Virtual School Meanderings

October 15, 2019

Article Notice – A Look Inside Online Educational Settings In High School: Promise And Pitfalls For Improving Educational Opportunities And Outcomes

This scrolled across my electronic desk from something in the past day or two…

A Look Inside Online Educational Settings in High School: Promise and Pitfalls for Improving Educational Opportunities and Outcomes

First Published March 27, 2019 Research Article

Article has an altmetric score of 28

Article Information

Article first published online: March 27, 2019
Received: January 06, 2018; Revisions received: February 09, 2019; Accepted: February 26, 2019

Carolyn J. Heinrich
Jennifer Darling-Aduana
Vanderbilt University

Annalee Good
Huiping (Emily) Cheng
University of Wisconsin-Madison


This research examines online course-taking in high schools, which is increasingly used by students falling behind in progress toward graduation. The study looks inside educational settings to observe how online courses are used and assess whether students gain academically through their use. Drawing on 7 million records of online instructional sessions linked to student records, we find mostly negative associations between online course-taking and math and reading scores, with some gains in credits earned and grade point averages by upperclassmen. Those least prepared academically and with weaker course-taking behaviors fared more poorly and were likely set back by online course-taking. Limited resources constrained the implementation of district-recommended practices and instructional supports, such as live teacher interactions and individualized content assistance.

Keywords: online instruction, credit recovery, student engagement, academic achievement

As this is in the “OnlineFirst” section, it has yet to be assigned to a specific issue. However, it is the second oldest article in that section, so it will likely appear in Volume 56, Issue 6 – which is the next issue.

October 4, 2019

Lead the Change Series – ISSUE No. 94 | May 2019: Q & A with Osnat Fellus

Yesterday I posted an entry about my own involvement with the Lead the Change Series – ISSUE No. 98 | September 2019: Q & A with Michael K. Barbour.  As I was reviewing the other individuals that have participated in the series, I noticed another one that has a focus on K-12 online learning.

As a reminder, the Lead the Change Series is an effort by the Educational Change special education group of the American Education Research Association.  They describe it as:

The Lead the Change Series features renowned educational change experts from around the globe, highlights promising research and practice, offers expert insight on small- and large-scale educational change, and sparks collaboration within our SIG.

The third question and response by Osnat Fellus is below.

Your work on new forms of virtual schools and STEM instruction (e.g., physics and math) shows how new modalities of learning may serve to motivate students who previously may not have enrolled in advanced level courses to enroll and thrive. How might these findings contribute to change in policy/practice?

There is growing evidence that point to the affordances—and challenges—of learning in fully online environments. Indeed, one of the advantages of courses offered through a virtual high school (VHS) is that it allows students who have limited physical access to advanced-level mathematics or science to take these courses on a digital platform and to benefit from the expertise of external teachers and from the course-embedded digital tools. Learning advanced-level mathematics and science through a virtual high school regardless to geographical proximity to the school truly democratizes education. One of my recent publications is a co-authored book chapter (Biton, Fellus, Raviv, Feilchenfeld, & Koichu, 2018) that showcases how new, technology-based modalities of learning in one VHS serve to address issues of accessibility to learning.

The VHS we showcase offers support not only to the high school students enrolled in the courses in the form of tutors who are university students majoring in science- and mathematics-related fields but also to the tutors in the form of teacher-tutor and tutor-tutor communities of practices that are forged in the VHS (see Biton & Fellus, 2018).

These and other findings can inform VHS related policy and practice in a few ways that include continual development of

  • content, structure, and design of the mathematics and science courses in virtual schools;
  • support systems provided to the high school students enrolled in the VHS courses;
  • platforms and infrastructure that sustain communities of practice among the VHS teachers and tutors.

Carefully considering these three elements of quality digital learning implementation will allow them to receive equal footing when drafting and introducing new policies and practices.


Biton, Y., & Fellus, O. (2018). Professional online learning communities in mathematics: A case study of the Israeli VHS. In E. Bergqvist, M. Österholm, C. Granberg, & L. Sumpter, L. (Eds.). Proceedings of the 42nd Conference of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (Vol. 5, p. 21). Umeå, Sweden: PME.

Biton, Y., Fellus, O., Raviv, D., Feilchenfeld, D., Koichu, B. (2018). Mathematics at the Virtual School: Why? Why not? Who? What? And so what? In N. MovshovitzHadar (Ed.), K-12 mathematics education in Israel: Issues and innovations (pp. 145– 153). Series on Mathematics Education, Vol. 13, World Scientific.

You can access the complete interview here.

You can access all of the previous contributions to this series at:

October 3, 2019

Lead the Change Series – ISSUE No. 98 | September 2019: Q & A with Michael K. Barbour

The Lead the Change Series is an effort by the Educational Change special education group of the American Education Research Association.  They describe it as:

The Lead the Change Series features renowned educational change experts from around the globe, highlights promising research and practice, offers expert insight on small- and large-scale educational change, and sparks collaboration within our SIG.

About six months ago I was asked to participate in this series.  Here is the first question and my response.

The 2020 AERA theme is The Power and Possibilities for the Public Good: When Researchers and Organizational Stakeholders Collaborate and is a call to “to address educational challenges through policy and community engagement and to work with diverse institutional and organizational stakeholders.” How can such leveraging of educational research contribute to collaboration and engagement within and across diverse stakeholder groups and to educational change?

I have to be honest and say the premise of this question actually frustrates me a great deal. And the reason it frustrates me is because of the significant divide that exists between educational researchers and classroom teachers. I often hear teachers acknowledging that there’s no silver bullet when it comes to education, but in their very next breath they will often promote whatever “magic” solution some vendor is selling them or an ideologically-focused unproven, intervention that some organization is pushing. This is true even when educational researchers try to distill their ideas to make them more accessible and briefer, many teachers still claim to not have the time to read “that research.” While it is clear that many teachers are overburdened, I would argue that many simply don’t have the patience to explore the nuances of what is not a black and white context.

To provide a specific example from the jurisdiction where the 2019 AERA annual conference was held, about a month before that conference the government of Ontario made a series of education announcements – one of which was a graduation requirement that would see all high school students in the province complete four online or e-learning courses. Now, you don’t necessarily have to be an expert in K- 12 online learning to know that the online environment is similar to the classroom environment in that, if you have a model of design, delivery, and support designed in one fashion, you’ll be able to support one group of students and other students will struggle. Any educational researcher focused on quality teaching and learning will tell you that we need to adjust how learning opportunities are designed, delivered, and supported in order for a full range of students to have success. As you might expect, the current model of e-learning in Ontario was designed with a specific purpose in mind – that being, for the most part, to provide opportunities to students unable to access specific courses in their traditional face-to-face environment for a variety of reasons. Given that purpose, as well as the specific courses often offered, a particular model of learning has evolved in the province that works for many students, but not all.

Most people can probably guess where I am going, the discussion we’ve seen around this topic since it was first announced in mid- March has been didactic at best. On one side are those touting e-learning as a way to provide educational opportunity for all students, essentially making it a saviour of sorts for modernizing and democratizing public education. Alternatively, the other side has stated that e-learning, in its current form, hasn’t been successful in reaching or providing opportunity to this, or that group of students. In the process, this group has demonized the current system of e-learning, those who work in it, as well as anyone who doesn’t share their pessimistic view of the proposal. Unfortunately, these perspectives are those pushed in both traditional and on social media. As a result, any nuanced discussion of the potential for e-learning and what would actually need to be invested in order to make the proposal a success has been lost.

It is kind of unfortunate that as I think about my response to this question that such a negative example comes to mind, and maybe it is the first thing I think of because it is an issue that I’m currently focused on at the moment, as well as its geographic and temporal ties to the previous AERA annual conference. However, I do think that it highlights the tension between researchers and practitioners when it comes to having a meaningful impact in the field. I believe it also highlights a fundamental change in the attitudes of those outside of the academy who are more and more resistant to focus upon anything perceived as intellectual – an orientation those within the field of education have always mistakenly believed ourselves to be immune. So, while I don’t advocate that educational researchers disengage from the process of trying to engage with practitioners, I think we need to approach the situation with a more realistic understanding that the field of education, and those who practice it, may be much more reflective of society as a whole then what we would like to believe.

You can access the complete interview here.

You can access all of the previous contributions to this series at:

October 1, 2019

AERA Highlights: Prudence Carter To Give Brown Lecture On October 24, AERA And CGS Awarded NSF Grant To Convene Leaders To Advance Open Science, And More!

A newsletter from the American Education Research Association.

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September 2019



AERA Publications News

Research Policy and Funding News

AERA New Calls

AERA Continuing Calls

AERA Publications Calls

New AERA Videos

Beyond AERA

AERA in the News



Prudence Carter to Give Brown Lecture on October 24 — Register Now

Prudence L. Carter, a renowned scholar, award-winning author, and national expert on youth identity and race, urban poverty, and opportunity gaps in education, will give the 2019 Brown Lecture in Education Research on October 24 at 6 p.m. ET at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. Read more


AERA and CGS Awarded NSF Grant to Convene Leaders to Advance Open Science

AERA and CGS have received a collaborative grant from the National Science Foundation to convene higher education leaders, education researchers, and related scientists to advance academic support for open science. Read the press release

AERA Convenes Education Research Leaders for 2019 Fall Policy Meeting

On September 17–18, 60 deans and associate deans at colleges of education and leaders at research institutions attended the Fall Policy Meeting of the AERA Consortium of University and Research Institutions in Washington, D.C. Read more

AERA Satellite Conference to Examine Educational Data Science

AERA is holding a Satellite Conference on Educational Data Science at Stanford University on April 22–23, 2020. Read more

AERA seeks nominations for the 2020 AERA Awards. The submission deadline is October 31, 2019 (except for nominations for the Outstanding Book Award, which are due October 23, 2019).
AERA Publications News

Educational Data Science to Be Featured in AERA Open Special Topic

AERA Open has released a special topic call for papers on educational data science. The submission deadline is June 1, 2020. Read more

EEPA Launches New “Briefs” Article Format

At its June meeting, AERA Council enthusiastically approved the addition of Briefs as a new manuscript type for Educational Evaluation and Policy AnalysisRead more

Research Policy and Funding News

Education Department Proposes Changes to Civil Rights Data Collection

The Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education proposed changes to the Civil Rights Data Collection in a Federal Register notice published on September 19. Read more

NSF Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate Announces Repositioning

On September 24, Arthur Lupia, assistant director of the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate at the National Science Foundation, announced the repositioning of certain research programs within the directorate. Read more

Short-Term Continuing Resolution Prevents Shutdown as Senate Moves Appropriations Bills Forward

With a budget agreement in place, the Senate Appropriations Committee worked throughout September on appropriations bills for the 2020 fiscal year. Read more

NICHD Releases 2020 Strategic Plan

On September 18, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development issued its 2020 strategic plan. Read more

EHR Assistant Director Karen Marrongelle Testifies on STEM Education in House Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing

On September 19, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies held a hearing on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Engagement. Read more

AERA New Calls
AERA Continuing Calls
AERA Publications Calls
New AERA Videos
Beyond AERA
New Reports

Funding Opportunities

Calls for Nominations

Upcoming Events

AERA in the News

Recent media coverage of AERA and AERA-published research

More AERA in the News



AERA Highlights is published by the American Educational Research Association monthly to inform members and others interested in education research about the latest news and developments in AERA and in the field.

Editor: Felice J. Levine

Managing Editors: Tony Pals and John Neikirk

Contributors: Collin Boylin, Jessica Sibold, Christy Talbot, and Martha Yager


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September 5, 2019

Submit A Proposal To The 2021 Volume Of Review Of Research In Education: Deadline – September 30

Something that my academic readers may be interested in.

View this email in your browser.

American Educational Research Association

Our goal as education researchers is for high-quality research to have a meaningful impact on our education systems. To realize this objective, the education research field needs to continue developing frameworks to assess the veracity and relevance of our work, as well as effective ways to communicate our findings to varied audiences: content specialists, colleagues in other fields, and research-interested practitioners. The 2021 volume of Review of Research in Education will publish chapters exploring the range of perspectives on what constitutes high-quality and relevant evidence.

Read the Full Call for Proposals

Deadline for Submissions: September 30, 2019

Potential authors should reflect on questions such as these:

  • What constitutes high-quality evidence in education research within and across related fields? How can we develop a deeper understanding of quality given the broad range and types of work produced in education research?
  • How can we strengthen our research enterprise by providing models for assessing the strength of evidence about education research claims?
  • How do we define high-quality education research for the wide range of methodologies and approaches used in the field?
  • Given the large amounts of research that purportedly should influence P–20 education, how can we conceptualize quality in ways that engage practitioners and policymakers, to make our highest quality work accessible and relevant?

Proposals are welcome from a wide range of disciplines and fields that generate education research.

Each volume of RRE provides a forum for analytic research reviews on selected education topics of significance to the field. Each volume addresses a topic of broad relevance to education and learning, and publishes articles that critically examine diverse literatures and bodies of knowledge across relevant disciplines and fields. RRE volumes advance the state of the knowledge, promote discussion, and shape directions for future research.

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