Virtual School Meanderings

January 27, 2016

News from the NEPC: Personalized Learning Study’s “Promising” Claims Diminished by Limited Evidence and Weak Generalizability

From Tuesday’s inbox…

Key Review Takeaway: Report’s headline claims about personalized learning should have been tempered by the study’s limitations
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Personalized Learning Study’s “Promising” Claims Diminished by Limited Evidence and Weak Generalizability

Key Review Takeaway: Report’s headline claims about personalized learning should have been tempered by the study’s limitations
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Contact:

William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058wmathis@sover.net
William R. Penuel: (303) 492-4541william.penuel@colorado.edu

BOULDER, CO (January 26, 2015) – A recent report from the RAND Corporation explores three school-wide initiatives funded by the Gates Foundation to promote personalized learning. The report includes many strengths, but a review explains that the study provides little support for the evidence about personalized learning to be described as “promising” for all students.

William R. Penuel, Professor of Learning Sciences and Human Development, and doctoral candidate Raymond Johnson, both at the University of Colorado Boulder, reviewed Continued Progress: Promising Evidence on Personalized Learning 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.

Personalized learning encompasses a range of strategies, from developing learner profiles with individualized goals using data to providing personalized learning paths, in which students have choice, get individualized support, and engage in learning outside school. Accordingly, the term personalized learning can mean many different things. In this report, RAND researchers organized personalized learning according to five different strategies:

  1. Learner profiles with individualized goals using data from multiple sources that students and teachers both access,
  2. Personalized learning paths, in which students have choice, get individualized support, and engage in learning outside school,
  3. Competency-based progression,
  4. Flexible use of time, space, and technology, and
  5. Developing academic and non-academic career and college readiness skills.

The researchers found evidence for the promise of personalized learning, and they based this conclusion on analyses comparing achievement data from students in 62 schools implementing personalized learning with students in a matched “virtual comparison group.” Specifically, they found that implementing personalized learning approaches was associated with higher scores on a common assessment.

The reviewers pointed out, however, that two of the factors associated with positive learning gains—student grouping and making flexible use of learning spaces—do little to distinguish these schools from many other schools that may not claim to be implementing personalized learning. In fact, only the practice of engaging students in analyzing their own data showed a consistent relationship to positive outcomes.

More broadly, the study lacked a threshold for what qualified as implementing personalized learning in the treatment schools. This is particularly important because some of the strategies that require the most disruptive strategies and the largest departures from current practice, such as competency-based progression, were rarely implemented in the studied schools.

The study also lacks broad utility for judging the value of personalized learning because of the special characteristics of schools in the sample, Penuel and Johnson explained. Charter schools represented 90% of the sample used to analyze student achievement results, and nearly half came from one of the three initiatives studied.

The reviewers conclude that readers should be skeptical of what promise the report’s evidence actually provides for any given model of personalized learning being promoted or considered. The study does suggest that some practices are associated with some test score gains, but those practices may be quite different from those promoted under the flag of personalized learning.

Find Penuel and Johnson’s review at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-personalized-learning

Find Continued Progress: Promising Evidence on Personalized Learning, by John F. Pane, Elizabeth D. Steiner, Matthew D. Baird, & Laura S. Hamilton, published by The RAND Corporation, at:
http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR1300/RR1365/RAND_RR1365.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.

January 21, 2016

News from the NEPC: Application Deadline of February 3rd for “Schools of Opportunity” Recognition of Top High Schools

From Tuesday’s inbox…

Application Deadline of February 3rd for “Schools of Opportunity” Recognition of Top High Schools
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Application Deadline of February 3rd for “Schools of Opportunity” Recognition of Top High Schools

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URL for this press release: http://tinyurl.com/hp26zkt

BOULDER, CO (January 19, 2016) – High schools from across the nation are now submitting applications to be recognized as part of the Schools of Opportunity project of the National Education Policy Center. The project recognizes public schools for what they do to give all students the chance to succeed, rather than turning to test scores to determine school quality. The application deadline is February 3, 2016.

The Schools of Opportunity project highlights schools that use research-based practices to close the opportunity gaps that result in unequal opportunities to learn, in school and beyond school.

For example, although schools cannot directly integrate neighborhoods by race and class, they can do their best to integrate classrooms by race and class. And although it is difficult for schools to increase learning resources in neighborhoods or homes, they can ensure that rich, engaging learning opportunities are provided to all students while they are in school.

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed in the CU-Boulder School of Education, designed the Schools of Opportunity project as a way to highlight the nation’s best schools and practices. The project is led by NEPC director and CU-Boulder School of Education Professor Kevin Welner, and Carol Burris, director of the Network for Public Education, who was the 2013 New York State High School Principal of the Year.

Each state’s effort will also be assisted by a team of evaluators, including New York State Regent Betty Rosa and Vermont State Board of Education member William Mathis, a former finalist for National Superintendent of the Year. The Ford Foundation and the NEA Foundation have both provided funding assistance.

“This project is about rewarding schools for doing the right things, even if they do not enroll the nation’s top students,” said Welner. “It’s also about highlighting the work of schools that are energetically closing the opportunity gap by engaging in research-based practices designed to make sure that all students have rich opportunities to succeed.”

Burris, whose high school had consistently been given top ranks in popular lists of the nation’s top high schools, points out their limitations. “Current programs aimed at identifying the nation’s best high schools include many high-quality schools,” she said. “But the approach they use tends to reward schools that are affluent and/or those that enroll a selective group of students. It is time we recognize schools that do outstanding work with a wider range of students.”

The Schools of Opportunity project will recognize schools based on 11 specific principles identified by experts in the 2013 book, Closing the Opportunity Gap, published by Oxford University Press, which Welner edited along with Stanford University Professor Prudence Carter. The project will recognize schools that use these principles to help to close opportunity gaps in order to improve academic performance.

“The first step in changing the conversation on school quality requires us to acknowledge that achievement gaps are a predictable and inevitable consequence of opportunity-to-learn gaps, which arise in large part because of factors outside of the control of schools,” Burris said. “However, even as schools are affected by larger societal forces, schools and educators can make decisions that either widen or close opportunity gaps.”

The specific practices include effective student and faculty support systems, outreach to the community, health and psychological support, judicious and fair discipline policies, little or no tracking, and high-quality teacher induction and mentoring programs. All identified practices are listed on the Schools of Opportunity website at http://opportunitygap.org.

The project is grounded in two basic, interrelated truths. Opportunity gaps beyond the control of schools contribute to gaps in achievement. At the same time, excellent schools can help narrow achievement gaps by closing those opportunity gaps within the school’s control.

“It’s because of the first truth,” Welner explained, “that excellent schools cannot be identified by just looking at outcomes. An awful school can have pretty good outcomes if its students are lucky enough to have rich opportunities to learn outside of school. And an outstanding school won’t necessarily have excellent scores if its students are disadvantaged by severe life challenges outside of school.”

“When schools and communities focus resources and efforts on closing the opportunity gaps, they should be recognized, supported and applauded,” he said. “They should also serve as models for those who wish to engage in true school improvement.”

The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog will announce schools that receive recognition in the spring. Top schools will receive acknowledgement at awards ceremonies and in other venues as well.

The Schools of Opportunity recognition process is designed to allow applicants to explain how and why their school should be recognized, and the project will provide any assistance needed to help applicants easily complete and submit their information.

Schools of Opportunity recognitions will be made at gold and silver levels, as well as a special recognition for top schools. Applications are welcomed until February 3rd, with all nomination information and forms available online at http://opportunitygap.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.

January 11, 2016

News from the NEPC: Elevating Teaching Profession Requires More Than Sound Bites

From Thursday’s inbox…

Key Review Takeaway: Report relies too heavily on rhetoric and not enough on research
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Elevating Teaching Profession Requires More Than Sound Bites

Key Review Takeaway: Report relies too heavily on rhetoric and not enough on research
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Contact:

William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Elizabeth J. Meyer: (303) 735-3029elizabeth.j.meyer@colorado.edu

BOULDER, CO (January 7, 2016) – A recent report from the Center for American Progress outlines a vision for elevating and modernizing the teaching profession. It offers seemingly innocuous recommendations for improving the public perceptions and experiences of teachers. However, closer examination reveals several harmful policy reforms in the report.

Elizabeth J. Meyer, Associate Dean for Teacher Education and Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, reviewed Smart, Skilled, and Striving: Transforming and Elevating the Teaching Profession 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.

Professor Meyer notes that while elements of the report’s 10 recommendations would likely be beneficial, they also include policy changes that would increase surveillance of teachers, reduce their job security, evaluate them by students’ test scores, and create merit pay systems that would likely have the opposite effect. In advocating for a policy agenda that in many ways could do further harm to the profession, the report relies too heavily on popular rhetoric, sound bites, opinion articles, and advocacy publications.

For example, one recommendation is to “improve professional development by aligning it to the needs of students and teachers.” While this sounds good on the surface, one of the model programs touted in this report, the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP), has been controversial due to its pairing of performance pay with the professional development activities it introduces.

Professor Meyer concludes that, other than a review of contemporary issues, the report offers “little of substance to advance the teaching profession.”

Find Elizabeth J. Meyer’s review at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-tprep

Find Smart, Skilled, and Striving: Transforming and Elevating the Teaching Profession, by Carmel Martin, Lisette Partelow, & Catherine Brown, published by the Center for American Progress, at:
https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/29080034/TeacherVision-report2.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/
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.

January 6, 2016

News from the NEPC: Using Integration Rhetoric to Advocate School Choice

From yesterday’s inbox…

Key Review Takeaway: Report relies on arguments driven by ideology rather than evidence
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Using Integration Rhetoric to Advocate School Choice
Key Review Takeaway: Report relies on arguments driven by ideology rather than evidence
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Contact:

William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Genevieve Siegel-Hawley: (804) 828-8213gsiegelhawley@vcu.edu

BOULDER, CO – (January 5, 2015) – At a time of growing diversity in the U.S., school segregation is deepening. Well-designed, diverse schools benefit all students, yet students of color are often isolated in highly segregated schools with weak educational opportunities and outcomes. A new report from the Friedman Foundation claims that a universal system of school choice offers a solution to increasing school segregation, but a review of that report finds that the arguments are not based on evidence.

Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, an assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Erica Frankenberg, an associate professor at Pennsylvania State University, reviewed The Integration Anomaly: Comparing the Effects of K-12 Education Delivery Models on Segregation in Schools 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 Integration Anomaly explores what its author calls a “puzzling divergence” between changes in metropolitan residential and school segregation. While neighborhoods in some metropolitan areas are experiencing relatively more racial integration, these trends are largely absent from schools. Based on a literature review, the report argues that the best way to address rising school segregation is to decouple school assignment from neighborhoods through universal school choice. The report suggests that housing integration has not been an effective way to pursue school integration, and it concludes with recommendations for how to structure school choice to achieve integration.

Professors Siegel-Hawley and Frankenberg note the surface appeal of the report’s recommendations for the expansion of school choice, including ending virtually all regulation of school choice and providing universal scholarships, as a means for addressing persistent school segregation. They explain, however, that the analysis of the empirical relationship between school and residential segregation relies on flawed methodological decisions with regard to how to define segregation and divergent trends over time. Those problematic definitions, in turn, yield biased results and prompt the reader to incorrectly assume that housing integration policies will have little bearing on school segregation.

The review also points out that the report’s use of research literature on school choice is haphazard and incomplete, drawing conclusions either beyond what the research supports or contrary to what research has found. Perhaps most importantly, The Integration Anomaly ignores a growing body of literature finding that the very type of unregulated school choice it proposes has, in many instances, exacerbated racial segregation.

The reviewers conclude that the Friedman Foundation’s report presents arguments and solutions largely driven by ideology, not evidence, and offers little value for policymakers or educators meaningfully engaged in the critical search for strategies to reduce school segregation.

Find Siegel-Hawley and Frankenberg’s review at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-integration

Find The Integration Anomaly: Comparing the Effects of K-12 Education Delivery Models on Segregation in Schools, by Benjamin Scafidi, published by the Friedman Foundation, at:
http://www.edchoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/2015-10-The-Integration-Anomaly-WEB.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/
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.

December 17, 2015

News from the NEPC: Sustaining Diverse Communities and Schools

From Tuesday’s inbox…

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Sustaining Diverse Communities and Schools

Key Brief Takeaway: Report recommends proactive policy measures to support and sustain diversity amid changing demographics in suburbs and cities

Contact:

William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net

Amy Stuart Wells, (212) 678-4042,
Wells@exchange.tc.columbia.edu

Find Documents:
Press release: http://tinyurl.com/o9tonue
Brief: http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/housing-school-nexus

BOULDER, CO (December 15, 2015) — Children’s zip codes are often closely linked to their educational opportunities due to the tight relationship between racially segregated and unequal housing and schools. Yet according to a growing number of scholars, the United States may now have the ideal chance to address this housing-school nexus, as more blacks, Latinos and Asians move to the suburbs and more whites gentrify the cities their parents and grandparents fled decades ago.In Diverse Housing, Diverse Schooling: How Policy Can Stabilize Racial Demographic Change in Cities and Suburbs, Professor Amy Stuart Wells of Columbia University Teachers College provides a review of social science evidence, highlighting the problem of reoccurring racial segregation and inequality absent strong, proactive integration policies.

Past policies, especially school desegregation plans, have been successful in disrupting the housing-school nexus of segregation. But these policies are being dismantled and replaced with school choice policies that often exacerbate racial segregation. This does not have to be continued; new approaches are available. In her brief, Professor Wells covers three key areas of social science research: the nature of the housing-school nexus, the impact of school desegregation and housing integration policies on the nexus, and implicit racial biases as they relate to school and housing choices.

This research reveals that racial inequality in American housing and schools is sustained by an iterative relationship between intangible and tangible factors in the housing-school choice process. One begets the other in a cyclical manner, as neighborhood demographics change. This process eventually leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy of “good” and “bad” schools that is strongly correlated with race. Breaking this cycle at the point at which intangible perceptions of place have changed—but tangible measures of housing and schools have not—is critical to disrupting the housing-school nexus of racial segregation.

Professor Wells outlines her recommendations for breaking the cycle:

  • Policymakers should embrace and capitalize on changing racial attitudes in the U.S., particularly among the younger generations, to promote and stabilize diverse communities and public schools.
  • Policymakers must consider how current accountability policies in the field of education exacerbate segregation and inequality.
  • Local leaders and their constituents must embrace the new demographics of their communities and promote them as places forward-thinking people want to “be” and not “flee” in the suburban context. Meanwhile, sustainable and affordable housing and school enrollment policies must support diversity in gentrifying urban neighborhoods. In both contexts, stable and diverse communities and their schools must be sustained.

The policy brief explains why such proactive measures “to sustain racially and ethnically diverse school districts and their educational benefits while stabilizing local communities and property values” are so difficult to achieve and why our failure to achieve them will have such dire consequences for our increasingly diverse nation and its schools.

Find Diverse Housing, Diverse Schooling: How Policy Can Stabilize Racial Demographic Change in Cities and Suburbs, by Amy Stuart Wells, at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/housing-school-nexus

Find Diverse Housing, Diverse Schooling: How Policy Can Stabilize Racial Demographic Change in Cities and Suburbs, by Amy Stuart Wells, at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/
publication/housing-school-nexus

This policy brief is made possible in part by the support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice (GLC). This brief is also found on the GLC website at: http://www.greatlakes
center.org/
If you are not already subscribed to this newsletter and would like to receive it regularly, go to:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/
Then click: 


The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. NEPC is guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence. NEPC is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. For more information visit the NEPC website: http://nepc.colorado.edu/


 

Email NEPC: nepc@colorado.edu 
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