Controversial Online School Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow Will Close


"B" for Bad School.
  • "B" for Bad School.
The controversial online school Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, the state of Ohio's largest virtual school, will close.

The charter school's sponsor organization, the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West, voted last night to close ECOT's (virtual) doors after the state rejected a settlement offer that would have let the school complete the academic year.

ECOT has been forced to pay back $60 million to the State of Ohio, money that it received for students that the school could not verify. According to reporting by the Plain Dealer's Patrick O'Donnell, ECOT is expected to be broke by March.

Last May, O'Donnell reported that ECOT had failed to justify its enrollment figures. The school could only document class participation of 6,300 of its 15,300 students. In May, teachers were basically forced to lobby for the school in Columbus, another bad look for the for-profit business masquerading as an academic institution known for its political clout and poor performance.

And while ECOT might be beneficial to some of the 6,300 Ohio children who attend it, evidence suggests that virtual schools, on balance, aren't good for kids. (This 2016 study of Ohio online charter schools found that, for example, a middle or elementary school student starting at the 50th percentile in math would, on average, fall to the 36th percentile after one year at a virtual school. In reading, that same student would drop to approximately the 45th percentile. The results were roughly equivalent in tenth grade.)

That's not to say that online schools aren't valuable for some. Parents and teachers who attended last night's vote, in O'Donnell's report, were tearful and angry at the decision to close ECOT. It sounds like the logistics may be unwieldy for many students, quite a few of whom will have no choice but to attend an actual school. And for those with physical impairments or behavioral problems, this may indeed present a challenge.

But if you shed a tear, shed it for the families, not for ECOT. 

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