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Four Local Charter Schools Part of Attendance Issues Audit

State Auditor Dave Yost announced results of a charter school attendance audit Thursday.

A new report says there are big disparities in attendance rates among charter schools.

Investigators in State Auditor Dave Yost’s office swept through 30 charter schools. And Yost says they found a big difference between the number of students officials reported to the Ohio Department of Education and the actual headcount in half of those schools.

“I frankly was shocked to find that 50 percent seems to be the average," Yost said during a news conference Thursday. "I think most of the folks in the Legislature if you asked them without any backing they would be surprised by 50 percent attendance rate."

Yost says there were variables contributing to lower attendance—such as one school that dismissed their students early after taking a practice test.

Yost suggested the Ohio Department of Education investigate four local community schools: Dayton Technology Design High School, which is sponsored by Dayton City Schools, City Day Community School, Horizon Science Academy Dayton High School and Richard Allen Prepatory.

During an Oct. 1 visit at the Dayton Technology Design High School, investigators showed up at 8:35 a.m. and found only 43 students in attendance. That is well below the 172 estimated enrollment numbers provided to the ODE. Investigators returned for a second, unannounced, visit Nov. 12 and counted 60 during a headcount at 8:55 a.m. The report also notes the school didn’t notify the department it would offer class options both in person and online, which the audit referred to as a "blending learning model."

City Day Community School had 135 students in attendance during its count on Oct. 1 with 11 students absent and 13 others noted as tardy. Horizon Science Academy Dayton High School had 28 students marked as absent during its count, bringing its total headcount on Oct. 1 to 306. Richard Allen Prepatory had 148 students during its official headcount, which is below its estimated enrollment of 206. But according to the report, the school's sponsor noted a drop in enrollment from the prior school year and there were at least nine students absent during the count.

Yost recommended to ODE investigate the schools for their moderate attendance issues.

Those for and against charter schools say they hope this report can lead to increased accountability measures from the Ohio Legislature.

According to an ODE annual report on community schools, more than 115,000 students attended 367 charter schools. Those schools collected about $824 million in state funds in the 2012-13 academic year, which is the most recent report.