Virtual School Meanderings

November 10, 2014

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

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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

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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…

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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.

October 3, 2014

News from the NEPC: NEPC Launches Schools of Opportunity Project

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National Education Policy Center Launches “Schools of Opportunity” Project

New initiative recognizes public schools for what they do to give all students the chance to succeed
 

Contact:

Kevin Welner, NEPC, 303-492-8370
kevin.welner@colorado.edu

Carol Burris, Rockville Centre, 516-993-2141
burriscarol@gmail.com

URL for this press release: http://tinyurl.com/n5cyopw

BOULDER, CO (October 2, 2014) — A new NEPC project will recognize public schools for what they do to give all students the chance to succeed, rather than turning to test scores to determine school quality.

The Schools of Opportunity project is now seeking applications from public high schools in Colorado and New York. Next year, the project will expand to include schools nationwide, recognizing schools that use research-based practices to close the opportunity gaps that result in unequal opportunities to learn, in school and beyond school.

For example, although schools cannot directly integrate neighborhoods by race and class, they can do their best to integrate classrooms by race and class. And although it is difficult for schools to make neighborhoods or homes physically and emotionally safe, they can strive to ensure that students are physically and emotionally safe while they are in school.

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed in the CU-Boulder School of Education, designed the Schools of Opportunity project as a way to highlight the nation’s best schools and practices. The project is led by NEPC director and CU-Boulder School of Education Professor Kevin Welner, and Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in Rockville Centre, N.Y, who was the 2013 New York State High School Principal of the Year.

Each state’s effort will also be assisted by a team of evaluators, including New York State Regent Betty Rosa and William Mathis, a former Vermont Superintendent of the Year and National Superintendent of the Year finalist. The Ford Foundation and the NEA Foundation have both provided funding assistance.

“This project is about rewarding schools for doing the right things, even if they do not enroll the nation’s top students,” said Welner. “It’s also about highlighting the work of schools that are energetically closing the opportunity gap by engaging in research-based practices designed to make sure that all students have rich opportunities to succeed.”

Burris, whose school has been consistently ranked high in popular lists of the nation’s top high schools, points out their limitations. “Current programs aimed at identifying the nation’s best high schools include many high-quality schools,” she said. “But the approach they use tends to reward schools that are affluent and/or those that enroll a selective group of students. It is time we recognize schools that do outstanding work with a wider range of students.”

The Schools of Opportunity project will recognize schools based on 11 specific principles identified by experts in the 2013 book, Closing the Opportunity Gap published by Oxford University Press, which Welner edited along with Stanford University Professor Prudence Carter. The project will recognize schools that use these principles to help to close opportunity gaps in order to improve academic performance.

“The first step in changing the conversation on school quality requires us to acknowledge that achievement gaps are a predictable and inevitable consequence of opportunity-to-learn gaps, which arise in large part because of factors outside of the control of schools,” Burris said. “However, even as schools are affected by larger societal forces, schools and educators can make decisions that either widen or close opportunity gaps.”

The specific practices include effective student and faculty support systems, outreach to the community, health and psychological support, judicious and fair discipline policies, little or no tracking, and high-quality teacher induction and mentoring programs. All identified practices are listed on the Schools of Opportunity website at http://opportunitygap.org.

The project is grounded in two basic, interrelated truths. Opportunity gaps beyond the control of schools contribute to gaps in achievement. At the same time, excellent schools can help narrow achievement gaps by closing those opportunity gaps within the school’s control.

“It’s because of the first truth,” Welner explained, “that excellent schools cannot be identified by just looking at outcomes. An awful school can have pretty good outcomes if its students are lucky enough to get rich opportunities to learn outside of school. And an outstanding school won’t necessarily have excellent scores if its students are disadvantaged by severe life challenges outside of school.

“When schools and communities focus resources and efforts on closing the opportunity gaps, they should be recognized, supported and applauded,” he said. “They should also serve as models for those who wish to engage in true school improvement.”

The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog covered the announcement of the Schools of Opportunity project and plans to exclusively announce schools that receive recognition in the spring. Top schools will receive acknowledgement at awards ceremonies and in other venues as well. Today’s announcement in the Answer Sheet is posted at wapo.st/1nRf56r.

The Schools of Opportunity recognition process is designed to allow applicants to explain how and why their school should be recognized, and the project will provide any assistance needed to help applicants easily complete and submit their information.

Schools of Opportunity recognitions will be made at gold and silver levels, as well as a special recognition for top schools. Applications are welcomed until Nov. 15, with all nomination information and forms available online at http://opportunitygap.org.

Learn more about the Schools of Opportunity Project at http://opportunitygap.org.

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 NEPC, please visit http://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

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 unsubscribe from this list | update subscription preferences

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

October 1, 2014

News from the NEPC: Meta-Analysis Finds ‘Effects’ That Aren’t There

From yesterday’s inbox…

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Meta-Analysis Finds ‘Effects’ That Aren’t There

NEPC reviewer explains that study’s own data contradict authors’ conclusions

Contact:

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

Francesca López, (520) 621-0307, falopez@email.arizona.edu

URL for this press release: http://tinyurl.com/mqyft8l

BOULDER, CO (September 30, 2014) – A recent meta-analysis of charter-school effects overstates its own findings, according to a new review published today.

Francesca López, an education professor at the University of Arizona, reviewed A Meta-Analysis of the Literature on the Effect of Charter Schools on Student Achievement 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.

The report was published in August by the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington. The report, by Julian R. Betts and Y. Emily Tang, draws on data from 52 studies to conclude that charters benefited students, particularly in math.

“This conclusion is overstated,” writes López in her review. The actual results, she points out, were not positive in reading, not significant for high school math, and yielded only very small effect sizes for elementary and middle school math.

The reviewer also explains that the authors wrongly equate studies of students chosen for charter schools in a lottery with studies that rely on random assignment. Because schools that use lotteries do so because they’re particularly popular, those studies aren’t appropriate for making broad comparisons between charter and traditional public schools, López writes.

The review identifies other flaws as well, including the report’s assertion of a positive trend in the effects of charter schools, even though the data show no change in those effects; its exaggeration of the magnitude of some effects; and its claim of positive effects even when they are not statistically significant. Taken together, she says, those flaws “render the report of little value for informing policy and practice.”

“The report does a solid job describing the methodological limitations of the studies reviewed, then seemingly forgets those limits in the analysis,” López concludes.

Find Francesca López’s review on the NEPC website at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/
thinktank/review
-meta-analysis-effect-charter.
Find

A Meta-Analysis of the Literature on the Effect of Charter Schools on Student Achievement, by Julian R. Betts and Y. Emily Tang and published by the Center on Reinventing Public Education, on the web at:
http://www.crpe.org/publications/
meta-analysis-literature-effect-charter-schools-student-achievement
.
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

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

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