COLUMBUS — The man who admitted to omitting poor scores from online schools in the evaluations of their charter school sponsors has resigned, but Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) on Wednesday continued her call for the state superintendent to follow.
“This is no different than the department going after urban schools for scrubbing data on testing,” she said. “... Charter schools convinced people in the department to scrub data because it looks bad.
“The buck stops at Dr. [Richard] Ross.”
The Department of Education did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Ms. Fedor, the ranking Democrat on the state House Education Committee, said the decision to “scrub” charter school test scores before release of the sponsor evaluations is hypocritical given Gov. John Kasich’s recent move to take over academically distressed Youngstown Schools and the General Assembly’s failure to pass a charter school reform law.
On Saturday, David Hansen, the education department’s school choice chief, resigned after admitting to the State Board of Education that he decided to exclude “F” scores from Internet-based charter schools in their sponsors’ evaluation data. He said he believed the numbers would detract from the sponsors’ better performing brick-and-mortar schools.
Mr. Hansen is the husband of Beth Hansen, Mr. Kasich’s former chief of staff who recently moved over to his presidential campaign.
The state also took back the evaluations it had issued and will incorporate the poor online school scores into their overall pictures. The revised evaluations had not been released as of Wednesday.
But that shouldn’t get Mr. Ross off the hook, Ms. Fedor said. She was recently joined by fellow Democrats in the House and Senate in calling for his resignation.
Ms. Fedor has also called on Republican Auditor Dave Yost to investigate the matter. In addition to conducting routine audits of charter schools, he has investigated data scrubbing at urban schools including Columbus and Toledo and questioned attendance.
Yost spokesman Brittany Halpin said the auditor is still reviewing the information and has not made a decision as to what he may do.
The issues come several weeks after the Republican-controlled General Assembly left town for the summer without passing a charter school-reform bill that leaders and Mr. Kasich insisted was among their priorities.
Ohio has roughly 400 charter schools serving about 120,000 students. While they are public schools, charters are free from some of the rules that apply to their traditional K-12 counterparts under the theory this will lead to innovation and better results.
But the state has drawn national criticism because of the ease with which poor-performing schools have avoided the guillotine by switching sponsors and because of conflicts of interest in which for-profit management teams sell their schools services and rent them space.
In the final days of the spring session, the Senate amended a House-passed bill and sent it back to the lower chamber where it had bipartisan support. It was never brought to a vote.
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.
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