Virtual School Meanderings

April 17, 2017

Report Dismissive Of Charter School Segregation And Stratification, Review Finds

From the inbox sometime last week.

April 13, 2017

T. Jameson Brewer, (404) 941-4530,
Daniel J. Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

Report dismissive of charter school segregation and stratification, review finds

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Apr. 13, 2017) — A report from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) compared differences in approaches and demographics between and among charter school models and traditional public schools. The report used three national data sets to capture the national universe of charter schools. Unfortunately, an academic review of the report released today finds that it fails to consider: (1) a large body of research on parent-decision-making; (2) research suggesting that charter schools are not as innovative as they claim; and (3) the purpose and aims of an equitable public education system.

The report, Differences by Design? Student Composition in Charter Schools with Different Academic Models, was reviewed by T. Jameson Brewer, University of North Georgia, and Christopher Lubienski, Indiana University, for the Think Twice think tank review project. Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), is funded in part by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Using enrollment demographics at different charter school models (e.g., art focused, no-excuses, single-sex, etc.), the report demonstrated that different demographic groups attend different types of charter schools. With regard to different categories of race and ethnicity, family income, and special education status, the report documents demographic sorting as an outcome of school choice.

The reviewers find that the report presents charter school de facto segregation as a benign byproduct of parental choice. In fact, the review finds that the original report actually acknowledged that this type of stratification was part and partial of a “properly” functioning charter sector – one in which parents get to choose the type of school their children attend.

According to the reviewers, the methodological decisions of the original report were not clear or fully justified. Additionally, the report failed to adequately describe how they classified special education students – not distinguishing between disabilities.

Regarding the report’s use of research literature, Brewer and Lubienski, in their review, find that the report relies heavily on other reports from AEI and pro-charter advocacy organizations. Only two sources from the original report were from peer-reviewed journals.

Ultimately, the reviewers conclude: “While the authors and AEI may have conceived this report as a rationale for advancing charter schools, their data demonstrates that charter schools may be destructive of the common good.”

Find the review on the GLC website:

Find the original report on the web:

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.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

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April 16, 2017

Worth A Read

A regular Sunday feature.

Worth A Read

The Tone-Deaf Politics of Denying Racism, Excusing Segregation

Posted: 12 Apr 2017 09:00 PM PDT

P.L. Thomas discusses ‘colorblind’ discussions in education policy today. He reviews a recent statement from Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), as well as an academic review of a report from AEI. “What is at play here, and linked by AEI, includes an ends-justify-the-means ideology paired with Social Darwinism (masked as ‘parental choice’) — all of which is bereft of any sort of ethical grounding, any acknowledgement that ‘some’ (the ellipsis of race, and thus, people of color) are making pleas for being heard to create a more just and equitable education system and country.”

Today’s Teaching Force Is Larger, Less Experienced, More Diverse Than Ever

Posted: 12 Apr 2017 09:00 PM PDT

Brenda Iasevoli covers a report by Richard Ingersoll that uses the School and Staffing Survey (SASS) to analyze trends in the U.S. teaching force from 1987 to 2012. “In the end, the authors write that their job was to describe the teaching force trends and not to explain or evaluate their implications. Questions about the reasons behind teacher workforce growth, the increase in the number of inexperienced teachers and its impact on schools, or the reasons for the rising number of minority teachers in high-poverty public schools, warrant further investigation.”

Maryland General Assembly passes bill limiting hours of testing in schools

Posted: 09 Apr 2017 09:00 PM PDT

Ian Duncan writes about a recent vote by the Maryland legislature to cap testing at 2.2 percent of classroom time in a year – about 24 hours in elementary and middle school and 26 hours in high school. “The state teachers union argues that students are required to take too many tests, costing them hundreds of hours of time that could otherwise be spent learning over the course of their school careers. The Maryland State Education Association supported the bill.”

How Much Does the Public Understand About Effective Teaching and Learning?

Posted: 05 Apr 2017 09:00 PM PDT

Tim Walker discusses a survey conducted by the Center for American Progress. The survey polled 3,000 people on their understanding of effective teaching and learning. According to the report, the results “reveal a general misunderstanding about what makes effective classrooms and educators.”

CT scraps using state test scores to compute teacher ratings

Posted: 05 Apr 2017 09:00 PM PDT

Kyle Constable reports that the Connecticut Board of Education voted last week to no longer use state test scores in teacher performance evaluations. “State education board Chairman Allan B. Taylor and Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell both praised the board’s approval of the plan as an important clarification of the role state tests should play: a goal-setting tool for teachers, not part of a formula for rating an individual teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom.”

Subgroup-Specific Accountability, Teacher Job Assignments, And Teacher Attrition: Lessons For States

Posted: 04 Apr 2017 09:00 PM PDT

Matthew Shirrell has blogged about his recently published study in the journal Education Finance and Policy. His study explored the effects of NCLB’s subgroup-specific accountability for teachers. “Specifically, I examine whether teaching in a school that was held accountable for a particular subgroup’s performance in the first year of NCLB affected teachers’ job assignments, turnover, and attrition.”

April 12, 2017

Fifth Annual Virtual Schools Report Released Today

Another announcement on this report from yesterday’s inbox.

April 11, 2017

William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058,
Daniel J. Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

Fifth Annual Virtual Schools Report Released Today

Authors suggest that policymakers focus on improving performance, research support, and developing policy in critical areas

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Apr. 11, 2017) — Virtual schools in the United States have been growing rapidly in recent decades. Their growth has been fueled in part by the belief that an online curriculum can better meet the needs of individual students, and that virtual schools are cost effective and educationally sound. As virtual schools have grown, so too has the need for additional research to develop better policies.

Today, the National Education Policy Center releases its 5th annual report on virtual education. The three-section report, Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2017, funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, provides: (a) a detailed inventory of full-time virtual schools in the U.S.; (b) an exhaustive review of the literature on virtual education and its implications for virtual school practices; and (c) a detailed review and analysis of state-level policymaking.

Alex Molnar, University of Colorado Boulder, edited the report. Authors contributing to the report include: Gary Miron, Western Michigan University; Charisse Gulosino, University of Memphis, Christopher Shank, Western Michigan University, Caryn K. Davidson, Western Michigan University; Michael K. Barbour, Touro University; Louis Huerta, Teachers College – Columbia University; Jennifer King Rice, University of Maryland, David Nitkin, Teachers College – Columbia University; and Sheryl Rankin Shafer.

The first section investigates full-time virtual and blended schools, including their enrollment, student characteristics, and performance. A second section focuses on the research evidence of all forms of K-12 virtual and blended learning.  Meanwhile, the final section looks at state-level virtual school policies in the following areas: finance and governance; instructional quality; and teacher quality.

Each section of the report reviews the relevant research, identifies critical areas, and includes a set of recommendations to policymakers.

The authors conclude that the current research base does not provide evidence for many current virtual school practices.  Additionally, this updated report notes that policymakers continue to struggle with funding, accountability, instructional quality, and staffing demands.

Find Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2017 on the web:

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder, produced the report with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The report can also be found on the NEPC website:

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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 develp reasearch-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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April 9, 2017

Worth A Read

A regular Sunday feature.

Worth A Read

School Voucher Grade Inflation

Posted: 04 Apr 2017 09:00 PM PDT

Noah Smith looks at a recent survey paper on vouchers from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. The paper, written by Greg Forster, was cited by the Wall Street Journal as “evidence that voucher opponents have been cherry-picking the evidence.” Smith reviews Forster’s paper and asks several probing questions about vouchers and the research evidence.

VAM, Teacher Bashing, and Unintended Outcomes: ‘(A)ll (teacher) exits increased under the new evaluations’

Posted: 03 Apr 2017 09:00 PM PDT

P. L. Thomas reviews a recent research analysis by Matthew Di Carlo on the Shanker Blog. He calls Di Carlo’s work some of the best available online. However, he is critical of the ‘dispassionate’ stance taken by Di Carlo in summarizing the research. Thomas says, “I am on edge when I read these careful explications of educational research because they tend to stand so far back from drawing critical conclusions that they leave a great deal of room for forgiving awful and baseless policy.” Thomas pushes for a deeper look beyond the research into the bad politics and bad media behind recent ‘bad’ teacher reforms.

Who Needs Reformers When You Have David Kirp?

Posted: 02 Apr 2017 09:00 PM PDT

Gary Rubinstein writes about a recent piece in the New York Times by David Kirp, ‘Who Needs Charters When You have Public Schools Like These?’ Rubinstein is critical of Kirp’s article and suggests, “What I would have liked to have in this article is Kirp writing about all the great things going on at these schools and how anyone visiting these schools would be impressed by them, and then express outrage that the schools have a D- and an F rating thus demonstrating how inaccurate the A to F rating calculations are and how they are likely to be just as inaccurate in all the states throughout the country. Now that would be a powerful article.”

Fix Schools, Not Teachers

Posted: 02 Apr 2017 09:00 PM PDT

Esther Quintero, Senior Fellow at the Albert Shanker Institute, discusses a recent book she edited, ‘Teaching in Context: The Social Side of Education Reform.’ According to Quintero, the book was conceived to help address the problems of dissemination, misperceptions, and applicability in education policymaking. She writes: “Providing ‘lessons’ for policy and practice isn’t a job just for researchers. Ultimately, because the school improvement processes we are trying to influence are complex and dynamic, practitioners, policy makers, and academics need to figure out how to proceed together.”

Teacher Evaluations And Turnover In Houston

Posted: 29 Mar 2017 09:00 PM PDT

Matthew Di Carlo tackles a new working paper by Julie Berry Cullen, Cory Koedel, and Eric Parsons. The paper looks at the impact of the teacher evaluation system in Houston and focuses on the relationship between teacher turnover and performance before and after the implementation of the new system. He says in his conclusion, “In any case, this study by Cullen, Koedel, and Parsons, like most good policy analysis, illustrates the promise of new evaluations, but also the challenges.”

April 2, 2017

Worth A Read

A regular Sunday feature.

Worth A Read

What’s Next for Newark?

Posted: 28 Mar 2017 09:00 PM PDT

Michael DeArmond and Patrick Denice discuss Newark’s public schools, which are about to return to local control in 2017. “But the key challenge for Newark when it regains local control—and the key challenge for all cities, regardless of the makeup of their school system—will be improving school quality across its diverse system of schools. There just aren’t enough good schools to go around, charter or district. And too often, good schools are clustered in some neighborhoods and not in others.”

Maryland Showdown on Testing, Charters, and the Direction of Public Schools

Posted: 28 Mar 2017 09:00 PM PDT

Rachel M. Cohen looks at school accountability and ESSA implementation in Maryland. “A heated battle over the future of Maryland’s plan—specifically, how much weight standardized test scores should be given in determining a school’s rating, and how much power the state should have over low-performing schools—has become a flashpoint in the polarized education reform wars, not only within Maryland but across the country. At the crux of the debate are questions about who gets to speak on behalf of racial minorities and low-income children, and what school accountability should look like in the age of Donald Trump.”

Is Test-Based Accountability Dead?

Posted: 27 Mar 2017 09:00 PM PDT

Jay P. Greene, Kevin Huffman, and Morgan S. Polikoff tackle the topic of test-based accountability in the latest Education Next. They attempt to answer the following questions: “So: is accountability on the wane, or is it here to stay? If accountability is indeed dying, would its loss be good or bad for students?”

Shaping Teacher Preparation for the Future

Posted: 26 Mar 2017 09:00 PM PDT

Robert C. Pianta, dean and professor at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, writes about the ever changing regulations governing teacher preparation programs. “We cannot give up on either a federal role in accountability or the funding needed to support good work at the state and local level, but one thing is now clear: those of us who care about teacher preparation can’t wait any longer to take the lead ourselves.”

Liberals, Conservatives Agree: Big Mistake for White House to Push Private School Choice

Posted: 23 Mar 2017 09:00 PM PDT

Lauren Camera discusses the Trump administration’s push for school choice. Advocates on both sides of the aisle are cautioning against a federal private school choice program.

Challenging the Newspeak of School Quality Measurement

Posted: 23 Mar 2017 09:00 PM PDT

James M. Noonan, a researcher affiliated with the ‘Justice in Schools’ project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, writes about the challenges of education measurement. “In order to better measure school quality, then, we must first expand our imagination about what school quality means. One way to do so is to be deliberately more expansive in the way we talk about good schools. As shorthand, school quality is woefully non-specific, the Rorschach of education policy jargon. And unless or until students, teachers, and parents dare to be specific about what it means to them – to define it for ourselves – it will continue to be defined for them.”

Five Vital Roles for School Leaders in the Pursuit of Evidence of Evidence-informed Practice

Posted: 19 Mar 2017 09:00 PM PDT

Chris Brown and Joel Malin write about the use of evidence by school leaders. “In this commentary, the authors set out thoughts on school leaders’ crucial roles in fostering evidence-informed and -engaged learning environments. They argue that school leaders must address both transformational and pedagogical aspects. Addressing both, they provide a definitive summary checklist for the role of school leaders in developing their schools in this manner.”

Vouchers in Indiana: A Cautionary Tale

Posted: 06 Mar 2017 09:00 PM PST

Phyllis W. Jordan takes a ‘deep dive’ into Indiana’s voucher programs. FutureEd compiled a report investigating school choice in Indiana. The report found: “Instead of increasing private school options, a substantial number of voucher schools are simply filling existing seats with students subsidized by the state. Fewer than one percent of voucher students now come from failing public schools, and more than half never attended public school at all.”

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