Virtual School Meanderings

May 2, 2019

Personalized Learning: The Promise And The Reality

Another notice about that National Education Policy Center’s new report on personalized learning that all readers of this space should review.

April 30, 2019

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

Personalized Learning: The Promise and the Reality

An NEPC Policy Brief Funded By the GLC

EAST LANSING, Mich. (April 30, 2019) — Personalized learning programs are proliferating in schools across the United States, fueled by philanthropic dollars, tech industry lobbying, marketing by third-party vendors, and a policy environment that provides little guidance and few constraints.

In Personalized Learning and the Digital Privatization of Curriculum and Teaching, Faith Boninger, Alex Molnar, and Christopher M. Saldaña, of the University of Colorado Boulder, consider how we got to this point. Beginning with an examination of the history of personalized learning and the key assumptions made by its proponents, they review the research evidence and reflect on the roles and possible impacts of the digital technologies deployed by many programs.

As the authors explain, these personalized learning products will continue to be aggressively marketed, so policymakers and educators should be prepared to critically evaluate those products and that marketing. They need a clear understanding of the history and evidence if they are to craft appropriate guidelines for personalized learning initiatives.

The research brief’s specific findings are alarming. It reveals questionable educational assumptions embedded in influential programs, self-interested advocacy by the technology industry, serious threats to student privacy, and a general lack of research support for personalized learning programs. Despite the many red flags, however, the pressure persists for the adoption of personalized learning programs. States, for example, continue to embrace policies that promote implementation of digital instructional materials but that do little to provide for oversight or accountability.

Unless guided by informed policies, linking personalized learning with proprietary software and digital platforms can put important educational decisions in private hands and compromise the privacy of children and their teachers. It can also distort pedagogy in ways that stifle students’ ability to learn and grow as people and as participants in democratic civic life. By emphasizing data collection and analysis over other instructional considerations, digital personalized learning programs inevitably reflect a restricted, hyper-rational approach to curriculum and pedagogy that reduces students’ agency, narrows what they can learn in school, and limits schools’ ability to respond effectively to a diverse student body.

Given the current manifest lack of oversight and accountability, the authors recommend that schools and policymakers pause in their efforts to promote and implement personalized learning programs until rigorous review, oversight, and enforcement mechanisms are established. They also recommend that states establish an independent government entity responsible for evaluating the pedagogical approaches, assessment, and data collection embedded in digital personalized learning programs. This new entity should also be responsible for implementing and enforcing safeguards to ensure the security and privacy of student and teacher data.

Find Personalized Learning and the Digital Privatization of Curriculum and Teaching, by Faith Boninger, Alex Molnar and Christopher M. Saldaña, at:
http://greatlakescenter.org/docs/Policy_Briefs/Boninger-Molnar-Personalized-Learning.pdf

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

April 22, 2019

Multiple Shortcomings Mar Report Ranking Michigan High Schools

Another release on last week’s National Education Policy Center report review.

April 18, 2019

Contact:
William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
John T. Yun: (517) 884-7822, jyun@msu.edu

Multiple Shortcomings Mar Report Ranking Michigan High Schools

An NEPC Review funded by the Great Lakes Center

Key Takeaway: Report does a disservice by introducing questionable information not substantiated by any credible analysis.

EAST LANSING, MI (April 18, 2019) – A recent report from Mackinac Center for Public Policy seeks to measure and publicize high school performance by ranking schools according to their test scores after attempting controlling for students’ “economic status.”

Associate Professor John T. Yun of Michigan State University reviewed The Michigan Context and Performance Report Card: High Schools 2018. He concluded that while the stated goal of the report is laudable, the reality falls far short due to several shortcomings.

The report touts its decision to take free-lunch status into account as its major contribution, in comparison to past school rankings (although this type of calculation has been done previously in many contexts). Beyond this choice, however, the study lacks both justification and explanation of its methodological decisions. The validity and reliability of combining disparate tests across different years without proper equating invalidates the findings – particularly for the high-stakes applications presented in the report.

Additionally, the free-lunch percentage measures used in the study have a great deal of measurement error, which argues against this sort of ordinal ranking. And the use of a single predictor with unacceptably low correlations for this type of usage grossly oversimplifies and biases the estimates.

Given these shortcomings, the rankings presented in this report should be given no weight in any discussions of policy or practice. In fact, this report does a disservice by introducing questionable information in an easily readable form that is not substantiated by any credible analysis.

Find the review, by John T. Yun, at:
http://greatlakescenter.org/docs/Think_Twice/TT-Yun-Rankings.pdf

Find The Michigan Context and Performance Report Card: High Schools 2018written by Ben DeGrow and Ronald Klinger and published by Mackinac Center for Public Policy, at:
https://www.mackinac.org/archives/2019/s2019-01.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: http://www.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.greatlakescenter.org/

April 8, 2019

Otherwise Valuable Report About Assessment Of 21st Century Skills Neglects Discipline-Specific Considerations

A second notice of a National Education Policy Center report review from last week.

April 2, 2019

Contact:
William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Lorrie Shepard: (303) 492-2711, Lorrie.Shepard@Colorado.edu

Otherwise Valuable Report about Assessment of 21st Century Skills Neglects Discipline-Specific Considerations

Key Takeaway: Report highlights the importance of 21st century skills internationally but presumes a domain-general approach to teaching and assessment of those skills.

EAST LANSING, MI (April 2, 2019) – A report from the Brookings Institution uses international examples to make the case for the importance of “21st century skills” as goals for education systems. It focuses specifically on the development of new assessment methods as a primary means to help countries integrate these 21st century skills – such as critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and communication – into curricular reforms.

Lorrie Shepard, of the University of Colorado Boulder, reviewed Education System Alignment for 21st Century Skills: Focus on Assessment. Professor Shepard found the report very useful if the reader understands that it tells only part of the story.

The report is a review of research and a policy analysis rather than an empirical study. Its main contributions are (a) the identification of three challenges to implementing a 21st century skills agenda, and (b) the organization of key ideas and research to possibly address these challenges.

A major limitation of the report, however, is its presumption of a domain-general approach to teaching and assessment of 21st century skills. The report does not acknowledge the possibility of, nor does it consider supporting evidence for, adopting discipline-specific contexts for the development of 21st century capabilities. Yet extensive reviews of research from the cognitive and learning sciences explain the benefit of jointly developing deep understandings of content along with participatory and thinking competencies.

Although such discipline-specific curricula and learning progressions create problems for large-scale comparative assessments that cross curricular jurisdictions, policymakers need help addressing this dilemma explicitly. This is because discipline-specific approaches are better for teaching and deep learning but problematic when attempting to develop large-scale international assessments, and possibly even national assessments.

Find the review, by Lorrie Shepard, at:
http://greatlakescenter.org/docs/Think_Twice/TT-Shepard-Assessment.htm

Find Education System Alignment for 21st Century Skills: Focus on Assessmentwritten by Esther Care, Helyn Kim, Alvin Vista, & Kate Anderson, and published by The Brookings Institution, at:
https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Education-system-alignment-for-21st-century-skills-012819.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: http://www.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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April 2, 2019

What’s The College Impact Of Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program?

Another notice of that item from the National Education Policy Center that was posted late last week.

March 28, 2019

Contact:
William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Jaekyung Lee: (716) 645-1132, JL224@buffalo.edu

What’s the College Impact of Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program?

Key Takeaway: Urban Institute report raises more questions than answers about voucher policy impact due to its shortcomings.

EAST LANSING, MI (March 28, 2019) – A recent report from Urban Institute has been widely trumpeted as documenting college attainment benefits for students receiving a neovoucher through the Florida Tax Credit scholarship program. But a new review raises concerns and cautions that proper use of the study begins with an understanding of its limitations.

Jaekyung Lee, of the University at Buffalo, SUNY, reviewed The Effects of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program on College Enrollment and Graduation: An Update. Professor Lee found that the report, while making timely and relevant contribution to the research base, provides little guidance for policy and practice.

The report finds neovoucher students were 6-10 percentage points more likely to enroll in some type of college and were one to two percentage points more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree. The study uses expanded data tracking and appropriate research methods that attempt to match neovoucher students to non-neovoucher students with similar baseline characteristics. However, Professor Lee raises three critical questions about methods, findings and conclusions.

First is the problem of selection bias. The study’s attempt to match students resulted in the comparison group having two to three times more students receiving reduced-price lunch. This is on top of the problem of possible unmeasured differences, which the report’s authors briefly acknowledge. Professor Lee notes that choosers tend to be more advantaged in unmeasured aspects than nonchoosers, which tends to result in an upward bias (positive effects on achievement).

Second, the study skips over the question of whether neovoucher students have any measured achievement benefits, at a time when research has raised serious questions about whether students do less well academically when they receive vouchers. Without real achievement benefits, the estimated impact of Florida neovouchers on college enrollment may reflect college matching effects rather than true program effects on students’ college readiness.

Third, the neovoucher program’s reporting of much greater apparent effects on college enrollment than on graduation suggests that the conditional neovoucher effect on college completion (i.e., conditional on college entry) could be null or even negative. Even while many more neovoucher students are heading to college, their likelihood of doing well once they get there is much lower.

These concerns call into question the use and misuse of this study by voucher advocates. The study was used by Florida Governor DeSantis in his State of the State address to advocate for vouchers, and it was dutifully covered by The 74 and The National Review, and even as part of voucher debates in Kentucky (The Courier-Journal) and Nebraska (The Omaha World-Herald). Proper use of the study begins with an understanding of its limitations and sees the need for confirmatory research and future exploration of potential mechanisms driving any increased college attainment.

Find the review, by Jaekyung Lee, at:
http://greatlakescenter.org/docs/Think_Twice/TT-Lee-Florida-Tax-Credit.pdf

Find The Effects of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program on College Enrollment and Graduation: An Updatewritten by Matthew Chingos, Tomas Monarrez, and Daniel Kuehn, and published by Urban Institute, at:
https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/99728/the_effects_of_the_florida_tax_credit_scholarship_program_on_college_enrollment_and_graduation_2.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: http://www.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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March 14, 2019

Report Advocating For More Charter School Facilities Funding Offers Scarce Rationale For Doing So

Another press release on that new National Education Policy Center report.

March 12, 2019

Contact:
William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Mark Weber: (908) 358-5828, mark.weber@gse.rutgers.edu

Report Advocating for More Charter School Facilities Funding Offers Scarce Rationale for Doing So

Key Takeaway: Report’s flaws in comparison and reasoning hamper its usefulness in guiding Idaho charter school policy.

EAST LANSING, MI (March 12, 2019) – A recent report from Bellwether Education Partners contends that more funding should be given for charter school facilities. Focusing on a series of Idaho case studies, the report argues that charter schools are unfairly denied funding for the construction and renovation of their school buildings. These arguments, while focused on Idaho in this particular report, have been made with regard to charter school policies across the U.S.

Mark Weber of Rutgers and New Jersey Policy Perspective reviewed Fairness in Facilities: Why Idaho Public Charter Schools Need More Facilities Funding. He found several flaws that undermine its usefulness for policymakers looking to provide an adequate and equitable education.

The report makes comparisons of charter and public school facilities spending. But the examples it relies on are not “apples-to-apples” comparisons. It avoids discussing differences in student characteristics between the charter and public school district sectors, and it does not examine the issue of school governance and facilities ownership. This renders any statewide generalizations suspect, and it results in problematic recommendations.

The report bemoans the fact that charter school facilities are not part of local school districts’ bonds and tax levies, yet it does not acknowledge that charter facilities are often owned by private entities. Mandating that local taxpayers support charter facilities would, therefore, force them to pay for buildings they would not own.

Further, the report’s calculation of “costs-per-seat” ignores the reality that different students have different needs. For example, public district schools enroll proportionally more students with disabilities and English language learners, with one consequence being that they tend to have more support staff per pupil than charter schools. These additional staff require additional space to do their work, which may result in greater facilities expenses per pupil in public school districts than in charter schools.

Given these limitations, Dr. Weber concludes that the report provides little guidance for policymakers and other stakeholders at a time when Idaho is working to overhaul its school funding system.

Find the review, by Mark Weber, at: http://greatlakescenter.org/docs/Think_Twice/TT-Weber-Charter-Funding.pdf

Find Fairness in Facilities: Why Idaho Public Charter Schools Need More Facilities Fundingwritten by Kelly Robson, Juliet Squire, and Lynne Graziano, and published by Bellwether Education Partners, at:
https://bellwethereducation.org/sites/default/files/Bellwether_BFP-Idaho_CharterFacilitiesReport_Final.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: http://www.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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 Friend on Facebook

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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.greatlakescenter.org/

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