Virtual School Meanderings

December 4, 2014

News from the NEPC: Report Seeks to Calculate Economic Boost from Closing Achievement Gap

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and promote democratic deliberation
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Report Makes Effort to Calculate Economic Boost from Closing Achievement Gap

Review finds claims plausible,
but not backed by sufficient evidence 

Contact:

William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058,wmathis@sover.net

Clive Belfield, (917) 821-9219,Clive.Belfield@gmail.com

URL for this press release: http://tinyurl.com/l533jns

BOULDER, CO (Dec. 4, 2014) – Past research suggests that the economic well-being of a society is related to the health and success of the society’s educational system. A new report estimates that if Black and Hispanic high school math scores increased to become equal to those of White high school students, the size of the U.S. economy would increase by $20 trillion by 2050. It also projects that tax revenues would rise by $4 trillion for federal and $3 trillion for state and local. The report therefore argues for substantial public investment aimed at closing achievement gaps.

However, a review published today concludes that, while the new report’s broader claim that closing achievement gaps would likely produce economic gains is sound, the report’s specific calculations are insufficiently supported by detail and checks of accuracy.

Clive Belfield, of Queens College, City University of New York, reviewed The Economic Benefits of Closing Educational Achievement Gaps for the Think Twice think tank review project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder’s School of Education.

Belfield is an economist whose research focuses on resource allocation and cost-effectiveness. The Economic Benefits of Closing Educational Achievement Gaps, by Robert Lynch and Patrick Oakford, was published by the Center for American Progress.

Belfield’s review points out that the report lacks sufficient detail concerning its calculations of the economic benefits and fails to check the accuracy of its estimates. Additionally, he writes, “these estimates rely on a single study, and that study has limitations: it looks across countries rather than at the U.S. economy, and it implies a very powerful role for cognitive skills (test scores) over behaviors.”

The study’s plausible overall premise is that it makes sense to reduce educational gaps in the name of both efficiency and equity. But the economic model it uses lacks the detail required to judge the premise’s accuracy. “In order to be fully convincing, an economic model needs to be transparent in how the calculations are made and incorporate extensive sensitivity testing,” he writes. The model should also fully justify the focus on closing achievement (e.g., test-score) gaps rather than, for example, gaps in attainment (e.g., high school graduation). “Only then,” Belfield concludes, “will the actual numbers generated by the economic models be useful for a calculation of how much to invest in our long-term future from purely an efficiency perspective.”

Find Clive Belfield’s review
on the NEPC website at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/
thinktank/review-economic-
benefits.
Find

The Economic Benefits of Closing Educational Achievement Gaps, by Robert Lynch and Patrick Oakford, on the web at:
https://www.americanprogress.org/
issues/race/report/2014/11/10/
100577/the-economic-benefits-
of-closing-educational-achievement-gaps/
The Think Twice think tank review project (http://thinktankreview.org) of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC)provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. The Think Twice think tank review project is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence.  For more information on the NEPC, please visithttp://nepc.colorado.edu/.

This review is also found on the GLC website athttp://www.greatlakescenter.org/.

If you are not already subscribed to this newsletter and would like to receive it regularly, click
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The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. Its mission is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence.  For more information about the NEPC, please visit http://nepc.colorado.edu/.


 

Copyright © 2014 National Education Policy Center, All rights reserved.
You’re receiving this email because you have opted in at our website or sent a personal request to be included. Thank you.
Our mailing address is:

National Education Policy Center

School of Education, 249 UCB
University of Colorado

Boulder, CO 80309-0249

Add us to your address book

For all other communication with NEPC, write to nepc@colorado.edu.

November 24, 2014

News from the NEPC: Report Urges Caution on Personalized Learning

From the inbox this morning…

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Report Urges Caution on Approaches Equating Technology in Schools with Personalized Learning

Citing the absence of research showing clear benefits for expanding computer use in education, policy brief recommends incremental approach

Contact: 

William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058,wmathis@sover.net

Noel Enyedy, (310) 206-6271, enyedy@gseis.ucla.edu

URL for this press release: http://tinyurl.com/luzqfjp

BOULDER, CO CO (Nov. 24, 2014) – The use of computers in the classroom – or even instead of classrooms – has generated renewed enthusiasm in influential circles. Advocates of significantly advancing the practice often refer to greater reliance on computer-based learning as “Personalized Instruction.”

Yet while its potential merits thoughtful small-scale adoption, there is little evidence that marrying digital technology to education has changed schooling for the better, according to a new policy brief published today by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC).

The reasons for such lackluster results are many, according to the report’s author, Noel Enyedy, associate professor of education and information studies at the University of California-Los Angeles. Chief among them is the absence of a clear model for what actually constitutes “Personalized Instruction”; advocates of the practice apply the term to a wide range of approaches to teaching that rely heavily on online or other digital resources.

“Computers are now commonplace in the classroom, but teaching practices often look similar, as do learning outcomes,” Enyedy writes in his policy brief, Personalized Instruction: New Interest, Old Rhetoric, Limited Results, and the Need for a New Direction for Computer-Mediated Learning. The brief is published today by the NEPC, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.

“After more than 30 years, Personalized Instruction is still producing incremental change,” Enyedy writes. Large-scale studies, including meta-analyses, of Personalized Instruction programs “show mixed results ranging from modest impacts to no impact.”

Additionally, Enyedy points out, the highest potential for benefits appears to reside principally with so-called blended instruction programs, which make use of traditional classroom teaching in close alignment with elements that might be delivered via computer, including online. Blended learning done well, he notes, is more expensive than traditional education – undermining the frequent claim that computerized instruction can help achieve significant fiscal savings.

In light of the growing interest – yet lack of evidence to support – sweeping changes in schooling that would rely on digital media, Enyedy offers a series of recommendations for policymakers and researchers:

  • While continuing to invest in technology, policymakers should do so incrementally. They should view skeptically claims and promotion of computerized learning that oversteps what can be concluded from available research evidence.
  • Policymakers and researchers should clearly distinguish among the key features of technologies being used in education so that research and discussions can revolve around shared ideas and concretely defined practices.
  • Much more research is needed in the K-12 education context, because the evidence primarily cited is extrapolated from research involving undergraduate students and in the professions, “where developmental and motivational factors differ,” Enyedy observes.
  • Policymakers should encourage developers of educational technologies to work with researchers and teachers in testing and validating particular software and hardware tools: “We cannot trust market forces alone to sort out which systems are effective.”
  • When investing in technology to be used in education, school administrators must ensure that there is “substantial professional development for teachers” to go with it.
  • Everyone involved with schools must understand that Personalized Instruction is just one of several models for using computers in the classroom, and all need to be open to considering alternative approaches to making greater use of technology in the learning process.

“It may be that we need to turn to new ways of conceptualizing the role of technology in the classroom—conceptualizations that do not assume the computer will provide direct instruction to students, but instead will serve to create new opportunities for both learning and teaching,” Enyedy concludes.

Find Noel Enyedy’s report,Personalized Instruction: New Interest, Old Rhetoric, Limited Results, and the Need for a New Direction for Computer-Mediated Learning, on the web at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/
publication/personalized-instruction
.
The mission of theNational Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence.  For more information on NEPC, please visithttp://nepc.colorado.edu/.

This policy brief was made possible in part by the support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice (greatlakescenter.org).

If you are not already subscribed to this newsletter and would like to receive it regularly, click
http://nepc.colorado.edu/
and then click the button in the upper right-hand corner that looks like this: 


The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. Its mission is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence.  For more information about the NEPC, please visit http://nepc.colorado.edu/.


 

Copyright © 2014 National Education Policy Center, All rights reserved.
You’re receiving this email because you have opted in at our website or sent a personal request to be included. Thank you.
Our mailing address is:

National Education Policy Center

School of Education, 249 UCB
University of Colorado

Boulder, CO 80309-0249

Add us to your address book

For all other communication with NEPC, write to nepc@colorado.edu.

November 10, 2014

News from the NEPC: ALEC ‘Report Card’ Recycles Bogus School Quality and Improvement Claims

From Friday’s inbox…

Research and analysis to inform education policy
and promote democratic deliberation
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ALEC ‘Report Card’ Recycles Bogus School Quality and Improvement Claims

Contact:

William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058,wmathis@sover.net

Christopher Lubienski, (217) 333-4382,club@illinois.edu

URL for this press release: http://tinyurl.com/n296brc

BOULDER, CO (November 7, 2014) — This pastTuesday’s elections yielded Republican gains in state legislatures and governorships. In the past, many of these Republican lawmakers have turned to American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for education-related bills. We might expect, therefore, that the annual ALEC “Report Card” on states’ education policies—the 19th edition of which was released just before the election—will have some influence. But NEPC’s review last year of the 18th edition explained the Report Card’s many weaknesses, and the authors of that review warn that the 19th edition is no better.

Repeating the previous year’s approach, ALEC assigns its grades based on states’ policies regarding their support for ALEC-favored policies such as charter schools, vouchers and digital learning. The reports claim to be “research based,” but the criteria are ideologically driven free-market beliefs. Defying settled science, they conclude that money doesn’t matter, and the difference between high- and low-performing states is school choice.

According to University of Illinois Professor Christopher Lubienski, a co-author of the NEPC review, the new Report Card is little more than an advertising pamphlet for the more than 60 pieces of ALEC model legislation listed at the document’s end.

“Despite their best efforts, the authors are unable to show that their preferred policy changes of market-style models and privatization of public schooling are linked to better outcomes. They make specious causal claims about their preferred policies (claims that would not be taken seriously by researchers), and are unable to show any actual causal link. This is despite the fact that the authors have been caught before making the same errors in these reports — errors that, of course, happen to support their agenda.”

Added University of Illinois doctoral student T. Jameson Brewer, the NEPC review’s second author, “ALEC again often bases its arguments on anecdotes and outliers, such as criticizing the performance of DC, regardless of the fact that — interestingly enough — the District’s public schools have been run by reformers in the ALEC model for the better part of a decade.”

ALEC also lauds Indiana’s reforms, giving it a high, B+ grade because of its generous charter school policies. Yet Indiana itself recently gave a D or F grade to almost 60% of its own charter schools, compared to A’s and B’s for almost three-quarters of the state’s public schools. “This just highlights the fact that ALEC is grading states on their ideological alignment with ALEC, not on academic outcomes of those policies,” said Lubienski.

In last year’s review, Lubienski and Brewer explained that the ALEC Report Card “draws on the work of advocacy groups and is grounded in ideological tenets,” leading the authors to assign high grades to states “with unproven and even disproven market-based policies.” The review points out that the authors’ claims of “a growing body of research” lack citations, their grading system contradicts testing data that they report, and their data on alternative teacher research is “simply wrong.”

“In fact, the research ALEC highlights is quite shoddy and is unsuitable for supporting its recommendations,” Lubienski and Brewer concluded. “The report’s purpose appears to be more about shifting control of education to private interests than in improving education.”

Find the review of the 18thALEC report by Christopher Lubienski and T. Jameson Brewer on the NEPC website at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/
thinktank/review-report-card-ALEC-2013

Find ALEC’s
19th Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform, by Matthew Ladner and Dave Myslinski on the web at:
http://www.americanlegislator.org/
report-highlights-misspending-in-k-12-education/
The Think Twice think tank review project (http://thinktankreview.org) of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC)provides the public, policy makers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. The Think Twice think tank review project is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence.  For more information on the NEPC, please visithttp://nepc.colorado.edu/.
If you are not already subscribed to this newsletter and would like to receive it regularly, click
http://nepc.colorado.edu/
and then click the button in the upper right-hand corner that looks like this: 


The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. Its mission is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence.  For more information about the NEPC, please visit http://nepc.colorado.edu/.


 

Copyright © 2014 National Education Policy Center, All rights reserved.
You’re receiving this email because you have opted in at our website or sent a personal request to be included. Thank you.
Our mailing address is:

National Education Policy Center

School of Education, 249 UCB
University of Colorado

Boulder, CO 80309-0249

Add us to your address book

For all other communication with NEPC, write to nepc@colorado.edu.

November 6, 2014

News From The NEPC: Argument for Title I Portability Carries No Weight

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and promote democratic deliberation
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Argument for Title I Portability
Carries No Weight

Reason Foundation report is all polemics, not research

Contact:

William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net

Gail Sunderman, (410) 435-1207, gsunderm@umd.edu

URL for this press release:  http://tinyurl.com/lm2qb35

BOULDER, CO (Nov. 6, 2014) — A new review finds no support in a recent Reason Foundation report for its claims that making federal Title I funds “portable” would remedy funding inequities. Portability means that the funding would follow poor children from one school to another.

Gail Sunderman of the University of Maryland reviewed Federal School Finance Reform: Moving Toward Title I Funding Following the Child for the Think Twice think tank review project. The review is published by the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.

Professor Sunderman is senior research scientist at the University of Maryland College of Education, and she is director of the Maryland Equity Project. Her research examines the impact of policy on educational opportunities for low-income and minority students. She has also examined implications of federal education policy, including Title I programs and No Child Left Behind, and she edited the book, Charting Reform: Achieving Equity in a Diverse Society, which examines the impact of social and educational policies and practices on educational inequities.

Title I is the primary federal funding policy aimed at improving educational opportunity for children growing up in poverty. The Reason Foundation report, Federal School Finance Reform, is authored by Katie Furtick and Lisa Snell, and it argues that the federal Title I program as currently structured does not address funding inequities between Title I and non-Title I schools. The report also contends that regulations governing the program negate its effectiveness.

The report recommends making Title I portable, so that the funds follow individual children when they change schools, a policy change that would advance school choice.

Sunderman writes that the report lacks the necessary evidence to support its arguments. Instead, she writes, it relies on rhetoric and on a misleading use of research that ignores conflicting evidence.

The report also ignores the complexity of federal education funding, including of Title I, and it fails to analyze the factors that it claims causes the purported problems in the program. It offers no evidence that its prescription would improve academic outcomes, and it ignores how its proposal would hurt, rather than improve, educational opportunities, Sunderman adds. By allowing funding to flow out of the public school system, portability would exacerbate existing inequities between Title I and non-Title I schools.

The result is a report that “is little more than a polemic,” the review concludes, “using an eclectic assortment of disconnected facts and figures about Title I funding to promote choice and voucher policies.”

Find Gail Sunderman’s review on the NEPC website at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/
thinktank/review-title-1-
reason-foundation
.
Find

Federal School Finance Reform: Moving Toward Title I Funding Following the Child, by Katie Furtick and Lisa Snell and published by the Reason Foundation, on the web at:
http://reason.org/studies/
show/federal-school-
finance-reform
.
The Think Twice think tank review project (http://thinktankreview.org) of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC)provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. The Think Twice think tank review project is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence.  For more information on the NEPC, please visithttp://nepc.colorado.edu/.

This review is also found on the GLC website athttp://www.greatlakescenter.org/.
If you are not already subscribed to this newsletter and would like to receive it regularly, click
http://nepc.colorado.edu/
and then click the button in the upper right-hand corner that looks like this: 


The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. Its mission is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence.  For more information about the NEPC, please visit http://nepc.colorado.edu/.


 

Copyright © 2014 National Education Policy Center, All rights reserved.
You’re receiving this email because you have opted in at our website or sent a personal request to be included. Thank you.
Our mailing address is:

National Education Policy Center

School of Education, 249 UCB
University of Colorado

Boulder, CO 80309-0249

Add us to your address book

For all other communication with NEPC, write to nepc@colorado.edu.

October 29, 2014

News From The NEPC: Online Education Report Offers Little New or Useful

From yesterday’s inbox…

Research and analysis to inform education policy
and promote democratic deliberation
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Online Education Report Offers
Little New or Useful

Report claiming better results from Florida Virtual School confirms the findings and repeats the methodological flaws and limitations of previous research

Contact:

William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net

Michael K. Barbour, (203) 997-6330, mkbarbour@gmail.com

URL for this press release:  http://tinyurl.com/ko7d3e9

BOULDER, CO (Oct. 28, 2014) – A recent report incorrectly claims to be the first empirical study of K-12 student achievement in virtual schools, and its flaws and limitations repeat those of earlier studies, according to a new review.

Michael K. Barbour of Sacred Heart University – who has been involved in K-12 online learning in several countries as a researcher, teacher, course designer and administrator – reviewed the report Virtual Schooling and Student Learning: Evidence from the Florida Virtual School. His research focuses on the effective design, delivery and support of K-12 online learning, particularly for students in rural areas. The review was conducted for the Think Twice think tank review project and is published by the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.

The report Barbour reviewed, Virtual Schooling and Student Learning, was written by Matthew M. Chingos and Guido Schwerdt and published by the Program on Education Policy and Governance, an organization at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government that promotes school choice.

Virtual Schooling and Student Learning compares the performance of Florida Virtual School (FLVS) students with that of students in traditional brick-and-mortar schools. The authors conclude that FLVS students perform at least as well as the comparison students on state tests, while costing less to educate.

“The report claims to be the first study to provide ‘estimates of the effect of taking virtual courses,’” Barbour notes. “This is not correct, and the report in fact confirms the findings and repeats the methodological flaws and limitations of previous research.”

The Florida report largely ignores a key question influencing whether the two compared groups are in fact comparable: Are the reasons why students enrolled in the virtual school rooted in differences that would create bias in the findings? If so, there could be systemic bias reflecting, e.g., the extent to which parents are engaged with their children. Any improved outcomes for the virtual students may also be due to “a lessening of the circumstances that caused the student to leave the traditional setting in the first place,” Barbour says. For example, if a student being bullied in a brick-and-mortar school and transferred to a cyber school, any improved performance may be completely divorced from the technology or delivery method — but simply because the student is no longer being bullied. While that is a benefit of virtual education, it wasn’t what the authors argued or were even researching.

Barbour further explains that the report fails to account for the differing rates at which traditional and virtual students leave their respective programs, and it “fails to consider whether the virtual environment changed how the instruction was designed, delivered, or supported.”

Barbour concludes by pointing out that, given the flaws in simplistically seeking to compare virtual schooling with traditional schooling, the more useful research in the field instead focuses on how K-12 online learning, whether alone or blended with traditional modes of teaching, “can be effectively designed, delivered, and supported.”

Find Michael K. Barbour’s review on the NEPC website at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/
thinktank/review-
virtual-schooling-
and-student-learning
Find

Virtual Schooling and Student Learning, by Matthew M. Chingos and Guido Schwerdt and published by the Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, on the web at:
http://www.hks.harvard.edu/
pepg/PDF/Papers/
PEPG14_02FVS_
Chingos_Schwerdt.pdf
.
The Think Twice think tank review project (http://thinktankreview.org) of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. The Think Twice think tank review project is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence.  For more information on the NEPC, please visit http://nepc.colorado.edu/.

This review is also found on the GLC website at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/.

If you are not already subscribed to this newsletter and would like to receive it regularly, click
http://nepc.colorado.edu/ 

and then click the button in the upper right-hand corner that looks like this: 


The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. Its mission is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence.  For more information about the NEPC, please visit http://nepc.colorado.edu/.


Copyright © 2014 National Education Policy Center, All rights reserved.
You’re receiving this email because you have opted in at our website or sent a personal request to be included. Thank you.
Our mailing address is:

National Education Policy Center

School of Education, 249 UCB
University of Colorado

Boulder, CO 80309-0249

Add us to your address book

 unsubscribe from this list | update subscription preferences

For all other communication with NEPC, write to nepc@colorado.edu.

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