Perfect Attendance in Internet Schools

By: Patricia Hawke

The Ohio schools have had state-funded, online charter schools for a few years. Students do their work over the Internet from their homes or other sites. They can work anytime but must log 920 hours per year for perfect attendance.

With some Internet schools reporting perfect attendance for the past three years, the Ohio schools are questioning the validity of the attendance rates and plan to review the rates and formulas used by the schools. Twenty online Ohio schools reported perfect attendance last year, with many others reporting nearly perfect attendance rates.

To date, the Ohio schools have found that at least two of the schools exclude students from the count, who were expelled for being absent for at least 21 days. The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, the largest online Ohio schools with 6,664 students, was one. This has allowed them to report perfect attendance for the last three years. School spokesman Nick Wilson said the state’s attendance formula results in the perfect score, though they look more at student engagement rather than attendance. This includes when students are logged in, how long they work, and their contact time with their teachers. Wilson said the school met three state standards last year out of 25, required by the Ohio schools.

Lisa Zellner, spokeswoman for the Ohio Federation of Teachers, believes this method of calculating attendance is just another way the charters schools are “gaming the system".

The TRECA Digital Academy, which has 1,300 students, agrees. Director of Operations John Shank believes the Ohio schools need a more meaningful attendance formula for Internet schools, if so many are reporting perfect scores. TRECA uses an attendance formula developed by their board, which looks at how many hours students are logged onto the computer system each week and how many assignments students are completing. TRECA missed the state standards last year with a 91 percent attendance rate.

Todd Hanes, executive director of the Ohio schools’ Office of Community Schools, said the Ohio schools would begin comparing the number of students expelled with the attendance rates — a first for the Ohio schools. He stated that it is impossible for any of the Ohio schools to have a perfect attendance rate, if even one student has been expelled for missing 21 days of class.

Traditional Ohio schools calculate attendance by dividing the number of days each student shows up for class by the number of days in a school year. Ohio schools must have an attendance rate of at least 93 percent to meet state standards. The online Ohio schools may be forced to soon change their calculation methods for more meaningful results.

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