Ohio’s fight against its largest online school continues

ECOT receives about $107 million from the state annually

ECOT is still refusing to release records to the Ohio Department of Education for an attendance audit.
Stacey Fisher, two of her children attended ECOT

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) is still refusing to release records to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) for an attendance audit.

The ODE said it wants students’ log-in and log-out times to determine the funding ECOT receives from the state. The ODE wants this information to see if students are actually getting the 920 hours required in online charter schools, which became a law in February of this year.

But, ECOT said this violates a 2003 contract with the ODE on keeping track of attendance through just log-in times.

In the past, the state has allowed ECOT to have a teacher certify that students were offered learning opportunities, but never required the school to show that students actually participated in them.

ECOT’s consultant Neil Clark said the system Ohio wants ECOT to follow just won’t work. He said the system of having a teacher sign off on students’ participation is more efficient than using the state’s system, which would have a parent sign off.

“They look at that and say, ‘Let the parent sign that document.’ Some of our students are below poverty and their parents are working. Who’s actually going to sign those and what validation do you have? Where as our teacher certifications are signed by licensed teachers certifying that the learning opportunities were offered,” Clark said.

Stacey Fisher has a daughter who used to be an ECOT student, but she is enrolling her back into a traditional school in the fall because of ECOT’s system.

“My daughter just was struggling. She would say that she was not being taught, she just wasn’t learning,” Fisher said. “She would have a headset on and I thought they were in a virtual classroom. That’s what I believed was going on but as the year went on it did not seem like that anymore.”

She said their system of just log-in times, and the school not monitoring hourly work, didn’t work for her daughter.

“She would cry when I would freak out on her over the grades and was saying they just weren’t teaching her. So she is going back to public schools,” Fisher said.

Fisher added that her son, who has ADHD, excelled because he could focus at home.

The ODE also wants the login in durations so it can determine if the $108 million it paid ECOT in 2015-16 was inflated. That money is based on the amount of students enrolled in the school.

Saturday, the state asked a judge in Columbus to have ECOT give records for 1,500 students, randomly picked by the ODE, to show the state how ECOT tracks their schoolwork.

So far, WKBN has not heard back from the state on the status of the situation.

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