Virtual School Meanderings

July 1, 2020

Analysis Finds Lack Of Clear Evidence Summit Learning Program Produces Results, Despite Prominence And Popularity

This is an interesting item from the folks at the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice.

Inside Look

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

June 30, 2020READ IN BROWSER
Dear Great Lakes Center subscriber:A new policy brief from the National Education Policy Center provides a thorough analysis of the Summit Learning Program, one of the most prominent digital personalized learning programs in the country. The Summit Learning Program has been backed by almost $200 million from Silicon Valley philanthropists. However, the NEPC’s analysis found that despite the program’s prominence and popularity, there is little evidence of its effectiveness. Read on to learn more.

Dr. Gretchen Dziadosz
Executive Director
Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice

SUMMARY

Faith Boninger, Alex Molnar and Christopher Saldaña of the University of Colorado Boulder wrote Big Claims, Little Evidence, Lots of Money: The Reality Behind Summit Learning Program and the Push to Adopt Digital Personalized Learning Platforms. The policy brief gives an assessment of Summit Public Schools, an 11-school charter network that operates in California and Washington state. Summit began marketing its proprietary Summit Learning Program, a free personalized learning platform, to potential “partner” schools in 2015. It is now used in 400 schools across the country.

WHAT THE ANALYSIS FOUND

Boninger, Molnar and Saldaña found that despite the Summit Learning Program’s popularity and philanthropic investment, there is a lack of clear evidence supporting its purported effectiveness.

Virtual and personalized learning programs have risen in popularity and have been a topic of education reform discussions for more than a decade. Summit Public Schools is considered a leader in this sector and is backed by almost $200 million from the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, the Gates Foundation and more. Summit Public Schools has marketed its Summit Learning Platform since 2015 to schools throughout the country. Because of its funding and marketing efforts, the program is one of the top digital personalized learning programs nationwide and is used in 400 schools across the country.

In its marketing, Summit claims to have a “science-based” model of teaching and learning that prepares every student for college and the success of its students stems from the program’s “unique approach” to digital personalized learning.

The claims Summit makes have not been confirmed by independent evaluators. The authors found no evidence in public records confirming the claims, and Summit did not provide the information authors requested via a California public records request. There is no evidence “partner schools” experience the success promised in Summit’s claims. In fact, there have been several reported incidents of problems and dissatisfaction with the program.

Summit’s contracts with the partner schools also pose a significant risk to student privacy. Data is open to exploitation by the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative and unknown third parties.

The authors found the Summit Learning Program provides an example of how policymakers are challenged when faced with a push for schools to adopt digital personalized learning programs. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this. The authors provide policymakers with recommendations to protect the public by establishing oversight for programs like Summit’s and mechanisms to hold them accountable.

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

Read the brief →

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

Virtual and personalized learning has been a major topic of discussion for the last decade, and even more so during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Companies providing such programs can be pushed to the front of the education reform discussion because of significant funding and advocacy they receive from prominent philanthropic organizations. Due to COVID-19, schools are struggling to find safe ways to educate their students and could be persuaded by the flashiness of the Summit Learning Program, even though it is risky and lacks transparency about its effectiveness. Programs like Summit’s bode well for the virtual learning business, but not for student success and achievement.

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A new analysis published by @NEPCtweet finds the Summit Public Schools virtual learning program has not helped students succeed, despite millions of dollars of investment from philanthropists. A new analysis published by @NEPCtweet finds the Summit Public Schools virtual learning program has not helped students succeed, despite millions of dollars of investment from philanthropists.
There is no verified evidence the Summit Learning Program works, but there are reports of problems and customer dissatisfaction. There is no verified evidence the Summit Learning Program works, but there are reports of problems and customer dissatisfaction.
An analysis by @NEPCtweet found a lack of evidence supporting the effectiveness of Summit Public Schools, a nationwide leader in virtual personalized learning. An analysis by @NEPCtweet found a lack of evidence supporting the effectiveness of Summit Public Schools, a nationwide leader in virtual personalized learning.
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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.
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Our mailing address is:
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June 29, 2020

The Summit Learning Program: Big Promises, Lots Of Money, Little Evidence Of Success

This is an interesting item from the folks at the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice.

June 25, 2020

Contacts:
William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Faith Boninger: (480) 390-6736, fboninger@gmail.com
Alex Molnar: (480) 797-7261, nepc.molnar@gmail.com

The Summit Learning Program: Big Promises, Lots of Money, Little Evidence of Success

A NEPC Policy Brief Funded By the GLC

Key Takeaway: Despite a lack of evidence that it is effective, the Summit Learning Program, propelled by a flood of Silicon Valley money, continues to spread.

EAST LANSING, Mich. (June 25, 2020) – Virtual learning and personalized learning have been at the forefront of education reform discussions for over a decade. One leader of this sector, Summit Public Schools, has been backed by almost $200 million philanthropic dollars from the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, the Gates Foundation, and others. Summit Public Schools has aggressively marketed its Summit Learning Platform to schools across the United States since 2015. As a result, the Summit Learning Program is now one of the most prominent digital personalized learning programs in the United States.

In Big Claims, Little Evidence, Lots of Money: The Reality Behind the Summit Learning Program and the Push to Adopt Digital Personalized Learning Platforms, Faith Boninger, Alex Molnar, and Christopher M. Saldaña, of the University of Colorado Boulder, provide a thorough analysis of Summit Public Schools, an 11-school charter network operating in California and Washington. Summit Public Schools began marketing its proprietary Summit Learning Program to potential “partner” schools in 2015 as a free, off-the-shelf, personalized learning program; it is now used in nearly 400 schools nationwide.

The marketing message of Summit Learning Program trades on the alleged success of the Summit Public Schools. Summit claims to have developed a “science-based” personalized learning model of teaching and learning that results in all of its students being academically prepared for college. It further claims that its students succeed in college and are prepared to lead successful, fulfilled lives. These successes, it claims, are the result of its unique approach to personalized learning and the use of the digital platform at the heart of its approach.

None of these claims made by Summit Public Schools have been confirmed by independent evaluators. In fact, other than scant bits of self-selected information provided by Summit itself, Boninger, Molnar and Saldaña found no evidence in the public record that confirms the claims. Nor did Summit Public Schools provide the information that the authors solicited in a California public records request.

Despite the lack of evidence to support the claims made by Summit Public Schools, the Summit Learning Program has been adopted by nearly 400 schools across the country. While Summit has offered positive anecdotes and some selected data, there is no solid evidence that “partner” schools are experiencing the promised success; to the contrary, there have been a number of reported incidents of problems and dissatisfaction. Further, the student data collected pursuant to the contracts between Summit and these partner schools presents a potentially significant risk to student privacy and opens the door to the exploitation of those data by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and possibly by unknown third parties-for purposes that have nothing to do with improving the quality of those students’ educations.

Virtual education and personalized learning are at the top of the education reform agenda in large measure because of hundreds of millions of dollars in funding and advocacy by philanthropic organizations (e.g., the Gates Foundation), large digital platforms (e.g., Facebook and Google), and venture capitalists anxious to access the school market.

Exacerbated by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, schools across the country are struggling to find safe ways to educate their students. The rapid spread of the Summit Learning Program, despite its risks and lack of transparency, provides a powerful example of how policymakers are challenged when faced with a well-financed, self-interested push for schools to adopt digital personalized learning programs. Boninger, Molnar and Saldaña provide policymakers with recommendations to protect the public interest by establishing oversight and accountability mechanisms related to digital platforms and personalized learning programs.

Find Big Claims, Little Evidence, Lots of Money: The Reality Behind the Summit Learning Program and the Push to Adopt Digital Personalized Learning Platforms, by Faith Boninger, Alex Molnar and Christopher M. Saldaña, at:
https://www.greatlakescenter.org/

This research brief was made possible in part by the support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice (https://greatlakescenter.org).

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. 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: http://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 http://www.gre

June 19, 2020

Inside Look: Education in the Time of COVID-19: Alternative School Schedules

This is an interesting item from the folks at the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice.

Inside Look

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

June 18, 2020READ IN BROWSER
Hello, Great Lakes Center subscriber:

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools have many decisions to make on when and how to reopen.

In this issue, we address alternative scheduling ideas that are supported by research.

Dr. Gretchen Dziadosz
Executive Director
Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice

THE ISSUE

How should America’s schools reopen? Here’s what research tells us about alternatives to traditional school scheduling.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

Schools will reopen. We need to use research to guide best practices to assure that schools are safe. The CDC has issued guidance on safety protocols for reopening. This will often require increased costs in sanitation and social distancing in almost every aspect of a K-12 school.

However, many state legislatures are threatening to seriously reduce school funding due to the economic problems caused by the pandemic, just when school funding should be increased to accommodate safer environments, student learning loss and student trauma. If there is no increased federal financial assistance to schools, American students everywhere are like to suffer further learning losses, and their parents may need to continue to scramble to meet childcare and educational needs.

However, this may also be an opportunity to rethink school schedules.

WHAT WE KNOW

What does research tell us about the school year?

Research suggests that year-round schools (also known as balanced school year), in which the 180-day school year is re-balanced to reduce student summer learning loss, can be somewhat effective in reducing summer learning loss. Typically such schools use a 45-10 schedule, meaning there are three blocks of 45 days of instruction, with a 10-day break in between. The summer break is reduced from ten weeks to six.  Critical to community acceptance is to make child care, tutoring or supplemental activities available during the break periods. Air-conditioning must be addressed in many schools whether they are moving to a balanced year or not.

Simply providing a longer school year (while doing more of the same) does not reliably improve student achievement. However, well-designed community schools, some with longer school years, show evidence-based promise.

What does research tell us about the school week?

Post-COVID-19 realities might require alternating days, or half days for students to provide social distancing when schools reopen. Schools may need to provide more virtual instruction during the times when students are not physically present. For a number of years cash-strapped rural schools have gone to four days per week to save on busing and other costs. Research on the impact on student learning with a four-day school week  is mixed. In other countries, some schools employed the strategy of returning students to schools one day a week (dividing the student population so that only 20-25% attended on a given day) while continuing virtual instruction.

Block scheduling, in which a student has longer length blocks of a class, but will have the class on fewer days of the week has proven to be a popular option for some schools; there is mixed evidence of the impact on student achievement.

What does research tell us about the school day?

Research tells us that, with the very notable exception of high school students, most students will test higher, and do better in more complex subjects, earlier in the morning. On the other hand, high school students benefit from a later school day start. A few states have begun to recognize this in law, insisting that high schools begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m. However, many of our nation’s schools still cling to the model of high schools beginning first each day, and the lower grades starting later in the morning.

It is well documented that American teachers spend more daily time in front of students than educators in countries with higher student success rates. While students in those countries often have longer instructional days than is typical in America, teachers often spend less time instructing students, spending more time in preparation, collaboration and professional development while students receive more breaks and supplemental services with other adults.

The comparative lack of time for an American educator to plan, prepare, collaborate with other teachers, has long been recognized as a significant barrier to improving American student achievement. The teacher is the most important factor in student learning, yet high quality professional development for teachers is often given a back burner.  Can the Community Schools model provide teachers the time they need to plan and prepare?

HELPFUL RESOURCES

  1. Johns Hopkins and Chiefs for Change recently issued The Return: How Should Education leaders Prepare for Entry and Beyond?
  2. Education Week detailed the problems of school busing in a reopening environment.
  3. The Center for American Progress issued an interesting report on Reimagining the School Day.
  4. Popular author Daniel Pink has weighed in on the issue of the school day.
  5. The Education Commission of the States has issued a comprehensive report of current state instructional time policies.

SOCIAL SHARES

Want to share this Think Twice Review with your social networks? We drafted some sample social media posts for your use.
As schools reopen during COVID-19, it’s possible to improve on school scheduling that enhances student learning. URL As schools reopen during COVID-19, it’s possible to improve on school scheduling that enhances student learning. URL
Even during COVID-19, there are threats to reduce funding for schools at a time when they need it most. If federal assistance to schools is not increased, students will suffer learning losses. Adjusting school schedules could be an option to help combat those losses. URL Even during COVID-19, there are threats to reduce funding for schools at a time when they need it most. If federal assistance to schools is not increased, students will suffer learning losses. Adjusting school schedules could be an option to help combat those losses. URL
As schools reopen, distance learning presents the opportunity to re-examine school schedule to make it more beneficial to students. Read more about the research here: URL As schools reopen, distance learning presents the opportunity to re-examine school schedule to make it more beneficial to students. Read more about the research here: URL
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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

June 18, 2020

Brief Finds Equal Access To CTE Programs Critical

This is an interesting item from the folks at the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice.

Inside Look

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

June 16, 2020READ IN BROWSER
Dear Great Lakes Center subscriber:We’re excited to introduce a new policy brief published by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) that explores the future of Career and Technical Education.

CTE programs are increasingly popular nationwide, but concerns remain about the availability of resources for different career paths, and the degree to which educators are thoughtfully leading students toward related courses.

The new NEPC brief examines the tension that often arises between the provision of equitable educational opportunities and Career and Technical Education. The brief explores how schools can help students identify career paths in the skilled trades without sorting students by ethnic, racial or socioeconomic characteristics. Read on for a summary of the brief.

Dr. Gretchen Dziadosz
Executive Director
Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice

SUMMARY

Emily Hodge of Montclair State University, Shaun Dougherty of Vanderbilt University and Dr. Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, published Tracking and the Future of Career and Technical Education: How Efforts to Connect School and Work Can Avoid the Past Mistakes of Vocational Education.

The brief examines challenges that result from efforts to link learning to post-high school work while avoiding low academic expectations for students who are unlikely to attend college.

It summarizes the history of what was once known as vocational education and its relation to career tracking. Vocational education has a long history in the American school system and has been at the center of some of the most contentious debates about the purpose of public education. Its history is intertwined with race, class and gender.

The brief describes how vocational education evolved into Career and Technical Education in ways that reflected a larger shift in the world economy, including the increased role of information technology, growth in demand for highly differentiated health services, and the expansion of new forms of manufacturing. Biotechnology and green energy also continue to expand the scope of CTE programs.

While diversification can potentially benefit CTE, it may also crowd out students – especially those from lower-income communities. The potential exists for a status hierarchy in CTE-related careers.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The authors offer recommendations for providing CTE resources in ways that support equitable educational opportunities for interested students. They believe the best-case scenario is a whole-school model in which schools provide a variety of CTE offerings. They recommend:

  • In whole-school models of CTE, school and district leaders should monitor enrollment at the school and program levels by student subgroups to ensure equitable access.
  • In comprehensive high schools, administrators should build a schedule that allows for participation in CTE electives without steering students toward certain career paths.
  • Students should have access to a broad variety of skilled trades coursework.
  • School district leaders and state policymakers must ensure equitable distribution of resources for students to avoid steering specific groups of students into certain careers.
  • To avoid mistakes of the past, researchers should carefully monitor the racial, ethnic and socioeconomic patterns of Career and Technical Education programs.
Read the review →

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

As the popularity of CTE grows, so does the need to ensure it avoids the stratification of the past. In President Donald Trump’s January State of the Union address, he asked Congress to support his “plan to offer vocational and technical education in every single high school in America.” This bipartisan support for CTE is also seen in state houses and school districts throughout the United States. Concerns remain about the availability of resources for related career paths and how educators are sorting students into these programs.

SOCIAL SHARES

Want to share this Think Twice Review with your social networks? We drafted some sample social media posts for your use.
A new @NEPCtweet brief finds as the popularity of #CTE grows, so does the need to ensure it avoids the inequities of the past. URL A new @NEPCtweet brief finds as the popularity of #CTE grows, so does the need to ensure it avoids the inequities of the past. URL
Career and Technical Education is growing in popularity. How can we make sure it provides equitable opportunities for all students? URL Career and Technical Education is growing in popularity. How can we make sure it provides equitable opportunities for all students? URL
As #CTE becomes more popular nationwide, we must ensure resources are available to all students. URL As #CTE becomes more popular nationwide, we must ensure resources are available to all students. URL
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

June 17, 2020

Brief Finds Equal Access To CTE Programs Critical

This is an interesting item from the folks at the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice.

Inside Look

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

June 16, 2020READ IN BROWSER
Dear Great Lakes Center subscriber:We’re excited to introduce a new policy brief published by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) that explores the future of Career and Technical Education.

CTE programs are increasingly popular nationwide, but concerns remain about the availability of resources for different career paths, and the degree to which educators are thoughtfully leading students toward related courses.

The new NEPC brief examines the tension that often arises between the provision of equitable educational opportunities and Career and Technical Education. The brief explores how schools can help students identify career paths in the skilled trades without sorting students by ethnic, racial or socioeconomic characteristics. Read on for a summary of the brief.

Dr. Gretchen Dziadosz
Executive Director
Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice

SUMMARY

Emily Hodge of Montclair State University, Shaun Dougherty of Vanderbilt University and Dr. Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, published Tracking and the Future of Career and Technical Education: How Efforts to Connect School and Work Can Avoid the Past Mistakes of Vocational Education.

The brief examines challenges that result from efforts to link learning to post-high school work while avoiding low academic expectations for students who are unlikely to attend college.

It summarizes the history of what was once known as vocational education and its relation to career tracking. Vocational education has a long history in the American school system and has been at the center of some of the most contentious debates about the purpose of public education. Its history is intertwined with race, class and gender.

The brief describes how vocational education evolved into Career and Technical Education in ways that reflected a larger shift in the world economy, including the increased role of information technology, growth in demand for highly differentiated health services, and the expansion of new forms of manufacturing. Biotechnology and green energy also continue to expand the scope of CTE programs.

While diversification can potentially benefit CTE, it may also crowd out students – especially those from lower-income communities. The potential exists for a status hierarchy in CTE-related careers.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The authors offer recommendations for providing CTE resources in ways that support equitable educational opportunities for interested students. They believe the best-case scenario is a whole-school model in which schools provide a variety of CTE offerings. They recommend:

  • In whole-school models of CTE, school and district leaders should monitor enrollment at the school and program levels by student subgroups to ensure equitable access.
  • In comprehensive high schools, administrators should build a schedule that allows for participation in CTE electives without steering students toward certain career paths.
  • Students should have access to a broad variety of skilled trades coursework.
  • School district leaders and state policymakers must ensure equitable distribution of resources for students to avoid steering specific groups of students into certain careers.
  • To avoid mistakes of the past, researchers should carefully monitor the racial, ethnic and socioeconomic patterns of Career and Technical Education programs.
Read the review →

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

As the popularity of CTE grows, so does the need to ensure it avoids the stratification of the past. In President Donald Trump’s January State of the Union address, he asked Congress to support his “plan to offer vocational and technical education in every single high school in America.” This bipartisan support for CTE is also seen in state houses and school districts throughout the United States. Concerns remain about the availability of resources for related career paths and how educators are sorting students into these programs.

SOCIAL SHARES

Want to share this Think Twice Review with your social networks? We drafted some sample social media posts for your use.
A new @NEPCtweet brief finds as the popularity of #CTE grows, so does the need to ensure it avoids the inequities of the past. URL A new @NEPCtweet brief finds as the popularity of #CTE grows, so does the need to ensure it avoids the inequities of the past. URL
Career and Technical Education is growing in popularity. How can we make sure it provides equitable opportunities for all students? URL Career and Technical Education is growing in popularity. How can we make sure it provides equitable opportunities for all students? URL
As #CTE becomes more popular nationwide, we must ensure resources are available to all students. URL As #CTE becomes more popular nationwide, we must ensure resources are available to all students. URL
Follow Us
Facebook
Twitter
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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