Students Take Stand Against ODE Online Charter Audit

Aug 25, 2016

The Ohio Department of Education wants to know how much learning is actually going on among the more than 17,000 students at the state’s largest online charter school, ECOT. Some of the school's students are taking a stand. 

18 year old Gabriel Young is featured in one of ECOT’s latest commercials, in which he states, “I was adopted for seven years and then put back.”

Credit ECOT

Young lives on his own, and says ECOT’s flexible system fits his schedule. And he adds that the work students do can’t always be tracked through log-in information.

“You have to study, you have to read an assignment that the teacher gave you, you have art projects that you have to do and you have to turn them in. We do just as much work as normal kids do.”

The ODE is trying to conduct an audit to find out how much instruction each ECOT student received the past school year – the law requires 920 hours, which averages out to five hours a day. If the audit determines it’s less than that, the state could pull back some of the more than $100 million that went to ECOT last year. But ECOT chides the ODE for allegedly using standards that are too high and beyond what the law requires.

Part of the fight between the state education department and ECOT is over student log-in information. The state says that data can help paint a picture of how much learning is going on. But Young says being a student of ECOT isn’t limited to being online.

ECOT Senior, Gabriel Young.
Credit ECOT YouTube Commercial

“You have to type up an assignment, the computer doesn’t record that. You have to study, you have to read an assignment that the teacher gave you, you have art projects that you have to do and you have to turn them in. We do just as much work as normal kids do.”

Lawmakers who support the education department, such as Republican Sen. Peggy Lehner of Kettering, say the ODE is simply being thorough in making sure ECOT isn’t wasting taxpayer dollars.

In the past ECOT relied on a teacher certification sheet to record the hours a student learned, but the state wanted the log-in information to go with that certification.

The lawsuit is still pending and is scheduled for trial next year.