So the first real session I’m able to blog at the annual Virtual School Symposium was one of the research sessions, delivered by my colleague Erik Black and one of the doctoral students at Florida. The session was described as:
An Assessment of the Health of Virtual School Participants and an Innovative Outreach Program for Chronically Ill Children
Erik W. Black, Lindsay A Thompson, Noy Askenazi, Rick Ferdig & Tiffany Kisker
This session will present the results of a multi-state epidemiological assessment of virtual school participants. It will describe the basic demographics and health status of virtual school students and discuss whether virtual education narrows known educational disparities in populations with health issues. The research team will discuss an innovative collaborative partnership to create outreach to children with special health care needs.
Erik began with a background of how he came about this topic – and for those that know Erik and his current position in the medical school, but his background work with Rick and the Virtual School Clearinghouse, it all kind of make sense . The research in this session focused on children with special health care needs. The definition of children with special health care needs – those that have chronic health issues (about 15% of the general population and 20% of the medicaid folks).
The first portion of the presentation focused on a pilot study that was done with Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The data found that there were approximately 25% of the children with special health care needs within the virtual school population of these three states. Interestingly the sample of students was 70% white – which is not reflective of the overall population of students in those three states. The pilot data showed that this population of students had a higher percentage of virtual school non-completion than the regular students.
Some of the takeaways from the pilot data were the fact that there was an overpopulation of white, educated families in within the sample of children with special health care needs within the virtual school student population of these three states – and that population of children with special health needs was higher than the percentage in the general population. While virtual schooling was an option for these students, it was an option that they didn’t have the same proportion of success as other students.
The second phase focused on the Florida Virtual School, where approximately 62,000 students were contacted and approximately 4000 responded (or 7% response rate). The team again found that approximately 25% of the student population were children with special health needs. There were no significant differences in grades between virtual school and traditional coursework among children with special health needs.
The next few slides were data that highlighted the amount of time this population of students spent in and out of hospitals, and discussing the time, cost and the priority that school would have in this kind of situation.
Some of the takeaways from this data indicated that the sample was predominantly a white, education population again. These children with special health needs were spending significant times in the hospital. Fortunately, student performance in their virtual school courses from this sample performed at consistent levels.
The third phase, which moved to more qualitative data, focused on seven adolescents who were identified as children with special health needs. All seven were male and five were white. All seven were on medicaid. Five were identified as being from high poverty situations.
Some of the findings…
- 1 student completed the course
- 1 students withdrew to return to traditional school environment (he became healthy and wanted to return to the traditional environment)
- these two students were the two that did not come from the high poverty households)
- 1 students was withdrawn due to academic/cognitive ability
- 4 students were unable to start coursework due to registration issues (parents and school of record)
The main takeaway was that “Support structure is critical. None of our students in poverty were able to complete. 4 of the 5 were not able to get started.”
I’m sure if Erik and Tiffany have things to add, they should feel free to correct or modify anything I’m written.