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ODE Asks Franklin County Court To Force ECOT To Submit Attendance Records

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Ohio Department of Education officials are asking a Franklin County judge to force the state's largest online charter school operator to turn over attendance data to determine state funding. The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow - or ECOT - has refused to provide the records despite losing a court fight earlier this month to block the department's audit.  Ohio Public Radio's Andy Chow reports.

ECOT consultant Neil Clark says documents between the Ohio Department of Education and the state auditor’s office show there's confusion over just what is expected from online charter schools during an attendance audit.
 
The state has been asking ECOT for specific log-in information from students, something that hasn’t been required in the past.
 
Based on the dates of the letter, the issue was still murky as late as May of this year. Clark says that’s why the state should just audit ECOT under the old standards agreed to in a contract signed in 2002.
 
Clark: “Because these in a retroactive method with a process that is really unproven that really wasn’t gone through enough public debate of how these should be done I think is troubling.”
 
The state wants to find out if ECOT students are getting the minimum five hours of instruction time that’s required by law. In the past, ODE has used other methods to determine this but now it wants more log-in information.
 
To avoid handing over the information, ECOT has sued the state saying that the education department is violating that 2002 contract.
 
For its attendance records, ECOT currently uses a teacher certification process, where the teacher signs off on how much instruction a student received each day. Clark says this is a more accountable procedure compared to a log-in timesheet.
 
Clark: “This simple log-in that’s maybe signed by the parents I think it should be a licensed professional that makes those determinations so somebody’s held accountable for their particular teaching license.”
 
ODE has declined to comment on the issue because of the pending court case. However in a court filing, the department says the records are relevant to the lawsuit and that ECOT has no legitimate reason not to produce them.

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