Virtual School Meanderings

January 30, 2023

Pandemic-era alternative education solutions remain unproven

A “Think Twice” review of a think tank report from the folks at the National Education Policy Center.

Inside Look

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Jan. 26, 2023READ IN BROWSER
Hello, Great Lakes Center subscriber:

School closures during the COVID-19 pandemic prompted many families to seek alternative solutions for educating children. Microschools and learning pods were two of these alternative solutions and were popular because they involved small gatherings of students learning together from in-person instruction and digital technology, much like homeschooling. The models also became popular with education reform advocates who favor privatization of schooling.
Two reports from the Center on Reinventing Public Education cover microschools and learning pods, and both paint these strategies in a positive light, even though both reports have flaws that limit their actual usefulness for policymakers.
The advocacy for this type of schooling long term could have negative consequences for public schools, so policymakers need to be informed of all the facts – and the unknowns – about these alternative schooling solutions.

Read on to learn more.

Maddie Fennell

Executive Director
Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice

REPORT REVIEWED

Bryan Mann of the University of Kansas reviewed “Use of Personalized Learning Platforms in One Pandemic-Era Microschool: A Case Study,” and “’The Most Professionally Satisfied I’ve Been.’ How Could the Best Aspects of Learning Pod Staffing Be Scaled Up?”

WHAT THE REVIEWER FOUND

 Mann’s past research has examined digital schooling and other alternative school models, which have grown in popularity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. He found shortcomings in both reviewed reports that limit their usefulness to policymakers.

While both reports show these new educational strategies in a positive light, Mann found little evidence of the benefits of the strategies. The report on learning platforms analyzes engagement patterns and success rates of a digital platform used in one microschool in Nevada. The report is called a “case study,” though it lacks the research and analysis to be classified as one.
The report on staffing in learning pods contrasts them with features of traditional schools and argues that the same approaches should be used in traditional schools. The author uses the report to promote the school models developed by his own company, Public Impact, and the conclusions are overstated and not presented with adequate evidence, according to Mann’s review.
Mann determined the reports should not be used to guide policymaking because more research is needed before action should be taken regarding the reports’ findings. The first report on learning platforms uses some valid methods, yet the research design makes it hard to interpret findings beyond the one specific case used.
The report on staffing fails to include well-researched studies, ignoring past research that could frame the discussion. That’s disappointing, because the report could have actually helped address some policy issues, Mann wrote.

Read the full review on the Great Lakes Center website or on the National Education Policy Center website.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

The two reports shouldn’t be used to guide policymaking decisions because they are so flawed. Placing more resources into alternative schooling solutions like microschools and learning pods could take away resources from public schools, where student achievement has long been researched and proven. Dedicating more resources to alternative schooling solutions based on reports from privatization advocates could have negative consequences for public schools with no basis for making those investments.

TALKING POINTS TO REMEMBER

  1. Despite microschools and learning pods becoming more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with advocates for education privatization, there’s not enough research on these alternative school solutions.
  1. Two reports from the Center on Reinventing Public Education promote these alternative learning options, but clearly have an agenda and use flawed methods to reach their conclusions.
  1. More research is needed on alternative schooling solutions, and policymakers should not act on the two reports because their scope is limited, and they ignore past research.

SOCIAL SHARES

Want to share this Think Twice Review with your social networks? We drafted some sample social media posts for your use.
#Microschools and learning pods became popular during the COVID-19 pandemic, but policymakers should learn more before acting on policy recommendations from school privatization advocates. Learn more: #Microschools and learning pods became popular during the COVID-19 pandemic, but policymakers should learn more before acting on policy recommendations from school privatization advocates. Learn more:
A @nepctweet review shows the flawed methods school privatization advocates used to promote microschools and #LearningPods. A @nepctweet review shows the flawed methods school privatization advocates used to promote microschools and #LearningPods.
More research is needed before policy on #Microschools and #LearningPods is implemented so resources aren’t taken from #PublicSchools. More: More research is needed before policy on #Microschools and #LearningPods is implemented so resources aren’t taken from #PublicSchools. More:
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Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.
Copyright © 2019 Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you opted in via our website.Our mailing address is:
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PO Box 1263
East Lansing, MI 48826-1263

January 26, 2023

Report Searches for “Wokeness” Terminology to Justify Deregulated School Choice

A “Think Twice” review of a think tank report from the folks at the National Education Policy Center.

January 24, 2023

Contact:
Alex Molnar: (480) 797-7261, nepc.molnar@gmail.com
Christine Sleeter: (831) 915-3876csleeter@gmail.com

Report Searches for “Wokeness” Terminology to Justify Deregulated School Choice

An NEPC Review funded by the Great Lakes Center

Key Takeaway: Shoddy advocacy report attempts to justify deregulation of the charter school sector for the purpose of decreasing “wokeism” in charter schools.

EAST LANSING, MI (January 24, 2023) – BOULDER, CO (January 24, 2023) – In one of the more unusual reports NEPC has ever reviewed, Heritage Foundation authors recently argued for school-choice deregulation by comparing the amount of “wokeness” terminology in parent/student handbooks in U.S. charter schools with the level of charter school regulation in their states.

Christine Sleeter of California State University Monterey Bay and T. Jameson Brewer of the University of North Georgia reviewed Empowering Parents with School Choice Reduces Wokeism in Education and found significant flaws in reasoning, even beyond the report’s disconcerting premise.

The Heritage report finds that increased manifestations of “woke” terminology are associated with higher state levels of charter school regulation. On this basis, the report concludes that while charter schools represent a safe space away from “woke indoctrination” in public schools, further deregulation and less bureaucracy will allow the charter sector to truly respond to parent desires to avoid “leftist” curriculum.

Notwithstanding its provocative thesis, apparently intended to tap into current turmoil, the report has at least five significant weaknesses. It assumes that parent/student handbooks are good proxies for curriculum; it completely ignores the diversity of parents and relevant research about what large proportions of parents actually want; it conflates correlation with causation; it relies on undefined conceptions of what constitutes “wokeness”; and it possibly uses cherry-picked data and methods that suit ideological bias.

These shortcomings render the report useless for understanding or developing policy. Instead, the report serves merely as an example of strategically employing dog whistles and fear, embedded in shoddy methodology for the sole purpose of affirming a solution (school choice) in search of a problem (“wokeness”).

Find the review, by Christine Sleeter and T. Jameson Brewer, at:
https://greatlakescenter.org

Find Empowering Parents with School Choice Reduces Wokeism in Education, written by Jay P. Greene and Ian S. Kingsbury and published by the Heritage Foundation, at:
https://www.heritage.org/sites/default/files/2022-11/BG3735.pdf

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: https://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces high-quality information in support of democratic deliberation about education policy. We publish original research, policy briefs, and expert third-party reviews of think tank reports. NEPC publications are written in accessible language and are intended for a broad audience that includes academic experts, policymakers, the media, and the general public. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

About The Great Lakes Center
The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform. Visit the Great Lakes Center Web Site at: https://www.greatlakescenter.org. Follow us on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/greatlakescent. Find us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GreatLakesCenter.

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at https://www.greatlakescenter.org/

January 19, 2023

Report Oversimplifies Complex Issue of Teacher Attrition

A “Think Twice” review of a think tank report from the folks at the National Education Policy Center.

January 17, 2023

Contact:
Alex Molnar: (480) 797-7261, nepc.molnar@gmail.com
Faith Boninger: (480) 390-6736, fboninger@gmail.com
Charisse Gulosino: (901) 678-5217, cglosino@memphis.edu

Report Oversimplifies Complex Issue of Teacher Attrition

An NEPC Review funded by the Great Lakes Center

Key Takeaway: Teacher autonomy alone cannot resolve the multifaceted, deeply nuanced, and complex systemic problems – such as low pay and high workloads – that have led to teacher shortages.

EAST LANSING, MI (January 17, 2023) – A recent report from the Progressive Policy Institute highlights the emergence of widespread teacher staffing shortages. By describing teacher autonomy as a panacea for reversing the problem, however, the report oversimplifies the issue.

Charisse Gulosino of the University of Memphis and Hajime Mitani of Rowan University reviewed Autonomous Schools Can Help Solve the Problem Behind the Teacher Shortage Problem and found it to overlook the complexity and nuance of the teacher shortage issue, ignoring the factors that school districts face such as staffing gaps, low pay, and high workloads.

The report’s recommendations are grounded in its descriptions of contemporary “autonomous” school initiatives. While the specifics of these initiatives vary, they all fall under the umbrella of positioning teachers with greater decision-making responsibilities and authority. Research does support the finding that increased autonomy generally produces greater job satisfaction for teachers. Therefore, the report suggests that such initiatives are effective strategies to remedy teacher shortages.

What Professors Gulosino and Mitani find lacking in the report, however, is supporting evidence for these causal claims, in that it relies on popular contemporary readings and descriptive surveys rather than evidence of the efficacy of the recommended approach. Classical economic theory suggests that teacher shortages result from an imbalance between supply and demand generated by multiple factors. Furthermore, teacher labor markets are geographically small and localized, requiring local action.

Effectively addressing the problem, therefore, requires understanding local conditions and analyzing factors affecting demand and supply in a specific context. Regarding autonomy reforms, it also requires assessing their cost-effectiveness and sustainability. Thus, they conclude, policymakers and other readers should be aware that what is ignored in this report is far more important to informed policy than what it contains.

Find the review, by Charisse Gulosino and Hajime Mitani, at:
https://www.greatlakescenter.org

Find Autonomous Schools Can Help Solve the Problem Behind the Teacher Shortage Problem, written by Tressa Pankovits and published by the Progressive Policy Institute, at:
https://www.progressivepolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/PPI_Teacher-shortages.pdf

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: https://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces high-quality information in support of democratic deliberation about education policy. We publish original research, policy briefs, and expert third-party reviews of think tank reports. NEPC publications are written in accessible language and are intended for a broad audience that includes academic experts, policymakers, the media, and the general public. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

About The Great Lakes Center
The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform. Visit the Great Lakes Center Web Site at: https://www.greatlakescenter.org. Follow us on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/greatlakescent. Find us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GreatLakesCenter.

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 Friend on Facebook

 Follow on Twitter

The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at https://www.greatlakescenter.org/

January 13, 2023

Flexible learning concept fails to address equity, student achievement

A “Think Twice” review of a think tank report from the folks at the National Education Policy Center.

Inside Look

Great Lakes Center’s exclusive subscriber email featuring key points, information and social media content about reviews and research

Jan. 12, 2022READ IN BROWSER
Hello, Great Lakes Center subscriber:

The COVID-19 pandemic caused disruptions in public schools nationwide that led to the creation of alternative learning opportunities. At the same time, parents and caregivers struggled for balance while working from home and taking care of children.
Even as school reopened, many families had reasons – such as being immunocompromised or living in an intergenerational household – to keep children out of school buildings. As a result, alternatives developed, such as learning pods or private online courses. Also in 2020, many people demanded more equitable treatment and curriculum in the wake of police killings of Black people, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. This unrest motivated some Black families to seek alternatives to school for their children.
A report from Bellwether discusses “assembly-based education,” a hypothetical concept that removes schools as a central component of education by enabling families to choose among learning alternatives that meet their interests. However, a review of the report found it is based on a fallacy that flexible learning for all families can succeed in a market driven by choice and profits, and that the plan offered in the report is unworkable.

Read on to learn more.

Maddie Fennell

Executive Director
Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice

REPORT REVIEWED

Carrie Sampson of Arizona State University reviewed, “Some Assembly Required: How a More Flexible Learning Ecosystem Can Better Serve All Kids and Unlock Innovation.”

WHAT THE REVIEWER FOUND

The Bellwether report argues that assembly-based education prioritizes families and students by allowing them to choose among learning opportunities that meet their interests. In theory, this would remove barriers for lower-income families and facilitate new learning environments that are based on shared interests rather than geography. The report also argues the approach is timely because of the recent growth of school choice and supplemental learning.
The report analyzes claims that assembly-based education can fix education problems and includes risks of/barriers to implementing this type of education.
Sampson found the report mostly relies on non-research-based sources like news articles and reports from advocacy organizations. The data mentioned in the report misleads, removes context and is inconsistent.
Further, Sampson wrote, the concept of this type of learning undermines investments in neighborhood schools and runs counter to research showing many families and communities work hard to protect and improve their neighborhood schools. Research shows this has often been the case in marginalized communities.
While more examination on flexible learning is needed, the report’s proposed plan also ignores research reflecting voices and stories from the most marginalized communities.
Sampson concludes the concept of an assembly-based education system fails to address equity and educational excellence, and instead makes choice the most important thing in an education system.

Read the full review on the Great Lakes Center website or on the National Education Policy Center website.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

The COVID-19 pandemic forced families to consider alternatives for education, and there was no clear answer on what the best option was, especially as education companies vied for new customers when traditional schooling was not an option. The concept of assembly-based learning has not been researched enough, but we know it would decrease investment in neighborhood schools that many families, especially those in marginalized communities, rely on.

TALKING POINTS TO REMEMBER

  1. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, a report from Bellwether discusses “assembly-based education,” a concept that removes schools as the central education component and enables families to choose learning alternatives that meet their interests.
  1. A review of the report finds it’s based on a fallacy that flexible learning for all families can succeed in a market driven by choice and profits.
  1. The review shows the concept of assembly-based education fails to address equity and educational excellence and makes choice the most important thing in an education system.

SOCIAL SHARES

Want to share this Think Twice Review with your social networks? We drafted some sample social media posts for your use.
Due to COVID-19, families have sought alternative learning opportunities for their children. “Assembly-based education” has emerged as a new concept, but it wouldn’t help make opportunities equitable. Read more: Due to COVID-19, families have sought alternative learning opportunities for their children. “Assembly-based education” has emerged as a new concept, but it wouldn’t help make opportunities equitable. Read more:
A @nepctweet review finds a report on the concept of “assembly-based education” ignores research reflecting the experiences of marginalized communities. A @nepctweet review finds a report on the concept of “assembly-based education” ignores research reflecting the experiences of marginalized communities.
“Assembly-based education” can’t work in a market driven by #schoolchoice and profits. Learn more: “Assembly-based education” can’t work in a market driven by #schoolchoice and profits. Learn more:
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Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.
Copyright © 2019 Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you opted in via our website.

Our mailing address is:
Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice
PO Box 1263
East Lansing, MI 48826-1263

December 19, 2022

Learning Loss

A “Think Twice” review of a think tank report from the folks at the National Education Policy Center.

Inside Look

Great Lakes Center’s exclusive subscriber email featuring key points, information and social media content about reviews and research

Dec. 15, 2022READ IN BROWSER
Hello, Great Lakes Center subscriber:

As students continue recovering from learning losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, education advocates are calling for additional reforms and investments in education.
Some advocates are using the pandemic to call for the policy reforms they advocated for prior to the pandemic. Some of these reforms are outlined in a Buckeye Institute report that recommends sweeping K-12 policy reforms in response to pandemic-related academic disruptions, and what the report defines as declining confidence in public schools.
A review of the report criticizes the Buckeye Institute’s analysis and cautions against its policy recommendations.

Read on to learn more.

Maddie Fennell

Executive Director
Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice

REPORT REVIEWED

David S. Knight with the University of Washington reviewed “#StudentsFirst: Empowering Parents to Help Students Regain Lost Learning.”

WHAT THE REVIEWER FOUND

The Buckeye Institute report describes the potential long-term impacts of the pandemic on students and makes policy recommendations that are favored by conservative and libertarian advocacy groups, including education savings accounts, tax breaks for donations to private school foundations and increasing school choice.
The review found the policy recommendations in the report are likely to yield negative results because the report is based on untested assumptions.
The Buckeye Institute report includes discussion of research, and references several studies, but fails to support its recommendations by explaining direct evidence of the benefits. It also does not address unintended consequences of expanding the school choice policies that we’ve seen in other research, like decreased student achievement, increased racial segregation and reduced funding for public schools.
In general, the report relies on weak assumptions about its predicted impacts of school choice policy reforms.
Knight’s review stated policymakers who read the report should carefully consider the assumptions embedded in the policy recommendations and the unintended consequences of adopting them. They should recognize where the evidence behind the report’s recommendations falls short and assess the availability of alternate policies to help students recover lost learning.

Read the full review on the Great Lakes Center website or on the National Education Policy Center website.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

Many education advocates have proposed solutions to combat pandemic-related student learning loss, and not all of these solutions have equal value. To avoid issues caused by expanding school choice reforms, like decreased student achievement, increased racial segregation and reducing funds for public schools, it’s important for policymakers to use recommendations that rely on evidence-based research.

TALKING POINTS TO REMEMBER

  1. A Buckeye Institute report advocates for K-12 policy reforms in response to pandemic learning loss, making recommendations that are favored by school choice advocates.
  1. A review of the report found its recommendations are likely to yield negative results because the report is based on untested assumptions.
  1. Policymakers should assess the availability of alternate policies that are based on actual evidence to help students recover lost learning.

SOCIAL SHARES

Want to share this Think Twice Review with your social networks? We drafted some sample social media posts for your use.
What’s the best way to help students recover from #LearningLoss? Any reforms should be informed by evidence-based research. Read more: What’s the best way to help students recover from #LearningLoss? Any reforms should be informed by evidence-based research. Read more:
A @thebuckeyeinst report on #LearningLoss uses weak assumptions in advocating for school choice. Read a review of the report: A @thebuckeyeinst report on #LearningLoss uses weak assumptions in advocating for school choice. Read a review of the report:
A @nepctweet review finds expansion of #SchoolChoice reforms to combat student learning loss is likely to yield negative results. Read the review: A @nepctweet review finds expansion of #SchoolChoice reforms to combat student learning loss is likely to yield negative results. Read the review:
Follow Us
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Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.
Copyright © 2019 Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you opted in via our website.

Our mailing address is:
Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice
PO Box 1263
East Lansing, MI 48826-1263

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