Virtual School Meanderings

August 25, 2016

e-News August 2016 | New School Year, Fresh Start!

Also from Tuesday’s inbox…

August 2016

New school year, fresh start!
Have you set your goals for student and personal success this year? Now’s a great time to take stock of what you know works in your schools and classrooms and build on it to reach new levels of achievement. Building trust begins on the first day of school and sets a foundation for student and staff success. Here are a few tips to help get you in the school mindset.
“Let students know you believe they can learn and that
you will partner with them to succeed.”
-Consulting Director Bj Stone
“Remember to encourage risk-taking and questioning in your classroom.
In order for students to learn, they need to feel both safe and accepted.”
-Managing Consultant Cheryl Abla
“No matter how little or how much English an English learner (EL) speaks
upon arrival at school, no matter how much of the EL’s native language
the educator speaks, a smile transcends all.”
-Managing Consultant Jane Hill
Need a customized solution?
We can provide you with contextualized consulting, coaching, and support to achieve your goals. Just let us know how we can help!

Research Roundup

Perceptions of school climate are predictive of student literacy results
McREL International

The Department of Education and Training in Victoria, Australia contracted with McREL to develop a highly reliable staff opinion survey to measure five key areas of school function: school climate, school leadership, professional learning, staff safety and well-being, and teaching and learning. Using a predictive validity study to examine the survey results as they relate to student achievement on standardized assessments, McREL researchers found that school climate was the greatest predictor of Grade 5 achievement in literacy. Further statistical analysis showed that strong leadership led to better teacher collaboration, which then led to academic optimism.

Caution flags for tech in classrooms

This NPR story profiles three recent studies on educational technology and its effect on student learning, which showed mixed results. In some cases, technology inhibited learning when overused or when students’ understanding of the purpose for the technology was limited and their use of technology was not fully supported.

U.S. Department of Education’s experiences with flexibility waivers could inform efforts to assist states with new requirements
U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)

GAO’s analysis of the ESEA flexibility waiver program revealed that 12 of the 43 states with waivers had difficulty with implementation, and the GAO recommends that, as the new ESSA law begins to be implemented, the Department of Education should incorporate applicable lessons learned.

New from McREL

White Paper | Applying best practices for effective vocabulary instruction
VocabularySpellingCity, in partnership with McREL, released a report showing that direct vocabulary instruction, coupled with engaging word study activities, builds critical vocabulary skills necessary to ensure academic success. Research has consistently shown the power of vocabulary in determining academic destiny. Students with weak vocabularies tend to decline academically, while students with stronger vocabularies tend to learn faster. Download the white paper.

How to select school interventions
Selecting and implementing the right intervention for your students’ needs can be a daunting task. Our newest resource, Recommended Protocol for Selecting School Interventions, walks school leaders and teams through seven key steps to take when selecting school interventions to accelerate student growth. From the first step (collect and analyze data to identify your priority area of focus) to the last (evaluate the efficacy of the intervention), the document provides multiple action steps and questions to consider that will help you make better intervention decisions. Download this free resource.


Blog Post | Igniting students’ passion to learn through National History Day
In this blog post for the Boost Collaborative Breakfast Club Blog, McREL managing researcher and evaluator Tara Donahue shares her experience visiting a Michigan classroom to view students’ exhibits for the National History Day competition, and offers her thoughts on why meaningful projects help students stay engaged and challenged.

Blog Post | Four fallacies that keep us from finishing what we start
What keeps us from finishing school improvement initiatives that we start? Often it can be traced back to fallacies that form our belief systems about school improvement. In this blog post, McREL consulting director Bj Stone offers four valuable tips to help implement and sustain initiatives and get them across the finish line. Read her blog post.


Simi Valley Unified rings the schoolbell
The Simi Valley Acorn reported that Simi Valley USD teachers received McREL’s Classroom Instruction That Works professional development over the summer. “This is giving us a systematic approach with regards to classroom instruction that we haven’t had for quite some time,” Superintendent Peplinksi said. Read the story.

Events & Opportunities

McREL consultants will be at the following conferences to present sessions and/or to share information in exhibit areas. If you or your colleagues will attend, please be sure to introduce yourself to our staff.
Visit our events page or contact McREL to learn more about each event.

Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents Fall Conference
Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Sept. 11-14

South Dakota Indian Education Summit
Pierre, South Dakota, Sept. 25-27

Region 13 ESC – Advancing Improvement in Education Conference
San Antonio, Texas, Oct. 4-6

Georgia Department of Education Instructional Leadership Conference
Stone Mountain, Georgia, Oct. 5-6

MENA Teacher Summit
Dubai, UAE, Oct. 7-8

American Association of School Personnel Administrators Annual Conference
Orlando, Florida, Oct. 11-14
Client Testimonial
“The Classroom Instruction That Works framework is the design 
to provide quality instruction for all students.
Dr. Nancy Alexander, Retired School Superintendent, Alexander Consulting
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Article Notice – Homeschooling, Virtual Learning, and the Eroding Public/Private Binary

Another article notice from my inbox…

Aaron J. Saiger

Fordham University School of Law

June 30, 2016

10 J School Choice_(2016)
Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2802645

Regulators ubiquitously dichotomize schooling into two discrete sectors: public and private. Although homeschooling is regulated in some contexts as a third sector, the general approach is to treat it as a species of private education by subjecting it to public regulation while simultaneously denying it public funds. But the public/private binary is increasingly difficult to sustain as charter schools multiply and, especially, as virtual schooling increasingly penetrates primary and secondary education. Public school systems are deploying virtual education in ways that erode once impermeable walls between public and private. Many obstacles to homeschooling will fall with those walls — particularly obstacles related to government financing of homeschooling activities.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 35

Keywords: School choice, charter schools, private schools, school funding, educational technology, online education, homeschooling

Open PDF in BrowserDownload This Paper

Date posted: July 1, 2016

Suggested Citation

Saiger, Aaron J., Homeschooling, Virtual Learning, and the Eroding Public/Private Binary (June 30, 2016). 10 J School Choice_(2016); Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2802645. Available at SSRN:

Contact Information

Aaron J. Saiger (Contact Author)

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States

Article Notice – Supporting Online AP Students: The Rural Facilitator and Considerations for Training

This showed up in my inbox earlier this week…

Supporting Online AP Students: The Rural Facilitator and Considerations for Training

Nicole Hendrix & Katherine Degner
Page 133-144 | Published online: 03 Aug 2016

American Journal of Distance Education

Volume 30, 2016 – Issue 3

Online courses supplemented by on-site facilitators help many rural students pursue advanced coursework, but research is warranted to better understand facilitator role and training needs. This study examined facilitation experiences, demographic characteristics, and professional development activities of rural on-site facilitators associated with an online Advanced Placement (AP) program. Themes in qualitative data collected aligned with challenges related to facilitator role that have been documented in existing literature. One theme included facilitator engagement in direct AP instruction despite the facilitator role not requiring that responsibility. Self-reported facilitator demographic characteristics and professional development activities were then compared with those of on-site AP teachers in the same state. Results showed that facilitators demographically resembled teachers but lacked similar engagement with AP professional development. The role of facilitator excludes direct instruction, but specialized professional development like that for AP may match the needs and interests of these facilitators.

Exploring the Research Behind Charter School Accountability

From Monday’s inbox…

August 23, 2016

William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058,
Daniel J. Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

Exploring the Research Behind Charter School Accountability

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Aug. 23, 2016) — A new concise brief released today explores the research behind the elements of charter school accountability, including: (1) academic performance; (2) equal opportunity and non-discrimination; (3) financial solvency and stability; (4) and safety.

In Regulating Charter Schools, William J. Mathis, managing director of the National Education Policy Center, examines tensions found within the charter school debate. Despite the premise of market-based accountability, charter schools are not sufficiently being held accountable or regulated.

Mathis explains, “There is no perfect amount of regulation or deregulation, but we need to be regularly reassessing the situation and responding to clear problems.”

In this brief, the tenth in a series of concise research summaries, Mathis raises concern for the rapid growth of charter schools, which has been accompanied by charges of corruption, fiscal exploitation, weak academic performance, and increased segregation.

Mathis says that charter schools should not be excepted from the requirement that public money comes with reporting, transparency, and guidelines for spending and business practices.

Regulating Charter Schools is part of Research-Based Options for Policymaking, a compilation of short policy briefs that takes important policy issues and identifies policies supported by research. Each section focuses on a different issue, with recommendations to policymakers based on sound scholarship.

The compendium is produced by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC)and is funded in part by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Find the concise brief on the web:

The brief can also be found on the NEPC website:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education, Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develp reasearch-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at

24 August 2016: Google Alert – LRN

The corporate K12, Inc. alert for K12, Inc. from yesterday…


As-it-happens update ⋅ August 24, 2016
Option Market: K12 Inc Risk Hits A Reduced Level

The option market for LRN has shown an IV30 annual low of 36.6% and an annual high of 72.8%, meaning that LRN is at the 14% percentile right now …
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