Virtual School Meanderings

April 14, 2017

News from the NEPC: Report Dismisses Stratification While Claiming Benefits of Charter Schools

This showed up in my inbox yesterday.

New AEI report documents and then implicitly accepts demographic sorting as an outcome of school choice.
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Report Dismisses Stratification While Claiming Benefits of Charter Schools

Key Review Takeaway: New AEI report documents and then implicitly accepts demographic sorting as an outcome of school choice.

Contact:

William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
T. Jameson Brewer: (404) 941-4530, jameson.brewer@ung.edu

BOULDER, CO (April 13, 2017) – A new report by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) compares differences in approaches and demographics between and among charter school models and local “traditional public schools.” The report links varied models to stratified parental choices and then to correspondingly stratified student composition, concluding that these differences and stratification are either beneficial or benign.

T. Jameson Brewer of the University of North Georgia and Christopher Lubienski of Indiana University reviewed Differences by Design? Student Composition in Charter Schools with Different Academic Models for the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder’s School of Education.

Using three national data sets, the report effectively captures the universe of charter schools. It takes a separate look at enrollment demographics for different models: arts, no-excuses, progressive, credit-recovery, classical, single-sex, STEM, vocational, and international. It empirically demonstrates that different demographic groups attend different types of charter schools. The report documents this de facto segregation with regard to, among other categories, race and ethnicity, family income, and special education status.

Charter schools, the authors contend, provide differentiated and “innovative schooling options” through varied academic models that cater to, and ultimately reflect, parental choices for their children. The resulting stratification is presented as a benign byproduct of beneficial choices differentially associated with, e.g., different racial and ethnic groups. They contend this is “consistent with the theory behind charters” and “in line with a properly functioning charter sector.”

Unfortunately, the reviewers conclude, the report does not demonstrate familiarity with the research on parent decision-making or with the extensive research suggesting that charter schools are not particularly innovative in the curricular or instructional options. Despite what the report claims, traditional public schools do, in fact, offer various academic model specializations like the ones offered by the charter schools.

Finally, the reviewers express concern and disagreement with the report’s dismissive characterization of charters’ de facto segregation and stratification of students by other demographic characteristics, which they contend is at odds with the purpose and aims of equitable public education.

Find the review by T. Jameson Brewer and Christopher Lubienski at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-charters

Find Differences by Design? Student Composition in Charter Schools with Different Academic Models, by Jenn Hatfield & Nat Malkus, published by the American Enterprise Institute, at:
https://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Differences-by-Design.pdf

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) Think Twice Think Tank Review Project (http://thinktankreview.org) provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project 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), 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 © 2017 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

April 11, 2017

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

This report was released today.

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

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

Contact:

NEPC: William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Virtual School Performance: Gary Miron: (269) 599-7965, gary.miron@wmich.edu
Virtual School Research Base: Michael Barbour: (203) 997-6330, mkbarbour@gmail.com
Virtual School Policy: Luis Huerta: (212) 678-4199, huerta@tc.columbia.edu
Virtual School Policy: Jennifer King Rice: (301) 405-5580, jkr@umd.edu

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

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

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

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

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

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

The report’s policy recommendations include:

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

Find Virtual Schools Report 2017, Alex Molnar, Editor, on the web at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/virtual-schools-annual-2017

This research brief was 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 © 2017 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

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

April 4, 2017

News from the NEPC: Secretary DeVos Has Secret Russia Meeting With Potential Grizzly

A late April Fool’s (which was actually sent out on April Fool’s day) from NEPC.

April 1st comes again!
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Secretary DeVos Has Secret Russia Meeting With Potential Grizzly

Key Takeaway: April 1st comes again!

Contact:

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BOULDER, CO (April 1, 2017) – As part of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s campaign to promote educational vouchers, she held a secret meeting last week with Boo Boo Medvedev, a Russian bear who is said to have close ties to bear leadership throughout the northern hemisphere.

Tensions between the two camps had flared following reports that DeVos had urged American teachers to open fire on members of the bear community. As a result, the powerful bear lobby had threatened to maul politicians who pretended not to know about recent studies of vouchers in Louisiana, Ohio and Indiana, all showing negative test score effects—in some cases, surprisingly large.

An Education Department spokesman announced on Friday that the talks were very successful. “The Secretary explained to Mr. Medvedev that her statements had been falsely reported by the Fake News Liberal Establishment Media™. By the end of the meeting, the Secretary had the bear eating out of her hand.”

Medvedev agreed that the parties had reached détente. He also insisted, in halting English, that bears present no real danger. “I never pay visit to school but maybe indiscretions in youth with garbage can vandalism and once little playground stalking. This all in past.”

The agreement reached by DeVos and Medvedev specifies that there shall be no gunfire so long as no bears join a teachers’ union.

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 © 2017 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

 

March 29, 2017

News from the NEPC: Report Promotes Reforms to Teacher Education Programs but Ignores Past Research and Present Context

From yesterday’s inbox…

Improvement of teacher education programs is important, but report is a missed opportunity.
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Report Promotes Reforms to Teacher Education Programs but Ignores Past Research and Present Context

Key Review Takeaway: Improvement of teacher education programs is important, but report is a missed opportunity.

Contact:

Contact NEPC: William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Contact Reviewer: Marilyn Cochran-Smith: (617) 552-4591, cochrans@bc.edu

BOULDER, CO (March 28, 2017) – A recent Bellwether Education Partners’ report begins with the reasonable assumption that in order to improve teacher quality, the field must first improve teacher preparation program design. It then asserts that teacher-education programs are “blindly swinging from one popular reform to the next” and that decades of input- and outcome-based research has failed to improve teacher education.

This report, A New Agenda: Research to Build a Better Teacher Preparation Program, was reviewed by a group of scholars and practitioners who are members of Project TEER (Teacher Education and Education Reform). The team was led by Marilyn Cochran-Smith, the Hawthorne Professor of Teacher Education for Urban Schools at Boston College, along with Stephani Burton, Molly Cummings Carney, Juan Gabriel Sánchez, and Andrew F. Miller. The review is published by the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at University of Colorado Boulder’s School of Education.

The report calls for a “rational” and “rigorous” research agenda for teacher education. Regrettably, the reviewers note, the report’s depiction of past research includes mischaracterizations and also omits a wide swath of relevant literature about teacher education.

The report also recommends “rapid cycle evaluations,” but it does not adequately explain what these evaluations would entail or how they would work to improve teacher preparation program design. Nor does it offer a research foundation for this approach.

The New Agenda report also fails to recognize the socio-political context of teacher education, wherein programs are often left scrambling to meet competing accountability expectations. It leaves practical questions unanswered, muddies the waters about promising research avenues, and ignores important bodies of literature in teacher education.

Ultimately, the reviewers conclude, the recommendations A New Agenda offers, though not necessarily bad, are overly general and offer little useful evidence-based guidance to either policymakers or institutions.

Find the review by Marilyn Cochran-Smith, Stephani Burton, Molly Cummings Carney, Juan Gabriel Sánchez, & Andrew F. Miller at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-teacher-prep

Find A New Agenda: Research to Build a Better Teacher Preparation Program, by Ashley LiBetti Mitchel and Melissa Steel King, published by Bellwether Education Partners, at:
http://bellwethereducation.org/sites/default/files/Bellwether_NewAgenda-GPLP_Final-101316.pdf

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) Think Twice Think Tank Review Project (http://thinktankreview.org) provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project 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), 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 © 2017 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

March 24, 2017

News from the NEPC: Report Mistakenly Suggests Easy Path for Improving Teacher Quality Through Higher Admissions Standards

From yesterday’s inbox…

Report’s teacher education recommendations lack the research support its authors claim.
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Report Mistakenly Suggests Easy Path for Improving Teacher Quality Through Higher Admissions Standards

Key Review Takeaway: Report’s teacher education recommendations lack the research support its authors claim.

Contact:

Contact NEPC: William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Contact Reviewer: Marilyn Cochran-Smith: (617) 552-4591, cochrans@bc.edu

BOULDER, CO (March 23, 2017) – A recent report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) advocates for a higher bar for entry into teacher preparation programs. The NCTQ report suggests, based on a review of GPA and SAT/ACT requirements at 221 institutions in 25 states, that boosting entry requirements would significantly improve teacher quality in the U.S. It argues that this higher bar should be set by states, by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), and by the higher-education institutions themselves.

However, the report’s foundational claims are poorly supported, making its recommendations highly problematic.

The report, Within Our Grasp: Achieving Higher Admissions Standards in Teacher Prep, was reviewed by a group of scholars and practitioners who are members of Project TEER (Teacher Education and Education Reform). The team was led by Marilyn Cochran-Smith, the Cawthorne Professor of Teacher Education for Urban Schools at Boston College, along with Megina Baker, Wen-Chia Chang, M. Beatriz Fernández, & Elizabeth Stringer Keefe. The review is published by the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at University of Colorado Boulder’s School of Education.

The reviewers explain that the report does not provide the needed supports for its assertions or recommendations. It makes multiple unsupported and unfounded claims about the impact on teacher diversity of raising admissions requirements for teacher candidates, about public perceptions of teaching and teacher education, and about attracting more academically able teacher candidates.

Each claim is based on one or two cherry-picked citations while ignoring the substantial body of research that either provides conflicting evidence or shows that the issues are much more complex and nuanced than the report suggests. Ultimately, the reviewers conclude, the report offers little guidance for policymakers or institutions.

Find the review by Marilyn Cochran-Smith, Megina Baker, Wen-Chia Chang, M. Beatriz Fernández, & Elizabeth Stringer Keefe at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-admissions

Find Within Our Grasp: Achieving Higher Admissions Standards in Teacher Prep, by Kate Walsh, Nithya Joseph, & Autumn Lewis, published by the National Council on Teacher Quality, at:
http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/Admissions_Yearbook_Report

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) Think Twice Think Tank Review Project (http://thinktankreview.org) provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project 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), 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 © 2017 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.
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