Virtual School Meanderings

November 22, 2014

Influencing the Future – SRI Education Notes – November 2014

From Thursday’s inbox…

:: In the News

A First Look at Local Control Funding in California

A new study by SRI and a team of researchers from across California offers the first independent look at the implementation of the state’s Local Control Funding Formula legislation. The research found strong support from education officials but made clear they are concerned about the future of the effort and challenged by its requirements. Learn more about the study, Toward a Grand Vision: Early Implementation of California’s Local Control Funding Formula.

WGBH Launches First 8 Studios

SRI Education is part of new effort to research and develop digital and tablet material for early learners. In October, WGBH Boston announced the formation of First 8 Studios, a new digital-first production team developing digital and tablet-based content and off-screen supplemental materials for preschoolers and early learners. It has launched its first product, an app—Early Math with Gracie & Friends. The app is based on findings from the National Science Foundation-funded Next Generation Preschool Math(NGPM) research project studying the integration of digital content in preschool classrooms. WGBH partnered with SRI and Education Development Center (EDC) on the NGPM project. WGBH, SRI, and EDC have created a set of supplemental curricular materials that integrate technology-based activities with 46 original hands-on and traditional classroom activities, and a digital Teacher’s Guide that will be released in early 2015.

DaSy Center’s “Improving Data, Improving Outcomes” Conference

In September, SRI’s Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems (DaSy) Center hosted its second “Improving Data, Improving Outcomes” conference in New Orleans. The meeting provided information on development and enhancement of early childhood data systems and improvement of data quality. The conference also provided information on the measurement and use of child and family outcomes data to make informed decisions. Check out the agenda and information about national frameworks, products, and states’ experiences and resources for improving policy and practice. The conference was held in partnership with the IDEA Data Center (IDC) and the Early Childhood Technical Assistance (ECTA) Center.

SRI Presents at Fall 2014 Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE) Conference in Washington D.C.

  • H. Alix Gallagher, Katrina Woodworth, CJ Park, Teresa McCaffrey and Haiwen Wang:Impact Evaluation of National Writing Project Professional Development Program
  • Barbara Means and Jessica Mislevy: Creating Means to Measure Improvements in K-12 STEM Education: A Multi-Stakeholder Collaborative Effort
  • Andrew Krumm: Using Data from Digital Environments to Better Understand Learning
  • H. Alix Gallagher, Jeremy Roschelle and Mingyu Feng: Recruiting Participants for Randomized Controlled Trials

:: Stay Connected

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SRI Education is tackling the most complex issues in education to help students succeed. We work with federal and state agencies, school districts, major foundations, nonprofit organizations, and international and commercial clients to address risk factors that impede learning, assess learning gains, and use technology for educational innovation. Visit

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SRI Education Newsletter.

Denise Glyn Borders Vice President, SRI Education

Influencing the Future

At SRI Education, our work is really about influencing the future. We study the past and the present, to find answers to the challenges of today and, using solid evidence, illuminate the paths to tomorrow. In the midst of battles over teacher evaluation and tenure, the implementation of ambitious education standards, the use of technology in the classroom, new methods of school funding and other issues, we strive to provide knowledge and ideas that help educators and other stakeholders find effective ways forward. In this latest version of SRI Education Notes, we share some of our current efforts and highlight important new projects.

Denise Glyn Borders, Ed.D.
Vice President, SRI Education

SRI Study of New System of Educator Evaluation in Massachusetts offers Lessons for Many States

Building Human Capital to Strengthen Education

SRI Study of New System of Educator Evaluation in Massachusetts Offers Lessons for Many States

The evaluation of teachers is one of the most controversial issues in education today. A range of corporate, philanthropic, and political interests are pushing for the development of evaluation systems that incorporate measurements of student performance and use those data to inform high-stakes decisions on teacher pay, tenure, and future employment.  Teachers and other educators are pushing back, saying such systems are inaccurate, ineffective and unfair and do little to inform and support the development of quality teaching.

In this highly charged situation, an SRI research team is working to provide insight, information, and ideas on how educators might move forward in ways that change the national debate on evaluation and strengthen student learning.  Working with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, SRI researchers have undertaken an examination of an interrelated series of human capital initiatives that aim to move beyond evaluation based exclusively on testing, accountability, and control to a collaborative system focused on the continual growth and development of educators.

“The effort in Massachusetts represents an important shift in how educators are evaluated,” said Roneeta Guha, the director of the project for SRI. “This system is not about firing teachers. It’s about finding ways to support and develop educators in ways that enhance their abilities to help students learn. We think it offers important lessons for education systems across the nation.” Read more.

A New Vision for After School Science Education

A New Vision for Afterschool Science Education

A new SRI study offers insights into science learning in California’s Afterschool Education and Safety (AES) programs and is helping to establish a new vision to expand and strengthen learning opportunities and interest in science for elementary school students.

“Afterschool programs have the potential to engage students in quality science learning experiences that may not fit into the regular school day,” said Ann House, Ph.D., senior researcher in SRI Education’s Center for Technology in Learning and project director for the study. “Until now, little data have been available about how much science is offered in afterschool settings. We now have a more complete picture of best practices for informal science learning and recommendations for improving and extending science offerings for children across California and nationwide.”

Conducted over five years with funding from the National Science Foundation, the study found that while most afterschool programs were interested in and trying to include science in their regular offerings, other activities such as arts, sports, or tutoring were far more common. In many afterschool programs studied, science learning opportunities were limited. Staff were not trained in how to lead science activities, and had limited opportunities for professional development and little access to quality curriculum materials or science activities. Read more.

SRI Hosts 2014 CyberLearning Summit

Curriculum Materials Make a Difference for Next-Generation Science Teaching and Learning

Do curriculum materials matter for helping students achieve new science standards? A recent study by SRI showed that project-based curriculum materials that explicitly support the features and practices called for within the new science standards have a positive effect on teaching and learning.

The study found that implementing project-based curriculum materials that help teachers engage students in authentic science practices can impact teaching practice and increase student learning. Students who participated in a project-based science curriculum outperformed students in a standard textbook curriculum on measures aligned with important core science ideas and science practices outlined in the new Next Generation Science Standards.

“Curriculum materials matter because they guide what teachers do in the classroom,” said SRI Senior Researcher Christopher Harris. “Our findings suggest that investments in well-designed materials and new assessments can make a real difference for achieving next-generation science learning outcomes.”

Read the full report.

New Projects at SRI Education

From teaching quality to technology, from early learning to evaluation, our team at SRI is deeply engaged in critical education research and projects that will inform and shape the future of education policy and practice. Here are a few new projects:

  • In Texas, as part of a charter school expansion grant with IDEA Public Schools, we are examining district capacity and the challenges of scaling up established high-performing school models.
  • Also in Texas, with funding from the Department of Justice/National Institute for Justice, we are investigating safe schools strategies in Pharr San Juan Alamo Independent School District.
  • We’re working with several campuses in the California State University system in support of their New Teacher Quality Partnership Grants. Our work developing indicators and measuring progress will help CSU campuses create new models for preparing STEM teachers and increase participation of underrepresented groups in teaching STEM subjects.
  • With funding from an Institute of Education Sciences researcher-practitioner partnership grant, we’re working with the Clark County School District in Las Vegas, Nevada, to examine and support English language learners’ science learning in the elementary grades.
  • With funding from the National Science Foundation, we’re taking on new projects on big data, learning analytics, and computer science instruction.
  • We are partnering with our colleagues at WestEd on the Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services recently awarded National Center for Systemic Improvement.

These are just a handful of the new engagements we are excited about!

Changing The Odds Of Student Success — McREL e-News November 2014

From Wednesday’s inbox…

Having trouble viewing this email? View it online here.

November 2014

Research Roundup

An Easy ‘A’ for Teachers?  


Politico’s Morning Education news digest highlighted a reportfrom the National Council on Teacher Quality, titled “Easy A’s and What’s Behind Them,” which assessed the level of rigor in more than 500 undergraduate teacher preparation programs and concluded that 1) grading standards are lower for teacher candidates than for students in other majors, and 2) higher grades in coursework are a result of a lack of rigor in those courses. The digest also mentioned a response by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), who said, “For more than a decade, AFT K-12 and higher education members have called for improvements to teacher preparation programs so that these programs can provide new teachers with the real-world skills and knowledge necessary to help the broad and diverse spectrum of students they’ll teach.” Weingarten cited a 2012 AFT report titled, “Raising the Bar,” which offers recommendations for improving teacher preparation programs.

Creating Opportunity for Families: A Two-Generation Approach

The Annie E. Casey Foundation


This report suggests that, in order to break the cycle of poverty for families, a two-generation approach that simultaneously targets the needs of parents and children is required. The report offers recommendations such as: early childhood education that collaborates with parents to increase involvement in their children’s education and furthers their own education advancement, job training programs to help parents become gainfully employed, and access to coaching tools that help create financial stability.

Building Effective Teacher Residencies

Urban Teacher Residency United
This report investigates two highly successful teacher residency programs–the Aspire Teacher Residency and the Denver Teacher Residency–to understand how they work. The report’s authors used classroom observations and interviews with multiple stakeholders to uncover program strengths such as recruitment plans that leverage data to identify the best candidates, the selection of top teachers as mentors, and rigorous and relevant coursework.

MakeHers: Engaging Girls and Women in Technology through Making, Creating, and Inventing

Intel Corporation
The “maker” movement–a tech-inspired, do-it-yourself approach to innovation–has great potential to change the future of STEM fields worldwide, particularly for girls and women, according to this report from Intel Corporation. The report suggests that, although “making” provides new avenues of engagement for underrepresented groups and is equally popular among boys and girls, females face more barriers than males to participation, such as lack of access to tools, lack of mentorship, and exclusion based on gender. The report outlines recommendations for key stakeholders, including parents, educators, policymakers, and those in the private sector, with the goal of increasing STEM interest, participation, and job opportunities among girls and women.

In the Field

Policy brief: Understanding Conscientiousness and Its Role in Improved Student Achievement


In today’s rapidly changing global economy, “21st century skills” means much more than proficiency in basic academic subjects. One of the most important noncognitive competencies for student success is conscientiousness, which encompasses traits such as perseverance, self-regulation, resilience, and responsibility. This McREL policy brief provides an overview of conscientiousness and its relationship to student achievement, and presents issues for policymakers to consider.

North Central Comprehensive Center (NCCC) launches new website


The NCCC–operated by McREL International and serving Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming–launched a new website to support the State Education Agencies in their communication efforts and in the implementation of state-, district-, and school-level initiatives in the region. Visit the site here.

Upcoming conference presentations


Look for McREL sessions at these upcoming national conferences:


Association of Educational Service Agencies Annual Conference 

December 3-6 in San Diego, California. Visit us in booth #411.
December 6-10 in Phoenix, Arizona.

New on the McREL blog


In the blog post, “Taking Some of the Stress Out of Professional Development,” McREL researchers Sarah Gopalini and Jesse Rainey suggest several effective strategies for setting a positive tone in professional development sessions.


McREL’s director of the North Central Comprehensive Center,Kathleen Dempsey, looks at how student work can inform instruction in her blog post, “An AWSM Way to Increase Middle Schoolers’ Math Success,” describing McREL’s formative assessment pilot program (AWSM) for middle school math students and teachers.

Events & Opportunities

McREL’s Summer of Learning 2015


We’ve added new workshops and institutes to our 2015 summer professional development line-up. Held at our headquarters in Denver, Colorado, our workshops and institutes combine insightful research with best practices for educators at all levels to help improve students’ odds of success. Discounts are available for early registration and groups of five or more.


The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching

June 22-23, 2015

Learn more and register here.


Institute: Balanced Leadership for District-Level Leaders
June 24-26, 2015
Learn more and register here.

Classroom Instruction That Works
July 13-15, 2015
Learn more and register here.


Facilitator training: Classroom Instruction That Works
July 13-17, 2015

Learn more and register here.


Institute: Balanced Leadership for School-Level Leaders

July 20-25, 2015
Learn more and register here.


Classroom Instruction That Works with English-language Learners
July 27-28, 2015

Learn more and register here.


Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works

July 29-30, 2015

Learn more and register here.


Helping All Students Achieve with a Multi-Tiered System of Support

July 29-30, 2015

Learn more and register here.

News from McREL

One million classroom observations conducted using Power Walkthrough®


McREL is pleased to announce that in October our Power Walkthrough system for conducting classroom observations was used for the one-millionth time.The millionth walkthrough took place at Strathmore Secondary College, a public secondary school in Melbourne, Australia. Since first used in 2007 by schools in Twin Falls, Idaho, Power Walkthrough has helped school leaders in 45 U.S. states and 16 countries improve instructional practice in their schools. Read our press release here.

McREL’s Principal Evaluation System approved for use in North Dakota


McREL’s Principal Evaluation System, based on our groundbreaking Balanced Leadership® research and professional development program, has been approved by the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction for use by schools and districts in the state. Read our press releasehere.

In This Issue

Featured Content

Changing Schools: Coaching that makes a difference

Our latest issue ofChanging Schoolsmagazine offers multiple perspectives on coaching and ways to develop the next generation of great teachers and school leaders.


Highlights include:

  • A new integrative approach to leadership coaching
  • The importance of informal observations
  • Winning with peer coaching
  • A profile of a growing district using coaching to help reduce variability
  • Altering our mindset about teacher evaluation

Read the issue here.

Bryan Goodwin suggests ways to “get all students to speak up”


In the classroom, researchers have found that a small percentage of students, usually high performers, tend to dominate discussions. McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin, in his latest “Research Says” column in ASCD’s Educational Leadership magazine, offers suggestions for restoring the balance of student engagement in classroom discussions, noting, “Those who remain quiet tend to be low performers, the very students who could most benefit from participation.” Read his article here.

Careers at McREL


McREL is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization whose mission is to improve education through applied research, development, and service to teachers and leaders at schools, districts, networks and agencies, and higher education institutions.


Having the right people at McREL is important to our mission. Our employees are passionate about the work they do, not only because they are helping to enhance lives, but also because they are surrounded by diverse, enthusiastic, and innovative thinkers.


We are seeking qualified candidates for the following roles:


Executive Director of Research, Evaluation, and Expertise


Chief of Staff


Director of Client Solutions–Pacific Region


Follow our@McRELJobs Twitter feed and never miss an opportunity to join our staff.


Learn more about our work culture and employment listings at our Careers at McRELsite.

Connect with Us on Social Media


For the latest in professional development opportunities, education news, research, and McREL employment opportunities, follow us on our social media channels.


Like us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter View our profile on LinkedIn


Find us on Google+ View our videos on YouTube Visit our blog

McREL International | 1.800.858.6830 | Fax 303.337.3005
4601 DTC Blvd., Suite 500
Denver, CO 80237
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Virtual Schooling In The News

InTheNewsBeginning with the eSchool News.

Top News of the Day
4 ways to create a successful hybrid school
Several of our high schools in Poudre School District (PSD), Fort Collins, Colorado, serve more than 2,000 students each, and for the vast majority, these are positive places to learn and excel. [ Read More ]

Next, Education Week’s Digital Directions.

Blended Learning Requires New Human-Resources Strategies, Group Contends

New roles for teachers in blended classrooms should mean new recruitment, evaluation, and retention strategies by districts, says a new report.

(Digital Education)

Also, the semi-regular SmartBrief for EdTech.

Online programs help students boost math skills
Some algebra students at a Missouri school have improved their math scores using a combination of two online programs — My Big Campus and Khan Academy. The programs allow students to work on more challenging problems and access lesson resources after school hours. Southeast Missourian (Cape Girardeau) (11/17)

Obama seeks superintendents’ backing to expand schools’ digital access
During a meeting at the White House Wednesday with dozens of school superintendents, President Barack Obama announced a plan to expand digital access in classrooms. The plan, which about 1,200 superintendents support, includes updated broadband and wireless infrastructure and other improvements that Obama said are necessary to support 21st-century learning. The Washington Post (tiered subscription model) (11/19), CBS News (11/19)

Back to the regular Google News alert for virtual school.

OUR OPINION: State-run virtual school merits second chance

Paul LePage vetoed a state-run virtual school bill earlier this year, legislators shouldn’t let this setback keep them from giving this innovative and …

Our View: State-run virtual school should get second chance in Augusta

LePage vetoed a state-run virtual school bill earlier this year, legislators shouldn’t let this setback keep them from giving this forward-thinking …

Virtual school offers choice

Students in Marion County have a choice between what one program specialist calls “brick and mortar and virtual school education, or a blend of both.

Virtual Schools

the ‘virtual’ school will be able to offer a wider curriculum than any traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ school, and will offer full access to all applicants …

What’s new at Florida Virtual School?

In announcing his extended stay at Florida Virtual School, CEO Ron Blocker wrote of the Orlando-based online school’s “new direction” and his desire …

Maine’s second online charter school awaits approval

The Maine Virtual Academy school board originally planned to have the vendor, K12 Inc., hire all teachers, provide back-office support and essentially …

What Went Wrong at the Upstart School Milken Backed?

K12 grew too fast and invested too little in instruction, said Houston Tucker. In 2012, he pulled his two sons out of a K12 virtual school in Tennessee …

Falling in Love Online: Grad School Edition

The multibillion-dollar online education industry is watching examples like these as it tests its latest innovation: getting people to pay for virtual school.

Edmentum To Add 70 Career and Technical Ed Courses for 2015 School Year

“The courses will be available through Plato Courseware’s online courses and EdOptions Academy, a fully accredited virtual school solution.”.

Recommendations aim to improve academic achievement of vulnerable children

… measures to improve the educational outcomes for the most vulnerable young people in Devon, which include work to restructure the Virtual School, …

Finally, the Google News alert for cyber school.

Student clubs flourish in this cyber school

Clubs in a cyber school work better in some ways than in brick-and-mortar schools, said Jane Camp. As supervisor of student events, she oversees 13 …

Former PA Cyber attorney says Trombetta discussions were protected

PITTSBURGH — A former attorney for the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School testified Monday in school founder Nick Trombetta’s federal criminal …

Central Dauphin School Board to revise policy on graduation requirements

The proposed changes also would establish new rules for cyber school credits, allowing students to qualify for graduation using credits from the …

School board mulls decision to enter agreement with NEIU 19

Unlike students within the district that choose to take charter cyber school, students enrolled it the NOLA program would receive a North Pocono …

Misconduct complaints filed against Askar, three other attorneys

He initially held the Midland cyber school’s management contract under Rodis LLC, but the relationship ended in early 2005 and lawsuits and …



November 21, 2014

Plugged In | 11.21.14 | (powered by iNACOL)

A final word today from the neo-liberals…

To view this email as a web page, go here.
International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL)

powered by iNACOL…

Keeping Pace
In my last post I discussed why we feel that the word “digital” is better than either “online” or “blended” alone to describe the education landscape as of late 2014. Much activity has moved from state virtual schools and statewide charter schools to…
Getting Smart
As indicated by a recent RAND report, blended, personalized and competency-based learning holds the promise of significant achievement gains. With all the new tools being developed, the opportunity set gets better every month. However, at this stage…
It’s well known that public libraries are no longer just about the books – even e-books. Many community libraries are receiving 21st century digital-age makeovers: Numerous digital technologies, maker spaces to invite creation, even video production suites…
In Baltimore County Public Schools, where I’m the purchasing manager, we’re underway on a strategic plan to prepare students for their chosen college or career path. We’re providing flexible, learner-centered, blended learning environments…
The Hechinger Report
Space matters. For over 200 years we have been teaching in row-by-column seating. Many experts argue that this classroom style has conditioned both educators and students to ineffectively utilize space. Researchers have said that space affects…
In the United States, the PreK-12 marketplace for digital education materials is estimated at approximately $8 billion, and growing. This is just for content and software, not including hardware such as devices and broadband infrastructure. And as…
Blend My Learning
“First-generation” is a term that generates great pride within many college graduates who hold the title. This pride stems from recognizing the tenacity you had to develop in order to navigate a path unfamiliar to many, if not all, of your family and friends. It…
THE Journal
The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is improving its broadband infrastructure to better support personalized learning curriculum and applications. With 35,000 students and 5,000 staff members at more than 100 sites and several new technology…
Inside Higher Ed
I shared faculty skepticism about online education for many years. True, my mind has been changed in recent years by online courses I’ve encountered that are easily as rich and meaningful as face-to-face courses. But caution is still warranted. Without careful…
The UVU Review
Dr. Clayton Christensen, Professor of Business Administration to the Harvard Business School, spoke to Utah Valley University students and faculty on Thursday, Nov 20 in the Ragan Theater about disruptive innovation and how to predict in advance whether…
The Los Angeles Unified School District’s Bond Oversight Committee on Thursday approved $12.1 million in funds to help repair the district’s computerized student information system. Superintendent Ramon Cortines had asked for more than $53…
According to the New Media Consortium’s famous Horizon Report K-12 (2014) – the go-to research paper on technology trends – gamification will start hitting classrooms over the next two to three years. There are two aspects to gamification. The first is…
Schools in Liberia have been closed since July as the country has confronted a deadly Ebola outbreak that, so far, has killed nearly 3,000 people. With 1.4 million school-aged children currently without access to education, tech developer Rumie is hoping to…
Angry Birds mobile game maker Rovio has unveiled details of its Fun Learning education initiative, aimed at remaking education for kids three to six years old. Rovio has teamed up with fashion designer Ivana Helsinki to create fun outfits for a program…


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Start Earning Your Certificate of Mastery in January

Another item from Wednesday’s inbox…

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You may already be teaching online, but wouldn’t it be great to master your skills in a particular topic? The OLC Mastery Series is a 3 workshop program that will help you do just that. Join us in January for the Mobile Learning or Online Science Labs series.
Need to know more? Contact
Best regards,
Sandra Coswatte | Director, OLC Institute for Learning |
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The Online Learning Consortium | P.O. Box 1238 | Newburyport | MA | 01950
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