Virtual School Meanderings

April 20, 2015

AERA 2015 – A New Narrative on Rural Education: How One High School Takes on 21st-Century Challenges

This is the twelfth session that I am blogging from the 2015 annual meeting of the American Education Research Association.  Unfortunately, I had to leave the conference yesterday, but I did want to post an entry for this – and the other entries from today – so that others might contribute their notes from the session.  So, this presentation is a part of the following session:

75.054 – Understanding Educational Opportunity in Rural School Districts: An Examination of Community, Demography, and Policy
Mon, April 20, 2:15 to 3:45pm, Swissotel, Lucerne Level, Alpine I
Session Type: Symposium

Abstract
The purpose of this session is to examine how community, demography, and policy impact educational opportunity in rural contexts. Given that Brown v. Board of Education was a compilation of cases, including some rural, it is important to analyze progress concerning educational opportunity for students currently attending school in rural districts. Papers included in this session range in scope from broad topics such as school funding and school choice to case studies of rural districts seeking to provide equal educational opportunity to students in their respective districts. Additionally, papers presented in this symposium vary in methodology. They range from theoretical to complimentary mixed methods.

Sub Unit
SIG-Rural Education

Chair
Sheneka M. Williams, University of Georgia

Papers
School Funding and Rural Districts – Jerry Johnson, University of West Florida; Brian P. Zoellner, University of North Florida

Location, Location, Location: School Choice in the Rural Context – Ain A. Grooms, University of Georgia – Athens

A New Narrative on Rural Education: How One High School Takes on 21st-Century Challenges – Erica Lopatofsky Kryst, The Pennsylvania State University – University Park; Stephen Kotok, The Pennsylvania State University; Annelise Hagedorn

It Takes a Community: Preparing Teachers for Rural African American Early Childhood Students – Janeula M. Burt, Bowie State University; Daniel Boyd, Lowndes County Public Schools

The specific session is:

A New Narrative on Rural Education: How One High School Takes on 21st-Century Challenges

Abstract
Brockway, Pennsylvania is a small, rural community located approximately 100 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. Just 30 years ago, Brockway was home to a Fortune 500 company, Brockway Glass that provided the community with a steady flow of decent paying manufacturing jobs. Today, like much of rural America, Brockway is a community in transition with a declining population and a changing economy (Schafft, Alter, & Bridger, 2006)). Given the decline in Brockway’s economy, this study examined how high schools in rural communities such as Brockway prepare students for post-secondary options in terms of course offerings and guidance. This study draws on Carr and Kefala’s (2009) framework of “stayers”, “achievers”, “seekers” and “leavers” to analyze how the Brockway district and school officials negotiate the dual challenge of readying students for post-secondary options while also considering how they can make Brockway a desirable place for young professionals to settle. Although similar case studies have been conducted, Brockway provides a unique policy landscape given the presence of the Marcellus Shale gas industry and rural school choice via cyber charter schools – Pennsylvania leads the nation with 16 on-line charters (DeJarnatt, 2014). The research team conducted semi-structured interviews with the guidance counselor, principal, and the district superintendent. Additionally, the team analyzed various documents, economic data from the United States Census, and educational data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Findings suggest that Brockway has been successful in accessing resources, motivating students with a diverse set of interests, and retaining strong faculty. However, some issues of equity exist – mainly through a rigid tracking system in which 40% of students take non-college preparatory courses. Additionally, while Brockway might serve as a model for developing and integrating school and community resources, it should be noted that the district benefits from key local benefactors including the current President pro tempore of the State Senate and a wealthy family with business interests throughout the Northeast.

So if anyone has any notes from this presentation, please feel free to post them here.

AERA 2015 – Location, Location, Location: School Choice in the Rural Context

This is the eleventh session that I am blogging from the 2015 annual meeting of the American Education Research Association.  Unfortunately, I had to leave the conference yesterday, but I did want to post an entry for this – and the other entries from today – so that others might contribute their notes from the session.  So, this presentation is a part of the following session:

75.054 – Understanding Educational Opportunity in Rural School Districts: An Examination of Community, Demography, and Policy
Mon, April 20, 2:15 to 3:45pm, Swissotel, Lucerne Level, Alpine I
Session Type: Symposium

Abstract
The purpose of this session is to examine how community, demography, and policy impact educational opportunity in rural contexts. Given that Brown v. Board of Education was a compilation of cases, including some rural, it is important to analyze progress concerning educational opportunity for students currently attending school in rural districts. Papers included in this session range in scope from broad topics such as school funding and school choice to case studies of rural districts seeking to provide equal educational opportunity to students in their respective districts. Additionally, papers presented in this symposium vary in methodology. They range from theoretical to complimentary mixed methods.

Sub Unit
SIG-Rural Education

Chair
Sheneka M. Williams, University of Georgia

Papers
School Funding and Rural Districts – Jerry Johnson, University of West Florida; Brian P. Zoellner, University of North Florida

Location, Location, Location: School Choice in the Rural Context – Ain A. Grooms, University of Georgia – Athens

A New Narrative on Rural Education: How One High School Takes on 21st-Century Challenges – Erica Lopatofsky Kryst, The Pennsylvania State University – University Park; Stephen Kotok, The Pennsylvania State University; Annelise Hagedorn

It Takes a Community: Preparing Teachers for Rural African American Early Childhood Students – Janeula M. Burt, Bowie State University; Daniel Boyd, Lowndes County Public Schools

The specific session is:

Location, Location, Location: School Choice in the Rural Context
In Event: 75.054 – Understanding Educational Opportunity in Rural School Districts: An Examination of Community, Demography, and Policy

Mon, April 20, 2:15 to 3:45pm, Swissotel, Lucerne Level, Alpine I
Abstract
In order to understand choice in the rural context, it is crucial to first understand how rural is defined. The U.S. Census Bureau (2014) defines rural as being neither an urbanized area (50,000 people or more) nor an urbanized cluster (between 2,500 and 50,000 people). Every state has at least 50% of its geographical area classified as rural (the District of Columbia is the only area that is 100% urban) (US Census Bureau, 2014), yet there is no monolithic version of what rural looks like—rural communities in West Virginia differ from those in Alaska, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Mexico, or Utah. Further classification by the NCES (2014f) explains the variations among rural areas: rural fringe (less than or equal to 5 miles away from an urban area, or less than or equal to 2.5 miles away from an urban cluster), rural distant (between 5 and 25 miles away from an urban area, or between 2.5 and 10 miles away from an urban cluster), and rural remote (more than 25 miles away from an urban area or more than 10 miles away from an urban cluster). These distinctions assist in providing a deeper contextual understanding of rural areas and the school choice options being utilized by rural students.

School Choice in the Rural Context
The five school choice options outlined in this paper (not including traditional, assigned, public schools) are charter, private, magnet, and virtual/online schools as well as homeschooling. Continuing the trend found in urban centers across the country, there is less information and data available about non-charter choice options. Thus, the purpose of this paper is neither to discuss student achievement, education funding, curriculum, student assignment, or teacher and administrator preparation, recruitment, and training, nor is it to serve as advocacy or critique of the various school choice options available to rural families. Rather, the intent here is to outline the choice options in which rural families participate in order to, first, bring continued visibility to educational opportunities available to rural families and, second, to expand the school choice conversation with a conscious effort to avoid “placism”, or bias based on where a person lives (Jimerson, 2005). Thus, this paper provides descriptive data that details educational opportunity, in the form of choice, that is available to rural families and students.

So if anyone has any notes from this presentation, please feel free to post them here.

AERA 2015 – Blended Learning in K–12 Education: What Do We Really Have, and Where Do We Go?

This is the eighth session that I am blogging from the 2015 annual meeting of the American Education Research Association.  Unfortunately, I had to leave the conference yesterday, but I did want to post an entry for this – and the other entries from today – so that others might contribute their notes from the session.  So, this presentation is a part of the following session:

72.062 – Understanding the Digital Evolution in K–12 Education: Policy and Practice Perspectives
Mon, April 20, 10:35am to 12:05pm, Marriott, Fourth Level, Armitage
Session Type: Symposium

Abstract
Researchers will present diverse perspectives and research projects that examine how computing and digital tools are impacting education across states, districts, schools, and classrooms. Computer devices, digital content, video games, online learning, and models such as blended learning, are becoming an accepted part of the toolset in educational practice. There is a great need to understand how technology impacts all aspects of the K-12 education system including how for-profit and public institutions structure education options, district leaders make decisions regarding technology spending and implementation, and school leaders and teachers adopt local practices. The panelists will present research projects that illuminate key issues surrounding new technological developments in education, and frame agendas to inform research that can address these challenges.

Sub Unit
SIG-Technology as an Agent of Change in Teaching and Learning

Chair
Richard R. Halverson, University of Wisconsin – Madison

Papers
Equal Scrutiny: Data Use, Access, and Assessment in Digital Education Contracting – Annalee G. Good, University of Wisconsin – Madison; Patricia Burch, University of Southern California

K–12 Online Education: Tracing Developments in Policy and Adoption in Ohio – June Ahn, University of Maryland – College Park; Andrew McEachin, North Carolina State University

Drowning Digitally: How Disequilibrium Shapes Practice in a Blended Learning Charter School – Andrea J. Bingham, University of Southern California

Blended Learning in K–12 Education: What Do We Really Have, and Where Do We Go? – Peter Samuelson Wardrip, University of Pittsburgh; June Ahn, University of Maryland – College Park

Discussant
Patricia Burch, University of Southern California

The specific session is:

Blended Learning in K–12 Education: What Do We Really Have, and Where Do We Go?

Abstract
Blended learning describes learning arrangements in which students learn in part through online or software-based delivery of content, and also in part through face-to-face instructional settings such as a classroom (Staker & Horn, 2012). Through the combination of technology-based instruction and face-to-face activity, new configurations of teaching and learning can theoretically occur. While there is a great deal of policy interest in blended learning, we know little about instructional practice in a blended learning classroom. Put differently, there is a great need for empirical data and case studies of classroom practice to lend deeper understanding of the ways in which blended learning is actually linked to student achievement in K-12 classrooms.

Researchers of educational technology have long understood that technology alone does not cause student learning (Clark, 1983). Similarly, the few studies that evaluate blended models compared to face-to-face instruction in K-12 settings show varying results (e.g. Barrow, Markman, & Rouse, 2009; Campuzano, Dynarski, Agodini, & Rall, 2009; Wijekumar, Meyer, & Lei, 2012). The mere presence of blended learning software does not cause student learning. However, the use of blended learning models does structure the kinds of teaching and learning activities that can occur in a classroom setting. We present a case study of instructional practice within a blended learning, urban, elementary school and explore three exploratory research questions:

1. How do teachers in this blended learning setting enact various pedagogical models and instructional strategies that utilize the affordances of their available technological and classroom resources?

2. What new challenges to instructional practice arise and what factors are needed to mitigate such challenges?

3. What new opportunities to improve instructional practice emerge and what factors are needed to realize these opportunities?

Our case studies make several contributions to the growing interest in using blended learning to improve student learning and outcomes. First, we provide an empirical account of classroom instruction within a school-based blended learning environment, with particular attention to how the affordances of blended learning tools interact with teacher practice to result in the classroom behaviors we observed. Second, we highlight some elements of instructional practice that appear to rise as particularly unique opportunities, and challenges, in blended environments. For example, we observe that the complexity of data use rises tremendously for teachers as they strive to implement digital tools, attend to data in those tools, and make rapid decisions about how to provide students with the right sequence of learning activities, and personalize each of these sequences for every student in a classroom. As we further examine these challenges in our case study work, we aim to refine particularly salient variables for future research, which may provide more nuanced and deeper understanding of what factors (e.g. instructional and data-informed practices) may truly link blended learning arrangements with student outcomes. This work will also inform future implementations of blended learning, professional development to support blended teaching, and provide a more accurate picture of the human element of blended learning.

So if anyone has any notes from this presentation, please feel free to post them here.

AERA 2015 – Drowning Digitally: How Disequilibrium Shapes Practice in a Blended Learning Charter School

This is the tenth session that I am blogging from the 2015 annual meeting of the American Education Research Association.  Unfortunately, I had to leave the conference yesterday, but I did want to post an entry for this – and the other entries from today – so that others might contribute their notes from the session.  So, this presentation is a part of the following session:12

72.062 – Understanding the Digital Evolution in K–12 Education: Policy and Practice Perspectives
Mon, April 20, 10:35am to 12:05pm, Marriott, Fourth Level, Armitage
Session Type: Symposium

Abstract
Researchers will present diverse perspectives and research projects that examine how computing and digital tools are impacting education across states, districts, schools, and classrooms. Computer devices, digital content, video games, online learning, and models such as blended learning, are becoming an accepted part of the toolset in educational practice. There is a great need to understand how technology impacts all aspects of the K-12 education system including how for-profit and public institutions structure education options, district leaders make decisions regarding technology spending and implementation, and school leaders and teachers adopt local practices. The panelists will present research projects that illuminate key issues surrounding new technological developments in education, and frame agendas to inform research that can address these challenges.

Sub Unit
SIG-Technology as an Agent of Change in Teaching and Learning

Chair
Richard R. Halverson, University of Wisconsin – Madison

Papers
Equal Scrutiny: Data Use, Access, and Assessment in Digital Education Contracting – Annalee G. Good, University of Wisconsin – Madison; Patricia Burch, University of Southern California

K–12 Online Education: Tracing Developments in Policy and Adoption in Ohio – June Ahn, University of Maryland – College Park; Andrew McEachin, North Carolina State University

Drowning Digitally: How Disequilibrium Shapes Practice in a Blended Learning Charter School – Andrea J. Bingham, University of Southern California

Blended Learning in K–12 Education: What Do We Really Have, and Where Do We Go? – Peter Samuelson Wardrip, University of Pittsburgh; June Ahn, University of Maryland – College Park

Discussant
Patricia Burch, University of Southern California

The specific session is:

Drowning Digitally: How Disequilibrium Shapes Practice in a Blended Learning Charter School

Abstract
In recent years, there has been an increase in educational policies encouraging and supporting the development of high-tech innovative instructional practices and school models. At the forefront of this wave of educational reform is a confluence of initiatives driving the growth of personalized learning (Banister, Reinhart, & Ross, 2014; U.S. Department of Education, 2009; 2012; 2013), digital education, and educational technology in K-12 contexts (Burch & Good, 2014; Kennedy & Archambault, 2012; U.S. Department of Education, 2013; Watson, Muraw, Vashaw, Gemin, & Rapp, 2011) – each of which implies changes in school structure and design and in teachers’ instructional practices towards improved student outcomes. In this context, school models that leverage technology to deliver personalized instruction have proliferated, as has student enrollment in, and funding of such school models.

Blended learning, an educational model involving some combination of online learning and face-to-face instruction, is an increasingly common mechanism for personalizing student experiences in K-12 contexts (Staker & Horn, 2012). Because it aims to personalize students’ learning experiences, blended learning implies certain changes in teachers’ roles and practices in the classroom; teachers may work closely with a digital curriculum, provide personalized learning plans, manage individualized pacing plans, or act as a coach or tutor. Little is known, however, about how teachers manage these changes in the day-to-day contexts of their classrooms or the challenges they face in doing so. Drawing on extensive in-depth interviews, observations, and documents collected at a blended learning charter high school, this qualitative case study traces how teachers’ roles and instructional practices develop throughout the first year of the school. Specifically, this study addresses the following questions:

1. What are the expectations for teachers’ roles and instructional practices in a blended learning school with a theory of action of personalization, as described by the founder, administrators, and staff?

2. In what ways, if any, does this differ from teachers’ roles and instructional practices as executed in the classroom in the school’s inaugural year?

3.Do these roles and practices change throughout the year? If so, how do they change and what are the contextual factors influencing this change?

4. What challenges, if any, do teachers face in implementing a blended model in the school’s first year?

Findings indicate that the blended learning model broke down to varying degrees in each classroom. Teachers struggled with managing overwhelming workloads, navigating and supplementing the digital curriculum, and handling high levels of technology-use in the classroom. In response, teachers modified the blended model with teacher-centric practices and low-tech strategies, struggling to reconcile the school’s vision for teaching and learning with the day-to-day happenings in the classroom. Using Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), I identify contextual factors influencing teachers’ work in the blended classroom, and discuss implications for policymakers and practitioners. This study contributes to implementation research on blended learning models, and to the literature on personalized learning models more generally. This work also provides a foundation for future work investigating the effects of these types of innovative school models.

So if anyone has any notes from this presentation, please feel free to post them here.

AERA 2015 – K–12 Online Education: Tracing Developments in Policy and Adoption in Ohio

This is the ninth session that I am blogging from the 2015 annual meeting of the American Education Research Association.  Unfortunately, I had to leave the conference yesterday, but I did want to post an entry for this – and the other entries from today – so that others might contribute their notes from the session.  So, this presentation is a part of the following session:

72.062 – Understanding the Digital Evolution in K–12 Education: Policy and Practice Perspectives
Mon, April 20, 10:35am to 12:05pm, Marriott, Fourth Level, Armitage
Session Type: Symposium

Abstract
Researchers will present diverse perspectives and research projects that examine how computing and digital tools are impacting education across states, districts, schools, and classrooms. Computer devices, digital content, video games, online learning, and models such as blended learning, are becoming an accepted part of the toolset in educational practice. There is a great need to understand how technology impacts all aspects of the K-12 education system including how for-profit and public institutions structure education options, district leaders make decisions regarding technology spending and implementation, and school leaders and teachers adopt local practices. The panelists will present research projects that illuminate key issues surrounding new technological developments in education, and frame agendas to inform research that can address these challenges.

Sub Unit
SIG-Technology as an Agent of Change in Teaching and Learning

Chair
Richard R. Halverson, University of Wisconsin – Madison

Papers
Equal Scrutiny: Data Use, Access, and Assessment in Digital Education Contracting – Annalee G. Good, University of Wisconsin – Madison; Patricia Burch, University of Southern California

K–12 Online Education: Tracing Developments in Policy and Adoption in Ohio – June Ahn, University of Maryland – College Park; Andrew McEachin, North Carolina State University

Drowning Digitally: How Disequilibrium Shapes Practice in a Blended Learning Charter School – Andrea J. Bingham, University of Southern California

Blended Learning in K–12 Education: What Do We Really Have, and Where Do We Go? – Peter Samuelson Wardrip, University of Pittsburgh; June Ahn, University of Maryland – College Park

Discussant
Patricia Burch, University of Southern California

The specific session is:

K–12 Online Education: Tracing Developments in Policy and Adoption in Ohio

Abstract
K-12 school districts are increasingly adopting online learning and education leaders are turning toward online learning as a potential vehicle to improve K-12 education. Numerous reports from think tanks and literature from advocacy groups highlight the growing importance of online education in the K-12 sector (Watson et al., 2012). There are many hopes for its potential (Finn & Fairchild, 2012), and fears about negative impacts on public education (Molnar, 2013). It can be difficult to make sense of the online evolution taking place in K-12 education and separate the rhetoric from reasoned analyses of data. Much of the difficulty stems from the lack of empirical research that can inform the effectiveness of online education for K-12 students, when and how it occurs, and under what conditions online learning can benefit children across different developmental stages (Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, & Jones, 2010).

In this paper we seek to deepen understanding of how online education is adopted in K-12 school systems and its repercussions throughout an entire system. We present an analysis of the policy landscape and history in Ohio, as the state has enabled online or virtual schools over the past decade. In addition, we analyze an extensive, student-level dataset encompassing the entire 1.8 million student population in the state, and ranging between the years of 2010-2013. We explore several questions regarding the adoption and consequences of online learning in the K-12 system:

1. How many students are adopting online courses in the state and what are their characteristics in terms of demographic background, prior achievement, and other indicators?

2. What are the enrollment patterns that have emerged over this 4 year period; what courses and subject areas see the most enrollment and what types of courses are students taking?

3. What are the characteristics of the “home” schools and districts where students who take online options come from?

4. How do patterns of online learning adoption relate to student achievement outcomes including standardized test score measures and outcomes such as graduation?

Our analyses show how state-level policies enable an ecosystem of online course providers, virtual schools, and curricular options for students. In addition, we highlight the intricacies involved in which students take up the online option and its relationship to social inequalities, access, and student achievement. Taken together, we provide insight into how the proliferation of online learning in the K-12 education system of Ohio can have broad consequences in adoption, implementation, and student outcomes across an entire state. We conclude the presentation with suggestions for policy and future analyses of state, student-level data that can shed deeper understanding of the impact of online education in K-12 systems.

So if anyone has any notes from this presentation, please feel free to post them here.

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