Virtual School Meanderings

February 8, 2017

News: Betsy DeVos’ Graduation Rate Mistake

This NPR news item is worth reposting in its entirety.  Note that this is the Secretary of Education for the next number of years.


Betsy DeVos’ Graduation Rate Mistake

In her written responses to Senate Democrats, Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos used inflated graduation rate figures for virtual charter schools.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

The latest, remarkable misstep of a Cabinet nominee who has misstepped plenty came in answer to a simple question:

“Why do you think their performance is so poor?” asked Senator Patty Murray, D-Wa., in a written question to Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s nominee to lead the Education Department.

“Their” refers to virtual schools, of which DeVos has been an outspoken champion. The “poor” refers to a large body of research — study after study after study — that raises serious questions about the quality and efficacy of schools that attempt to educate full-time students through the computer, without traditional access to teachers or classrooms. In response, DeVos wrote:

“High quality virtual charter schools provide valuable options to families, particularly those who live in rural areas where brick-and-mortar schools might not have the capacity to provide the range of courses or other educational experiences for students. Because of this, we must be careful not to brand an entire category of schools as failing students.”

Then comes the misstep, first detailed by Columbia University professor Aaron Pallas in this opinion piece for The Hechinger Report, followed by Ben Herold reporting for Education Week.

“The following virtual academies have four-year cohort graduation rates at or above 90 percent,” DeVos wrote, listing some apparent success stories:

“Idaho Virtual Academy (IDV A): 90 percent

Nevada Virtual Academy (NVV A): 100 percent

Ohio Virtual Academy (OHV A): 92 percent

Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy (OVCA): 91 percent

Texas Virtual Academy (TXVA): 96 percent

Utah Virtual Academy (UTV A): 96 percent

Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIV A): 96 percent”

There’s just one problem with these numbers, Pallas points out.

They’re wrong.

The Nevada Virtual Academy, for example. Its graduation rate for the class of 2015 wasn’t 100 percent. It was 63 percent, according to Nevada’s own school report card.

Ohio Virtual Academy’s 92 percent graduation rate? Try 53 percent.

Utah Virtual Academy’s 96 percent rate? Cut it in half.

You get the point.

Where did DeVos get these inflated numbers? Questions to the Trump administration went unanswered, but they appear to have been lifted verbatim from this report by K12 Inc., the for-profit company behind the online schools listed. DeVos herself was once an investor. It would not be the first of her answers to senators that appear to have been borrowed without citation.

K12 Inc. has already responded to the controversy, explaining that its numbers are “the graduation rate of continuously enrolled high school students – those who enrolled in ninth grade and remained enrolled until twelfth grade. This is not the federal graduation rate and our report makes that clear.”

If it’s not the federal graduation rate, as DeVos suggested it is, what is it?

“It’s a fictitious rate,” says Russell Rumberger, professor emeritus of education at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “It ignores almost all of the students who transfer out or drop out.”

As K12 Inc. acknowledges, the rate it published only accounts for students who persisted, remaining enrolled for four years. The federal rate, on the other hand — known as the four-year cohort graduation rate — requires schools to account for all students who transfer or drop out.

In short, DeVos’ numbers implied that few students had dropped out of these virtual schools when the actual rates, reported by states, suggest otherwise.

“I think this was a mistake,” says Michael Petrilli, President of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative-leaning education think tank. “It’s impossible to argue that most online charter schools are high-performing because most are performing abysmally.”

Petrilli should know. He once worked for K12 Inc., and, under his leadership, Fordham has studied Ohio’s virtual charter schools extensively.

It’s not just Ohio, either. Herold was also part of a sweeping Education Week investigation of cyber charters nationwide titled “Rewarding Failure.”

K12 Inc. chooses not to use the so-called federal graduation rate because, the company argues, it isn’t an accurate measure of success for many virtual schools. “High numbers of credit-deficient students and high mobility rates adversely impact the four-year graduation cohort rate for online schools,” according to that 2016 K12 Inc. report.

That’s a reasonable argument and worth debating. Virtual schools often cater to vulnerable students — kids who transfer repeatedly or may not intend to stay for four years.

“I agree that the four-year cohort graduation rate is limited for schools that enroll high-risk kids,” says Rumberger. “Imagine students who walk in the door reading at a fourth-grade level. It’s much more challenging to get that student to graduate in four years, and I don’t think schools should have to.”

DeVos, however, did not make that argument in her written response to Sen. Murray’s question. She did something else entirely.

Instead, DeVos built an argument for virtual charter schools on language apparently taken — without citation — from a report written by a for-profit company with a huge stake in the industry. In the process, DeVos either knowingly or unwittingly mischaracterized the official graduation rates of virtual schools, making them look more successful than they are and making online learning, in general, look like a reliable pathway to student success when research suggests it is anything but.

Clarification: This post has been updated to make clearer who first reported details of DeVos’ virtual charter school mistake.


See also:

February 5, 2017

EBSCO Alerts

ebscoFirst I did not receive the alert for virtual school this week.

Next, I did receive the alert for cyber school, but there were no relevant items.

Finally, once again I did not receive the alert for K-12 online learning.

So once again nothing to report this week…

February 4, 2017

Virtual Schooling In The News

InTheNewsBeginning with the ASCD SmartBrief.

Ideas to keep students learning during snow days

Ideas to keep students learning during snow days
(Pixabay)
Some schools are using technology to help students continue learning when schools are closed for inclement weather. Educator Keri Mosier suggests giving assignments that students can complete on their phones or computers and holding virtual discussions.
U.S. News & World Report (1/30)

Ideas to support administrator-driven innovation

Ideas to support administrator-driven innovation
(Pixabay)
It can be challenging for administrators to lead blended-learning initiatives if they have little experience with them, asserts Stepan Mekhitarian, blended-learning coordinator for the Los Angeles Unified School District. In this podcast, he discusses how administrators can overcome this obstacle.
EdSurge (2/1)

Similarly, from the NASBE State Ed SmartBrief.

Competency-based learning a top edtech trend

Competency-based learning a top edtech trend
(Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Blended and competency-based learning are among the top three technology trends expected to grow this year in education, educators and experts say. Schools also will do more to connect student and educator data, plus drive student interest in science, technology, engineering and math through virtual reality and makerspaces.
EdTech magazine online (1/31)

 

Back to the regular Google News alert for virtual school.

Around Prince William: What high school space problem?

Virtual school isn’t for everyone. Students have to meet a set of defined criteria and work with a guidance counselor to participate. Instructors are …

Advocates Push For More School Choice In Alabama

… and mortar is something that we like but we want to transition to something more at home,” said Wendolyn Perdue, an adviser with the virtual school.

Senator Pitching “Virtual Schools”

“Texas children deserve the best education opportunities we can provide them, whether that happens in a brick and mortar, public or private school, …

Lawrence school officials brief lawmakers about virtual schools

Lawrence school district superintendent Kyle Hayden briefs a legislative committee about the LawrenceVirtual School. Hayden spoke to the House …

Around Prince William: What high school space problem?

I suggest the Prince William County School Board take a look at its already successful Virtual High School program to alleviate the pressure on those …

Advocates Push For More School Choice In Alabama

It’s hard to miss the yellow scarves advertising school choice week, … state came out, including staff from the state’s first virtual school that started this …

Online Schools Growing Yet Reasons Students Choose Them Haven’t Changed

Although the number of students who take online or blended courses is elusive, the reasons they go thevirtual route for their studies tend to fall into a …

Virtual Public School Gives Back at Sacramento Food Bank

California Connections Academy @ Ripon is a tuition free, virtual public school serving students in an eight county region including Sacramento …

Wide support for legislative ethics reform, says senator

Don Huffines filed a bill to expand access to virtual school to kindergartners, first and second graders. Huffines said the 2007 law that created a system …

Trustees celebrate School Board Recognition Month

In other business, Cori Cumbee gave a presentation regarding the district’s recent launch as a virtual school. The online classes benefit students by …

Sarasota Virtual School Begins Open Enrollment for the 2017-18 Year

Sarasota Virtual School (SVS) is a district public school which provides a full-time online learning option for students in grades K-12.

Taking learning beyond the classroom with Abbotsford Virtual School

Abbotsford Virtual School (AVS) is on the cutting edge of education with their combination of old and new world classroom structures. They are offering …

Gastonia fourth-grader excels in online school and tennis

She plans to continue attending the virtual school and has set her goals on continuing to crack the national rankings as she gets older. She imparts the …

@FGCU_MTen Opens Home Slate with Bethune-Cookman, FAU

Florida Virtual School/Florida) and Mateo Ruiz (Bucaramanga, Colombia/Oklahoma State) at No. 2 as well as Javier Fernandez (Ibiza, Spain/IES …

Finally, the Google News alert for cyber school.

The Agora Cyber Charter School: Learn At Your Pace

Cyber charter schools provides educational opportunity to all students in Pennsylvania serving children with special needs, those who are highly …

Teachers Keep Teens Learning on Cyber Snow Days

Teens love technology, so using it is a good way to get students motivated to learn outside of school on snow days, one teacher says. (Marcel ter …

Erie-area school officials call on Harrisburg to fix education spending

“In the 2014-15 school year, the Conneaut School District paid over $1,000,000 taxpayer dollars to cyber-charters that are failing,” Sperry said. “In that …

DCC recognized as ‘center for cyber excellence’ by Gov. McAuliffe

(WDBJ7) Danville Community College is now a center for cyber excellence. Governor Terry McAuliffe says DCC is one of the best cyber schools in the …

Teacher held for sex abuse at Main Line school for behavior issues

Scott was hired in October 2015 and had previously worked for a cyber school. Radnor Police Superintendent William Colarulo described the …

DASD gearing up for 2017-18 budget

“So despite the fact we have our own cyber school, we are still spending $933,000 for children who decide not to use it and there is not a darn thing …

Teacher at school for troubled children faces 70 charges over sexual assault on 16 year old female …

Scott was hired in October 2015 and had previously worked for a cyber school. TheVillage is a residential child-care facility in Radnor Township where …

January 29, 2017

EBSCO Alerts

ebscoFirst I did not receive the alert for virtual school this week.

Next, I did receive the alert for cyber school, but there were no relevant items.

Finally, once again I did not receive the alert for K-12 online learning.

So nothing to report again this week…

January 28, 2017

Virtual Schooling In The News

InTheNewsBeginning with the Connected Educator SmartBrief.

Other News

Back to the regular Google News alert for virtual school.

What’s Next For Old Mission School, TCAPS After Deal

… costs for expanding programs like TCAPS’ international program, its newly announced homeschool partnership program, and its virtual school.

Celebrate Children, Celebrate Choice

Virtual School: The Mississippi Virtual Public School offers a rigorous online curriculum to students in 6-12. Participation in this program is determine …

Senator Wants Virtual Schools Accountable for Student Attendance

Virtual charter schools would be required to track and report student attendance —something the schools aren’t currently tasked with doing — under a …

Bishop Kelly has virtual school day

BOISE – “Snow Day,” it’s something many students in the Treasure Valley have been hearing a lot these last few weeks. However, for those at Bishop …

High school students embrace politics with help of virtualclasses

BURTON, Mich. (WJRT) – (1/19/17) – Some Mid-Michigan high school students are embracing the opportunity to learn more about government on the …

Charter School To Expand Space In SE OKC

EPIC Charter, a virtual school serving 9,000 students wants roughly 20,000 square feet, to use for testing and special education. Superintendent David …

EDUCATION NOTEBOOK: High School Showcase set for Thursday

Current 8th and 9th grade students attending a St. Johns County School District school (including St. JohnsVirtual School) must apply online between …

Second Baptist Christian Prep to celebrate School Choice Week

Second Baptist Christian Prep to celebrate School Choice Week … Christian, home school, charter school,virtual school or traditional public school.

Indian Creek looking at partnership to add more education options

The virtual school would become a charter school, able to accept students from across the state for its online courses, and the public school district …

CUSD to Open School of Choice Period Feb. 1

Those programs include California Preparatory Academy, the district’s online independent study high school; Capistrano Virtual School, which offers …

Online Schools Growing Yet Reasons Students Choose Them Haven’t Changed

Although the report doesn’t share specific data regarding growth of the use of online programs, as evidence it profiled several virtual school programs …

States Step Up to Help Districts With Ed-Tech Procurement

In Wisconsin, the state’s virtual school is emerging as a procurement agent for districts. “It’s becoming mainstream what they’re able to provide …

Senator Pitching “Virtual Schools”

… in a brick and mortar, public or private school, behind a desk at home, or a virtual school student, I’m going to fight for them to have that choice.”.

Wide support for legislative ethics reform, says senator

Don Huffines filed a bill to expand access to virtual school to kindergartners, first and second graders. Huffines said the 2007 law that created a system …

Lawrence school officials brief lawmakers about virtual schools

Lawrence school district superintendent Kyle Hayden briefs a legislative committee about the Lawrence Virtual School. Hayden spoke to the House …

Virtual Public School Gives Back at Sacramento Food Bank

Volunteers from California Connections Academy @ Ripon sort food in their service project at the Sacramento Food Bank. Share this pic with friends!

Multiple choice: Options for education take center stage

… increased enrollment credited to the implementation of a virtual school and representatives from the Alabama Department of Education dropping by …

New tech trend breaking down learning barriers

Last year, NSW first ‘virtual school’, Aurora College, opened a range of new possibilities for regional and remote students to study in selective streams …

Finally, the Google News alert for cyber school.

Local officials unhappy with new cyber school

Kevin Miller, who becomes superintendent of RESA on April 1, said new cyber charter school Success Virtual Learning Center of Michigan, its founder …

Gwinnett Schools rolls out cyber day plan to replace weather makeups

The cyber scenario for snow days has been discussed for several years, and instituted in local privateschools like Greater Atlanta Christian.

Palisades board member voices concerns of cyber charters

Officials in the Palisades School District are concerned about the quality — and high cost — of cyber schools outside the district attended by district …

Don’t judge cyber charter schools on test scores alone

Cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania don’t try to contest SPP (School Performance Profile) scores on record at www.paschoolperformance.org.

Bethlehem school district starts budget $12.5M in the hole

The Bethlehem Area School District is starting its 2017-18 budget process with … Seventy-five percent of the state’s 130,000 charter and cyber school …

The Agora Cyber Charter School: Learn At Your Pace

A family who choose to enroll their child in cyber school can take control of their student’s education.” To learn more, visit their website or watch the full …

Tax-shift proposal worries Berks public school leaders

… building Thursday afternoon, is that state dollars are keeping up with rising, mandated costs such as pension contributions and cyber school tuitions.
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