Virtual School Meanderings

November 14, 2019

Report About Charters Being A “Rising Tide” Sinks Under Weight Of Flawed Data

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

Due to data and methods limitations, report fails to prove its claim that higher charter market share is associated with achievement gains for all students.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Publication Announcement

Report About Charters Being a

“Rising Tide” Sinks Under

Weight of Flawed Data

KEY TAKEAWAY:

Due to data and methods limitations, report fails to prove its claim that higher charter market share is associated with achievement gains for all students.

CONTACT:

William J. Mathis:

(802) 383-0058

wmathis@sover.net

Yongmei Ni:

(801) 587-9298

yongmei.ni@utah.edu

TwitterEmail Address

BOULDER, CO (November 14, 2019) – A recent report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute examines whether average achievement in a school district increases as the “market share” of charter schools rises. The report argues that there is a positive competition effect.

Yongmei Ni of the University of Utah reviewed Rising Tide: Charter School Market Share and Student Achievement, and determined that its findings have limited use in guiding policy and practice, because of the flawed data and methods it employs.

Using a national data set of school districts with longitudinal records (allowing an analysis of each school district’s changes over time), the report found that overall, higher charter market share is associated with statistically significant increases in average reading achievement (but not math achievement). Further, the report finds some positive relationships for specific racial subgroups in districts of certain sizes and geographic locations. The report concludes that charter schools are “a rising tide” that “lifts all education boats.”

Professor Ni explains that these findings and conclusions should be interpreted with extreme caution because of major weaknesses surrounding the data and methods, including the measure of charter market share, the sample selection criteria, and the overreliance on results based on a small number of districts, especially those districts with over 95th percentile of charter market share.

Overall, she concludes, the findings have little use to policymakers because of these issues with data and methods, and because the report does not probe beneath the surface. For example, it does not examine possible policy factors that might be associated with charter market share in a given area having a positive or negative association with public school systems. Similarly, it does not consider which practices might benefit charter schools and/or public school systems as a whole.

Find the review, by Yongmei Ni, at:

http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/rising-tide

Find Rising Tide: Charter School Market Share and Student Achievement, written by David Griffith and published by the Fordham Institute, at:

https://fordhaminstitute.org/national/research/rising-tide-charter-market-share

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), a university research center 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

Copyright 2019 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

November 13, 2019

College Admissions Fraud And 504 Plans: A Q&A With NEPC Fellow Edward Garcia Fierros

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

College Admissions Fraud and 504 Plans: A Q&A with NEPC Fellow Edward Garcia Fierros

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Newsletter

College Admissions Fraud and 504 Plans: A Q&A with NEPC Fellow

Edward Garcia Fierros

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The “varsity blues” college admissions scandal earlier this year brought attention to a previously obscure section of federal law. Celebrities and other affluent parents were accused of, among other things, abusing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in order to get their children accommodations (such as additional time) on ACT and SAT exams. But even before these particular fraudulent activities began, the prevalence of so-called “504 plans” was already on the rise, especially in affluent schools like those attended by the families involved in the scandal.

In the Q&A below, National Education Policy Center Fellow Edward Garcia Fierros sheds light on these plans, which are intended to accommodate students with physical or mental impairments that substantially limit one or more major life activities. He concludes with recommendations for ensuring that students who need the plans receive them, regardless of the income levels of their families, while also cracking down on fraudulent claims.

Fierros is Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Villanova University. He is also Associate Professor in the Department of Education and Counseling, where he teaches courses on educational research, educational assessment and analysis, and diversity and inclusion in schools. His research focuses on providing equitable opportunities for all learners. His expertise includes testing and measurement, diversity and equity in assessment, placement patterns of students with special needs and students who are emerging bilinguals, and educational policy related to underrepresented students.

Q: What is a 504 plan? What is the plan’s relationship to the recent college admissions scandals?

A: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 mandates that students with physical or mental impairment must receive an equal opportunity to a “free and appropriate public education” among other important factors. 504 plans, as they are called, are designed to ensure that students in education programs receiving federal funds are not excluded, because of their real or perceived disabilities, from educational opportunities. In particular, the law provides as follows:

A student with a disability is any student who: has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities (including standardized testing), has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. There are a number of common disabilities or conditions that would warrant a 504 plan (e.g., dyslexia, ADHD, diabetes, depression, allergies, and cancer). A 504 Plan ensures that a child with a disability receives the appropriate accommodations to succeed. Accommodations for students may include extra time on tests and schoolwork, taking tests in a different room with fewer distractions, or giving verbal answers to test questions instead of written ones. The plans are overseen/enforced by the U.S. Office of Civil Rights (OCR).

The college admissions scandal brought to light how dishonest parents may try to game the system by getting a child without a legitimately diagnosed disability placed on a 504 plan to gain additional time on college admissions tests like the SAT and ACT. The scandal also revealed that wealthier families often hire psychologists or other consultants to assess their children for 504 plan eligibility in their elementary and secondary school years. Studieshave shown that in affluent school districts, students are enrolled in 504 plans at higher rates than students in poorer school districts. The 504 designation and this extra time can provide a child a clear advantage in the college admission process. Furthermore, a 504 designation does not carry the same stigma that can sometimes come with being placed on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Q: How widespread are 504 plans? Are they increasing or decreasing in prevalence?

A: 504 plans are more common in wealthier school districts than in poor ones. Nationally, high school students on 504 plans make up three percent of enrollment, but in the wealthiest districts the percentage is closer to six percent, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data. A majority of students on 504 plans are White (65%) and male (62.3%).

Over a short period of time—2002-2016—requests for these plans tripled. Some experts believe that 504 plans have increased in prevalence in wealthier school districts because they do not have the negative stigma of an IEP, which is defined under Part B of the IDEA. Wealthier school districts are able to pay for 504 accommodations which do not qualify for federal or state funding. Also, a common accommodation for students on 504 plans is additional time on standardized tests, which clearly has implications for college admissions exams.

Click here to read the rest of this Q&A.

This newsletter is 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), a university research center 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

Copyright 2019 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

November 7, 2019

Report About Homeschooling Overreaches On Claims

A report review from the National Education Policy Center’s Think Twice project.

In asserting a connection between school choice growth, homeschooling freedom, and increased educational innovation, report merely relies on occasional correlations.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Publication Announcement

Report about Homeschooling Overreaches on Claims

KEY TAKEAWAY:

In asserting a connection between school choice growth, homeschooling freedom, and increased educational innovation, report merely relies on occasional correlations.

CONTACT:

William J. Mathis:

(802) 383-0058

wmathis@sover.net

Robert Kunzman:

(812) 856-8122

 rkunzman@indiana.edu

TwitterEmail Address

BOULDER, CO (November 7, 2019) – The Cato Institute recently released a report arguing that homeschoolers should support school choice proposals because greater educational freedom empowers parents to provide richer learning opportunities for their children.

Robert Kunzman, Managing Director of the International Center for Home Education Research and a professor at Indiana University, reviewed Homeschooling and Educational Freedom: Why School Choice is Good for Homeschoolers. He found that while the report does identify some ways that homeschooling can contribute to educational innovation, its primary theme—repeated suggestion of a strong relationship between homeschooling growth and the expansion of other school choice policies—is not adequately established.

Drawing on four states with expansive education choice programs, the report’s rationale is grounded on a purported chain of causation from robust school choice policies to homeschooling growth to educational innovation.

Professor Kunzman explains that these causal contentions are purely speculative and are not borne out by the broader state-level data. In fact, he writes, at least half of all states lack reliable data. Among states with data, some that do show dramatic homeschooling growth have regulatory environments more favorable to school choice, but enough counterexamples exist to make even simple conclusions uncertain.

While these problems compromise the usefulness of this new report, Kunzman notes that homeschooling is indeed a context in which educational innovation can flourish. The flexibility of homeschooling provides ample room for learning experiences that can meet the needs of individual students. But beneficial innovations are not the sole province of homeschoolers, since we find compelling examples in all sectors of schooling.

Professor Kunzman concludes that homeschooling serves as one potentially effective option for a good education. He also cautions that modest state oversight of homeschooling is useful to protect children’s basic educational interests while preserving freedom for parents and their delegates to tailor the learning experience.

Find the review, by Robert Kunzman, at:

http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/homeschooling

Find Homeschooling and Educational Freedom: Why School Choice is Good for Homeschoolers, written by Kerry MacDonald and published by the Cato Institute, at:

https://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/bp_124.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), a university research center 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

Copyright 2019 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

November 6, 2019

Applications Now Open for Program Honoring High-Quality, Equitable Schools

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

Applications Now Open for Program Honoring High-Quality, Equitable Schools

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

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Applications Now Open for Program Honoring High-Quality, Equitable Schools

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Public schools are often lambastedfor their failures—real or imagined. (We’re looking at you, Betsy DeVos!) But what about schools that serve as models of how to do things right, especially when it comes to providing all students with a high-quality and equitable public education?

The National Education Policy Center’s Schools of Opportunity program recognizes schools that are exemplary in their work to close opportunity gaps. Applications are open now through January 31st. The program focuses on schools that serve the high school grades, and anyone can nominate a school.

Founded five years ago, the program draws attention to high schools that create outstanding learning opportunities for all their students. The application and evaluation processes consider how these schools are broadening and enriching learning opportunities, creating and maintaining a healthy school culture, and implementing a variety of research-based approaches that close opportunity gaps. The application criteria are described in detail online, along with the program’s scoring rubric.

All applications are reviewed by a national panel of school leaders and researchers. Schools in the running for Gold and Silver designations receive site visits.

Many schools use the application process as a formative assessment, a way to take a step back and reflect on their policies and practices. In at least one case, the process has also been a learning experience for university students and practitioners alike, as a postsecondary instructor worked with a local high school to gather and crystalize information for the application.

To publicize the approaches and accomplishments of recognized Gold and Silver schools, write-ups will be published in the Washington Post Answer Sheet blog and other media outlets.

To quickly nominate a school, just visit https://www.cognitoforms.com/SchoolsOfOpportunity/

SchoolsOfOpportunityNomination.

To view or start the application, go to http://schoolsofopportunity.org/application. NEPC staff are happy to assist with completing the application and can be reached at opportunity@colorado.edu.

This newsletter is 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), a university research center 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

Copyright 2019 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

November 1, 2019

Trauma Belongs In Schools. This New Book Explains Why.

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

Trauma Belongs in Schools. This New Book Explains Why.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

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Trauma Belongs in Schools. This New Book Explains Why.

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Megan was a first-year teacher who had lost someone dear to her, and she was sad. So sad, in fact, that she wasn’t sure how she was going to get through a day of teaching 25 first graders. When writing workshop time rolled around, she had planned to teach a lesson on descriptive words, but she wasn’t sure she was up to it. So, on a bit of a whim, she tried something new: Rather than trying to hide her sadness, she shared it with her students, modeling a writing lesson in which she recalled words from her father that had helped her persevere when life got tough. Her eyes watered as she wrote, and the vulnerability felt uncomfortable at first. But then she started to notice something: Her students were incredibly engaged. They asked about her loss. They drew connections to their own feelings and experiences. When Megan invited them to write about a difficult experience if they felt comfortable doing so, most immediately got to work. But two lingered behind. They asked Megan if they could write about two particularly difficult and personal subjects that they feared might not be appropriate for school—the suicide of a beloved grandfather, and the incarceration of parents. Given affirmation they diligently got to work. By the end of the workshop, one had volunteered to share his story with the class, even though he had never previously spoken of his experience in school.

The type of reciprocal vulnerability that Megan describes is a core component of a pedagogical approach to trauma that is the focus of NEPC Fellow Elizabeth Dutro’s new book, The Vulnerable Heart of Literacy: Centering Trauma as Powerful Pedagogy.

“Even when the particulars and consequences are different (and they most certainly always are), when we share a certain kind of trauma with others, we recognize a bond, even if tenuous, even if with very different stakes,” Dutro writes in her book, which centers on Megan and her experiences. Their collaborative study examines how to attend to trauma in the literacy classroom in ways that recognize students’ lives as a source of knowledge for school literacies.

For this reason, Dutro invites teachers to model the risk and vulnerability of bringing difficult experiences into a setting—the classroom—where they have often been ignored, pushed aside, or medicalized with “trauma-informed” education models that create false dichotomies of the adult “healer” and the “broken” child.

“Those us/them binaries that some popular images and frameworks create chip away at children’s humanity,” Dutro writes. “We can consciously reframe the assumptions of who needs healing and who is wounded. We can attend to the difficult dimensions of life as a reciprocal, circular, and ever-present process in literacy classrooms.”

This doesn’t mean that these teachers are dumping their problems on the children, or falsely equating their own experiences to those of the students. The teacher’s “testimony” (the term Dutro uses) is presented in an age-appropriate matter. It serves as an invitation, a means of connection, especially to those students who may have perceived that their own difficulties are “not for school,” a fear expressed by the child who wrote about his grandfather’s suicide.

Under Dutro’s model, children should never be required to write about traumatic events. They should only be invited to do so in an environment in which such voluntary sharing is comfortable because it has been modeled by the teacher. Dutro suspects that this is one reason why parents have not, in her experience, pushed back about her approach by complaining, for instance, that a child is sharing family business in class.

“Children make decisions that do or may connect to the explicit or implicit sense they have of what is ok with their family, as well as their own comfort in sharing a particular experience,” Dutro explained.

Addressing trauma in class is not a sideshow that detracts from the “main event” of learning to read and write, with the teacher forced to inappropriately take on the role of social worker or psychologist. That’s because learning does not occur in a sterile vacuum. It is inextricably entwined with feelings and experiences of teachers and students alike.

“These pedagogies, and the affective dimensions of teaching and learning that they inherently encompass, are inseparable from instruction, content, and curricular goals,” Dutro writes.

Nationwide, most teachers in public schools are white females from middle-class backgrounds. Student demographics are different: lower income and predominantly of color. Accordingly, most of the examples that Dutro draws upon in her new book take place in schools that serve large proportions of students from low-income families and students of color. Yet everyone experiences difficulties in life. Dutro explains that her approach is applicable in every community, while also adding that plenty of children in the schools she studied wrote about relatively less difficult events like losing a pet or arguing with a friend.

In all these circumstances, Dutro emphasizes the need for teachers to serve as “critical witnesses” who recognize the power differentials that can result from the inequitable consequences of their own traumas versus the trauma of their students. For instance, teachers might challenge colleagues who use deficit language to discuss students and families, or they might seek out resources to better understand the impact of race, gender, and class. Similarly, they might assist families with transportation and other needs or demonstrate solidarity for families experiencing difficulties related to structural inequities.

“Critical witness, then, involves actively working to engage in critical analyses of the deficit discourses surrounding many students and public education and taking steps to advocate for students and work toward social justice,” Dutro writes.

Elizabeth Dutro is a professor of education in the School of Education at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her areas of expertise include literacy education, educational equity, and accountability policies in reading and writing.

This newsletter is 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), a university research center 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

Copyright 2019 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

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