Virtual School Meanderings

July 19, 2018

This School Encouraged Every Student to Take Advanced Classes. Here’s What Happened Next.

Note this item from the National Education Policy Center.

This School Encouraged Every Student to Take Advanced Classes. Here’s What Happened Next.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

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This School Encouraged Every Student to Take Advanced Classes. Here’s What Happened Next.

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Like many other schools across America, Hammond High School was facing a problem: Even as the enrollment of low-income students and students of color had grown, the demographics of advanced classes looked largely the same.

So staff at the Columbia, Maryland school tried something new: The lowest-level classes were eliminated. So were prerequisites for high-level courses. And every student was encouraged to take at least one advanced class. Every year.

When some students inevitably struggled, the school implemented supports. Students were invited to take a summer workshop that prepared them for honors, gifted, and Advanced Placement courses. Students learning English got their own homework club. Teachers specializing in English learners and students with disabilities co-taught rigorous classes. And the school created common planning time and professional development where teachers in the same discipline could envision ways to support all learners and enhance cultural proficiency.

At Hammond, collaborative learning and groupwork are the norm, as both have proven to work well in heterogeneous classes.

“In a group you know that others are relying on you, so I do better because I am working not just for myself, but for the group,” 10thgrader Naahdia Mundi said. “We are relying on each other for success.”

Since the reforms started in 2010, minority enrollment in advanced classes has increased. Hammond officials also attribute increases in graduation rates to their reforms. Between 2010 and 2016, graduation rates for African American students increased from 80 percent to 92 percent. Hispanic graduation rates increased from 81 to 95 percent. Graduation rates for students with special needs rose from 56 to 80 percent.

In recognition and appreciation of these and other successes, Hammond was honored as a School of Opportunity. NEPC’s Schools of Opportunity project recognizes public high schools that use research-based approaches to close gaps in opportunities to learn by creating learning environments that reach all students.

To learn more about Schools of Opportunity, click here.

Click here to read a Washington Post column about Hammond by NEPC director Kevin Welner, Schools of Opportunity co-director Linda Molner Kelley, and Kellie Rolstad, associate professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning, Policy and Leadership at the University of Maryland’s College of Education.

Interested in more information about curricular stratification? Click here to read Universal Access to a Quality Education: Research and Recommendations for the Elimination of Curricular Stratification, an NEPC legislative policy brief.

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The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2018 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

July 12, 2018

Review Worth Sharing Identifies Flaws In NC Voucher Evaluation

Note this item from the National Education Policy Center.

Review Worth Sharing Identifies Flaws in NC Voucher Evaluation

Thursday, July 12, 2018

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Review Worth Sharing Identifies Flaws in NC Voucher Evaluation

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An evaluation of an education program typically gives some information about whether or not a program is working. But a recent evaluation of North Carolina’s school voucher program is so flawed methodologically that it fails to explain whether the state’s Opportunity Scholarships help or harm a student’s education, according to a review by Kris Nordstrom, an education policy consultant on the Education and Law Project at the North Carolina Justice Center, a social justice-focused research and advocacy organization.

Nordstrom’s review is part of a new NEPC feature called Reviews Worth Sharing, which are not commissioned or edited by NEPC but that we believe contribute to our goal of helping policymakers, reporters, and others assess the social science merit of reports and judge their value in guiding policy. The views and conclusions addressed belong entirely to the author.

The evaluation reviewed, An Impact Analysis of North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program on Student Achievement, is a working paper by North Carolina State researchers Anna J. Egalite, D.T. Stallings, and Stephen R. Porter.

The review finds that methodological flaws in the evaluation make it impossible to accurately compare North Carolina private school students who receive the vouchers with their public school counterparts who do not. It is also possible that the private school students who participated in the analysis were not representative of the average voucher student. That’s because the working paper only examined a small, non-random handful of voucher students (89 individuals, or 1.6 percent of all voucher recipients) who volunteered to be tested for the evaluation. In addition, just over half of the private schools attended by these 89 recipients were Catholic. Yet only 10 percent of all North Carolina voucher schools are Catholic.

The evaluation did use a statistical method called propensity-score matching to create a public school comparison group that was designed to be similar to the pool of private school volunteers. However, Nordstrom identifies five main flaws with this comparison:

  1. The private school students who volunteered to participate in the evaluation were recruited by a pro-voucher advocacy organization, Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina. The evaluation does not clarify to what extent, if any, the organization cherry-picked the volunteers or their schools.
  2. The public school students likely came from lower-income families than the voucher recipients. Evaluation authors said that they accounted for this difference by incorporating prior year’s test results into the analysis. But that assumes that income differences did not impact performance in the ensuing school year.
  3. The public school students likely attended schools with higher poverty rates than the private school students would have been attending, absent the vouchers. Again, evaluation authors said that they accounted for this difference by incorporating prior year’s test results into the analysis, but that (again) assumes that the differences did not impact performance in the ensuing school year.
  4. It is possible that the public and private school students had different levels of motivation when taking the test. While voucher recipients might have perceived that their performance could impact their ability to remain in their private schools, the public school students likely viewed the exam as a meaningless exercise.
  5. The test used in the evaluation was not aligned to North Carolina’s Standard Course of Study. If it was aligned more closely with the private schools’ curricula, that could give the voucher recipients an advantage.

North Carolina’s voucher program is scheduled to grow by $10 million per year, to $144.8 million in 2027-28.

Yet as Nordstrom concludes:

North Carolina General Assembly lawmakers are about to conclude yet another legislative session without implementing meaningful evaluation and accountability measures on state voucher programs. Despite the N.C. State report, unfettered expansion of vouchers continues, and policymakers, educators, and parents still don’t know whether the program is working or not.

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2018 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

July 11, 2018

New Jersey Desegregation Case Could Make Waves

The newsletter from the National Education Policy Center.

New Jersey Desegregation Case Could Make Waves

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

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New Jersey Desegregation Case Could Make Waves

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While the federal court system is, for the foreseeable future, unlikely to be a welcoming place for education-rights litigation, many states have legal precedents and judiciaries that will give serious consideration to constitutional claims grounded in state-level provisions. On the 64thanniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, a coalition of New Jersey-based plaintiffs announced such a school desegregation lawsuit, with the potential to enact major change.

The suit alleges [complaint here] that that state has violated the constitutional rights of hundreds of thousands of New Jersey children by requiring them to attend public schools in the often-segregated towns where they live, when the law requires that the defendants takes steps to remedy the situation.

New Jersey legal precedent, dating back to 1971, is that de facto segregation is unconstitutional, violating the provision in the state constitution guaranteeing a thorough and efficient education. While the U.S. Constitution has been held to only prohibit formal, legally mandated (or de jure) segregation, thus requiring federal courts to essentially ignore segregation when there is no proof of government intent to discriminate, New Jersey courts can step in whenever children are racially separated by enrollment into different schools.

In fact, such de facto segregation is prevalent in New Jersey, which is home to some of the nation’s most segregated schools. A report co-authored by NEPC fellow Gary Orfield found that New Jersey was the sixth most segregated state in the nation for black students and the seventh most segregated state for Hispanic students.

“It’s very hard to get ready for college in a school where almost everybody is nonwhite, and almost everybody is poor,” Orfield told the Philadelphia Inquirer. Integration “makes a big difference not just for your education, but for your life.”

National Academy of Education report co-edited and co-authored by NEPC director Kevin Welner identifies multiple research-based benefits of racial diversity, including:

  • African American student achievement is enhanced by less-segregated schooling
  • Inter-group relations are better in racially diverse schools
  • Long-term benefits of desegregation include greater levels of tolerance and better inter-group relations among adults

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2018 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

July 6, 2018

Oakland International Academy Welcomes New Immigrants

From the National Education Policy Center.

Oakland International Academy Welcomes New Immigrants

Thursday, July 5, 2018

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Oakland International Academy Welcomes New Immigrants

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While today’s news is regularly filled with accounts of anti-immigrant sentiment, Oakland International Academy puts out a welcome mat for students from all over the world. The 400-student school in North Oakland, California attracted 800 visitors last year who were interested in learning more about its physical and emotional supports for newly arrived immigrants, its program for students who have missed multiple years of formal education, and a teacher-training program that prepares educators to serve new arrivals.

In 2016, NEPC’s Schools of Opportunity program honored Oakland International with its silver-level recognition. And this past spring, the news site EdSource featured Oakland International in an article headlined Innovative high school for new immigrant students a model in California.

“Our school was designed to welcome kids whenever they came — whether it was the first day of school or April 15,” Principal Carmelita Reyes told EdSource, “to be a place that would support them academically and socially and emotionally.”

Oakland International Academy was opened in 2007 to serve the unique needs of recent arrivals from nations outside the U.S. The school was created through a partnership between the Oakland Unified School District and the Internationals Network for Public Schools, which had previously created similar high schools in New York City.

Innovative practices at the school include:

  • Community walks in which groups of students lead teachers through their neighborhoods as they teach them to say phrases in their languages and share stories of how they came to arrive in Oakland.
  • Teaching assistants and coaches for every teacher.
  • A catch-up program called “Students with Interrupted Formal Education.”
  • A course called “Survival English.”
  • A partnership with a local food bank.
  • A partnership with the Reach Institute for School Leadership that offers a teacher certification program to paraprofessionals at the school with bachelor’s degrees.

This latter partnership focuses on preparing the teachers to serve immigrants who are new arrivals. “They are working in our classrooms during the day and getting their credentials at night,” Principal Reyes told EdSource. “We’re going to be minting them and putting them out into the world as newcomer teachers.”

Interested in learning more about Schools of Opportunity? Visit http://www.schoolsofopportunity.org/or email us at opportunity@colorado.edu.

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2018 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

July 5, 2018

This Professor Assigned Her Students NEPC-Style Reviews. Here’s What They Learned

Hmmm, this is something that I’d like to try with my on research students at some point.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

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For the past ten years, Meredith Mountford, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Research Methodologyat Florida Atlantic University, has been requiring her doctoral students to read NEPC’s expert, third-party reviews of selected, non-peer-reviewed publications. This school year, for the first time, Mountford tried something new: She asked the students in her Seminar in Administration course to write their own reviews. This week, NEPC is publishing one of those reviews as part of its Reviews Worth Sharingfeature. Although not commissioned or edited by NEPC, these reviews are published because they contribute to the goal of helping policymakers, reporters, and others assess the social science merits of reports and judge their value in guiding policy. The review that emerged from Mountford’s class is written by Dustin Pappas. Pappas’ piece examines a March 2018 Heritage Foundation report, Focusing on School Safety After Parkland. In the Q & A below, Mountford explains how she came to assign her students to write their own NEPC-style reviews and what she believes they learned from the assignment.

Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Q: What made you start assigning NEPC-style reviews?

A: I noticed that when I assigned students to read a report from a far left or right foundation or organization, and asked for a “critical response”, I often just got a review or summary of the report. I wanted to students to be critical and suspicious of studies emanating from large organizations that had some political clout and those that had agendas that did not prioritize public education. I would point out to students that these were some of the same “studies” picked up by popular news magazines and newspapers, like Time Magazine or USA Today. This lent credibility to studies that were not empirically rigorous or methodologically sound and therefore undermined efforts to improve public education. Ultimately, I want to teach students to detect shortcomings in a heartbeat as well as explain insufficiencies to others. School leaders cannot and should not be duped by reports and whitepapers that propose silver bullets and it’s important they can communicate this to staff and faculty.

Q: What kind of reactions have you received from students about the assignment?

A: I had 12 students enrolled originally, but by the third class, I was down to nine which is not that unusual for a PhD level course.  I think those who didn’t return may have found the syllabus a bit intimidating. Later, I heard from several students who stuck it out for the entire course that they were initially intimidated by the syllabus. The nine who stayed in the course were very positive on the course evaluation. Some inquired as to why this class wasn’t required in the major discipline at the PhD level. They seemed very engaged with the topics they chose and intrigued with the concept of being the “expert” critiquing research.

Q: How did you frame the assignment for your students?

A: I had them use the reviews on the NEPC website as the model for the format in which to write the critiques. I spent the first half of the semester teaching students what to look for when critiquing a report, study, or whitepaper. We did several together until I felt they were ready to pick out one of their own issues, to find a report on it, and write a critique. Initially, they were bumpy, but with the help of the NEPC website and Fred Pyrzcak’s text Evaluating research in academic journals: A practical guide to realistic evaluation, I began receiving some incredibly thoughtful reviews from students.

Q: Tell me something about the students who took the course.

A: The majority of students in the course were high-level leaders in some of the largest urban school districts in the country. For these students to feel as though they had a chance to publicly critique (or set the record straight) regarding the misinformation they had encountered leading their districts was quite alluring. Out of the nine students, at least five wrote reviews that were strong enough that, with some work, they are potentially publishable in a wide range of outlets.

Q: How many reviews have students written since you started assigning them?

A: They wrote three for this class and the PhD students who enroll in the Ethics and Policy Alternatives course I will teach in the fall will also be assigned three reviews.

Q: What are some examples of the topics of the reports that students wrote about?

A: Report topics included technology, ESL, community outreach programs for Hispanics, leader evaluations, and teacher evaluations.

Q: What do you think students learned from the assignment?

A: I think they learned to distinguish rhetoric from reality. They learned how to critique research that is less than reliable and to communicate its deficiencies to colleagues in a useful way that inspires change. They gained the ability to distinguish between problematic think tank reports and data from rigorous research. Effective school leaders today must lead on their toes. I hope this class helps them to do that. I constantly remind them that they too must always be open to criticism of their own research. I think the review assignment may help them when they write their dissertations because they sometimes grow overly attached to their proposed methodologies and getting them to change can be very difficult. Now if their own dissertation methodologies are flawed, they may have a better appreciation for the need for reviews and corrections.

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2018 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

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