Virtual School Meanderings

June 10, 2019

Press Release: CREDO At Stanford University Releases First In-Depth Examination Of Charter School Impacts In Idaho

This is the third of three entries that was referenced about sixty minutes ago (see here).  If you haven’t looked at that first entry, I would STRONGLY encourage that you do for a brief primer on some of the methodological issues.

CREDO at Stanford University Releases First In-Depth Examination of Charter School Impacts in Idaho

STANFORD, Calif. – Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), found that on average, students in Idaho charter schools experience similar learning gains in math and stronger learning gains in reading compared to their traditional public school student (TPS) peer. The report studies Idaho state charter students’ performance over three years, beginning with the 2014-2015 school year and ending with the 2016- 2017 school year.

“We are always excited to work with a new state, and our first in-depth look in Idaho provided many unique insights. Idaho is distinctive for numerous reasons — different geography, different student populations — but the findings show that the policy framework of charter schools can be successful in Idaho as much as elsewhere. Idaho provides a unique proof point to the nation, and we look forward to following the story,” said Margaret Raymond, Director of CREDO at Stanford University.

Key Findings

  • This analysis spanned two growth periods and used a total of 14,915 and 14,814 charter school student records from 55 and 56 charter schools in reading and math, respectively.
  • In Idaho, there are both online and brick-and-mortar charters. Our investigation revealed remarkably weaker growth in both reading and math among online charter students relative to the average TPS students or brick-and-mortar charter students. In fact, it is the poor performance of online charter schools that drags down the overall charter impact on student academic growth.
  • Students in rural charter schools have stronger gains in both reading and math compared to their TPS counterparts.
  • At the school level, around 40 percent of Idaho charter schools outpace their local TPS peers in learning in reading and math. Still, 17 percent of charter schools have results that are significantly worse than TPS peers for reading and 20 percent of charter schools are underperforming in math relative to their local TPS peers.

To download a copy of the full report, visit: http://credo.stanford.edu

About CREDO at Stanford University CREDO at Stanford University produces rigorous, non-partisan research and evaluation to enhance the body of empirical evidence, driving education policy decisions toward improved education outcomes for all students.

Note the portions I have highlighted in red that would be of interest to readers of this space.

The direct link to the report is available at:

http://credo.stanford.edu/pdfs/Idaho_report_Final.pdf

Again, another result that confirms findings in a report released in the past two weeks by the National Education Policy Center (of which I am a co-author).

Press Release: CREDO At Stanford University Finds Limited Improvement In Charter School Impact In Ohio

This is the second of three entries that was referenced about thirty minutes ago (see here).  If you haven’t looked at that first entry, I would STRONGLY encourage that you do for a brief primer on some of the methodological issues.

CREDO at Stanford University Finds Limited Improvement In Charter School Impact In Ohio

CREDO releases a new report examining the impact of Ohio Charter Schools from 2013-2017

STANFORD, Calif. – Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), found that the typical charter school student in Ohio makes similar progress in reading and weaker growth in math compared to their traditional public school peer (TPS).

“The performance in Ohio charter schools has been consistent since our initial investigation in 2009. We intend to continue to study the impact of the bipartisan legislation HB2 and other policies,” said Margaret Raymond, Director of CREDO at Stanford University. “We continue to be grateful for our long-term partnership with the Ohio Department of Education to provide impartial analysis.”

Key Findings

  • This report provides evidence for charter students’ performance in Ohio over four years, beginning with the 2013-2014 school year and ending in 2016-2017.
  • In Ohio, there are both online and brick-and-mortar charters. Our investigation revealed remarkably weaker growth in both reading and math among online charter students relative to the average TPS students or brick-and-mortar charter students. In fact, as CREDO has found in other states, it is the poor performance of online charter schools that drags down the overall charter impact on student academic growth.
  • Greater academic progress is found for charter black students, including black students in poverty for reading, but not among other subgroups.
  • At the school level, around 34 percent of Ohio charter schools outpace their local TPS peers in learning in reading and 29 percent in math. Still, 14 percent of charter schools have results that are significantly worse than TPS peers for reading and 32 percent of charter schools are underperforming in math relative to their local TPS peers.

To download a copy of the full report, visit: http://credo.stanford.edu

About CREDO at Stanford University CREDO at Stanford University produces rigorous, non-partisan research and evaluation to enhance the body of empirical evidence, driving education policy decisions toward improved education outcomes for all students.

Note the portions I have highlighted in red that would be of interest to readers of this space.

The direct link to the report is available at:

http://credo.stanford.edu/pdfs/OH_state_report_2019.pdf

Again, another result that confirms findings in a report released in the past two weeks by the National Education Policy Center (of which I am a co-author).

Press Release: CREDO At Stanford University Finds Little To No Progress In Charter School Impact In Pennsylvania Since Release of CREDO’s 2013 National Charter School Report

Over the next 90 minutes or so I’m going to be posting three press releases from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), a research body that utilizes their own virtual twin methodology that CREDO themselves developed.  As I have written in the past, there are a number of problems with this kind of comparison.

The first issue is the inability to control for the reasons why [virtual school] students enrolled in their virtual course. Many of these students chose virtual education because there were circumstances preventing them from being successful in that particular course in their brick-and-mortar school. Research has indicated a range of reasons for this decision, such as the course not being offered, a conflict in the student’s timetable, a conflict between the student and the face-to-face teacher, the student being bullied in school, specific learning disabilities or preferences, a lack of success in the past, or numerous other reasons or even a combination of several of those reasons.37 The issue arises when the report claims that improved educational outcomes are the result of the student being enrolled in a virtual environment, when they may simply be due to a lessening of the circumstances that caused the student to leave the traditional setting in the first place. For example, if a student being bullied in a brick-and-mortar school transfers to a cyber school, any improved performance may be completely divorced from the technology or delivery method, but rather could be attributable to the fact 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.

Essentially, the control group and the treatment group are two non-randomly constituted groups, one of which is set to regress upward (i.e., from their poor motivation or attention or performance or whatever circumstance may have led them to select the virtual environment), and students in the control group, who are not on the same trajectory. In the language of experimental design, this source of internal invalidity is labeled a Regression-by-Selection Invalidity.38

37 Barbour, M. K., & Reeves, T. C. (2009). The reality of virtual schools: A review of the literature. Computers and Education, 52(2), 402–416.

Cavanaugh, C. (2013). Student achievement in elementary and high school. In M. G. Moore (Eds.), Handbook of distance education (3rd ed.) (pp. 170-184). New York: Routledge.

38 Campbell, D., & Stanley, J. (1963). Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for research. Chicago, IL: Rand-McNally.

————

Taken from: Barbour, M. K. (2014). Review of “Virtual schooling and student learning.” Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved from https://nepc.colorado.edu/sites/default/files/ttr-fla-virtual-pepg.pdf

I mention the methodology up front because it is a procedure that CREDO developed on their own, and in the vast majority of cases by using their own methodology they have been able to find in favour of almost all forms of neo-liberal-style educational reform initiatives (e.g., charter schools, vouchers, etc.).  However, importantly, they still have consistently found that online charter schools perform poorly – a result that confirms findings in a report released in the past two weeks by the National Education Policy Center (of which I am a co-author).

Anyway, the press release that was posted read:

CREDO at Stanford University Finds Little To No Progress In Charter School Impact In Pennsylvania Since Release of CREDO’s 2013 National Charter School Report

CREDO releases a new report examining the impact of Pennsylvania Charter Schools from 2013-2017

STANFORD, California, June 4, 2019–STANFORD, Calif. – Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found over four years of study that the typical charter school student in Pennsylvania makes similar progress in reading and weaker growth in math compared to their traditional public school peer (TPS).

“Our recent analysis mirrors our last investigation in 2013, which yielded similar findings. With nearly one-quarter of [charter] schools posting student results that lag in reading and one third doing so in math, the collective impact on students’ academic careers and later life outcomes remains of deep concern. We will continue to study the impacts of this sector as we know that the Pennsylvania Department of Education has focused on strengthening the accountability of the online sector over the past year,” said Margaret Raymond, Director of CREDO at Stanford University. “We continue to be grateful for our long-term partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Education in our shared commitment to student success.”

KEY FINDINGS

  • This report provides evidence for charter students’ performance in Pennsylvania over four years, beginning with the 2013-2014 school year and ending in 2016-2017. The study examines the progress students make from one year to the next, comparing charter school students to matched peers in traditional public schools in the same communities.
  • In Pennsylvania, there are both online and brick-and-mortar charters. Our investigation revealed remarkably weaker growth in both reading and math among online charter students relative to the average TPS students or brick-and-mortar charter students. In fact, as CREDO has found in other states, it is the poor performance of online charter schools that drags down the overall charter impact on student academic growth.
  • Greater academic progress in reading is found for charter students attending urban brick and mortar schools. Additionally, greater academic progress for Hispanic students attending brick and mortar schools in reading was found, but not among other subgroups.
  • Thirteen percent of charter schools included in the study exhibited high achievement and high academic growth in English language arts; fewer than 10 percent of charters met this standard in math.

To download a copy of the full report, visit http://credo.stanford.edu

About CREDO at Stanford University – CREDO at Stanford University was established to improve empirical evidence about education reform and student performance at the primary and secondary levels. CREDO at Stanford University supports education organizations and policymakers in using reliable research and program evaluation to assess the performance of education initiatives. CREDO’s valuable insight helps educators and policymakers strengthen their focus on the results from innovative programs, curricula, policies or accountability practices.

Note the portions I have highlighted in red that would be of interest to readers of this space.

The direct link to the report is available at:

http://credo.stanford.edu/pdfs/2019_PA_State_Report_FINAL_06052019.pdf

February 4, 2016

Education Week Commentary – Walton Family Foundation: We Must Rethink Online Learning

You know that it is bad when even the Walton Family Foundation is knocking this free market, neo-liberal education reform.

Published Online: January 26, 2016
Published in Print: January 27, 2016, as Walton Family Foundation: Rethink Virtual Charters

COMMENTARY

Walton Family Foundation: We Must Rethink Online Learning

By its very definition, innovation will always lead to some failed starts. And when that innovation involves educating children, it’s especially important to learn from mistakes and adjust quickly.

The Walton Family Foundation has invested more than $385 million in creating new charter schools over more than two decades to seed educational innovation and improve U.S. education at scale. The foundation has allocated a small fraction of that investment—about $550,000—to virtual charter schools, which teach full-time students exclusively online.

We remain strong believers in creating educational options and opportunities. We have provided startup dollars to about a quarter of the charter schools in the United States, all with the goal of creating opportunity for high-needs students, and we recently committed to investing another $1 billion over the next five years to expand access to high-quality educational choices. In recent years, we have hoped that online charter schools could provide a lifeline for some students. But while we were enthusiastic about supporting online education entrepreneurs, our first priority is always making sure that students are served well.


—iStockphoto

 

Measuring impact is fundamental to responsible philanthropy. It is a responsibility we take seriously. The Walton Family Foundation spends about $10 million annually underwriting the nation’s best researchers to investigate questions that will help us make smarter funding decisions to benefit high-needs students, develop promising new technologies and methods to fuel student learning, and help parents, educators, and policymakers improve outcomes for children.

As the largest private funder of charter schools and as strong believers in making fact-based decisions, we wanted to see the hard evidence on virtual charters: What would a dependable measure of the impact of these schools show about their students’ academic growth? We funded three research studies—by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (or CREDO), at Stanford University; the Center on Reinventing Public Education, at the University of Washington; and Mathematica Policy Research—to investigate this question. As with all of our research dollars, we committed to funding these research teams regardless of what their investigations revealed.

The results are, in a word, sobering. The CREDO study found that over the course of a school year, the students in virtual charters learned the equivalent of 180 fewer days in math and 72 fewer days in reading than their peers in traditional charter schools, on average.

This is stark evidence that most online charters have a negative impact on students’ academic achievement. The results are particularly significant because of the reach and scope of online charters: They currently enroll some 200,000 children in 200 schools operating across 26 states. If virtual charters were grouped together and ranked as a single school district, it would be the ninth-largest in the country and among the worst-performing.


“As states think about the future of online education, they should rethink their expectations and policies and test novel policy arrangements.”


Funders, educators, policymakers, and parents cannot in good conscience ignore the fact that students are falling a full year behind their peers in math and nearly half a school year in reading, annually. For operators and authorizers of these schools to do nothing would constitute nothing short of educational malpractice.

As a result of these findings, we at the foundation will ask new, more rigorous questions of online charter operators when we review their funding proposals, in order to expose whether applicants are addressing the problems this research identified. In particular, we want to know: Are the operators suggesting innovative solutions to improve the quality of online learning? There is no magic formula here, but it is clear that what exists doesn’t create the academic opportunities children need. Going forward, we’ll probe deeply on applicants’ answers to the following questions:

What does the proposed instructional program look like? Just as it is important in traditional brick-and-mortar schools for students to spend time with teachers, virtual schools must provide plenty of time for students to learn and interact in live, synchronous ways with their teachers. In today’s online charters, students typically have less instructional time with their teachers in a whole week than students in brick-and-mortar schools have in a day. We don’t presume to know what the best pedagogical approach is for all children, but clearly this formula needs to change.

What are the proposed teacher-student ratios? Today’s online schools have much larger ratios than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. It’s unclear what the right balance is, but it seems clear that schools must facilitate interactions between students and teachers.


 

What are the expectations of parents? Virtual schools must help students learn without requiring parents to be constantly present and monitoring progress. Parents, of course, must be involved in their children’s education, but schools can’t abdicate their responsibility in this equation. Virtual charter educational providers should be thinking through the right role for parents and how schools will meet their own educational remits.

We urge policymakers to make changes, too. Charter authorizers—government-sanctioned bodies responsible for reviewing and approving charter operators—must take action if schools are failing students. And the oversight of educational practice applies to authorizers, as well as to schools and educators. Authorizers should be graded on the performance of their portfolios: If schools fail students, authorizers must take action. If they don’t, authorizers themselves should be put out of business.

Going forward, authorizers should create new accountability systems to ensure that no school fails, month after month and year after year. The review process must include observation of instruction and close review of student and parent expectations. We think a shorter review cycle, rather than waiting years, might catch problems earlier.

As states think about the future of online education, they should rethink their expectations and policies and test novel policy arrangements. For example, one policy that we think has potential would tie funding to performance. Four states—Florida, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Utah—are currently testing performance-based funding systems. Perhaps we’ll discover that providing virtual schools funding only after students demonstrate mastery is the right way to hold these publicly funded schools accountable.

That said, with this approach, it would be important to guard against perverse incentives that could arise. For example, policymakers would need to make sure that schools weren’t pushing out or otherwise neglecting students who are so far behind that getting them to pass required courses or summative assessments would appear extremely resource-intensive.

Other funding reforms worth considering are tracking enrollments and providing associated student-based funding each month, rather than annually. This would help prevent students from being easily forgotten.

To be clear, our comments about online charter schools are not an indictment of instructional technology or online learning more generally, nor how these stand to help create more high-quality educational options. Nor is this the Walton Family Foundation abandoning its mission of creating more educational opportunities for American children. There are many examples of technology being used in conventional classrooms in ways that enhance learning. New blended learning models are showing promise, as is allowing students to customize learning through the use of online platforms.

But the data from this study do not lie: Online education must be reimagined. Ignoring the problem—or worse, replicating failures—serves nobody.

Vol. 35, Issue 19, Pages 24-25, 27

October 27, 2015

Responses To CREDO’s Online Charter School Study 2015

As a follow-up to the entries on New National Study Details The Operations And Effects Of Online Charter Schools and CREDO – Online Charter School Study 2015, I have to say that I have found the immediate response kind of funny.

The first thing to remember is that CREDO has tended to publish pro-charter research, and that this particular study was funded by the Walton Foundation (who love all things school choice).

The second thing to remember is that researchers that have reviewed previous CREDO reports have had significant concerns with the research methodology that CREDO uses.  For example:

In most of their past research, CREDO has tended to find that charters are doing a good job using this questionable methodology.

Now in the current Online Charter School Study 2015 CREDO has found that there is little redeeming about student performance in online charter school.  So we all know what is going to happen – in fact, I’ve written about what was and is going to happen…

And of course, the predictable happened/is happening…

K12 Inc. Responds to Online Charter School Report / Analysis of Online Charter School Study by CREDO/Mathematica/CRPE

  • even though the study found that online charter schools enroll fewer disadvantaged students, but still claim that they do enroll more at-risk student (i.e., argue that the research is wrong)
  • raises same critiques about the methodology that organizations like the NEPC (linked above) have been raising for years
  • data is dated and the findings are different now, they have their own internal, non-reviewed, corporate reports to prove it

CREDO Study of Online Learning Gets an Incomplete

  • highlights the minor positive aspects of the report (even though the report is almost completely negative towards online charter schools)
  • raises same critiques about the methodology that organizations like the NEPC (linked above) have been raising for years
  • data is dated and the findings are different now,the for profit corporations (who have no vested interest in keeping the gravy train going) have their own internal, non-reviewed, corporate reports to prove it
  • co-opts the findings for a call for some of his own pet projects (i.e., things iNACOL wants that would open open the market to allow for more profiting and pillaging).

Response to CREDO at Stanford Report

Reaction to New Online Charter School Study

  • summarizes the findings,then complains about the fact that the study didn’t include their pet project (kind of like the journal reviewer that recommends rejection of your manuscript, and then outlines the study that they would have done if they were in your shoes)

Analyzing the CREDO Online Charter School Report: A Call for Improved Performance Metrics and Quality Assurance

  • summarizes the findings, then co-opts the results for a call for some of their own pet projects

Findings in Stanford Online School Study Have No Bearing on Blended Learning

  • summarizes the findings, then complains about the fact that the study didn’t include their pet project

National Alliance Responds to CREDO’s Virtual Charter Schools Report

  • ignore the evidence and argues that charter schools work, research from this same group (ignoring the flawed methodology that now even online charter advocates acknowledge) says so
  • we should close charter schools that don’t work (while at the same time fighting against any meaningful regulation or policy that would allow states to do this)
  • charter schools only serve a small number of students (but make big profits for the companies that do serve that small percentage)
  • finally, confound the issue by reminding us that the study didn’t include blended charter schools, and those are examples of online charter schools that do work

CER Responds to Online Charter School Report

  • even though the study found that online charter schools enroll fewer disadvantaged students, but still claim that they do enroll more at-risk student (i.e., argue that the research is wrong)
  • raises same critiques about the methodology that organizations like the NEPC (linked above) have been raising for years
  • changes the topic altogether (“Will someone please things about the children!”)

Shouldn’t surprise anyone…

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