Virtual School Meanderings

April 30, 2017

AERA 2017 – Online Learning, Achievement, and Innovation in Charter Schools

The eighth session I’m blogging at the 2017 annual meeting of the American Education Research Association (AERA) is:

Online Learning, Achievement, and Innovation in Charter Schools

  • In Event: Roundtable Session 21

Sun, April 30, 10:35am to 12:05pm, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom Level, Hemisfair Ballroom 1

Session Type: Roundtable Session

Sub Unit

  • SIG-Charters & School Choice


  • Julie M Kallio, University of Wisconsin – Madison
  • Chris Torres, Michigan State University


Charter Schools’ Innovation Reporting Levels and Student Achievement


The purpose of this exploratory mixed-methods study was to define innovation reporting levels in charter schools in Miami-Dade and Sarasota Counties in Florida and to determine what relationship exists between this innovation reporting and student achievement (as measured by Florida school grades) in Title I and high minority student population charter schools. A qualitative analysis of School Improvement Plans and school websites resulted in a 62 charter school sample for which descriptive statistics were utilized to define student achievement (Florida school grades 2010-2013). The results demonstrated that innovation saturation exists in Title I schools and high minority student population schools (≥50%). Thus, there is no value added to student achievement (school grade averages) by reported innovation beyond a moderate level.


  • Einav Danan Cabrera, Florida Virtual School

Do Testing Conditions Explain Cyber Charter Schools’ Failing Grades?


Research finds that cyber charter schools underperform academically relative to traditional public schools, with significantly lower value-added on tested subjects. Our fieldwork suggests that the performance gaps may in part reflect artificial testing conditions experienced by cyber charter school students. We surveyed state education agency officials in 17 states with cyber charter schools. Initial analyses indicate that states in which cyber charter students are tested on schedules at variance with traditional public school testing schedules have lower performing cyber school sectors. We also find that higher cyber school student attrition is associated with lower academic performance. Additional analyses will examine the impacts of testing conditions in two cyber schools within a single state to deepen understanding.


  • Dennis Beck, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville
  • Robert A. Maranto, University of Arkansas
  • Angela Watson, University of Arkansas

K–12 Online Learning and School Choice: Growth and Expansion in the Absence of Evidence


In this paper, the author situates school choice within the field of K-12 online learning, specifically the use of full-time K-12 online learning in the form of cyber charter schools. The author then examines the use of cyber charter schools as a mechanism for school choice in K-12 online learning, specifically the effectiveness of cyber charter schools. This examination focuses on not just the findings, but critically examines the sources (and potential motivations) for those findings. Given the growth of full-time K-12 online learning, and the continued pressure by proponents to create favorable regulatory climates for cyber charter schools, a critical – but honest – examination of student outcomes is long overdue.


  • Michael Kristopher Barbour, Touro University – California

As I was a part of this session, I didn’t take notes to be engaged in the participatory nature of the roundtable.  I do have the hand-out that I used for the session at:

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