Virtual School Meanderings

October 29, 2014

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

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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
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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.

October 3, 2014

News from the NEPC: NEPC Launches Schools of Opportunity Project

Also from yesterday’s inbox…

Research and analysis to inform education policy
and promote democratic deliberation
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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

Add us to your address book

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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

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and promote democratic deliberation
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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.

September 24, 2014

News From The NEPC: Efficiency Report Has Many Problems

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Efficiency Report Has Many Problems

NEPC review explains flaws in attempt to rank countries by educational efficiency

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/l5emoy3

BOULDER, CO (September 23, 2014) – A recent report purporting to score and rank national education systems on efficiency has drawn extensive media attention in both Europe and North America. But a new review published today explains that the report has serious problems and generates extreme conclusions and unrealistic policy proposals.

Professor Clive Belfield reviewed The Efficiency Index, written by Peter Dolton, Olivier Marcenaro-Gutiérrez, and Adam Still and published by GEMS Education Solutions, based in London, England. Belfield’s review is published today by the Think Twice think tank review project of the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.

Belfield is an economist at Queens College in New York whose research focuses on resource allocation and cost-effectiveness.

The Efficiency Index ranks 30 countries on their educational system “efficiency” through a model that compares national test scores, national teacher wage rates, and pupil-teacher ratios. The test scores used are from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

“Looking across the 30 countries, the model predicts that, in order to get a 5% increase in PISA scores, teacher wages would have to go up by 14% or class sizes would have to go down by 13 students per class,” Belfield writes. “But the optimal wages and class sizes for any given country may sometimes demand an increase or decrease in one or the other factor.”

Based on its model, the report identifies those wage levels and class sizes that are optimally efficient for each country. Those optimal levels, Belfield notes, are sometimes surprisingly extreme. Switzerland, for example, would have to cut wages nearly in half to achieve its “optimal” teacher salary, while Indonesia would have to triple teacher wages. “For four countries, the optimal class size is estimated at fewer than two students per teacher,” Belfield writes.

Such anomalies expose the weaknesses in each of the study’s three key elements, Belfield says: “the output measure is questionable, the input measures are unclear, and the econometric method by which they are correlated does not have a straightforward economic interpretation.”

Consequently, the report does nothing more than “satisfy an apparent keenness for reports that rank countries – and especially for reports that castigate low-rank countries,” Belfield writes – but it fails, he concludes, to advance an understanding on how to make education more efficient.

Find Clive Belfield’s review on the NEPC website at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/
thinktank/review-efficiency-index
.Find The Efficiency Index by Peter Dolton, Olivier Marcenaro-Gutiérrez, and Adam Still, and published by GEMS Education Solutions, on the web at:
http://www.edefficiencyindex.com/
book/files/assets/common/
downloads/
The%20Efficiency%20Index.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

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

September 19, 2014

Eighth Annual NEPC Fellows Research Panels: What Do We Know, and What Should We Know, About Virtual Schools?

Today I am participating in the Eighth Annual NEPC Fellows Research Panels on the topic of “What Do We Know, and What Should We Know, About Virtual Schools?” with Luis Huerta, of Teachers College, Columbia University.  Below are my slides from the session.

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