Virtual School Meanderings

September 19, 2018

NEPC’s September Education Interview Of The Month Podcast Explores The Impact Of Immigration Policy On U.S. Schools

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

NEPC Education Interview of the Month is a great teaching resource; engaging drive-time listening; and 30 minutes of high-quality policy information for educators, community members, policymakers, and anyone interested in education.

Thursday, September 18, 2018

Publication Announcement

NEPC’s September Education Interview of the Month Podcast Explores the Impact of Immigration Policy on U.S. Schools

KEY TAKEAWAY:

NEPC Education Interview of the Month is a great teaching resource; engaging drive-time listening; and 30 minutes of high-quality policy information for educators, community members, policymakers, and anyone interested in education.

CONTACT:

William J. Mathis:

(802) 383-0058

wmathis@sover.net

Patricia Gándara:

(310) 267-4875

gandara@gseis.ucla.edu

TwitterEmail Address

BOULDER, CO (September 18, 2018) – Welcome to the second year of podcasts featuring conversations with educational researchers who are investigating some of the most critical issues currently affecting U.S. schools.

In September’s NEPC Education Interview of the MonthGreg Smith discusses the impact of the immigration enforcement regime on U.S. schools with Patricia Gándara, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA.

Professor Gándara and her colleagues recently completed a study of the impact of the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement policies on schools, looking at the effects on children from immigrant families as well as the consequences for their teachers, principals, counselors, and fellow classmates.

The study found, not surprisingly, that millions of students are suffering. Effects include behavioral changes, increased absenteeism, academic decline, and less commitment to schooling. Enforcement policies have also had a major indirect effect on the other students. Seeing their friends abruptly disappearing from the classroom leads to agitation and concern. Teachers described the stress of not knowing the best way to handle parents and classmates.

With the enforcement regime affecting a much broader proportion of our citizens than is generally conveyed by the media or public officials, Smith and Gándara discuss policy recommendations for school boards, policymakers, Congress, and the courts, which includes keeping communities apprised of their rights and targeting funding for outreach to the community.

A new NEPC Education Interview of the Month, hosted by Gregory A. Smith, Lewis and Clark College Emeritus Professor of Education, will be released each month from September through May.

Don’t worry if you miss a month. All NEPC Education Interview of the Month podcasts are archived on the NEPC website and can be found here.

Coming Next Month

In October, Greg’s guest will be Dr. Gordon Lafer of the University of Oregon, who will focus on the fiscal impact of charter schools on school district budgets.

Stay tuned to NEPC for smart, engaging conversations about education policy.

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.

September 14, 2018

Education And The Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearings

An important item from the National Education Policy Center.

Education and the Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearings

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Newsletter

Education and the Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearings

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As the Senate confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh heated up last week, the raucous process largely focused on issues of partisanship, debates about executive power, and discussions of the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade.

But what about Judge Kavanaugh’s record on education? As a Justice, Kavanaugh would have a long-lasting and dramatic impact on a host of issues related to K-12 and higher education.

Here are some National Education Policy Center resources concerning several education issues likely to come before the Court in the upcoming years:

Prayer in Schools: Judge Kavanaugh does not appear to support a strict wall between church and state. In a friend-of-the-court brief, he supported an evangelical Christian youth group that had been barred by a school district from meeting on campus after school hours. In Good News Club v. Milford Central Schoolthe U.S. Supreme Court decided in favor of the club. Kavanaugh co-authored another friend-of-the-court briefsupporting student-delivered invocations at football games. In Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed with that position, concluding that such invocations violated the establishment clause, which prohibits the government from favoring one religion over another or over non-religion. At his confirmation hearing in 2006 for his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Kavanaugh said he would follow the precedent of the Santa Fe case. NEPC Fellow Catherine Lugg places that precedent in context in an article in the peer-refereed journal Educational Policy, with an overview and the Protestant Right’s involvement in public schooling and in the confirmation process of Supreme Court nominees.

Race in educational settings: In a previous NEPC newsletter, we touched upon Judge Kavanaugh’s position on affirmative action, an issue that has arisen during the Senate hearings. The issue is especially relevant now, as a high-profile lawsuit alleges that Harvard’s admissions policies discriminate against applicants labeled as Asians in an effort to admit more under-represented minorities, such as Native Americans, African Americans, and Latinx. The case could have far-reaching effects, especially if it makes its way to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh, whose prior work indicates that he would oppose race-conscious admissions policies, would replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote on previous cases related to race and schools. Kavanaugh did sayduring his hearing that Brown v. Board of Education was “the greatest moment in Supreme Court history.” But he is likely to characterize that achievement as a victory for “race blind” policies, rather than policies designed to address racial inequities. Click here to read that newsletter, which includes NEPC resources on understanding the affirmative action debate as it relates to education.

School choice: Judge Kavanaugh’s record indicates that he would support school choice options such as the use of publicly funded vouchers at private and religious schools. He has been the co-chair of the School Choice Practice Group of the Federalist Society, an organization of conservative attorneys who advocate for these types of choice policies. He has also said that he worked on school choice litigation in Florida for a reduced fee. NEPC and its fellows have authored numerous resources related to school choice, including material on charter schoolsprivate schools, and vouchers. Especially relevant is a recent NEPC policy briefthat drew upon lessons learned from Chile’s universal privatization and voucher system, explaining a research base that describes Chile’s failure to meet its original objectives while suffering from unintended consequences.

School safety: As an appellate judge, Kavanaugh authored a dissent, arguing that bans on semiautomatic weapons and handgun registration requirements were unconstitutional. “Of course the violence in schools is something we all detest, and want to do something about,” Kavanaugh said during his hearing. “And there are lots of efforts I know underway to make schools safer. I know at my girls’ school they do a lot things now that are different from just a few years ago, in terms of trying to harden the school and make it safer for everyone.” Measures to “harden” schools have included installing cameras, hiring more school police officers, arming teachers, and installing steel doors. An NEPC policy briefconcluded that such measures often miss the mark, as the places and manners of implementation often end up stigmatizing and penalizing students of color. The brief instead recommended such policies as integrating community-based policing with school restorative justice and redirecting funds spent on school police officers to programs that aim to improve student engagement and social connectivity.

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.

September 12, 2018

Though Billed As A Case Study, Report’s Lack Of Research And Analysis Results In An Unsupported Advocacy Paper Instead

A note from the National Education Policy Center from yesterday’s inbox.

Though billed as a case study, report’s lack of research and analysis results in an unsupported advocacy paper instead.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Publication Announcement

Report on Texas Charter-School Authorizing Process Lacks Solid Evidence

KEY TAKEAWAY:

Though billed as a case study, report’s lack of research and analysis results in an unsupported advocacy paper instead.

CONTACT:

William J. Mathis:

(802) 383-0058

wmathis@sover.net

Edward J. Fuller:

(814) 865-2233

ejf20@psu.edu

TwitterEmail Address

BOULDER, CO (September 11, 2018) – A recent report from ExcelinEd and Texas Public Policy Foundation examines the charter-school authorizing process in Texas and contends that a 2013 legislative policy change has made the authorization process too restrictive, thus reducing the number of applicants and stifling innovation.

Professor Edward J. Fuller of Penn State University reviewed Time to Change Course: Reclaiming the Potential of Texas Charter Schools, and found that its findings and conclusions are not supported by research or other compelling evidence and, thus, do not provide useful guidance for policymakers.

After surveying current and past Texas authorizing policies, the report claims Texas had formerly been a leader in creating high-performing charter schools. It further claims that Texas’ past low barriers for entry into the market (i.e., ease of having an application approved by an authorizer) was a contributing factor to this success. The report then provides recommendations for creating an easier authorization process.

While the report is billed as a case study, Professor Fuller notes that it does not employ case study methodology. Moreover, the report fails to review or cite relevant research; it instead relies on unsubstantiated claims, anecdotes, misleading statements, and even demonstrably false statements—all in support of advocacy for more charter schools in Texas.

In short, he concludes, this report is an advocacy paper masquerading as a case study. Policymakers would be well advised to skip the report and look for a more evidence-based review of the Texas charter authorizing process.

Find the review, by Edward J. Fuller.

Find Time to Change Course: Reclaiming the Potential of Texas Charter Schools, written by Adam Jones and Amanda List and published by ExcelinEd and the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

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), 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.

September 7, 2018

Whatever Happened With The Los Angeles Times’ Decision To Publish Teachers’ Value-Added Scores?

An item from the National Education Policy Center from yesterday’s inbox.

Whatever Happened with the Los Angeles Times’ Decision to Publish Teachers’ Value-Added Scores?

Thursday, September 6, 2018

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Whatever Happened with the Los Angeles Times’ Decision to Publish Teachers’ Value-Added Scores?

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It was the decision heard round the education world: Almost exactly eight years ago, in August of 2010, the Los Angeles Times published “value-added” scores for thousands of teachers in Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second largest school district. Based on the prior and predicted performance of their students on California standardized tests in reading and in math, teachers were assigned to one of five levels of “effectiveness”: least effective, less effective, average, more effective, or most effective.

The reaction, which began before the scores were even published, was immediate and swift. A statement by the United Teachers of Los Angeles described the decision as “the height of journalistic irresponsibility.” Reportedly distraught by a “less effective than average” rating, one teacher committed suicide.

“My major reaction to the LA Times’ value-added analysis of teachers is to pity the principals,” wrote policy analyst Sara Mead in 2010. “How many parents are showing up in their offices right now, value-added results in hand, demanding that their children be assigned a different teacher? You sure can’t blame parents for doing it. But ultimately, it only distracts school leaders, creates combative community dynamics, and locks in inequities between kids with more engaged and savvy parents and those without.”

That is exactly what happened, writes reporter Matt Barnum in a recent Chalkbeat story:

Publishing the scores meant already high-achieving students were assigned to the classrooms of higher-rated teachers the next year, [found a study in the peer-reviewed Economics of Education Review]That could be because affluent or well-connected parents were able to pull strings to get their kids assigned to those top teachers, or because those teachers pushed to teach the highest-scoring students. In other words, the academically rich got even richer — an unintended consequence of what could be considered a journalistic experiment in school reform.

Other studies that Barnum summarized found that the decision to publish the scores led to:

But these studies focus on policy outcomes rather than the validity of the published scores themselves—and the latter was a very real problem, according to two NEPC research briefs.

The first brief, by NEPC Fellow and University of Colorado Boulder education professor Derek Briggs and his co-author, Stanford education professor Ben Domingue, calls into question the validity of the scores themselves by identifying serious flaws with the approach used to calculate the scores. Specifically, the NEPC brief indicated that the Times’ analysis:

  • Erroneously concluded that there was no relationship between value-added scores and levels of teacher education and experience.
  • Failed to account for the fact that teachers are non-randomly assigned to classes in ways that benefit some and disadvantage others.
  • Generated results that changed when Briggs and Domingue tweaked the underlying statistical model.
  • Likely produced “a significant number of false positives (teachers rated as effective who are really average), and false negatives (teachers rated as ineffective who are really average).”

In May 2011, the Los Angeles Times again published value-added scores for individual teachers. They used a different approach. But a second NEPC research brief by mathematician Catherine S. Durso of the University of Denver’s Department of Computer Science again identified serious flaws, including:

  • Class composition varied so much that comparisons of value-added scores of two teachers are only valid if both teachers are assigned students with similar characteristics.
  • Annual fluctuations in results were so large that they lead to widely varying conclusions from one year to the next for the same teacher.
  • There is strong evidence that results were often due to the teaching environment, not just the teacher.
  • Some teachers’ scores were based on very little data.

The debate over publicizing value-added scores, so fierce in 2010, has since died down to a dull roar. Barnum writes in Chalkbeat that states including New York and Virginia now prohibit the release of the data used to calculate individual teachers’ value-added scores. Chalkbeat itself has taken a standagainst publishing individual teachers’ value-added results. Even the LA Times discontinued the practice.

But schools across the U.S. still use the approach to evaluate teachers. Value-added might have a lower media profile than it once did, but it remains a prominent reality for many thousands of American teachers.

Other NEPC Resources on Value-Added Models:

State-Level Assessments and Teacher Evaluation Systems after the Passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act: Some Steps in the Right Direction

Debate Intensifies over Value-Added Research

NEPC Review: Measuring the Impacts of Teachers I: Evaluating Bias in Teacher Value-Added Estimates and Measuring the Impacts of Teachers II: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood

Policy Reforms and De-professionalization of Teaching

NEPC Review: Have We Identified Effective Teachers? and A Composite Estimator of Effective Teaching

NEPC Review: Myths and Facts about Value-Added Analysis

NEPC Review: Passing Muster: Evaluating Teacher Evaluation Systems

A Practitioner’s Guide to Value-Added Assessment (Educational Policy Studies Laboratory Research Monograph)

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.

September 5, 2018

Are Four-Day Weeks Bad for Students?

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

Are Four-Day Weeks Bad for Students?

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Newsletter

Are Four-Day Weeks Bad for Students?

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The 50-odd students of the tiny Olfen Independent School District in rural West Texas are the first in the state to regularly have Fridays off. Like approximately 560 districts in more than 20 states, Olfen has transitioned to a four-day school week. Most of these districts are like Olfen: rural and thus serving students spread out over a large geographic area. But some urban or suburban districts have also switched to a four-day calendar. For instance, the 18,000-student 27J School District, located in the Denver metro area, went to a four-day week this school year.

Four-day weeks are nothing new, according to NEPC Fellow Kathleen Gebhardt. As a member—and incoming chair—of the Board of Trustees of the non-profit Rural School and Community Trust (which aims to improve rural education), she has for years followed discussions around the four-day calendar. Gebhardt is also President-elect of the Colorado Association of School Boards, serving a state where at least 87 school districts have made this change.

“In my conversations with some of the rural districts that have four-day weeks, I have learned that some have been doing it for many years,” Gebhardt said. In fact, the first three school districts to move to the four-day calendar in the state did so 38 years ago, in 1980.

Gebhardt noted that districts have made the shift for different reasons.

Some, she said, adopt the four-day week to save money. However, a 2011 analysis by the non-profit, non-partisan Education Commission of the States suggests that cost savings may be minimal. The six districts studied saved between .4% and 2.5% of their budgets by tweaking their calendars.

Colorado’s 27J adopted the four-day week to save money after a $12 million mill levy override failed. The district expects the change to save $1 million annually, which is equivalent to less than one percent of its budget.

Gebhardt says there’s an even more important reason that districts adopt four-day weeks: “Many are doing it to attract and retain teachers.” A 2018 study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Education and Training Studies did not directly address recruitment and retention. But it did find four-day weeks were associated with better morale for both classified and certified staff.

Meanwhile, the Olfen District in Texas adopted the four-day week in order to offer students a non-required fifth day of tutoring and enrichment in an effort to improve student achievement.

“We think this is going to be something great for our students and something that can also benefit a lot of parents out there,” said Olfen Superintendent Gabriel Zamora told the Texas Tribune. “I just saw the possibility, once the law was passed and everything. I never thought I would be in the district that had the right circumstances.”

A 2015 article published in Education Finance and Policy, a peer-reviewed journal, studied test scores for elementary school students in Colorado and found “little evidence that moving to a four-day week compromises student academic achievement.” In fact, the results showed a generally positive relationship between four-day school weeks and “the percentage of students scoring at the proficient or advanced levels on math and reading achievement tests.”

It’s less clear how four-day weeks impact equity.

“Equity is an important question, and not one that I think anyone, that I know of, has investigated,” Gebhardt said. “Anecdotally, I am hearing this has a big impact on recruitment and retention, because many teachers like four-day weeks.”

Teacher turnover affects equity because it disproportionately impacts students of color, those from low-income families and rural schools.

Another equity-related concern involves students with disabilities.

“I do worry about the impact on special education students and how districts write their IEPs (Individualized Education Programs) to accommodate these…when highly impacted students might need care five days a week,” Gebhardt said.

If concerns do arise, it is important to address them before the four-day week is adopted: In Gebhardt’s experience, once they adopt the four-day week, districts rarely return to a five-day calendar.

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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