In the latest mark against Ohio’s troubled charter school sector, David Hansen, the Ohio Education Department official responsible for school choice and charter schools, just resigned after admitting that he gave help to charter schools to make them look better in state evaluations.
Hansen, who resigned Saturday, recently acknowledged that he omitted from evaluations “F” grades received by online and dropout recovery schools. The evaluations were not for the schools themselves but for their sponsoring (or authorizing) organizations. His actions, according to the Associated Press, “boosted the ratings of two sponsors” so that it was possible that they could be eligible for more help from the state.
Hansen was required to include all school scores in the evaluations, which have since been retracted by the department. According to the Plain Dealer, the “F” grades the schools received were given “for failing to teach kids enough material over the school year.”
This is just the latest trouble for Ohio’s charter sector, which has misspent hundreds of millions of dollars over more than a decade, according to state audits. Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) has vowed to reform the charter sector, but significant efforts to do so legislatively have failed.
Hansen’s wife is Beth Hansen, chief of staff to Kasich. Kasich is expected to jump into the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, and Beth Hansen is planning to work for the campaign.
The AP quoted David Hansen, the executive director of Ohio’s Office of Quality School Choice and the Office of Community Schools, as saying that he omitted the failing grades because he thought they would “mask” other successes by the schools.
Which schools got help from Hansen? Well, according to Steve Dyer, a lawyer who is the education policy fellow at Innovation Ohio and was once an Ohio state representative, they happen to be schools “run by the state’s largest political donors.”
The Plain Dealer reported in June that the state’s plan for improving charters by rating their sponsoring organizations “is pulling its punches and letting sponsors off the hook for years of not holding some schools to high standards.” It said:
The state this year has slammed two sponsors/authorizers with “ineffective” ratings so far. But it has given three others the top rating of “exemplary” by overlooking significant drawbacks for two of them and mixed results for the third.
The state’s not penalizing sponsors, we found, for poor graduation rates at dropout recovery schools, portfolios of charter schools that have more bad grades than good ones and, most surprising, failing grades for online schools.