Virtual School Meanderings

May 25, 2016

News from the NEPC: Segregated Housing Undercuts Educational Equity

From yesterday’s inbox…

Policymakers have research-based options that address the harms of housing segregation.
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Segregated Housing Undercuts Educational Equity

Key Takeaway: Policymakers have research-based options that address the harms of housing segregation.
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BOULDER, CO (May 24, 2016) – Educational opportunities, and therefore life chances, have long been tied to family wealth and to housing, with more advantaged communities providing richer opportunities. Recognizing the key role of housing in this system, equity-minded reformers have proposed five types of interventions: (a) school improvement policies; (b) school choice policies; (c) school desegregation policies; (d) wealth-focused policies; and (e) housing-focused policies.

In a new brief released today, Housing Policy, Kevin Welner and William Mathis discuss each of these interventions, with an emphasis on housing-focused policies.

The authors point out that housing segregation did not happen by accident. Policy choices, often grounded in discrimination, resulted in inequitable zoning, the splitting of towns by interstate highways, dense public housing located away from more affluent areas, rationed Section 8 (rent subsidy) vouchers that provide very limited access, the red-lining of properties and the unavailability in Black neighborhoods of Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgages—all of which created an absence of affordable and accessible housing.

School improvement policies, the authors explain, can help mitigate the harms of segregated housing. Similarly, school desegregation policies, if more widely used, could drive more integrated schools. Government programs that address wealth inequality can and do make a difference, but they will have to move beyond tepid measures such as a low minimum wage if they are to seriously address wealth inequality and thus drive changes in housing segregation.

Policies that directly address housing supply and affordability also can be beneficial. One example is inclusionary zoning, which uses incentives to encourage developers to build affordable housing in otherwise high-cost neighborhoods. In addition, we now have a golden opportunity to establish stable, integrated neighborhoods because of a “great inversion,” where more affluent buyers move into economically depressed urban areas while boundaries around the city center are becoming more porous, with families moving into the suburbs. In both locations, the result is greater integration—at least temporarily. Welner and Mathis point to policies that can stabilize these communities through proactive measures to sustain racially and ethnically diverse school districts and their educational benefits.

These sorts of housing integration efforts, as well as school improvement and school desegregation efforts and policies that address wealth inequality, do not present a mutually exclusive choice. In order to seriously address the harms of housing segregation, sustained efforts in all these areas will have to be pursued.

Welner is Director and Mathis is Managing Director of the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. This brief is one in a series of concise publications,Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking, that address important policy issues and identify policies supported by research. Each focuses on a different issue, with recommendations to policymakers based on sound scholarship.

Find Kevin Welner and William Mathis’s brief on the NEPC website at: http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/research-based-options

This policy brief was made possible in part by the support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice (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 © 2016 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

May 20, 2016

News from the NEPC: Learning to be Watched: Surveillance Culture at School

From Tuesday’s inbox…

18th Annual Report on Schoolhouse Commercialism Trends explores the use of digital marketing in schools.
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Enabled by Schools, Students Are Under Constant Surveillance by Marketers

Key Takeaway: 18th Annual Report on Schoolhouse Commercialism Trends explores the use of digital marketing in schools.
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BOULDER, CO (May 17, 2016) – Schools now routinely direct children online to do their schoolwork, thereby exposing them to tracking of their online behavior and subsequent targeted marketing. This is part of the evolution of how marketing companies are using digital marketing, according to a new policy analysis.

In the National Education Policy Center’s 18th Annual Report on Schoolhouse Commercialism Trends,Learning to be Watched: Surveillance Culture at School, Faith Boninger and Alex Molnar describe how schools facilitate the work of digital marketers. Google, for example, subscribes over 30 million students and educators to its Google Apps for Education (GAFE) and tracks students when they shift to Google applications not explicitly part of the GAFE suite (e.g., YouTube). Facebook tracks whenever its users browse to any page housing a “like” button, and uses that tracking information in its ad targeting systems.

The policies that enable and encourage these practices connect today’s children and adolescents to monitoring and to marketers. Moreover, because digital technologies enable extensive personalization, they amplify opportunities for marketers to control what children see in the private world of their digital devices as well as what they see in public spaces such as streets, ball fields, and schools.

Schools’ embrace of digital technology augments and amplifies traditional types of education-related marketing, which include: (1) appropriation of space on school property, (2) exclusive agreements, (3) sponsored programs and activities, (4) incentive programs, (5) sponsorship of supplementary educational materials, and (6) branded fundraising.

These practices, Boninger and Molnar explain, threaten children’s right to privacy as well as their physical and psychological well-being and the integrity of the education they receive. Constant digital surveillance and marketing at school combine to normalize for children the unquestioned role that corporations play in their education and in their lives more generally.

The report offers a number of recommendations, including that policymakers enact enforceable legislation rather than rely on industry self-regulation to protect student privacy, and that they eliminate the perverse incentives that encourage parents, teachers, and administrators to sacrifice student privacy in order to be financially able to provide educationally necessary school activities.

Find Learning to be Watched: Surveillance Culture at School, by Faith Boninger and Alex Molnar, on the web at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/schoolhouse-commercialism-2015

Funding for the Annual Reports on Schoolhouse Commercialism is provided in part by Consumers 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 © 2016 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

May 16, 2016

News from the NEPC: Sloppy Report on School Spending and Student Achievement

From this past Friday…

Solid research contradicts report’s claims about Michigan school finance reform
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Sloppy Report on School Spending and Student Achievement

Key Review Takeaway: Solid research contradicts report’s claims about Michigan school finance reform
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BOULDER, CO (May 13, 2016) – A recent report from Michigan’s Mackinac Center asserts that there is little or no relationship between student achievement and marginal increases to what the report characterizes as the already “high” levels of spending in that state. Yet, as explained in a review published today, the report clashes with existing research about the positive impact of funding nationally and in Michigan. The report also never substantiates its assertion that Michigan’s present spending levels are high, on average, or uniformly high across all children, districts, or schools statewide.

Rutgers University professor Bruce Baker reviewed School Spending and Student Achievement in Michigan: What’s the Relationship?  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.

The report discounts a significant body of peer-reviewed research that specifically shows positive effects of previous Michigan school finance reforms, including positive effects on state assessments and educational attainment, concentrated on those students who had attended (pre-reform) the lowest funded schools or lower performing schools.

Additionally, Professor Baker notes, the report mistakenly contends that increased spending on schools as they presently exist would necessarily be inefficient and ineffective. This contention is undermined by the lack of evidence for more efficient alternatives and by existing research showing the value of resources such as increased teacher salaries and smaller class sizes. Both a recent major national study and a Michigan-specific study show funding increases as efficacious when allocated primarily toward these traditional investments.

Professor Baker concludes that the empirical analysis included in the report lacks depth and rigor when compared to four other quality studies—three of which were peer-reviewed—each of which find positive effects of prior school finance reforms in Michigan.

Find Bruce Baker’s review at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/school-spending

Find School Spending and Student Achievement in Michigan: What’s the Relationship?, by Ben DeGrow and Edward C. Hoang, published by the Mackinac Center, at:
https://www.mackinac.org/archives/2016/s2016-02.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 © 2016 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

May 13, 2016

News from the NEPC: Making Good Use of Policy Research

From Wednesday’s inbox…

There are five key steps to reading and understanding education policy research.
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Making Good Use of Policy Research

Key Takeaway: There are five key steps to reading and understanding education policy research.
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William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Holly Yettick: (303) 803-2061, HYettick@epe.org

BOULDER, CO (May 11, 2016) – One way to ignore solid evidence is to dismiss research because “it can be made to say anything.” This is unfortunately true. But we toss the baby out with the bathwater when we ignore all studies because some are fatally flawed.

Five tips for identifying higher-quality studies and otherwise making better use of education policy research are offered in a single-page brief that NEPC is reissuing today with clarified language for Step Three (reading p values).

“When readers heed basic cautions, research can provide valuable guidance that helps them learn from past experiences rather than reinventing the wheel by repeatedly re-introducing policies and practices that have failed in the past,” said Holly Yettick, PhD, director of the Education Week Research Center and author of the brief.

Yettick briskly walks through some of the key issues that readers of education research should understand. These topics include:

  • Peer review
  • The importance of prioritizing research reviews over standalone studies
  • “P values” and statistical significance
  • Effect sizes
  • Research in real-world situations

This brief is one in a series of concise publications, Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking, that take up a number of important policy issues and identify policies supported by research. Each focuses on a different issue, and its recommendations to policymakers are based on the latest scholarship.

Find Holly Yettick’s brief on the NEPC website at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/research-based-options

This policy brief was made possible in part by the support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice (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 © 2016 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

May 5, 2016

News from the NEPC: Reading Qualitative Educational Policy Research

From yesterday’s inbox…

Look for key indicators to determine a research report’s quality and usefulness.
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Reading Qualitative Educational Policy Research

Key Takeaway: Look for key indicators to determine a research report’s quality and usefulness.
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William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net

BOULDER, CO (May 4, 2016) – Qualitative research, which is primarily based on a variety of observational and interview techniques, seeks to add a deeper understanding of the program, policy or intervention being studied. Both quantitative and qualitative research methods have strengths and weaknesses, and each answers different yet important questions.

In a new brief released today, Reading Qualitative Educational Policy Research, William Mathis concisely identifies key elements in evaluating a qualitative study. Paired with last week’s brief by Holly Yettick,Five Simple Steps to Reading Policy Research, this brief is designed to provide straightforward guidance for policymakers and other readers about how to determine a research report’s quality and usefulness.

Readers should ask the following questions, Mathis concludes:

  • Was the study conducted with rigor? That is, is it defined by truth value (credibility), applicability (transferability), consistency (dependability), and neutrality (confirmability)?
  • Are the data sources appropriate for its conclusions?
  • Was the study placed within the larger body of research?
  • Does the study show signs of quality such as independent peer-review, source integrity, and absence of obvious bias?
  • Are the methods clearly explained?

Dr. Mathis is Managing Director of the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. This brief is one in a series of concise publications, Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking, that take up a number of important policy issues and identify policies supported by research. Each focuses on a different issue, and its recommendations to policymakers are based on the latest scholarship.

Find William Mathis’s brief on the NEPC website at: http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/research-based-options

This policy brief was made possible in part by the support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice (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 © 2016 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.
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