Virtual School Meanderings

June 1, 2022

TechTrends – ToC Alert

No K-12 distance, online, and/or blended learning items in this issue, but some interesting pieces all the same.

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May 18, 2022

Presentation: Online or Remote Learning and Mental Health

A few days ago my colleagues and I presented this session at the OTESSA annual conference.

Moore, S., Barbour, M. K., & Veletsianos, G. (2022, May). Online or remote learning and mental health [Paper]. Open/Technology in Education, Society, and Scholarship Association Annual Conference.

Abstract: While there has been a great deal of debate over the impact of online and remote learning on mental health and well-being, there has been no systematic syntheses or reviews of the research on this particular issue. In this session, we will present a review of research on mental health / well-being and online or remote learning. Our preliminary analyses suggest that little scholarship existed prior to 2020 and that most of these studies have been conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. We report three findings: (a) it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to control for pandemic effects in the data, (b) studies present a very mixed picture, with variability around how mental health and well-being are measured and how / whether any causal inferences are made in relation to online and remote learning, and (c) results across these studies are extremely mixed. Based on this study, we suggest that researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and administrators exercise extreme caution around making generalizable assertions with respect to the impacts of online/remote learning and mental health.

The slides are embedded below.

April 28, 2022

Article – After the Gold Rush: Questioning the “Gold Standard” and Reappraising the Status of Experiment and Randomized Controlled Trials in Education

Filed under: virtual school — Michael K. Barbour @ 8:34 am
Tags: , , , , ,

We often hear about this notion of randomized controlled trials and other bench science-based research models as being the gold standard for education research.  In fact, in order for the federal Government to promote things or to be able to add things to the What Works Clearinghouse it need to be able to meet one of these “standards.”  And readers of this space will know that I have been critical of this “gold standard.”

Recently I came across this article that I thought was useful to pass along to readers.

After the Gold Rush: Questioning the “Gold Standard” and Reappraising the Status of Experiment and Randomized Controlled Trials in Education 

Harvard Educational Review (2016) 86 (3): 390–411.

The past few years have seen a resurgence of faith in experimentation in education inquiry, and particularly in randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Proponents of such research have succeeded in bringing into common parlance the term gold standard, which suggests that research emerging from any other design frame fails to achieve the rigor or significance of RCT-based research in answering causal questions and cannot reliably tell us “what works.” In this article, Gary Thomas questions the reasoning behind this conclusion, resting his argument on the theory and practice of experimentation in education and on the limitations of RCTs in particular. He suggests that the arguments about the power of particular kinds of experiment reside in inappropriate ideas about generalization and induction and, indeed, what a scientific experiment needs to look like. Drawing from examples of systematic inquiry in education and other fields, Thomas argues for a restoration of respect for the heterogeneity of education inquiry.

Unfortunately the article is paywalled, but crafty folks might use a service like Sci-Hub to access this (if you don’t have an institutional library to lean on).  But I did want to share some of the quotes – including the first two paragraphs of the article that I think are particularly instructive.

Thirty-five years ago, statistician Gene Glass said, after his major government sponsored assessment of experimental evaluations of compensatory education projects, that “the deficiencies of quantitative, experimental evaluation approaches are so thorough and irreparable as to disqualify their use.” He went on to recommend that the “NIE [National Institute of Education] should conduct evaluation emphasizing an ethnographic, principally descriptive case study approach” (Glass & Camilli, 1981, p. 1). Nearly thirty years later, distinguished evaluator Michael Scriven (2008) said something similar: “The RCT design . . . has essentially zero practical application to the field of human affairs” (p. 12).

But today it’s as though Glass and Scriven had never spoken. Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, educators have encountered an obsession—I use the word advisedly—among policy makers and many education researchers with the idea that education research, to be more useful, needs certain special forms of evidence and inquiry. The widely used term gold standard of evidence has cemented in place in discourse about education the idea that these special forms of inquiry are better than all the others. Law has even been enacted that demands certain kinds of evidence-based practice based on these forms of inquiry. In this essay, I look in more detail at what gold standard inquiry might mean and contend that, by elevating the status of a particular form of inquiry, we frame questions and answers about education in such a way that research is constrained and stunted. I argue for a reappraisal of some of the precepts of education research and a restoration of confidence in many and varied forms of inquiry. (pp. 390-391)

So for the last 40 years we have known that randomized-controlled trials are flawed in the educational context – from some of the biggest educational research methodologists in the field – but yet for the last twenty years or more this is the research methodology that we have preferenced.

Another quote that I thought was interesting…

Why has “experiment” come to have such a specialized, narrow, strictly applied meaning in education (and the social sciences generally)? In the natural sciences (chemistry and physics, for example), “to experiment” means to test an idea under controlled conditions to prove or falsify a conjecture or a hypothesis, and an experiment can take myriad shapes and forms. Robert Hooke in 1676 had a hunch about elasticity in springs, and he tested this idea systematically under controlled conditions, stretching the springs with weights to record the consequences. He was able to emerge from his experiments with a law which states that the extension of a spring is in direct proportion to the load added to it. His method, simple as it was, was unequivocally experimental. (p. 395)

As an example…  Jered Borup is a colleague who developed the Academic Community of Engagement framework based on testing an idea.  To quote some things from Jered’s website:

In the first two articles (Borup, Graham, & Davies, 2013a, b), my co-authors and I used student and parent surveys to measure learning interactions and correlated them with learning outcomes.

Although innovative, the findings were limited because we did not fully examine the intended purposes of those interactions. Unfortunately, the existing online learning frameworks had been developed in higher education and they did not account for the unique characteristics of adolescent learners. As a result, we developed the Adolescent Community of Engagement (ACE) framework to better describe how parents, teachers, and peers can influence K-12 online student engagement (Borup, West, Graham, & Davies, 2014).

The ACE framework has helped guide nearly all of my subsequent research examining K-12 online learning. More specifically, my co-authors and I have conducted a series of case studies examining perceptions and experiences of various stakeholders (e.g., students, parents, teachers, facilitators) in various models of online learning such as a full-time cyber high school, a large independent study program, and a state-run supplemental online program where students were assigned an on-site facilitator.

Following my dissertation, my co-authors and I conducted three rounds of data collection and analysis at the cyber charter school, each having similar but different purposes. First, we surveyed all of the teachers and conducted 22 one-hour-long interviews with 11 teachers to better understand their perceptions regarding the responsibilities and efforts of teachers, parents, and peers to fully engage students in learning activities (Borup, 2016a, b; Borup, Graham, & Drysdale, 2014; Borup & Stevens, 2014). Second, as part of Dr. Jeffery Drysdale’s dissertation we conducted five 75-minute focus groups with nearly all of the cyber school’s teachers, with follow-up interviews with 10 students and five teachers to better understand the school’s online facilitating program (Drysdale, Graham, & Borup, 2014; 2016). Lastly, we conducted additional interviews with the same 10 students and 19 interviews with nine of their parents. These interviews were similar to our teacher interviews and focused on participants’ perceptions and experiences of support provided to students by the online teacher, peers, and parents (Borup, Stevens, & Hasler Waters, 2015; Borup & Stevens, 2016, 2017). Three of the interviewed parents faced especially challenging situations, and we conducted narrative analyses using their interviews to better understand and share their experiences (Borup, Call Cummings, & Walters, accepted).

My co-authors and I have since shifted our focus to other models of online learning. For instance, as part of Dr. Darin Oviatt’s dissertation research we published two articles examining student support systems—both program-provided and student-curated—at a large independent study program. The first article focused on student perspectives at the start of the semester obtained from survey responses from over 1,000 students (Oviatt, Graham, Borup, & Davies, 2016). The second article reported on our analysis of a similar number of student survey responses and nine student-parent interviews collected at the end of the semester (Oviatt, Graham, Borup, & Davies, 2018). We have most recently been conducting and analyzing online teacher and on-site facilitator interviews and student focus groups to better understand the support that teachers, on-site facilitators, and parents provide students enrolled in a supplemental online program. The findings have highlighted the importance of online students working with an engaged facilitator. This research has resulted in four MVLRI reports, three published or accepted journal articles (Borup, Chambers, & Stimson, accepted; Borup & Stimson, accepted; Freidhoff, Borup, Stimson, & DeBruler, 2015), and an article under review.

Now this discussion is dated, but Jered hypothesized that the role of the parent was important in the full-time K-12 online learning environment.  He began his “experiment” by conducting a couple of case studies with a specific cyber charter school.  Based on that initial experiment, he developed a model and then conducted additional case studies to test that model to see if worked in other full-time K-12 online learning environments, and expanded that exploration to other K-12 online learning environments.  Based upon those additional “experiments,” he refined his original model.  Isn’t that basically the scientific method?

I mean didn’t we all learn this model in middle school?

Essentially, Jered’s initial interest was based on his personal experiences observing the phenomenon.  He conducted some case studies to identify what the important variables were and developed a model.  He conducted a bunch of other case studies to test and refined the model.  Based on the scientific method, the next step for Jered and his colleagues would be to develop a reliable and valid instrument to test that model.

How is this not the gold standard of scientific explanation?  Yet, because it isn’t based on randomized controlled trials, none of this work will ever be added to the What Works Clearinghouse.

The article’s conclusion is also quite instructive.

Cause, a complex idea, is legitimately sought and illuminated via a variety of complementary means, including experimentation. The danger of subscribing to a view of inquiry in which types of research are hierarchized, with gold standard inquiry at the top, is that it suggests that these kinds of research approaches are superior to all others in establishing cause, thereby edging out other ways of seeking and understanding complex, causal interrelationships. This view also offers a simplistic notion of cause-effect—“what works”—which perpetuates a model of inquiry being conducted in order that messages can be disseminated, top-down, to practitioners. Such a view disengages inquiry from the practice of the teacher, and it evades questions about how practitioners develop competence, skill, and fluency given the idiosyncrasies of their own situations. The idea of excellent practice moves from one that is personally cultivated by practitioners to one that is bestowed on practitioners by others.

Eclecticism and complementarity are surely central to the way that scientific inquiry works: inquiry cannot be formula driven. In every field, scientific inquiry seeks to answer questions and to solve puzzles. That is its purpose. It looks for explanations—clarification, illumination, enlightenment—about how and why things happen as they do. We link evidence, make connections, test hypotheses, recognize themes, cultivate ideas, and build models of the way the world works. We synthesize all of this using a mix of research methods. As Shaffer (2011) urges, “Rather than eulogizing one particular method, energies could more fruitfully be directed toward selecting the ‘optimal mix’ of research methods which address the key research questions in hand” (p. 1632).

Or, as Maslow (1966) put it, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail” (pp. 15–16). We should be wary of being enticed by the notion that there exist particular methodological amulets—gold standard methods. For if these come to dominate the research enterprise, we may end up in a world where research tells us only about certain kinds of issues, and our understanding may be correspondingly restricted and distorted. (pp. 406-407)

It is also worth mentioning that this “gold standard” also isn’t quite as rigorous as what many would have us believe.  While the placebo effect is well documented, typically speaking if you are experiencing a change in condition in a medical study, chances are you are taking the treatment and not the placebo.  Drugs come with side effects and have tastes and scents.  While it is a dramatic production, this is a good illustration of the reality of medical research.

So let’s try to be realistic about the research process, and stop believing that one type of methodology or another is a measure of better research or that it can automatically tell us more about what works.

April 26, 2022

AERA 2022 – Preferences, Engagement, and Achievement During Crisis Schooling in the COVID-19 Era (Poster 15)

The final of the K-12 Online Learning sessions from the 2022 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association that I am blogging is:

Preferences, Engagement, and Achievement During Crisis Schooling in the COVID-19 Era (Poster 15)

  • In Event: AERA Virtual Poster Session 9
    In Poster Session: Integrating Technology in Education

Tue, April 26, 4:15 to 5:45pm PDT (4:15 to 5:45pm PDT), SIG Virtual Rooms, SIG-Studying and Self-Regulated Learning Virtual Poster Session Room


The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a near universal shift to virtual crisis-schooling that both laid bare and magnified existing structural inequities. We leveraged administrative, survey, and virtual learning data to examine patterns in familial preferences for virtual learning. We subsequently examined patterns in student attendance, hours logged virtually, and test scores by the proportion of days students attended school virtually using covariate-rich OLS and instrumental variable approaches to elucidate patterns. Some positive associations appeared primarily driven by higher rates of attendance among students attending more days virtually with students identified as Black and qualifying for FRPL experiencing the largest positive associations. Insights from this study can be used to better target and refine virtual learning in a post-COVID-19 society.


  • Jennifer Suzanne Darling-Aduana, Georgia State University
  • Henry Woodward
  • Sarah Sterling Barry, Georgia State University
  • Tim Sass, Georgia State University

Which was part of this larger session:

Integrating Technology in Education

  • In Event: AERA Virtual Poster Session 9

Tue, April 26, 4:15 to 5:45pm PDT (4:15 to 5:45pm PDT), SIG Virtual Rooms, SIG-Studying and Self-Regulated Learning Virtual Poster Session RoomSession Type: Poster Session

Sub Unit

  • Division C – Learning and Instruction / Division C – Section 3b: Technology-Based Environments


  • 14. Detection of Student Confusion in MOOCs: Feature Extraction Methods for EEG Signal Processing (Poster 14) – Dany Aina, University of Utah; Eric G. Poitras, Dalhousie University; Monika Lohani, University of Utah
  • 15. Preferences, Engagement, and Achievement During Crisis Schooling in the COVID-19 Era (Poster 15) – Jennifer Suzanne Darling-Aduana, Georgia State University; Henry WoodwardSarah Sterling Barry, Georgia State University; Tim Sass, Georgia State University
  • 16. Probabilistic Skill Acquisition Model for Adaptive Task Sequencing in MITutor (Poster 16) – Kent EllsworthEric G. Poitras, Dalhousie University; Zac Imel, The University of Utah; Robert Zheng, University of Utah; Derek CapertonGrin LordJake Van Epps, The University of Utah; Michael Tanana, The University of Utah; David Atkins, University of Washington

As folks who have been following along know, I’m back home now.  However, the presenters did upload a copy to the iPresentation system, so I have taken screens shots of it below.

April 25, 2022

AERA 2022 – The Promise and Limitations of Parent Pandemic Innovation for K–12 Policy and Practice

There was another K-12 Online Learning session from the 2022 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association that I didn’t see – as I’ve returned back home and this session was in person only – but I did want to reference.  The full session was described as:

The Promise and Limitations of Parent Pandemic Innovation for K–12 Policy and Practice

Mon, April 25, 11:30am to 1:00pm PDT (11:30am to 1:00pm PDT), Manchester Grand Hyatt, Floor: 3rd Level, Seaport Tower, Cortez Hill ABSession Type: Symposium


This panel considers how parents stepped in as educational leaders and shaped their children’s education during the COVID-19 school closures. Throughout the pandemic, many parents and community organizations initiated unique education innovations. However, little research has interrogated what these COVID-19 innovations might mean for K-12 education leadership, policy, and practice going forward. We bring together prominent and emerging scholars who examine parent pandemic solutions across a variety of contexts. Authors draw on varied methodologies and theoretical approaches to investigate these issues. Together, these papers showcase the challenges and opportunities in parent pandemic innovations.

Sub Unit

  • Division A – Administration / Division A – Section 4: School Contexts and Communities


  • Julie A. Marsh, University of Southern California


  • A Year Like No Other: Parents’ Pandemic Educational Experiences and Priorities – Tong Tong, University of Southern California; Julie A. Marsh, University of Southern California
  • Reimagining Education: Learning From Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Mothers’ Experiences and Engagement During the Pandemic – Linn E. Posey-Maddox, University of Wisconsin – Madison; Erica Owyang Turner, University of Wisconsin – Madison; Amy Hilgendorf, Wisconsin Department of Children and Families
  • Inequality in Pandemic Times: The Potential and Pitfalls of Learning Pods – DeMarcus A Jenkins, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Fever Dreams: Black Parents Creating Radical Education Imaginaries During COVID-19 – Eupha Jeanne Daramola, University of Southern California


  • Ann M. Ishimaru, University of Washington
  • Huriya Jabbar, The University of Texas at Austin

As you can see from the paper titles, potentially a lot of relevant content for readers of this space.  The actual individual paper descriptions were:

1. A Year Like No Other: Parents’ Pandemic Educational Experiences and Priorities

  • In Event: The Promise and Limitations of Parent Pandemic Innovation for K–12 Policy and Practice

Mon, April 25, 11:30am to 1:00pm PDT (11:30am to 1:00pm PDT), Manchester Grand Hyatt, Floor: 3rd Level, Seaport Tower, Cortez Hill AB


The landscape of public education has changed dramatically since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The disproportionate impact of the pandemic on low-income communities of color along with growing national awareness around racial injustice have heightened concerns about inequity and spurred well-publicized and politicized debates around how schools should respond. Yet parents’ perspectives are often missing from these debates. Drawing from parent surveys and interviews in five states, this paper examines 1) how parents experienced school responses to the pandemic and heightened attention to racial injustice, and 2) how the crisis shaped parents’ priorities moving forward.

Conceptual Framework & Literature
This study is informed by organizational theory and research. Punctuated equilibrium theory (Jones & Baumgartner, 2005; 2012; Tushman & Romanelli, 1985) suggests that crises can trigger organizational change and innovation, and new roles for stakeholders (e.g., parents). One such innovation we explore in depth is the creation of learning “pods” or “hubs” in which groups of students learn together with the help of an in-person adult. Additionally, organizational resilience and learning literature (Duchek, 2019; Weick, 1988) indicates that organizational context likely shapes crisis response and parent experiences (e.g., regulatory arrangements of private schools might position them well for nimble crisis response). We explore these contexts in our comparative analyses of survey and interview data.

The study employs an embedded mixed-methods design (Creswell, 2012) to understand how parents experienced schooling in 2020-21 and what they prioritize for the future. We administered an online opt-in survey to 3,654 parents/guardians of school-aged children in Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, and Oregon. For the majority of our analysis, we relied on summary statistics to provide a descriptive picture of parent educational experiences in and across the states. We then interviewed a purposive sub-sample of parents in the five main urban areas in each state (n=52), probing on issues that emerged from our survey analyses. Parent interviewees come from a range of economic and racial/ethnic backgrounds, school sectors, childrens’ schooling levels, and partisan affiliation. All interviews were transcribed and analyzed with guidance from the conceptual framework.

Overall, we find significant variation in parents’ experiences during the pandemic (e.g., the take up of pods), by state policy context, by race and class, and by school sector. However, our findings also point to commonalities across contexts and families, namely that a majority of parents are more concerned about addressing social-emotional needs over academics in light of COVID; most prefer schools spend resources on mental health supports versus extending the school year or week in terms of recovery efforts from COVID; almost half are considering remote options for the coming year, and a majority want to see more emphasis on race, equity, and diversity in the school curriculum. Interviews further reveal complex tradeoffs parents faced in the broadened choice environment.

Scholarly Significance
Our study results provide insights into how the global pandemic shaped parents’ values and priorities, as well as their conceptualizations of “school choice.” The paper concludes with implications for policymakers and district leaders.


  • Tong Tong, University of Southern California
  • Julie A. Marsh, University of Southern California

2. Reimagining Education: Learning From Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Mothers’ Experiences and Engagement During the Pandemic

  • In Event: The Promise and Limitations of Parent Pandemic Innovation for K–12 Policy and Practice

Mon, April 25, 11:30am to 1:00pm PDT (11:30am to 1:00pm PDT), Manchester Grand Hyatt, Floor: 3rd Level, Seaport Tower, Cortez Hill AB


This paper examines the myriad ways BIPOC mothers sought to support their children’s education during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic exacerbated racial and economic inequities faced by BIPOC families (Moen, Pedke, & Flood, 2020; Pirtle, 2020), and working mothers experienced high levels of stress when juggling employment, health, remote schooling, and caregiving (Calarco et al., 2020). Little is known about the ways BIPOC mothers supported their children’s education and well-being within these broader contexts and the implications of their efforts in regards to racial justice. Based upon interviews with BIPOC mothers in a midwestern city challenged with vast racial disparities in education, health, and employment, this paper highlights mothers’ educational experiences and engagement during the pandemic and the implications for racial justice in education.

The research takes an ecological approach that treats parent engagement as a dynamic process influenced by relationships, resources, and broader social contexts (Calabrese Barton, Drake, Perez, St. Louis, & George, 2004). Our analysis attends to how intersecting oppressions (Collins, 1999) shape mothers’ experiences and engagement and how the intertwining systems of racism, capitalism and patriarchy shape education (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995). Our project is also guided by an understanding that BIPOC families often support children’s education in ways that go unrecognized or are devalued by schools (Baquedano-López et al, 2013) and that a more culturally relevant “reset” in education necessitates parents’ engagement (Ladson-Billings, 2020).

The data is based upon a larger qualitative study of educational supports for BIPOC families provided during the 2020-2021 school year that includes semi-structured interviews with parents/caregivers as well as interviews with community-based educators or service providers. This paper draws on interviews with BIPOC mothers whose children are enrolled in the local school district. Interviews focused on mothers’ experiences and engagement during the pandemic and any supports they provided or received from individuals, groups, schools, and community-based organizations in the city.

Preliminary data analysis suggests the pandemic created new stressors for mothers as well as unique opportunities to engage in their children’s education in ways not afforded during in-person, school-based learning. Mothers described the loss or limits of caregiving supports and the stress of remote learning and juggling multiple roles throughout the day. Yet many mothers also shared how remote learning provided new opportunities to engage with their children in “hands-on” and culturally relevant ways. While all mothers supported their children’s education, low-income and working-class mothers relied primarily on remote schooling and resources offered by teachers and/or community-based organizations. More economically advantaged parents were able to create multiple learning opportunities that made up for the shortcomings they perceived in the schools before and/or during the pandemic, often in ways that provided a more racially just education for their children and others in their networks. The findings highlight the promise and possibilities of out-of-school learning opportunities created by and for BIPOC families, while also suggesting private efforts alone are not a panacea for racial justice.


  • Linn E. Posey-Maddox, University of Wisconsin – Madison
  • Erica Owyang Turner, University of Wisconsin – Madison
  • Amy Hilgendorf, Wisconsin Department of Children and Families

3. Inequality in Pandemic Times: The Potential and Pitfalls of Learning Pods

  • In Event: The Promise and Limitations of Parent Pandemic Innovation for K–12 Policy and Practice

Mon, April 25, 11:30am to 1:00pm PDT (11:30am to 1:00pm PDT), Manchester Grand Hyatt, Floor: 3rd Level, Seaport Tower, Cortez Hill AB


The purpose of this paper is to examine educational stakeholders’ perspectives of and experiences with learning pods in a single mid-sized urban school district. Learning pods can take a variety of forms, from parents forming a co-op to take turns supervising online learning through their school district to parents withdrawing their children from public schools and hiring tutors to teach a small group of children. As schools were forced to turn to remote learning due to the global coronavirus pandemic, many parents and community members turned to alternative learning options. Several media outlets report on the promise and potential of learning pods claiming that they offer students safe learning in smaller settings. However, this reality does not bear out for all communities. In this study, I focus on a single Black pod-community in Denver, Colorado to examine their experiences and perspectives on learning pods. I was interested in Black parents who decided to enroll their child in a learning pod as well as those parents who decided to remain with the public school. In particular, this study asks the following research questions: How do Black parents frame their reasons to support or oppose learning pods? What are the experiences of Black middle-school youth and their parents with learning pods? What are the experiences of Black middle-school youth and their parents who remained in traditional public schools?

In order to understand Black families’ experiences with learning pods, I draw on Stovall’s (2013) concept of politics of desperation. For Stovall, the politics of desperation can be understood as the complex assemblage of thoughts and actions that guide educational decisions in periods of uncertainty.

This qualitative case study draws on 20 semi-structures interviews with Black parents and middle-school youth. Each interview lasted between 45 and 80 minutes and focused on the following topics: origins of learning pod, district supports, students’ experiences, and challenges and advantages. Semi-structured interviews took place virtually via Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Microsoft Teams and were recorded and professionally transcribed. I used the constant comparative method (Glaser and Strauss, 1967; Chazman, 2014) of joint coding and analysis. Qualitative coding occurred in three stages. In stage one, I used open coding to identify segments of the data related to the following: “equity/inequality”, “academics”, “social/emotional”, “policies/practices” and “supports/resources.” I then grouped the open codes by similarities or developed axial codes (Charmaz, 2014; Corbin & Strauss, 2015). In the final coding stage, I re-analyzed the data and compared it with the extant literature and theoretical framework to test emerging categories throughout the data analysis process (Boeije, 2002).

Based on analysis of interview transcripts, there were several findings that were unearthed in this study. One finding suggests that Black middle-school parents were concerned with their child’s academics and wanted to avoid their child “falling behind” their peers. A second finding suggests that Black middle-school parents were enticed by the innovation of learning pods as an alternative to traditional public schools. This study is significant as it has the potential to contribute to a nuanced understanding of Black parents’ engagement with school choice and microschools.


  • DeMarcus A Jenkins, The Pennsylvania State University

4. Fever Dreams: Black Parents Creating Radical Education Imaginaries During COVID-19

  • In Event: The Promise and Limitations of Parent Pandemic Innovation for K–12 Policy and Practice

Mon, April 25, 11:30am to 1:00pm PDT (11:30am to 1:00pm PDT), Manchester Grand Hyatt, Floor: 3rd Level, Seaport Tower, Cortez Hill AB


Anti-Blackness is embedded in the justifications and designs of education policy such as school desegregation and school discipline (Dumas, 2016; Dumas & Ross, 2016). Due to anti-Black realities, there are social movements toward Black educational equity. One contribution of Black social movements is that they create radical Black imaginaries or visions of an emancipatory future (Kelley, 2002). Scholarship employing the concept of the Black imaginary is limited in the K-12 education field. The work that does exist is largely theoretical (Love, 2019; Stoval, 2017, 2018). Research has yet to use the radical Black imagination as a conceptual lens to examine policy actors or policy design. To contribute to this gap, I examine two Black parent advocacy organizations and their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. I ask: What visions of education did two Black parent advocacy organizations build during the COVID-19 pandemic? How might the organizations’ COVID-19 work shape their policy advocacy moving forward?

Theoretical framework
This study is guided by Kelley’s (2002) scholarship on the Black radical imagination. Kelley writes that the “existence of social movements enable participants to imagine something different, to realize that things need not always be this way” (p. 9). Imaginaries allow Black communities to conceptualize an existence outside of oppression. Further, Black imaginaries create a vision of the policies and practices worth fighting for (Kelley, 2002). As Kelley writes, without imaginaries Black people “don’t know what to build, only what to knock down” (p. xii). I use the concept of Black imaginers to examine programming two Black advocacy organizations built during the pandemic and how their solutions might shape policy and practice moving forward.

I conducted a cross-case study of two Black parent advocacy organizations during the 2020-2021 school year (Yin, 1994). The Oakland REACH designed a virtual school to supplement students’ pandemic learning in Oakland, California. The Black Mother’s Forum created two micro-schools for Black students in Phoenix, Arizona. Study data were collected virtually and consist of semi-structured interviews from both cases (n=41) and documents (n=12). I used multiple aspects of the constant comparative method (Boeije, 2002) and data displays (Miles & Huberman, 1994) to analyze and refine the findings.

Preliminary findings suggest that both organizations used the upheaval of COVID-19 to move away from traditional forms of advocacy (i.e., policy campaigns, attending school board meetings) to directly providing educational services to families. In these spaces, the organizations were able to design pro-Black educational programs rooted in community knowledge. Participants across both cases suggested that post-pandemic they would advocate for the replication of their model within schools and districts. Data also indicates that in both organizations there were tensions over racial inclusion, future directions, and partnerships.

This study conceptualizes how Black imaginaries forged during the COVID-19 pandemic might shape Black parent advocacy in the post-COVID-19 era. These findings offer lessons for researchers, policymakers, and practitioners seeking to address educational inequity.


  • Eupha Jeanne Daramola, University of Southern California

Based on these individual paper descriptions there appears that there is a lot of relevant content focused on how remote learning was and wasn’t supported at the home level and what we can see going forward – both in terms of the next crisis and full-time online learning in general.

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