Virtual School Meanderings

July 6, 2017

News from the NEPC: Flawed Report Fails to Illuminate School Staffing Trends

From yesterday’s inbox…

Incomplete research and unsupported assumptions limit report’s usefulness in examining staffing surges.
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Flawed Report Fails to Illuminate School Staffing Trends

Key Review Takeaway: Incomplete research and unsupported assumptions limit report’s usefulness in examining staffing surges.

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BOULDER, CO (July 5, 2017) – EdChoice recently released a report documenting two staffing trends in public schools. After a temporary pause during the Great Recession, school staffing in the U.S. resumed an upward trajectory, with hiring tilted toward non-teaching personnel compared to teachers.

Joydeep Roy of Columbia University and William J. Mathis of the University of Colorado Boulder reviewed Back to the Staffing Surge: The Great Teacher Salary Stagnation and the Decades-Long Employment Growth in American Public Schools.

The report concludes that staffing growth outpaces enrollment growth and that there has been no corresponding increase in student performance. While the data on staffing trends are obtained from reliable NCES publications, the report’s discussion of inputs and outcomes is poorly grounded, lacking an adequate understanding and appreciation of the diverse roles that non-teachers play in our nation’s schools. It also refrains from applying the same analysis to private schools, leading to unsupported conclusions and policy prescriptions.

Roy and Mathis also note that the report fails to examine why there has been a staffing surge or whether it reflects a valid use of personnel. It evaluates the effectiveness of school staffing changes using concurrent achievement and finance measures, even though any benefits of staffing increases will be lagged and only show up gradually over time. Moreover, the report fails to acknowledge that educational outcomes have steadily improved.

The report also provides insufficient support for its two recommendations: increasing teacher pay, at the expense of other instructional and non-instructional staff, and school choice. Under certain circumstances, these policies could be justified as supporting educational improvements, but this report simply presents them as if the justifications are self-evident and universally applicable, which they are not.

As a result, the reviewers conclude, the report is devoid of any important policy implications.

Find the review, by Joydeep Roy and William J. Mathis, at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-staffing

Find Back to the Staffing Surge: The Great Teacher Salary Stagnation and the Decades-Long Employment Growth in American Public Schools, by Benjamin Scafidi, published by EdChoice, at:
https://www.edchoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Back-to-the-Staffing-Surge-by-Ben-Scafidi.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.

June 28, 2017

News from the NEPC: Virtual Schools in Five Key States Show Growth but Poor Performance

From yesterday’s inbox…

Case studies from the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute suggest that policymakers should prioritize understanding and improving virtual school performance before permitting further growth.
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Virtual Schools in Five Key States Show Growth but Poor Performance

Key Takeaway: Case studies from the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute suggest that policymakers should prioritize understanding and improving virtual school performance before permitting further growth.

Contact:

NEPC: William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
MVLRI Report – Research: Michael K. Barbour: (203) 997-6330, mkbarbour@gmail.com
MVLRI Report – Performance: Gary Miron: (269) 599-7965, gary.miron@wmich.edu
MVLRI Report – Policy: Luis Huerta: (212) 678-4199, huerta@tc.columbia.edu

BOULDER, CO (June 27, 2017) – Over the past five years, the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) has produced an annual report called Virtual Schools in the U.S.: Politics, Performance, Policy, and Research Evidence. These reports provide an impartial analysis of the evolution of full-time, publicly funded K-12 virtual and blended schools by examining the policy issues raised by available evidence. They also assess the research evidence that bears on K-12 virtual teaching and learning, and they analyze the growth and performance of such virtual and blended schools.

Building on the April release of the Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2017 report, the lead researchers have engaged with the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute (MVLRI) to use the data set to undertake a more in-depth analysis of five states: Ohio, Wisconsin, Idaho, Washington, and Michigan. The MVLRI published that work today.

These case studies describe the enrollment, characteristics, and performance of virtual and blended schools in each state over the previous year. They also examine the research related to the virtual and blended school characteristics and outcomes, as well as the legislative activities. And they consider the legislation and policies that have been introduced (and enacted) over the past two years.

Based on a national data set, the April NEPC Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2017 report included two key findings: (1) that the growth of full-time virtual schools was fueled, in part, by policies expanding school choice, and (2) that this growth is seen most among the for-profit education management organizations (EMOs) that dominate this sector. All five states follow these national trends. Also, and again consistent with national trends, students that attend the virtual schools in these five states tended to perform quite poorly compared to their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

At the same time, these case studies revealed that the enrollment demographics in each of these states did vary from the national trends. For example, Ohio and Michigan brick-and-mortar schools and virtual schools enrolled similar proportions of White students and students of color (bucking the national trend which found that the majority of students attending virtual charter schools were White), while Idaho and Michigan enrolled higher proportions of free and reduced lunch students (which was the opposite to the national average). Another distinction highlighted by the case studies is that one of the states – Michigan – has seen considerable research into the actual practice of K-12 online learning, and this evidence-based approach appears to be paying off for the Michigan Virtual School.

Find Virtual Schools in the U.S.: Case Studies of Policy, Performance, and Research Evidence, by Michael K. Barbour, Luis Huerta, and Gary Miron, at:
http://media.mivu.org/institute/pdf/VSCase-17.pdf

This report was published and funded by the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute: https://mvlri.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.

June 21, 2017

News From The NEPC: School Choice Erroneously Proposed As Way To Promote Economic Development

From yesterday’s inbox…

Reports offer little support for the use of school choice to spur urban renewal.
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School Choice Erroneously Proposed as Way to Promote Economic Development

Key Review Takeaway: Reports offer little support for the use of school choice to spur urban renewal.

Contact:

William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Jennifer Jellison Holme: (512) 475-9398, jholme@austin.utexas.edu

BOULDER, CO (June 20, 2017) – EdChoice and the American Enterprise Institute each recently released a report contending that the introduction of school choice can promote economic development in economically distressed urban areas. The first report presents a case study of a charter school that has, according to the report, contributed to the economic development of the city of Santa Ana, California. The second report presents a proposal for a hypothetical voucher-like program that, if implemented, would purportedly spur economic development in high-poverty neighborhoods by luring higher income families into those neighborhoods.

Jennifer Jellison Holme and Emily Germain of The University of Texas at Austin reviewed Renewing Our Cities: A Case Study on School Choice’s Role in Urban Renewal and CPR Scholarships: Using Private School Choice to Attack Concentrated Poverty, Crime, and Unemployment.

The reviewers find that both reports make unsupported claims that rely on flawed logic and data. The EdChoice report’s primary weakness is that it fails to collect and analyze data related to the report’s causal assertion that economic development in Santa Ana resulted from the establishment of the charter school. Both reports also overlook significant bodies of relevant research literature. In particular, the American Enterprise Institute report’s claims about the benefits of the proposed program to publicly fund private schooling are unsupported by existing research.

The reviewers also point out that both reports subscribe to an ahistorical explanation for racial and economic segregation in this country – one that is undergirded by market and economic theory and largely ignores the role that government policy played in engineering white, middle-class flight to the suburbs and persistent poverty in urban centers.

The reviewers conclude that these reports offer little useful guidance for policy or practice for those seeking to reform urban schools, to support low-income students, or to uplift urban neighborhoods. The reports’ proposed solutions, which are heavily reliant on markets and trickle-down economic theory, are not only flawed but threaten to exacerbate the educational and geographic inequities that exist.

Find the review by Jennifer Jellison Holme and Emily Germain at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-choice

Find Renewing Our Cities: A Case Study on School Choice’s Role in Urban Renewal, by Bartley R. Danielsen, David M. Harrison, and Jing Zhao, published by EdChoice, at:
https://www.edchoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Renewing-Our-Cities-by-Bartley-Danielsen-David-Harrisson-and-Jing-Zhao.pdf

Find CPR Scholarships: Using Private School Choice to Attack Concentrated Poverty, Crime, and Unemployment, by Bartley R. Danielsen, published by American Enterprise Institute, at:
http://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/CPR-Scholarships.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.

June 16, 2017

News From The NEPC: Worthwhile Report On Parent Contributions To School Finance

Froom yesterday’s inbox…

Despite limitations, report illuminates fundraising as an important source of inequity in schools and offers useful recommendations.
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Worthwhile Report on Parent Contributions to School Finance

Key Review Takeaway: Despite limitations, report illuminates fundraising as an important source of inequity in schools and offers useful recommendations.

Contact:

BOULDER, CO (June 15, 2017) – While inequalities in school funding resulting from governmental funding systems have long been a source of concern to education researchers and policymakers, a recent report from the Center for American Progress examines a source of educational inequality that receives less attention: private fundraising by parents.

Hidden Money: The Outsized Role of Parent Contributions in School Finance was reviewed by Maia Cucchiara of Temple University.

The report focuses on the 50 Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) that raised the most money in 2013-2014. It reached two main findings. First, the PTAs raising large amounts were located in wealthier schools and districts—those with low rates of student poverty. Second, while a PTA in a high-poverty community may raise only a few hundred dollars, the PTAs in this sample raised hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

Using case studies, the report considers district regulation of private fundraising. Professor Cucchiara concludes that the report’s findings about the scope and beneficiaries of private fundraising are credible and important—showing the impact successful PTAs can have. However, the focus on a small number of schools and districts, a lack of attention to school and community context, and problems with the case study design limit the report’s overall relevance. In addition, it is important to note that most funding inequalities arise at the state level; funds raised by parents represent only a minute portion of overall school spending.

Nevertheless, Professor Cucchiara concludes that the report’s recommendations, especially in support of equity grants, will be useful to district-level policymakers.

Find the review by Maia Cucchiara at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-fundraising

Find Hidden Money: The Outsized Role of Parent Contributions in School Finance, by Catherine Brown, Scott Sargrad, and Meg Benner, published by Center for American Progress, at: https://cdn.americanprogress.org/content/uploads/2017/04/18074902/ParentFundraising-report-corrected.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.

June 14, 2017

News From The NEPC: Report Fails To Muster Evidence To Support School Improvement Strategies That Remove Democratic Control

From yesterday’s inbox…

Recent report provides little guidance for states considering improvement strategies for low-performing schools.
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Report Fails to Muster Evidence to Support School Improvement Strategies that Remove Democratic Control

Key Review Takeaway: Recent report provides little guidance for states considering improvement strategies for low-performing schools.

Contact:

William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Gail L. Sunderman: (301) 405-3572, gsunderm@umd.edu

BOULDER, CO (June 13, 2017) – A recent report offers a how-to guide for reform advocates interested in removing communities’ democratic control over their schools. The report explains how these reformers can influence states to use the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Title I school improvement funds to support a specific set of reforms: charter schools, state-initiated turnarounds, and appointment of an individual with full authority over districts or schools.

Leveraging ESSA to Support Quality-School Growth was reviewed by Gail L. Sunderman of the University of Maryland.

While the report acknowledges that there is limited research evidence on the effectiveness of these reforms as school improvement strategies, it uses a few exceptional cases to explain how advocates seeking to influence the development of state ESSA plans can nevertheless push them forward.

As Sunderman’s review explains, the report omits research that would shed light on the models, and it fails to take into account the opportunity costs of pursuing one set of policies over another. It also relies on test score outcomes as the sole measure of success, thus ignoring other impacts these strategies may have on students and their local communities or the local school systems where they occur. Finally, and as noted above, support for the effectiveness of these approaches is simply too limited to present them as promising school improvement strategies.

For these reasons, concludes Sunderman, policymakers, educators and state education administrators should be wary of relying on this report to guide them as they develop their state improvement plans and consider potential strategies for assisting low-performing schools and districts.

Find the review by Gail L. Sunderman at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-ESSA-accountability

Find Leveraging ESSA to Support Quality-School Growth, by Nelson Smith and Brandon Wright, published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Education Cities, at:
https://edex.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/publication/pdfs/03.30 – Leveraging ESSA To Support Quality-School Growth_0.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.
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