This blog post was co-authored by Padmini Jambulapati and Erin Dillon.
Part II of a new blog series exploring data from Ohio e-schools. While online learning is still new to the vast majority of K-12 students and schools, Ohio has operated “e-schools,” public charter schools that operate entirely online and which students “attend” on a full-time basis, for a decade. As policy debates around online learning grow, what do we know about these schools–who do they enroll and how well do they perform–and what can we learn from Ohio’s e-school experience?
Today we take a look at Ohio’s ‘statewide’ e-schools, which, as their name suggests, enroll students from across the state. Ohio’s statewide e-school operators are the biggest players on the e-school scene in terms of student enrollment, which ranges from 1,400 students at the Virtual Community School of Ohio to over 9,000 students enrolled in the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow. Only seven of Ohio’s 27 e-schools are considered ‘statewide’, but taken together they enroll nearly 90 percent of all e-school students.
Using data from the Ohio Department of Education, we’ve mapped where each e-school is getting its students and the percent of each e-school’s enrollment coming from each school district.* The map below, for example, shows the distribution of students enrolled in Ohio Connections Academy during the 2009-10 school year. (Roll your mouse over each dot to see the percentage of enrollments from each district.)
The only e-school rated ‘excellent’ by the state, Ohio Connections enrolls students from 74 percent of Ohio’s 611 school districts. Each dot on the map indicates an Ohio school district that Ohio Connections draws from and the size of the dot represents the percent of Ohio Connections’ total enrollment coming from that school district. Ohio Connections draws the largest percent of its enrollment from, as one might expect, Ohio’s population centers—almost 5% of Ohio Connections’ enrollment comes from Cleveland, located at the top of the state along Lake Erie, and another 4% comes from Columbus, located in the middle of the state. Below is a map with all seven of Ohio’s ‘statewide’ e-schools. The dots for each school are color-coded according to that school’s state performance rating.** As the map shows, the performance of Ohio’s statewide e-schools covers a wide range. The green dots, for example, represent Ohio Connections Academy, which rates ‘Excellent’. The red dots, on the other hand, represent OHDELA (Ohio Distance & Electronic Learning Academy) and the Buckeye Online School for Success, both of which were rated ‘Academic Watch’ by the state in 2009-10. Most of Ohio’s statewide e-schools fall in the middle under ‘Continuous Improvement’ and are colored yellow on the map.
(Use the interactive features of the map to see which districts e-schools are drawing from—select a school by checking the box next to school’s name on the bottom left corner of the dashboard. To see only the schools that have a particular academic designation (i.e. only “excellent”), select the color and click on the highlight button in the bottom right hand corner of the dashboard.)
So who operates these statewide schools? Four are operated by the type of providers—national, for-profit—that tend to dominate discussions and policy decisions about online learning. The other three are non-profit organizations that manage their own operations:
|School Name||Operator||For Profit?||Information|
|Ohio Connections Academy||Connections Education™, LLC.||YES||Operates schools in 22 states, including Idaho, Colorado, and Pennsylvania.|
|Ohio Virtual Academy||K12 Inc.||YES||Operates schools in 29 states, including Nevada and Oregon, and the District of Columbia.|
|OHDELA (Ohio Distance and Electronic Learning Academy)||White Hat Management||YES||Operates 40 charter schools in 6 states, including an e-school in Pennsylvania. In addition to e-schools, the Akron-based management company also operates HOPE Academies (brick and mortar K-8 charter schools) and LifeSkills Centers (alternative education charter schools)|
|Buckeye Online School for Success (BOSS)||Self-managed||NO||Partners with the National Network of Digital Schools, a non-profit education management foundation.|
|Virtual Community School of Ohio||Self-managed||NO||Serves K-12 students throughout Ohio|
|Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT)||Altair learning management||YES||Serving K-12 students, ECOT is the largest e-school in Ohio.|
|TRECA Digital Academy||Tri-Rivers Educational Computer Association (TRECA)||NO||TRECA also runs a consortium of 40 Ohio school districts that provide curriculum and hardware to support district e-schools along with its own K-12 e-school.|
TRECA Digital Academy, for example, was started by the Tri-Rivers Educational Computer Association (TRECA), a consortium of over 40 Ohio school districts. TRECA entered the Ohio e-school world early on by encouraging school districts to establish their own, local e-schools to compete with the statewide e-schools, which were seen as taking away student enrollments and dollars. TRECA helped districts to set up their e-schools and still provides management assistance for many of the small, local e-schools in Ohio (we’ll write more on that later in the series).
TRECA Digital Academy is also unusual in that it is the only statewide e-school designated as a drop-out prevention and recovery school, which means that a majority of its students are served through a drop-out prevention program. This designation comes with a nice perk: TRECA Digital Academy is eligible for a “school closure waiver”, meaning that, unlike other charter schools in Ohio, it is not subject to automatic closure after multiple years of very low performance and little academic growth. This leaves TRECA’s sponsor, Tri-Rivers, solely responsible for shutting down the school in the case of consistently low performance.
While TRECA Digital Academy may be the only e-school with this designation among the statewide schools, it is not as unusual among the smaller e-schools in Ohio. Tomorrow we’ll describe the nine Ohio e-schools we’ve categorized as ‘regional’—these schools have historically put geographic restrictions on enrollment, limiting where they get their students, but some have recently lifted these restrictions and seem to have ambitions to go statewide.
* Data is from the Ohio Department of Education’s FY2010 Community Schools Settlement Report. This report provides the number of full-time equivalent students each school district sent to each e-school. We calculated the percent of e-school students coming from each district for a particular e-school by dividing the number of FTE students a district sent to that e-school by the total FTE enrollment in the e-school. We then mapped the percent of students coming from each district using the district zip codes.
** Ohio’s school performance ratings are based on four measures of performance: the percent of students scoring proficient on state assessments, a value-added measure that assesses whether students made at least one year of academic progress, whether the school made ‘adequate yearly progress’ under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, and a performance index that rewards schools for students scoring above proficient.