Virtual School Meanderings

November 26, 2018

Does Research Impact Policy??

So over the weekend I received this notification from one of my open scholarship networks.


Dear Michael,

Usha Haley and 1 other just uploaded papers similar to “Molnar, A., Miron, G., Gulosino, C., Shank, C., Davidson, C., Barbour, M. K., Huerta, L., Shafter, S. R., Rice, J. K., & Nitkin, D. (2017). Virtual schools in the U.S. 2017. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center.” and 2 other papers you have uploaded.

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Call for Papers – “Learning and Education Strategies for Scholarly Impact: Influencing…
Usha Haley Usha Haley, Wichita State University
Impact of Social Sciences and Humanities + 4 more
A special issue of the Academy of Management Learning and Education (AMLE) on Scholarly Impact
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Not a good recommendation?

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Advance Placement and The Achievement Gap in the 21 st Century: A Multiple Linear…

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Not a good recommendation?

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Clinical Entrepreneurship: A Student Teacher Assigning Desktop Documentary Making
Education • Teacher Education
This qualitative research study examines a student teacher’s assignment of a historical documentary project in her eighth grade U.S. History class. Data for…

Not a good recommendation?

View All Papers ▸

Now the interesting thing is that I have been following these and the algorithm that uses to make these recommendations is not good at all.  About 90% of the ones that get recommended have nothing to do with K-12 distance, online, and/or blended learning.  This is true of these recommendations, but it did highlight something that was interesting.

The first item in the list above was actually a call for papers for a special issue of the Academy of Management Learning and Education that is focused on “Learning and Education Strategies for Scholarly Impact: Influencing Regulation, Policy and Society through Research.”  The call for papers begins:

We define scholarly impact as an “auditable or recordable occasion of influence” arising out of research (Haley, Page, Pitsis, Rivas and Yu, 2017); this special issue will explore influence through research on communities that include not just scholars, but also other external and internal stakeholders such as regulators, policymakers, managers, students and society at large. For over a decade, researchers have argued for engaged scholarship (see Van de Ven, 2007; Van de Ven and Johnson, 2006). Regulators and grant-bestowing organizations have similarly underlined a social need for research that engages with broader audiences beyond academic confines (e.g., AACSB’s Assessment and Impact conferences; National Science Foundation’s broader impacts; UK’s Research Excellence Framework impact case studies) Yet, few academics accept that their roles and identities include informing the general public (Besley and Nesbit, 2013); concurrently, academics rarely feature in public discourse (Hoffman, 2016). Theorists have argued that impactful research requires dialogue, praxis, and reflexivity (MacIntosh, Beech, Bartunek, Mason, Cooke and Denyer, 2017) – and we encourage all three modes. We see articles in the special issue, as contributing to perceptual change of what makes for impactful scholarship, encouraging knowledge-infused change in academic environments, and critically self-questioning our roles as academics in society. We feel that scholarly impact constitutes a critical issue for the field of management, and for business schools generally, and one deserving of serious research at the institutional/regulatory, processual and individual levels. In this fashion, and through this AMLE special issue, we hope to look towards the future with actionable recommendations for academics, administrators, policymakers, students and managers, as well as to draw on the past to provide frameworks, theories and best practices.

To continue reading, click here.

While I suspect that the call is supposed to be focused on business and management issues, I think it would be quite interesting to draft a manuscript around this issue “of what makes for impactful scholarship, encouraging knowledge-infused change in academic environments, and critically self-questioning our roles as academics in society.”  Essentially, as scholars of K-12 distance, online, and/or blended learning what impact have we had on the practice in the field?  How have policymakers used (or misused, which I believe is what the case would be for most K-12 distance, online, and/or blended learning scholars) our work to guide legislative and regulatory regimes?

Anyone care to try?

I know that in the Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2015: Politics, Performance, Policy, and Research Evidence I wrote of one such example.

However, it should be noted that even when research and data exist to help guide legislators and policymakers, for-profit EMOs often lobby to circumvent decisions based on that data. For example, Fang reported how a lobbyist for one of the two main virtual for-profit EMOs helped to draft the initial legislation that created virtual charter schools in Tennessee(27), and two years later Sisk reported that in the face of student results that “fell far short of state expectations for the second year in a row” that lobbyist blocked efforts to limit the growth or shut down this failing program(28). This is just one example of the influence of lobbyists on the legislative process within the field of virtual schooling. In her seminal New York Times article, Saul was one of the first in the media to question the role of for-profit EMO lobbying within the virtual schooling environment, using Pennsylvania as an example in this news item(29).

In another example of legislators ignoring data to expand virtual charter schools, in 1999 Michigan banned virtual charter schools after a case of extreme corruption between one school district and a for-profit provider(30). A decade later, the legislature passed Public Act 205, which lifted the ban on virtual charter schools and allowed two companies to each create one full-time program.Each of these virtual charter schools was limited to 400 students in the first year and an additional 1000 students in second year (but for each regular education student that registered, they were required to enroll one student from the State’s drop out roll)(31). At the end of two years, the Department of Education would determine future enrollment limits based on the performance of the programs in those first two years. The student performance during those first two years on the state’s Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) for both virtual charter schools is illustrated below.

Table 2.2. MEAP Results for the Michigan Connections Academy (MICA) and Michigan Virtual Charter Academy (MVCA)

MEAP MICA 2010 MVCA 2010 Statewide 2010 MICA 2011 MVCA 2011 Statewide 2011
Gr 3 – Math 44.0% 14.3% 35% 42.2% 26.3% 36%
Gr 3 – Reading 75.0% 66.7% 63% 64.4% 55.3% 62%
Gr 4 – Math 23.7% 40.0% 40% 37.8% 20.5% 40%
Gr 4 – Reading 71.0% 66.7% 64% 82.2% 56.4% 68%
Gr 4 – Writing 36.8% 48.4% 47% 37.8% 25.6% 45%
Gr 5 – Math 13.9% 32.0% 30% 33.3% 36.8% 40%
Gr 5 – Reading 72.2% 68.0% 65% 77.8% 60.5% 69%
Gr 5 – Science 8.3% 8.0% 17% 18.5% 19.4% 15%
Gr 6 – Math 18.9% 20.0% 36% 19.0% 22.0% 37%
Gr 6 – Reading 75.7% 66.7% 63% 83.3% 70.7% 67%
Gr 6 – Social Studies 21.6% 20.0% 28% 21.4% 26.2% 28%
Gr 7 – Math 34.6% 14.7% 36% 36.2% 34.4% 37%
Gr 7 – Reading 73.1% 47.1% 56% 59.6% 57.4% 60%
Gr 7 – Writing 50.0% 35.3% 48% 38.3% 34.4% 47%
Gr 8 – Math 18.8% 19.1% 29% 29%
Gr 8 – Reading 65.6% 66.7% 56% 61%
Gr 8 – Science 12.5% 9.6% 15% 16%
Gr 9 – Social Studies 34.7% 33% 28.1% 24.6% 29%

As Table 2.2 highlights, in 2010 both MICA and MVCA performed at relatively average levels (i.e., MICA scored lower than the statewide average in 9 of 18 categories, and MVCA scored lower than the statewide average in 9 of 17 categories).However, in 2011 MICA performed lower than the statewide average in 9 of 15 categories and MVCA performed lower than the statewide average in 13 of 15 categories. Yet in the spring of 2012, with no clear benefit and an apparent decline in performance, and only months before the review from the Department of Education would have occurred, the legislature moved to remove all meaningful restrictions on the number and enrollment levels of virtual schooling in the state. Senate Bill 619 removed the cap on the number of virtual charter schools and limited enrollment for each virtual charter school to 2,500 students in the first year, 5,000 students in the second year and 10,000 students after the second year(32). Essentially, in the face of data indicating uncertainty about whether existing virtual charter schools in Michigan were providing a quality instructional program sufficient to allow students to perform even at an average level, the legislators decided to expand these programs.

27 Fang, L. (2011, November 16). How online learning companies bought America’s schools. The Nation. Retrieved March 5, 2015, from,0.

28 Sisk, C. (2013, August 25). Tennessee Virtual Academy hits bottom, gets reprieve. The Tennessean. Retrieved March 5, 2015, from

29 Saul, S. (2011, December 12). Profits and questions at online charter schools. New York Times. Retrieved March 5, 2015, from

30 Umpstead, R. R., Andersen, R, & Umpstead, B. W. (2014, April). Legal responsibility for special education in cyber charter schools. A panel presentation to the American Education Research Association annual meeting, Philadelphia, PA.

31 Watson, J., Murin, A., Vashaw, L., Gemin, B., & Rapp, C. (2010). Keeping pace with K-12 online learning: An annual review of policy and practice. Evergreen, CO: Evergreen Education Group. Retrieved March 5, 2015, from

32 Watson, J., Murin, A., Vashaw, L., Gemin, B., & Rapp, C. (2012). Keeping pace with K-12 online and blended learning: An annual review of policy and practice. Evergreen, CO: Evergreen Education Group. Retrieved March 5, 2015, from

Others have examples that they can share???  For that matter, given the work of the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute, I think that Michigan has a wealth of resources that could be used to develop out a full manuscript on this issue.  Anyone interested in collaborating???

July 29, 2014

EDTECH537 – Discussion Question Entry: Should Corporations Run Publicly Funded Online Schools?

A while ago, this scrolled across my electronic desk and I thought that it would make good fodder for my second entry – topic of my choosing – for Week 8 of my EDTECH537 – Blogging In The Classroom course.

Laura DevaneyIn today’s news: Should education be run like a business? A new report is generating a heated debate on the topic. Plus, how to help your teachers ease into social media use; and a district’s decision to monitor students’ social media activity raises eyebrows.Leave your thoughts on any or all of these stories online, eMail me at, or find me on Twitter @eSN_Laura.

Laura Devaney, Managing Editor
Tweet me @eSN_Laura

Top News of the Day

Should businesses run schools?

It’s a question that has come up recently thanks to a national movement towards school reform: “Should schools be run like a business?” According to a new guide released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce [ Read More ]

Given that this will be my last official EDTECH537 post for the Summer 2014 term, I wanted to ask folks a version of this question…

Should corporations directly manage publicly-funded online schools?


March 20, 2011

Some Legislative Items From Around The United States

This will show up overnight, but it is actually about 7:030pm local time.  I’ve had a bunch of different legislative items that have come across my electronic desk over the past few weeks that I wanted to re-post here.


Georgia – Appeal of Fulton County Superior Court Judge Wendy Shoob ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court (still trying to find the online decision)


My understanding is that the Virginia bills have all died, the Illinois bill is still being debated, and I’ll get text for the Georgia decision as soon as it goes online.

May 20, 2010

Education Secretary Enlists University of Florida Professor To Advise On NCLB Overhaul

I saw this go through my Facebook news stream yesterday.

To visit the link click on the image or go to

I recall back at AERA during her presentations at the SRI panel (see AERA 2010 – Online Learning Research: Improving the Status Quo), she mentioned that NCLB was being debated and that those involved in K-12 online learning should get active to make sure their voices would be heard (and I wonder if there had been hints about this possibility back then).

Anyway, congratulations to Cathy and the complete article has been copied below.

Education sec’y enlists UF professor to advise on NCLB overhaul
Posted May 19, 2010

Leaders of the bipartisan effort to overhaul the controversial No Child Left Behind law have enlisted the aid of a University of Florida education professor to help them explore how technology can help advance school reform and improve student learning.

Cathy Cavanaugh, a UF associate professor of education technology, was one of several university and K-12 experts on virtual education invited in late April to meet with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Assistant Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton and Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) of the House Education and Labor Committee.

Duncan assembled the group to advise him on ways that hybrid models of teaching—blending online learning with conventional classroom instruction—can increase access to quality education, particularly for children with special needs. The group also discussed how schools could use comprehensive data systems to closely monitor how students are faring in school and identify which teaching practices are working best to help students succeed.

“Secretary Duncan was seeking specific examples and input on the language to use in the proposed reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (the formal name of No Child Left Behind),” Cavanaugh said. “I shared the data work we’ve done through UF’s Virtual School Clearinghouse and shared the findings of the 2009 report I wrote for the Center for American Progress about how virtual schooling can save money and expand learning time during the school day.”

UF’s online Virtual School Clearinghouse has compiled the first national database for virtual schools, which is helping schools and researchers identify the best online teaching practices.

Cavanaugh said that when the advisory group’s discussion turned to teacher education, Julie Young, president of the Florida Virtual School in Orlando, cited her school’s involvement in UF’s virtual internship program, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation. Cavanaugh coordinates the partnership with FLVS.

She said the advisory group will continue working with Rep. Andrews on the language of his committee’s proposal until they put it to vote later this summer.

Cavanaugh’s involvement is the second recent instance of UF College of Education faculty lending their expertise to the reauthorization effort of No Child Left Behind. Special education professors Mary Brownell and Paul Sindelar helped draft a set of recommendations concerning special education teacher quality and evaluation in a report submitted in late March to the House education committee. Their report was prepared on behalf of two special education professional organizations—the Higher Education Consortium for Special Education (HECSEE) and the teacher education division of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC).

#             #             #
Source: Catherine Cavanaugh, associate professor, UF College of Education,
Writer:Larry Lansford, News & Communications, UF College of Education,

May 8, 2010

What Agenda Are We Pushing?

Maybe a topic that is a bit heavy for a Saturday evening, but one that I have been thinking about for a bit in a number of contexts.  Today’s context comes about from an item in the ASCD SmartBrief a few days ago that read:

First-round Race to the Top winners receive poor grades on academics
A study by Harvard University researchers gives Tennessee and Delaware — the only two states that won first-round federal Race to the Top grants — poor marks for their academic standards after comparing them with national benchmarks, Valerie Strauss writes in this blog post. The report comes just after a group’s analysis suggested that the two states may have been chosen according to criteria that did not adhere to a rigorous scientific process, Strauss writes. The Washington Post/The Answer Sheet blog (5/6)

This specific news item pointed me to the Washington Post article, where I read:

The Education Next report by researchers Paul E. Peterson and Carlos Xabel Lastra-Anadón also shows that standards in most states remain far below the proficiency standard set by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. NAEP is known as the nation’s report card because it tests students across the country by the same measure and is considered the testing gold standard. States have their own individual student assessments designed to test students’ knowledge of state academic standards, which are all different.

[stuff left out]

Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, states actually have an incentive to set low standards because that made it easier to meet the law’s requirements. States with especially high standards have had a harder time doing so. That peculiarity in the law is one of the things that Duncan has said he wants to remove when the Obama administration and Congress rewrite NCLB, probably next year.

And this got me to thinking about a blog entry that was posted by Wesley Fryer entitled NCLB was designed to define public schools as failures.  This particular entry by Wes had a link to an earlier entry he wrote, Will Race to the Top Hurt Kids and Make Charter School Entrepreneurs Rich?, which I found interested because of the some of my own entries in their area, including iNACOL Congratulates Finalists For Race To The Top Funding For Their Online Learning Initiatives and Problem With Cyber Charter Schools – Part One – which essentially outline the focus on primarily the cyber charter schooling aspects of the RttT finalists and then a tongue in check discussion of some of the issues that I have with cyber charter schools.

I understand the market choice and deschooling (i.e., social conservative) agenda that the previous Bush administration was pushing.  But I don’t understand the Obama administration pushing the same social conservative agenda as the previous administration.  But all evidence from the Race to the Top initiative to the proposed changes being discussed to the No Child Left Behind legislation indicate that Duncan and Obama wish to continue to introduce market choice into the education system and continue to deschool what is left of America’s public schools.  It is almost funny that this administration is not willing to stand for this kind of behaviour when it comes to health care, but is more than willing to push us in that same direction when it comes to K-12 education!

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