Virtual School Meanderings

January 27, 2023

ICYMI: NEPC’s Top Newsletters of 2022

Filed under: virtual school — Michael K. Barbour @ 11:03 am
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An item from the folks at the National Education Policy Center.

NEPC mailings concerning the mischaracterization of school choice research, troubling findings about school finance and high school education, and a popular teaching approach caught in the crossfire of efforts to undermine Critical Race Theory are among the topics that resonated most with our audience in 2022.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Newsletter

ICYMI: NEPC’s Top Newsletters of 2022

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2022 was an eventful year for education, as the nation’s schools continued to struggle with the coronavirus pandemic and maintaining adequate staffing amid the challenges of “the great resignation,” all while facing ongoing efforts to steer public funds to private schools and erase the experiences and perspectives of Black, Brown, female, and LGBTQI+ people from the curriculum.

Published on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the school year, NEPC’s newsletter aims to keep readers informed, with perspectives on contemporary challenges and events that are equity-focused and research-based. Newsletters contain announcements and summaries of the organization’s publications and events, as well as brief, standalone thought pieces related to the Center’s work. As 2022 recedes into the distance, we wanted to share the topics that resonated most with you, our readers—as measured by the share of subscribers who viewed each newsletter. We hope this list offers an opportunity for our subscribers to take stock of the past year while catching up on popular newsletters they may have missed.

In reverse order of popularity, here are the five installments that garnered the most attention in 2022:

5. NEPC Review: For-Profit Charter Schools: An Evaluation of Their Spending and Outcomes

NEPC’s peer reviews of non-peer-reviewed publications (most of which are released by advocacy think tanks) are hallmarks of the Center’s work. In this one, Joshua Cowen of Michigan State reviews a Thomas B. Fordham Institute report on academic outcomes in Ohio’s nonprofit and for-profit charter schools. Like other reviews of Fordham publications, this one finds that the Foreword written by the think tank’s staff is poorly aligned with the findings of the study contained in the body of the report. Specifically, the Foreword’s contentions that regulating for-profit charters could harm disadvantaged students and that states should continue to expand high-quality charter schools are not supported by the more mixed and nuanced results of the research itself.

4. StudentsFirst: Empowering Parents to Help Students Regain Lost Learning

Another NEPC review—this one focused on a report from Ohio’s Buckeye Institute—was our fourth most-read newsletter of the year. In this review, David S. Knight of the University of Washington finds little to no evidence to support the publication’s key conclusions: that the pandemic has led to a decline in confidence in public education, and that this decline should be addressed by expanding access to education savings accounts, public school choice, and tax credits for private school scholarship programs.

3. Another Troubling Link Between K-12 Spending and Student Demographics

NEPC’s newsletters often highlight the work of the Center’s Fellows. This newsletter describes a study conducted by Fellow Bruce Baker of the University of Miami and co-author Zachary Oberfield of Haverford College. Published in the American Educational Research Journal, the study finds that, as the percentage of low-income students and students of color increases in a state, lawmakers seem to become less generous. Specifically, they are less likely to fund K-12 education in a progressive manner that accounts for the higher costs of educating children who live in poverty. They decline to fund the schools those children attend at higher levels than schools attended by their peers from more affluent families. The researchers found more support for the conclusion that demographics explain reductions in progressive funding, as opposed to other common explanations for these reductions, such as the presence or absence of court-ordered school finance reforms or shifts in the partisan makeup of state legislatures.

2. Five Charts That Show How Partisan Strife Is Impacting Public Schools

In our hyper-partisan environment, a nationally representative survey of principals finds that the lack of civility that has become a mainstay of our nation’s politics has spilled over into high schools, making it more difficult for them to fulfill longstanding objectives of preparing citizens to participate productively in our democratic society, according to a report co-authored by NEPC Fellow John Rogers of UCLA and Joseph Kahne of UC Riverside. Findings from the report, which are communicated in the newsletter through five charts, include reports that harassment of LGBTQI+ students is on the rise; that parents, district leaders, and school board members are clamping down on efforts to teach students about racism, diversity, and race; and that students are more frequently making demeaning or hateful remarks about those who disagree with them politically.

1. The Other CRT

NEPC’s most popular newsletter of 2022 examines how Culturally Relevant Teaching—a pedagogical practice that goes by the same initials as the academic framework, Critical Race Theory—has experienced political fallout from those incorrectly conflating the two. Unlike Critical Race Theory, which is almost never taught in K-12 schools and has been demonized and mischaracterized by politicians on the Right, Culturally Relevant Teaching had been a mainstay of public education for years. It has helped teachers address our nation’s changing student demographics by encouraging educators to incorporate at least two different cultures (students’ home cultures plus at least one additional culture in order to develop cultural competence), and by helping students understand not only what they are learning but why and how this content is relevant to their lives. “In the meantime, advocates for Criterion Referenced Tests are warily standing by, to say nothing of advocates for Charitable Remainder Trusts, Crisis Response Teams, and Cathode Ray Tubes,” the newsletter ponderingly concludes.

Missed an NEPC newsletter or publication? Click here to browse our content!

This newsletter 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), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces high-quality information in support of democratic deliberation about education policy. We publish original research, policy briefs, and expert third-party reviews of think tank reports. NEPC publications are written in accessible language and are intended for a broad audience that includes academic experts, policymakers, the media, and the general public. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu/

Copyright 2023 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

January 25, 2023

Report Searches for “Wokeness” Terminology to Justify Deregulated School Choice

An item from the folks at the National Education Policy Center.

Shoddy advocacy report attempts to justify deregulation of the charter school sector for the purpose of decreasing “wokeism” in charter schools.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Publication Announcement

KEY TAKEAWAY:

Shoddy advocacy report attempts to justify deregulation of the charter school sector for the purpose of decreasing “wokeism” in charter schools.

CONTACT:

Alex Molnar:

(480) 797-7261

nepc.molnar@gmail.com

Christine Sleeter:

(831) 915-3876

csleeter@gmail.com

TwitterEmail Address

BOULDER, CO (January 24, 2023)—In one of the more unusual reports NEPC has ever reviewed, Heritage Foundation authors recently argued for school-choice deregulation by comparing the amount of “wokeness” terminology in parent/student handbooks in U.S. charter schools with the level of charter school regulation in their states.

Christine Sleeter of California State University Monterey Bay and T. Jameson Brewer of the University of North Georgia reviewed Empowering Parents with School Choice Reduces Wokeism in Education and found significant flaws in reasoning, even beyond the report’s disconcerting premise.

The Heritage report finds that increased manifestations of “woke” terminology are associated with higher state levels of charter school regulation. On this basis, the report concludes that while charter schools represent a safe space away from “woke indoctrination” in public schools, further deregulation and less bureaucracy will allow the charter sector to truly respond to parent desires to avoid “leftist” curriculum.

Notwithstanding its provocative thesis, apparently intended to tap into current turmoil, the report has at least five significant weaknesses. It assumes that parent/student handbooks are good proxies for curriculum; it completely ignores the diversity of parents and relevant research about what large proportions of parents actually want; it conflates correlation with causation; it relies on undefined conceptions of what constitutes “wokeness”; and it possibly uses cherry-picked data and methods that suit ideological bias.

These shortcomings render the report useless for understanding or developing policy. Instead, the report serves merely as an example of strategically employing dog whistles and fear, embedded in shoddy methodology for the sole purpose of affirming a solution (school choice) in search of a problem (“wokeness”).

Find the review, by Christine Sleeter and T. Jameson Brewer, at:

https://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/wokeism

Find Empowering Parents with School Choice Reduces Wokeism in Education, written by Jay P. Greene and Ian S. Kingsbury and published by the Heritage Foundation, at:

https://www.heritage.org/sites/default/files/2022-11/BG3735.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), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces high-quality information in support of democratic deliberation about education policy. We publish original research, policy briefs, and expert third-party reviews of think tank reports. NEPC publications are written in accessible language and are intended for a broad audience that includes academic experts, policymakers, the media, and the general public. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu/

Copyright 2023 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

January 23, 2023

NEPC Talks Education: Discussing K-12 School Finance Policy and Practice

Filed under: virtual school — Michael K. Barbour @ 12:03 pm
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An item from the folks at the National Education Policy Center.

NEPC Talks Education offers insightful programming on a variety of significant education policy and practice topics for educators, community members, policymakers, and anyone interested in education.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Publication Announcement

NEPC Talks Education: Discussing K-12 School Finance Policy and Practice

KEY TAKEAWAY:

NEPC Talks Education offers insightful programming on a variety of significant education policy and practice topics for educators, community members, policymakers, and anyone interested in education.

CONTACT:

Alex Molnar:

(480) 797-7261

nepc.molnar@gmail.com

Faith Boninger:

(480) 390-6736

fboninger@gmail.com

Christopher Saldaña:

(608) 262-8866

cmsaldana@wisc.edu

TwitterEmail Address

BOULDER, CO (October 20, 2023)—In this month’s NEPC Talks Educationpodcast episode, Christopher Saldaña discusses recent developments in K-12 school finance policy and practice with David Knight, University of Washington College of Education professor of education finance and policy.

Knight notes that in response to the pandemic, federal policymakers allocated close to $200 billion for K-12 public education, in contrast to more typical federal funding of about $60 billion or 9% of total funding for schools. He argues that policymakers will need to do more than distribute these funds. They also need to ensure that dollars are allocated equitably, spent effectively, and that they are adequate to the meet the ongoing needs of students. In Knight’s view, policymakers were wise to distribute federal funds using the same formula used for distributing Title I funds because it allocates funding based on the percentage of low-income students in a district. However, he argues that the requirement that school districts spend all federal funds by the end of the 2024 could place unneeded stress on district finances. The spending deadline will create the same sort of destructive “fiscal cliff” (i.e., a sudden loss of revenue caused by the expiration of federal funding) that occurred when federal stimulus funds that were distributed in response to the 2008 financial crisis ended.

In general Knight believes that funding policy should be designed to provide adequate funding and the equitable distribution of public funds. In order to best achieve these goals, Knight suggests that prior to setting dollar amounts to implement favored policies, policymakers should first focus on ensuring that stakeholders agree on the outcomes desired and only then determine the funding necessary to achieve those outcomes. Knight further argues that policymakers must assess the full cost of providing an adequate education and determine how that cost differs across school districts. Knight believes this approach will provide politicians, school leaders, and stakeholders with clear objectives and help ensure adequate funding, the equitable distribution of funds, and their effective use.

A new NEPC Talks Education podcast episode hosted by Christopher Saldaña will be released each month from September through May.

Don’t worry if you miss a month. All episodes are archived on the NEPC website and can be found here.

NEPC podcast episodes are also available on Apple Podcasts and Stitcher, under the title NEPC Talks Education. Subscribe and follow!

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces high-quality information in support of democratic deliberation about education policy. We publish original research, policy briefs, and expert third-party reviews of think tank reports. NEPC publications are written in accessible language and are intended for a broad audience that includes academic experts, policymakers, the media, and the general public. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu/

Copyright 2023 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

January 18, 2023

Report Oversimplifies Complex Issue of Teacher Attrition

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

Teacher autonomy alone cannot resolve the multifaceted, deeply nuanced, and complex systemic problem—such as low pay and high workloads—that have led to teacher shortages.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Publication Announcement

Report Oversimplifies Complex Issue of Teacher Attrition

KEY TAKEAWAY:

Teacher autonomy alone cannot resolve the multifaceted, deeply nuanced, and complex systemic problems—such as low pay and high workloads—that have led to teacher shortages.

CONTACT:

Alex Molnar:

(480) 797-7261

nepc.molnar@gmail.com

Charisse Gulosino:

(901) 678-5217

cglosino@memphis.edu

TwitterEmail Address

BOULDER, CO (January 17, 2023)—A recent report from the Progressive Policy Institute highlights the emergence of widespread teacher staffing shortages. By describing teacher autonomy as a panacea for reversing the problem, however, the report oversimplifies the issue.

Charisse Gulosino of the University of Memphis and Hajime Mitani of Rowan University reviewed Autonomous Schools Can Help Solve the Problem Behind the Teacher Shortage Problem and found it to overlook the complexity and nuance of the teacher shortage issue, ignoring the factors that school districts face such as staffing gaps, low pay, and high workloads.

The report’s recommendations are grounded in its descriptions of contemporary “autonomous” school initiatives. While the specifics of these initiatives vary, they all fall under the umbrella of positioning teachers with greater decision-making responsibilities and authority. Research does support the finding that increased autonomy generally produces greater job satisfaction for teachers. Therefore, the report suggests that such initiatives are effective strategies to remedy teacher shortages.

What Professors Gulosino and Mitani find lacking in the report, however, is supporting evidence for these causal claims, in that it relies on popular contemporary readings and descriptive surveys rather than evidence of the efficacy of the recommended approach. Classical economic theory suggests that teacher shortages result from an imbalance between supply and demand generated by multiple factors. Furthermore, teacher labor markets are geographically small and localized, requiring local action.

Effectively addressing the problem, therefore, requires understanding local conditions and analyzing factors affecting demand and supply in a specific context. Regarding autonomy reforms, it also requires assessing their cost-effectiveness and sustainability. Thus, they conclude, policymakers and other readers should be aware that what is ignored in this report is far more important to informed policy than what it contains.

Find the review, by Charisse Gulosino and Hajime Mitani, at:

https://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/teacher-shortage

Find Autonomous Schools Can Help Solve the Problem Behind the Teacher Shortage Problem, written by Tressa Pankovits and published by the Progressive Policy Institute, at:

https://www.progressivepolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/PPI_Teacher-shortages.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), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces high-quality information in support of democratic deliberation about education policy. We publish original research, policy briefs, and expert third-party reviews of think tank reports. NEPC publications are written in accessible language and are intended for a broad audience that includes academic experts, policymakers, the media, and the general public. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu/

Copyright 2023 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

December 19, 2022

NEPC Talks Education: Discussing the Role of Law and Litigation in K-12 Education Policy

Filed under: virtual school — Michael K. Barbour @ 10:08 am
Tags: , , , , ,

An item from the folks at the National Education Policy Center.

NEPC Talks Education offers insightful programming on a variety of significant education policy and practice topics for educators, community members, policymakers, and anyone interested in education.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Publication Announcement

KEY TAKEAWAY:

NEPC Talks Education offers insightful programming on a variety of significant education policy and practice topics for educators, community members, policymakers, and anyone interested in education.

CONTACT:

Alex Molnar:

(480) 797-7261

nepc.molnar@gmail.com

Faith Boninger:

(480) 390-6736

fboninger@gmail.com

Christopher Saldaña:

(608) 262-8866

cmsaldana@wisc.edu

TwitterEmail Address

BOULDER, CO (December 15, 2022)—In this month’s episode of NEPC Talks EducationChristopher Saldaña interviews Derek Black, professor of law and the Ernest F. Hollings Chair in Constitutional Law at the University of South Carolina School of Law, about the role of the law and litigation in educational policy debates about curriculum, school choice, and school funding. His areas of expertise include education law and policy, constitutional law, and civil rights.

Saldaña and Black begin this month’s episode with a conversation about how the courts might intervene in debates over teaching about race and gender in K-12 classrooms. Black explains that issues of discrimination in curriculum are difficult to litigate and that issues of race and gender are governed by different federal statutes. Nevertheless, Black notes the courts could be asked to weigh students’ right to learn about racism and gender identity as well as the free speech rights of teachers and students. He also points out that teachers could, for example, challenge anti-CRT or “anti-woke” laws on due process grounds, forcing courts to determine if state laws have overly ambiguous enforcement mechanisms.

Black explains that on the issues of school choice and school funding the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Carson v. Makin is likely to have nationwide implications for the policymaking that provides public monies to fund religious schools. Although the Supreme Court’s decision makes no comment on whether religious schools that receive public monies must abide by state anti-discrimination laws, those issues are almost certainly going to be litigated as states set funding policies post-Carson v Makin. In another instance of how court rulings shape education policy, a recent decision published by the North Carolina Supreme Court compels a recalcitrant state legislature to increase public funding for public schools to improve school quality. According to Black, the decision will have a consequential impact on K-12 school finance equity.

Black recommends stakeholders continue to consider how the courts can offer remedies for past harms and current injustices, but he argues stakeholders should not lose sight of the role of state policymakers. He believes that the most consequential decisions about public education happen in the state house. He encourages advocates of public education to lobby their state policymakers to legislate on issues of educational policy in ways that are just and fair.

A new NEPC Talks Education podcast episode hosted by Christopher Saldaña will be released each month from September through May.

Don’t worry if you miss a month. All episodes are archived on the NEPC website and can be found here.

NEPC podcast episodes are also available on Apple Podcasts and Stitcher, under the title NEPC Talks Education. Subscribe and follow!

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces high-quality information in support of democratic deliberation about education policy. We publish original research, policy briefs, and expert third-party reviews of think tank reports. NEPC publications are written in accessible language and are intended for a broad audience that includes academic experts, policymakers, the media, and the general public. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu/

Copyright 2022 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

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