Virtual School Meanderings

September 16, 2021

REL Mid-Atlantic Fall Newsletter 2021

Several distance and remote learning items in this REL newsletter.

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REL Mid-Atlantic News

Latest News from the Director

Brian Gill

As summer comes to an end, we’re sharing some back-to-school resources in this newsletter. Ensuring a successful return to the classroom has never been more urgent, so we hope you find these ideas useful during the school year.


We learned a lot about connecting with students and their families during the pandemic. Check out some ideas for engaging our youngest learners as well as working with their parents and caregivers to make a smooth transition into the school year. We also have suggestions for assessing how students, staff, and parents view their teachers and schools, as well as measuring social-emotional competencies, which can influence children’s life trajectories in important ways.


Brian Gill

Director, REL Mid-Atlantic

Back-to-School Highlights


Preparing for the New Year: Three Ways to Ease Transitions for Little Learners

Schools returning to in-person instruction after an unusual and challenging year need to make special efforts to engage young learners. Read about three ways that states, districts, and schools can promote successful early-grade transitions. A new fact sheet lays out ways to engage families in learning and development during these critical early years.


Infusing Lessons from Remote and Hybrid Instruction to Boost Student Engagement 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, educators, schools, and districts found innovative ways to engage students that remain useful when school buildings are fully open for in-person instruction. Read more about these lessons in this blog post and review six foundational pillars in this short video.


Building a Safe and Supportive School Climate

School climate can influence students’ academic achievement, healthy development, and school success. It can also be key to violence prevention and teacher retention.  Many states, local education agencies, and schools include climate measures in their improvement initiatives. Learn about how a school climate index can provide an objective measure of student, staff, and parent perceptions of the quality, character, and health of the learning environment. Check out the related fact sheet.

New Jersey Produces Reliable School Performance Measures with Shorter Tests 

In 2019, well before the pandemic, the New Jersey Department of Education collaborated with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) consortium to create a new and shorter test, based on the same academic standards and using a common set of test questions. This change reduced testing times by 25 to 33 percent per test, freeing up more time for instruction. The state partnered with REL Mid-Atlantic to understand the effects of this change, and the results are encouraging, with a high degree of reliability across most measures the researchers examined. Read the blog post and report.

Measuring Social and Emotional Learning Is a Step Toward Improving Life Outcomes

Many educators wonder how to get started in measuring students’ social-emotional competencies, which can influence educational attainment, health, earnings, and employment. A new report can help chart the course.


Using School Report Cards for Decision Making: Design Choices Matter 

Report cards on school performance are an important source of information about schools for families and community members. Report cards must provide key information clearly and concisely so families can make informed decisions about their students’ schooling. A new infographic and report show how we tested reactions to different designs to identify the ones that performed best for specific groups of users.

Teacher Surveys Can Inform Principal Evaluations

Evaluating school principals is difficult because their jobs are varied and responsibilities change from day to day. Read about how teacher surveys examining a school’s leadership, culture, and climate can provide a unique perspective on the principal’s performance from the staff who interact with the principal every day.

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Please reach out anytime at to share your ideas about important issues the REL Mid-Atlantic could address, request free technical assistance, or ask questions about how we can help you in your work.

This work was funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) under contract ED-IES-17-C-0006, with REL Mid-Atlantic, administered by Mathematica. The content of the newsletter does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. government.

Fall ’21 📊 Quarterly Research Clearinghouse Newsletter

A newsletter from the folks at the MVLRI.

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Quarterly Research Clearinghouse Newsletter

Fall ’21 — Quarterly Research
Clearinghouse Newsletter

Four times a year, we send out a digest of published scholarship in the area of K-12 online and blended learning. Below you will find abstracts to several recently published articles — hand-picked by our Institute’s researchers — with links to the full-text if you are interested in reading more.


Student-Centered Learning In Michigan K-12 Schools: Factors that Impact Successful Implementation

Christa Green and Chris Harrington

While the more traditional teacher-centered model of education does work for some students, it does not work for all. By connecting with district administrators, school administrators, and teachers through both a survey and interviews, this study aimed to capture the ways in which some Michigan K-12 schools are implementing student-centered learning practices along with the factors that impact the successful implementation of such practices. It is our hope that the effective practices, guidance, and advice gleaned from the many innovative educators who so generously gave their time to participate in this study will help other school and district personnel overcome their own barriers to successful implementation of a more student-centered approach to learning.


An exploratory study of how novice instructors pivot to online assessments strategies

Virginia L. Byrne, Erin Hogan, Neil Dhingra, Monica Anthony, and Colleen Gannon

Increasingly, graduate student instructors (GSIs) teach online without prior formal training on how to design online assessments of learning and participation. We present findings from a collective case study of seven GSIs at a university in the United States of America to describe how these novice online instructors learned to enact assessment strategies in an online classroom. Findings reveal that the GSIs were influenced by professional learning networks such as peer communities of practice, the academic Twitter community, student feedback, and faculty gatekeeping of institutional resources and policies. With limited institutional and departmental support, the GSIs struggled to transform their face-to-face assessments to leverage technology but leaned on their professional judgment to prioritize traditional discussion and participation structures. Findings inform our understanding of how universities might prioritize professional learning networks on online teaching at differing institutional levels to increase GSIs’ access to online teaching information and knowledgeable role models.


K-12 Blended Teaching Skills and Abilities: An Analysis of Blended Teaching Artifacts

Cecil R. Short, Charles R. Graham, and Emily Sabey

Several professional organizations, non-profit groups, and researchers have provided K-12 blended teaching competencies; however, few of these have connected competencies to concrete practices. This analysis used a set of research-based blended teaching competencies to analyze a representative sample of 959 artifacts focused on blended teaching practices to uncover the dispositions, technology skills, and competencies that are important to K-12 blended teaching. The analysis uncovered that all dispositions used for coding were important, some technology skills seemed to be more important than others, and some competency areas seemed to be more important than others. These findings provide a foundation for future research that could seek to understand the competencies and practices that are important to K-12 blended teaching.


Key Strategies for Engaging Students in Virtual Learning Environments

Chris Harrington and Kristen DeBruler

The student engagement and relationship-building strategies discussed in this report are based on the current practices provided by the 1,721 virtual teachers participating in this study. These individuals currently work within the school structures of 17 statewide virtual schools or programs, in which providing virtual education to students is their primary focus. The expertise of these individuals is provided as a way to aid teachers and administrators of both traditional and nontraditional schools and districts that have teachers and school leaders who are developing their skills and abilities as virtual educators.


A Case Study of Teachers’ Experiences of Blended Teaching and Learning

Diane Cunningham

The purpose of this study was to explore the question, How do teachers experience blended teaching and learning? This article describes the interplay of beliefs and practices of four high school teachers, based on interview data, observation data, and artifact analysis. Results show that the four teachers in the study are enacting their beliefs in the blended context and that their beliefs are consistent across blended and face-to-face domains. Teachers’ views of teaching and learning center on facilitation of active and authentic learning for students and are aligned to school vision. Strategies to remain student-centered vary from teacher to teacher, but an emphasis on formative assessment and feedback is evidenced in the practice of all teachers. Technology use did not emerge as a barrier for these teachers because professional development focused both on curriculum design and the use of instructional technology. The study provides implications for teacher placement, course selection, and professional development design.

The Digital Backpack | Powered by Michigan Virtual

Subscribe to the Digital Backpack for more regular updates!

Want more regular updates? Every month, our research team publishes several blog articles on online and blended learning, including four separate series on monthly research round ups, student-centered learning, mentoring online students, and success in online learning. By subscribing to the Digital Backpack blog, you’ll receive a weekly digest of Michigan Virtual‘s latest articles sent to your inbox every Thursday.

Explore over 1,000 publications in our Research Clearinghouse

Though we only feature four or five resources per newsletter, we encourage you to visit our Research Clearinghouse to search for citations that may be of use to you. The Clearinghouse currently houses over 1,000 citations in the field of online and blended learning, and over 100 new citations are added each year.


If you have any questions about how to navigate this resource, please check out our “Getting Started Guide.”

What else do you want to see?  Please feel free to offer any feedback on the Clearinghouse or any other MVLRI initiatives by emailing us at Thank you!


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September 12, 2021

New edWebinars | Student Engagement, Social-Emotional Learning, Twice-Exceptional Students, Literacy, Science, and more!

Filed under: virtual school — Michael K. Barbour @ 10:34 am
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Note these up-coming webinars.

Coming Up Next
Register to attend live or receive the recording.
edWebinar Presenters
Creating a Sense of Belonging: A Critical Need for Student Engagement and Success
Monday, Sep. 13 @ 2 pm ET
Presented by Juliana Urtubey, 2021 National Teacher of the Year and Special Education Co-Teacher, Kermit Booker Elementary School (NV); and Alison R. Shell, Ph.D., Research Scientist, Learner Variability Project, Digital Promise
edWebinar Presenters
ESSER Funds: Today, Tomorrow, and the Long-Term Impact on Learning
Monday, Sep. 13 @ 3 pm ET
Presented by Carl Hooker, Educator and Author, HookerTech, LLC; Doug Mesecar, Former EdTech Senior Executive and U.S. Department of Education Deputy Chief of Staff; and Harrison Parker, Vice President of Operations, NetRef
edWebinar Presenters
Learning Reimagined: Leveraging Technology to Meet the Needs of All Students
Monday, Sep. 13 @ 5 pm ET
Presented by Dr. Carol Kelley, Superintendent, Princeton Public Schools (NJ); Dr. John Malloy, Superintendent, San Ramon Valley Unified School District (CA); and Dr. David Schuler, Superintendent, High School District 214 (IL)
Aimee Dearmon
Communication Differences in Students with Autism: Making Language Powerful
Tuesday, Sep. 14 @ 2 pm ET
Presented by Aimee Dearmon M.S. CCC-SLP, BCBA, Training Specialist, STAR Autism Support
edWebinar Presenters
Improve Learning Outcomes Through the Math Practices, Rubrics, and Self-Assessment
Tuesday, Sep. 14 @ 4 pm ET
Presented by Jay Meadows, Chief Education Officer and Chief Executive Officer, Exemplars; and Jessica Keegan, Elementary Director of Teaching and Learning, Oceanside School District (NY)
edWebinar Presenters
Equity-Driven SEL That Works: Next Gen Ed Leaders Share Best Practices
Tuesday, Sep. 14 @ 6 pm ET
Presented by Jasmine Lamitte, Director of Mental Health & Support Services, KIPP SoCal Public Schools (CA); and Lydia Lower, Director of Educational Services, Mariposa County Unified School District and Mariposa County Office of Education (CA)
Emily Kircher-Morris
Neurodivergent and Gifted: Supporting Twice-Exceptional Students
Wednesday, Sep. 15 @ 1 pm ET
Presented by Emily Kircher-Morris, M.A., M.Ed., LPC, Author, and Podcaster
edWebinar Presenters
Lighting the SEL Fuse for K-12 Learning Growth
Wednesday, Sep. 15 @ 2 pm ET
Presented by Sara LaHayne, Founder and CEO, Move This World; and Dr. Brenda Arteaga, Director of Multilingual Programs, Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, Tomball Independent School District (TX)
edWebinar Presenters
4 Actions to Accelerate Reading This School Year
Wednesday, Sep. 15 @ 4 pm ET
Presented by Rita Ferrandino, Innovation Consultant, Catalyst @ Penn GSE – University of Pennsylvania and Founding Partner, Arc Capital Development; Becky Mungle, Elementary Principal, Monroe County Community School Corporation (retired June 2021); and Tammy Miller, Chief Academic Officer, Readable English
edWebinar Presenters
Building a Culture of Writing: Strategies for Implementing a Student-Focused Writing Curriculum
Wednesday, Sep. 15 @ 5 pm ET
Presented by Valerie Bolling, Instructional Coach and Author, Greenwich Public Schools (CT); and Brittany Kosumsuriya, Secondary ELA Facilitator, Grand Prairie Independent School District (TX)
Marjorie Frank
Integrating English Language Arts into Elementary Science Instruction
Friday, Sep. 17 @ 12 pm ET
Presented by Marjorie Frank, HMH Into Science Co-Author, ELD Specialist, and Adjunct Faculty of Hunter, Manhattan, and Brooklyn Colleges
Visit the edWebinar Calendar and register for free edWebinars with CE certificates.
Upcoming edWebinars
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Visit our State Requirements Map to learn about getting credit for edWeb CE certificates. is a free professional learning network that encourages educators to connect and collaborate to improve teaching and learning – anytime, anywhere
© 2021 edWeb, LLC | P.O. Box 1387Princeton, NJ 08542

September 11, 2021

Reflections on a Pioneering Career in Economics and Public Policy Research

Filed under: virtual school — Michael K. Barbour @ 5:08 pm
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An item from a think tank that may be of interest to some readers.

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Mathematica - News

September 9, 2021

Reflections on a Pioneering Career in Economics and Public Policy Research

Anita Summers, a former chair of Mathematica’s board of directors, shares stories from her economics career, which began in the 1940s, when few women were entering this field.

On the latest episode of Mathematica’s podcast, On the Evidence, Anita Summers reflects on her pioneering career in economics and public policy research. Summers, a former member of Mathematica’s Board of Directors, worked as an economist for the National Bureau of Economic Research, Standard Oil, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Throughout her career, she has been a proponent of evidence-based public policy, particularly in the areas of urban economic development and education.

On the podcast, Summers shares what it was like to embark on a career in economics as a woman in the 1940s, the sexism she encountered, how she navigated those challenges, and the role her family played in her career choices. As an early practitioner of using data and statistical analysis to inform contemporary policy debates, she also weighs in on how the field of evidence-based policy has changed and what lies ahead for the profession.

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School Leader Insights: Institutionalizing a Vision for Digital Learning

An item from a US-based K-12 online learning program.

The Digital Backpack: Your Resource for Online Learning | Powered by Michigan Virtual
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Hi Michael,

The Digital Backpack — powered by Michigan Virtual — is your resource for everything online and blended learning, including  tips, tricks, & the latest research on supporting online K-12 students and, more broadly, using technology to innovate learning.


On occasion, we also dive into other topics relevant to Michigan’s educational community, such as social emotional learning, restorative practices, literacy, student-centered learning, and more!


This week, we’ve got some great stuff packed up for you. Check it out below!

School Leader Insights: Institutionalizing a Vision for Digital Learning

By Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute, Tuesday, September 7, 2021 12:18 PM


The School Leader Insights blog series provides school leaders with practical guidance and advice on how to develop and support digital learning programs within their schools and districts. Based on research and on-the-ground experiences working with school leaders, Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute aims to identify and share effective practices with these school leaders to support their work and encourage their success. In this blog post, we discuss the process of developing a shared vision among school and district stakeholders and the process by which school leaders may institutionalize the vision for continued growth and sustainability.



Michigan Virtual Research on Online Learning in Higher Education

By Kristen DeBruler, Friday, September 3, 2021 3:29 PM


Research at the higher education level is well established and can provide valuable insights into online learning overall. It is important, however, to consider the unique needs of K-12 online learners as compared to adults when determining which research findings to apply.



The past, present, and future of online course design

By Nikki Herta, Friday, September 3, 2021 10:38 AM


Meet Kristi Peacock, a course development manager for Michigan Virtual, who shares what it means to be an instructional designer, what advice she has for educators designing their own online learning experiences for students, and what she hopes the future will hold for this ever-evolving sector of education.



The Digital Backpack Podcast

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