Virtual School Meanderings

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.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at

April 11, 2017

News from the NEPC: Virtual Schools Expand Despite Poor Performance, Lack of Research Support, and Inadequate Policies

This report was released today.

Policymakers should focus on improving academic performance, promoting needed research, and developing policy in critical areas before permitting more virtual schools.
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Virtual Schools Expand Despite Poor Performance, Lack of Research Support, and Inadequate Policies

Key Takeaway: Policymakers should focus on improving academic performance, promoting needed research, and developing policy in critical areas before permitting more virtual schools.


NEPC: William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058,
Virtual School Performance: Gary Miron: (269) 599-7965,
Virtual School Research Base: Michael Barbour: (203) 997-6330,
Virtual School Policy: Luis Huerta: (212) 678-4199,
Virtual School Policy: Jennifer King Rice: (301) 405-5580,

BOULDER, CO (April 11, 2017) –Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2017, a three-part report released today by the National Education Policy Center, provides a detailed inventory of full-time virtual schools in the U.S. and their performance, an exhaustive review of the literature on virtual education and its implications for virtual school practices, and a detailed review and analysis of state-level policymaking related to virtual schools.

The growth of full-time virtual schools is fueled, in part, by policies that expand school choice and that provide market incentives attractive to for-profit companies. Indeed, large virtual schools operated by for-profit education management organizations (EMOs) now dominate this sector and are increasing their market share.

Although virtual schools benefit from the common but largely unsupported assumption that the approach is cost-effective and educationally superior to brick and mortar schools, there are numerous problems associated with virtual schools. School performance measures, for both full-time entirely virtual and full-time blended virtual schools, suggest that they are not as successful as traditional public schools.

The virtual education research base is not adequate to support many current virtual school practices. More than twenty years after the first virtual schools began, there continues to be a deficit of empirical, longitudinal research to guide the practice and policy of virtual schooling.

State policymaking in several key areas – such as accountability, teacher preparation, and school governance – continues to lag.

An analysis of state policies suggests that policymakers continue to struggle to reconcile traditional funding structures, governance and accountability systems, instructional quality, and staffing demands with the unique organizational models and instructional methods associated with virtual schooling. Accountability challenges linked to virtual schools include designing and implementing governance structures capable of accounting for expenditures and practices that directly benefit students.

The report’s policy recommendations include:

  • The specification and enforcement of sanctions for virtual schools and blended schools if they fail to improve student performance.
  • The creation of long-term programs to support independent research on and evaluation of virtual schooling, particularly full-time virtual schooling.
  • The development of new funding formulas based on the actual costs of operating virtual schools.

Find Virtual Schools Report 2017, Alex Molnar, Editor, on the web at:

This research brief was made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice:

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:

Copyright © 2017 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

Note that I am one of the authors of this report.

February 21, 2017

Book Notice – Online, Blended, and Distance Education: Building Successful School Programs (Online Learning and Distance Education)

So this showed up in my mail last week.



If you are interested in this volume, I have posted some information about it below.


Clark, Tom, & Barbour, Michael. K. (Eds.). (2015). Online, Blended and Distance Education: Building Successful School Programs. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishers. 256 pp.

Book Summary

This new title in Stylus Publisher’s Online, Blended and Distance Education series begins with a Series Editor Foreword by Michael G. Moore, the top U. S. academic in the field, and a Foreword by Cathy Cavanaugh, internationally renowned online and blended researcher and Director of Teaching and Learning in Worldwide Education at Microsoft.

Internationally, an explosion of K–12 online and blended learning activity has occurred in the last few years. In conceiving this book, Co-Editors Tom Clark and Michael K. Barbour asked, what can North American educators learn from international K–12 educators, and vice versa, about building successful online and blended learning programs?  They then went about finding the people and programs who could help them answer these questions.

The book features chapters by well-known experts in the field on key program components such as teaching, curriculum, and technology, and key issues such as educational equity, the controversy over full-time online schools, and the emergence of blended learning. It also features case studies by experienced practitioners who profile a wide variety of programs in the U.S. and five other nations, looking at challenges, lessons learned and effective practices for achieving program success.

In their overview chapter, the co-editors describe the current status of K-12 online and blended learning in North America and around the world. In the final chapter of the book, they summarize what chapter authors had to say about challenges and lessons learned and key policy and practice issues. Clark and Barbour conclude by presenting eight key trends (Global, Blended, Teacher-Facilitated, Personalized, Adaptive, Mobile, Open, and Evidence-Based) that can guide effective practice in K-12 online, blended, and distance education.

About the Editors 

Tom Clark is president of TA Consulting. In this role, he has undertaken many successful evaluations for state and federal agencies, universities, school districts, museums, and for-profit and nonprofit organizations. He led the evaluation of a five-year, $9.1 million project for online professional development and K–12 online learning funded through the U.S. Department of Education. TA Consulting served as contractor for team-based evaluations in the 2000s of state virtual school programs in Illinois, Georgia, Mississippi, and Missouri, and the Chicago Public Schools Virtual High School. Dr. Clark has many related publications. He co-edited Virtual Schools: Planning for Success (2005) with Dr. Zane Berge; coauthored one of the first American books in the field, Distance Education: The Foundations of Effective Practice (1991), with Dr. Richard Verduin; and authored an early overview of K–12 online learning in the United States, Virtual Schools: Status and Trends (2001). Recognized as an author in distance and online learning in Who’s Who in America, he was an advisor for U.S. Department of Education’s Evaluating Online Learning (2008).

Michael Barbour is Director of Doctoral Studies for the Isabelle Farrington College of Education and an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at Sacred Heart University in Fairlfield, Connecticut. He completed his PhD in instructional technology from the University of Georgia. Originally from the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Dr. Barbour’s interest in K–12 distance education began after accepting his first high school teaching position in a regional high school in a rural community of approximately 3,500 people. Having been educated in an urban area, Michael was troubled by the inequity of opportunity provided to his rural students and began a program to offer Advanced Placement (i.e., university-level) social studies courses over the Internet to students at his own school and other schools in the district. For more than a decade now, Michael has worked with numerous K–12 online learning programs in Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and around the world as an online teacher, course developer, administrator, evaluator, and researcher. His current research interests focus on the effective design and delivery of online learning to K–12 students in virtual school environments, particularly those in rural areas.

Please note that as one of the editors of this book, I do receive royalties on the sale of this volume.

January 26, 2017

New from IAP – Distance Education Statewide, Institutional, and International Applications of Distance Education, 2nd Edition

This may be a useful resource for some – as in sizing up the table of contents there are A LOT of K-12 online learning programs represented.

News update from Information Age Publishing
Published 2016





Distance Education
Statewide, Institutional, and International Applications of Distance Education, 2nd EditionEdited by:
Michael Simonson, Nova Southeastern UniversityA volume in Perspectives in Instructional Technology and Distance EducationDistance Learning journal is a premiere outlet for articles featuring practical applications of distance education in states, institutions, and countries. Distance Education: Statewide, Institutional, and International Applications of Distance Education, 2nd Edition is a collection of readings from Distance Learning journal written by practitioners for practitioners.

Introduction. Part 1: State‐based and Statewide Approaches to Distance Education Florida Virtual School (DL 12‐3, pp. 17‐22) ACCESS Distance Learning (DL, 12‐3, pp. 39‐46) Northstar Academy (DL 12‐2, pp. 1‐6) South Carolina Virtual Public School (DL 12‐2, pp. 23‐32) Texas Virtual School Network (DL 12‐2, pp. 39‐44) South Carolina Virtual School (DL 11‐1, pp. 25‐32) Learning at Georgia Virtual School (DL 10‐4, pp. 15‐22) Broward Virtual School (DL 10‐1, pp. 17‐24) Georgia Schools: Virtually Here (10‐1, pp. 36‐44) Meeting the Shifting Perspective: the Iowa Communications Network (DL 5‐1, pp. 1‐12) Part 2: Institution‐based Applications of Distance Education Michigan Virtual University (DL 12‐2, pp. 45‐52) Navy College Afloat Program (DL 11‐1, pp. 21‐24) UMASSOnline (DL 10‐4, pp. 37‐44) Tribal Colleges and Universities (DL 10‐4, pp. 45‐52) Maximizing HR Professional’s Leadership Role in e’Learning (DL 10‐4, pp. 53‐62) The Global Campus: Examining the Initiative from the Perspective of Diffusion Theory (DL 7‐3, pp. 49‐54) Online Learning Opportunities for K‐12 Students in Florida’s Nassau County (DL 8‐1, pp. 1‐9) Responding to Change: Online Education at the College of Central Florida (DL 8‐3, pp. 71‐74) A Closer Look at Distance Learning in the Kansas City, Missouri School District (DL 9‐2, pp. 26‐35) Reaching Beyond the Conventional Classroom: NASA’s Digital Learning Network (DL 6‐4, pp. 1‐8) The Virtual Campus at the International Academy of Design and Technology‐Online (DL 8‐1, pp. 61‐72) US Army and US Navy Staff Officer Distance Education Programs (DL 8‐2, pp. 17‐24) Part 3: International Applications of Distance Education University of the West Indies (DL 11‐2, pp. 11‐18) Online Education in the Bahamas (DL 11‐2, pp. 41‐48) The Evolution of ODL System in Nigeria (DL 11‐1, pp. 13‐20) Delivery of an Online MBA Program for Future Business Leaders in Ukraine (DL 10‐2, pp. 25‐28) Instructional Technology and Distance Education in Nigeria (DL 10‐1, pp. 25‐30) Distance Learning in Belize: A Benefit for Youths and Adults (DL 8‐2; 11‐16) Challenges in Distance Learning for the Higher Education Sector in the Republic of Congo (DL 7‐3, pp. 31‐33) Distance Education and the Well‐Being of the Kabongo Region in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DL 3‐3, pp. 39‐50) Distance Learning and Bilingual Education CD‐ROMs in Rural Areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DL 3‐4, pp. 39‐46) Educational Leaders Perspectives: Pros and Cons of Distance Education in a Small Caribbean Island (DL 4‐3, pp. 37‐46) And Finally, Educational Colonialism (DL 11‐3, 96‐5)

Information Age Publishing | P.O. Box 79049 | Charlotte, NC 28271-7047
T: 704.752.9125 | F: 704.752.9113 | E:

November 10, 2016

Week 2 Deadline Is Sunday

Note this announcement from the KSU MOOC.

Ready to learn something new? My CoursesCourse Catalog

Your deadline is Sunday

We hope you’re enjoying Week 2 of K-12 Blended & Online Learning. We wanted to send you a quick reminder that this week’s assignment is due Sunday, November 13 at 11:59 PM PST.
You’ve still got 3 days to submit your assignment and stay on track. Good luck!
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