the school's management fired back yesterday and said that the union's claims are unfair and untrue.

The Ohio Federation of Teachers, which has sued the state over the constitutionality of charter schools, conducted a study earlier this week on the Akron-based White Hat Management's schools, which includes the Life Skills Center.

Lisa Zellner, spokesman for the union, said it was clear the company does not test the vast majority of its students.

The Ohio Department of Education did its own analysis after the union released its report and concurred - finding that few students at the 19 charter schools took the mandatory high school graduation test. The Ohio Department of Education's study found that participation rates ranged from 50 percent at an Elyria school to 3 percent at a Columbus building.

J.C. Benton, spokesman for the state education department, said: "We support school choice, but not at the expense of accountability."

The department of education is checking test participation at 21 other charter schools that failed to submit proper test data, Mr. Benton said.

Participation rates at Ohio's large urban districts were all close to 100 percent. Toledo Public Schools' rate also was near 100 percent, said Jan Kilbride, assistant superintendent of high schools for the district.

The most recent state report card shows that 7.9 percent of students at the Life Skills Center of Toledo, 1830 Adams St., took the reading portion of the Ohio Graduation Test and 8.9 percent took the math portion, but no results of the tests were posted.

Mark Thimmig, president and chief executive of White Hat's parent company, White Hat Ventures, accused the Ohio Federation of Teachers of skewing the numbers to make it seem like the Life Skills schools fail to test students.

He said there could be several reasons why a student would not take the graduation test.

"The entire population of any school isn't being tested," Mr. Thimmig said.

He noted that a student now enrolled at Life Skills already could have passed the test at a previous school; enrolled after the test date; was not eligible because freshmen do not take the test, or could not take the test because the charter school had not yet received transcripts detailing the student's academic history.

"There is a lot of misleading information in [the union's] release," Mr. Thimmig added.



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