The Kasich Administration and GOP-controlled Ohio General Assembly has been all about “education reform” over the last 5 years, with an alleged focus on improving student achievement — especially decreasing the dropout rate.  Recent legislation has focused on getting Ohio’s students to graduate from high school with not only a high school diploma, but for those not interested in college, some sort of industry credential.

The Third Grade Reading Guarantee, for example, has been continually touted as a step toward decreasing Ohio’s dropout rate (we strongly disagree with this assertion) and the legislature has held firm on this law even while passing House Bill 7 that protects all other students (at least for the 14-15 school year) from experiencing negative ramifications from all other state standardized tests.

Additionally, Governor Kasich in his recent State of the State speech touted the need for charter schools in the state, saying:

“But I also want to say to you that just because a charter school is not producing great results in grades, it doesn’t mean they’re failing. Some of these charter schools have kids that if they weren’t in that charter school, they’d be out on the streets.”


Charter schools as a means of keeping kids in school?  Fascinating.

That brings us to the Governor’s favorite charter school, Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), not only Ohio’s largest online charter school, but Ohio’s largest charter school period, and overall the 9th largest “district” in the entire state for the 2013-14 school year.

Along with it’s annual poor academic figures, ECOT should also be known for the eye-popping number of dropouts they report to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) annually.  ECOT’s dropout numbers are nothing short of staggering.  Before we look at the numbers, remember that ECOT pulls students from hundreds of the highest-performing school districts across the state, not just the “lowest-performing”.

Let’s get some perspective.

Over the last four years, the number of reported dropouts statewide has declined, especially over the past three.  Here are the figures for all schools in statewide (as reported by ODE):

  • 2010-11: 24,564 dropouts
  • 2011-12: 24,736 dropouts
  • 2012-13: 22,461 dropouts
  • 2013-14: 15,857 dropouts

Certainly no one can be pleased with these overall numbers, but one solution might be to take a closer look at the impact ECOT is having.

In the past four years, while the overall number of dropouts has been on the decline, the number of students who have dropped out of ECOT has been increasing dramatically:

  • 2010-11: 3,143 dropouts
  • 2011-12: 3,261 dropouts
  • 2012-13: 4,001 dropouts
  • 2013-14: 4,367 dropouts

While the number of reported dropouts statewide has declined by 35%, the number of students dropping out of ECOT has increased 39%.

Here are some more facts to think about:

  • For the 2013-14 school year, the number of dropouts from ECOT represents 27.5% of the total number of dropouts in the entire state of Ohio.
  • In 2013-14, the number of dropouts from ECOT was 668 greater than the total of dropouts from the 8 large urban districts combined (3,699).
  • ECOT, about 1/3 the size of Ohio’s largest school district (Columbus) had 4 times the number of students dropout.
  • Columbus City reported the 2nd highest number of students dropping out of school (1,146), representing 2.3% of the total student population.  At ECOT, meanwhile, the dropout figure of 4,367 represents a mind-boggling 28.6% of their reported enrollment of 15,259.
  • The number of ECOT dropouts is nearly equal to the combined total of all of the other Ohio charter schools combined (4,367).

Does Ohio Auditor Dave Yost truly want to investigate charter school attendance irregularities?  We have a suggestion of where he can begin.

Is Governor Kasich serious about decreasing the dropout rate in Ohio?  Shutting down ECOT – Ohio’s Student Dropout Factory – would cut the number by over 25%.

Now THAT would be real charter reform, not the half-assed bills the General Assembly has on the table now…