Virtual School Meanderings

May 23, 2018

Schools of Opportunity in the News. Nominate 2018 Candidates Now!

From yesterday’s inbox…

Schools of Opportunity in the News.

Nominate 2018 Candidates Now!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Newsletter

Schools of Opportunity in the News. Nominate 2018 Candidates Now!

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Schools of Opportunity is a project that recognizes public high schools that strive to close opportunity gaps by creating environments that aim to reach every student.

The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet column has committed to running profiles of each of 2017’s eight Schools of Opportunity.

Last week, NEPC’s Kevin Welner and Linda Molner Kelley wroteabout Nebraska’s Lincoln High School, one of eight recognized schools this past year. Between October 2015 and September 2016, Lincoln Nebraska settled more refugees per capita than any other area of the nation. The school’s population reflects that diversity, with students speaking more than 30 different languages. In other places, such diversity has sometimes resulted in silos within schools, with native speakers and English language learners tracked into separate programs. At Lincoln, all students are welcomed into International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement courses. Those needing academic supports to meet these challenges can take advantage of an Academic Resource Center after school and a Saturday School staffed by teachers. Tutors and representatives of community groups are also available at the school after hours. Other offerings include a media center with a maker space, art offerings that build on the school’s cultural differences, and group and individual therapy.

Welner and Kelley also wrote recently for The Post’s Answer Sheet about the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, another 2017 School of Opportunity. The school operates on a 72-acre working farm, combining career and technical education with a college-preparatory curriculum. Students choose from one of six agricultural pathways while also meeting academic requirements that are stricter than the district’s. All students create work portfolios that span subject areas. The school’s diverse population includes students with severe disabilities, who participate in coursework while helping to run the farm. School partners include agricultural industry representatives as well as universities.

For more Schools of Opportunity news, click here.

Do you know of a public high school that deserves the School of Opportunity honor?

We want to know about the great schools that have come to the attention of our readers. And we want to make the process of applying for Schools of Opportunity Recognition that much easier. So everyone can now directly nominate great high schools for Schools of Opportunity recognition! We are moving to a nomination process where we rely upon our network of education scholars and leaders to help us find great candidates. Anyone who knows an outstanding school that should be considered can use this: Schools of Opportunity nomination formProject staff will follow up directly with the schools to discuss the recognition project, application process, and growing Schools of Opportunity Network.

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.

May 18, 2018

NEPC’s May Education Interview of the Month Podcast Explores Virtual Schools

A notice about a podcast that Bryan Mann and I participated in a few weeks ago.

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, May 17, 2018

Publication Announcement

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

Greg Smith:

(503) 758-1020

gasmith@lclark.edu

Michael Barbour:

(203) 997-6330

mkbarbour@gmail.com

Bryan Mann:

(205) 348-4733

bamann1@ua.edu

TwitterEmail Address

BOULDER, CO (May 17, 2018) – In May’s NEPC Education Interview of the MonthGreg Smith discusses research regarding virtual schools and their growing impact on the American educational landscape with Michael Barbour of Touro University California and Bryan Mann of the University of Alabama.

Issues with virtual schools include funding formulas that disadvantage brick and mortar schools because virtual schools tend to educate fewer at-risk, special education, and free- and reduced-lunch students.

Another concern is teacher preparation and the lack of formal requirements for professional development. In teacher prep programs, they note, the most valuable experience students often get is their field placement, which does not happen with the vast majority of online school teachers.

Although full-time virtual schools have tended to perform poorly compared with brick and mortar schools, there has been very little regulatory oversight or legislation designed to increase accountability. Professors Barbour and Mann conclude that virtual education clearly needs to be more studied and regulated than it currently is.

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

This concludes our NEPC Education Interview of the Month series for the academic year, but please tune in next September for more 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.

May 16, 2018

School Closures: When A School Is More Than Just A School

Note this item from the NEPC.

School Closures: When a School is More than Just a School

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Newsletter

School Closures: When a School is More than Just a School

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We are excited to announce that we’re giving NEPC emails a new look. You can look forward to emails from us every Tuesday and Thursday during the school year. As before, most of our emails will announce new publications such as NEPC Reviews and policy briefs as well as provide news about Schools of Opportunity. In addition, we will use our email newsletter to connect our publications and projects to important policy debates. We look forward to your feedback and engagement. Much appreciation to you, our readers, from the NEPC team.

In a new short film produced by the Partnership for the Future of Learning, Chicago activist Irene Robinson describes the many ways that her children’s school was more than just a school: “We cooked there. We had holiday meals there with the children and the parents. We had GED classes in our school for the parents.”

The film, Kings and Queens, tracks the impact of school closures in Chicago, which five years ago closed roughly 50 schools housing 12,000 students. It was the largest school closure in an American city. Robinson speaks to the hidden costs of losing so many institutions all at once. These costs are sometimes not obvious—like losing the sense of community that schools foster and create, or leaving children with a false sense that the schools closed because, as Robinson puts it, the students are “too dumb.”

A recent commentary in the New York Times highlights NEPC research on another problem with school closures: They don’t work. Proponents of the mass closures in Chicago touted them as opportunities for students to move from troubled schools (being shut down) to better learning environments where their achievement would improve. Yet research reviewed by NEPC authors Gail L. Sunderman, Erin Coghlan, and Rick Mintrop noted that even when students transferred from closing schools to schools with higher test scores, achievement still dropped in the first year and improved only slightly after that. Moreover, the reality is that students do not necessarily transfer to a school with higher test scores. In fact, one study reviewed by Sunderman, Coghlan and Mintrop found that only six percent of students in a sample of 18 Chicago elementary schools transferred into the top quartile of schools. By contrast, 40 percent enrolled in schools that were on probation, and 42 percent enrolled in schools that scored in the lowest quartile on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills.

These harmful school closures are not necessary. In a report entitled Democratic School Turnarounds, Tina Trujillo, Michelle Renée Valladares, and Tara Kini offer recommendations for school improvement that do not entail school closures. These include:

  • Focus school turnaround policies on improving the quality of teaching and learning rather than on technical-structural changes.
  • Engage a broad cross-section of schools’ communities—teachers, students, parents, and community organizations—in planning and implementing turnaround strategies that are tailored to each school and district context.
  • Surround struggling schools with comprehensive, wrap-around supports that stabilize schools and communities.
  • Increase current federal and state spending for public education, particularly as it is allocated for turnaround-style reforms.
  • Incorporate multiple indicators of effectiveness—apart from test scores—that reflect the multiple purposes of schools.
  • Support ongoing, systematic research, evaluation, and dissemination examining all aspects of turnaround processes in schools and districts.

Valladares also writes about Chicago school closures in this piece for the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet.

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.

May 11, 2018

Report’s Comparisons of Charter School versus Public School Productivity Suffer From Lack of Clarity and Validity

And another review of an ideological think tank report by the NEPC.

Flawed evidence provides no valid guidance to educators or policymakers evaluating cost effectiveness or return on investment.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Publication Announcement

Report’s Comparisons of Charter School versus Public School Productivity Suffer From Lack of Clarity and Validity

KEY TAKEAWAY:

Flawed evidence provides no valid guidance to educators or policymakers evaluating cost effectiveness or return on investment.

CONTACT:

William J. Mathis:

(802) 383-0058

wmathis@sover.net

Julian Vasquez Heilig:

(916) 278-2282

heilig@csus.edu

TwitterEmail Address

BOULDER, CO (May 10, 2018) – Bigger Bang, Fewer Bucks?: The Productivity of Public Charter Schools in Eight U.S. Cities, published by the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform, contends that charter schools produce more achievement per dollar invested, as compared to public schools.

Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig of California State University Sacramento reviewed the report and identified a variety of methodological choices made by the authors that threaten the validity of the results.

The report is focused on city-level analyses in eight U.S. cities (Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, New York City, San Antonio, and Washington D.C.) and uses cost effectiveness and Return on Investment ratios. It concludes that charter schools deliver a weighted average of an additional 4.34 NAEP reading points and 4.73 NAEP math points per $1000 invested.

However, Professor Vasquez Heilig points out that the report fails to account for the non-comparability of the student populations in charter and comparison public schools. Four other problems also undercut the report’s claims. First, the report uses revenues rather than actual expenditures, despite well-established critiques of this approach. Second, the report’s lack of specificity (e.g., using state-level data in city-level analyses and completely excluding race and gender) plagues the accuracy and validity of its calculations.

Third, the authors fail to reconcile their report with the extensive literature of contrary findings. Finally, even though the think tank’s earlier productivity report included a caveat saying that causal claims would not be appropriate, and even though the new report’s analyses also are insufficient to make causal claims, the new report omits that caution.

The evidence in this report is so flawed that it provides no valid guidance to educators or policymakers.

Find the review, by Julian Vasquez Heilig, at:

http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-roi

Find Bigger Bang, Fewer Bucks?: The Productivity of Public Charter Schools in Eight U.S. Cities, written by Corey A. DeAngelis, Patrick J. Wolf, Larry D. Maloney, & Jay F. Mayand, and published by the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform, at:

http://www.uaedreform.org/downloads/2018/02/bigger-bang-fewer-bucks-the-productivity-of-public-charter-schools-in-eight-u-s-cities.pdf

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.

May 9, 2018

Teacher Prep Programs for Early Childhood Education Explored in Two Useful Reports

Note this latest NEPC think tank report review.

Despite some limitations in research and length, reports seem valid and reasonable.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Publication Announcement

Teacher Prep Programs for Early Childhood Education Explored in Two Useful Reports

KEY TAKEAWAY:

Despite some limitations in research and length, reports seem valid and reasonable.

CONTACT:

William J. Mathis:

(802) 383-0058

wmathis@sover.net

Adam Winsler:

(571) 221-9124

awinsler@gmu.edu

TwitterEmail Address

BOULDER, CO (May 8, 2018) – It Takes a Community: Leveraging Community College Capacity to Transform the Early Childhood Workforce, published by the Bellwether Education Partners, and Pre-K Teachers and Bachelor’s Degrees: Envisioning Equitable Access to High-Quality Preparation Program, published by New America and Bellwether, both examine the current state of early childhood education (ECE) teacher preparation programs at the community college and university levels.

Professor Adam Winsler of George Mason University reviewed the reports and found them to be mostly sound, with the It Takes a Community report more comprehensive and useful than the second, shorter one.

Both reports raise awareness about the challenges facing the ECE workforce and educational institutions in dealing with the recent policy push to increase the required educational credentials for pre-K teachers. Specifically, these policies elevate the requirement from Child Development Associate certificate to an associate’s degree or to a bachelor’s degree with early childhood specialization.

The reports also illustrate innovative practices that some states and colleges are implementing to improve the quality, flexibility, mobility, and diversity of ECE teachers. They end with policy recommendations for states, colleges, and ECE leaders.

The methods consist of simple literature reviews that generally rely on think tank white papers, as opposed to peer-reviewed journal publications. The reports also incorporate informal interviews with ECE stakeholders and leaders, although the methodology and selection procedures used are unclear.

Notwithstanding these limitations, the analyses appear sound and the conclusions and recommendations made are generally reasonable, supported by the relatively limited data available.

Find the review, by Adam Winsler.

Find It Takes a Community: Leveraging Community College Capacity to Transform the Early Childhood Workforce, written by Marnie Kaplan and published by Bellwether Education Partners.

Find Pre-K Teachers and Bachelor’s Degrees: Envisioning Equitable Access to High-Quality Preparation Programs, written by Emily Workman, Lisa Guernsey, and Sara Mead and published by New America and Bellwether Education Partners.

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.

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