Virtual School Meanderings

April 10, 2021

AERA 2021 – A Newcomer’s Lens: A Look at K-12 Online and Blended Learning in the Journal of Online Learning Research

Less than an hour ago, my colleagues and I finished our paper (and my final) presentation for the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association.  Here is the asynchronous version of that presentation.

Abstract: In this study, the authors analyzed 51 articles published between 2015 and 2018 inclusive in the Journal of Online Learning Research (JOLR). The purpose of this study was to examine the trends regarding article topics, geography, research methods and article types, authorship, and citation frequency. The results indicated JOLR gave additional attention to K-12 blended learning. Another common topic was professional development. Most studies were focused on the US. Future research is needed to examine if the trends from this study continue over a more extended period and if these results reflect the development of and change in the field of K-12 online and blended learning.


  • Hu Min, Brigham Young University
  • Karen T Arnesen, Brigham Young University
  • Michael K Barbour, Touro University California
  • Heather Leary, Brigham Young University

Slides available at

April 9, 2021

Plugged In | 4.9.21 – Aurora Institute 2021 Survey, Webinar Announcement, and More

Filed under: virtual school — Michael K. Barbour @ 11:59 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

And from the neo-liberals to conclude the week.

Web Version
Aurora Institute - Plugged In
Aurora Institute 2021 Survey
Take Our Survey
As a valued part of the Aurora Institute community and ally for educational systems change, we are seeking your responses to six important questions on the issues and policy barriers you are facing in this critical time in K-12 education.

Your insights are critical for developing field research, advocacy, and recommendations for K-12 education policy. In addition, your responses help guide our thinking as we shape convenings and publications for the field.

We would greatly appreciate your response by April 13, 2021. Thank you very much for your contributions and for your important work in the field.

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Announcing Aurora Institute Internships
Aurora Institute Internships
Our new internship program  is designed as a fully immersive experience for motivated undergraduate and graduate students who seek to support national advocacy, policy, communications, and event work in the nonprofit sector. Selected interns will be exposed to the intricacies and nuances of building a better K-12 education system for the nation’s youth. The internship will include work on targeted projects and multiple learning and networking opportunities. Interns will receive structured support, mentorship, and professional development opportunities for the duration of the internship. We are currently recruiting for Summer 2021 interns. Applications are due by April 30, 2021.
Learn More
Upcoming Events
Aurora frequently hosts webinars and convenings with the field’s leading experts to explore trends, tackle pressing problems of practice and policy, and share emerging knowledge from research. The following opportunities to learn and network are open for registration.
Let’s Hear It from the Next Generation! Virtual Panels with Mastery Collaborative Youth Advisors

Let’s Hear It from the Next Generation! Virtual Panels with Mastery Collaborative Youth Advisors

April 22, 2021 | 3:30 PM ET
What do middle and high school students wish all adults magically knew about them? You’re invited to a conversation with Mastery Collaborative Youth Advisors, co-hosted by the Mastery Collaborative (MC), CompetencyWorks, and KnowledgeWorks on April 22, 2021, from 3:30 – 5:30 PM ET. Please join as NYC public school students speak out about these topics and more:

  • sense of belonging in school;
  • living and learning through a dual pandemic;
  • how race, racism, and anti-racism show up in school; and
  • MC schools’ use of culturally responsive-sustaining education (CRSE) and mastery-based learning.

Education Domain Blog

Center for Policy and Advocacy March 2021 Updates
Center for Policy and Advocacy March 2021 Updates

Learn what’s happening in statehouses around the country to support education innovation. Actions in 14 states are highlighted, including new broadband investments in Minnesota and Texas, changes in graduation requirements in Ohio and Washington, and funding considerations in Oklahoma. We’re also watching 10 bills of relevance to personalized, competency-based education.

Read More
One Year In: Innovative Approaches to Learning During a Pandemic

This time last year, I was visiting Ednovate’s public high schools in Los Angeles with school leaders from NewSchools’ innovative schools portfolio. Each of these leaders was designing and launching new, innovative public schools like Ednovate. Little did we know that these school leaders would have to completely redesign their approach to adjust to the realities of the pandemic.

Read More

Featured Resource

A Strategic Reflection on the Field of Competency-Based Education

 A Strategic Reflection on the Field of Competency-Based Education

Each year, we reflect on the growth, change, and needs in the field of competency-based education. As part of this process, we host a webinar, A Strategic Reflection on the Field of Competency-Based Education . This year, the webinar included Aurora Institute’s President and CEO Susan Patrick, Research Director Eliot Levine, and Policy Director Fred Jones, along with Chicago Public Schools’ CBE Social Emotional Integration Specialist Tonya Howell and CBE Project Manager Damarr Smith. Use the link below to watch the webinar and download the associated slides. In addition, this CompetencyWorks blog post features links to all of the resources mentioned in the session.


Plugged In Headlines: News About Education Transformation



Innovative School Models

Greencastle-Antrim School Board goes with competency-based calendar instead of traditional schedule
Herald Mail

Competency-based elementary coming to Post Falls
Coeur d’Alene/ Post Falls Press

3 pathways for continuous school improvement

Additional career paths available to Idaho students other than college

Formative assessment for any learning landscape

Frustration and Confusion are Important Learning Elements
Observatory for Educational Innovation

Personalization, Play, Passion Projects: How One Innovative Atlanta School Is Offering Alternative Learning Like Urban Farming and Robotics During the Pandemic
The 74


Superintendents share reopening strategies in Ed Dept ‘Lessons from the Field’ session
K-12 Dive

How the Pandemic Is Shaping K-12 Education (in Charts)
Education Week

OPINION: How to keep our most vulnerable students from losing ground in the pandemic
The Hechinger Report

Education Through the Pandemic: From a Four-Fold Increase in F Grades in Connecticut to Expanding Mental Health Services For Colorado’s Students, 8 Ways States Are Confronting COVID-19
The 74

Education Policy

(ND Gov.) Burgum signs ‘pathways to graduation’ bill, providing flexibility to promote personalized learning
Devils Lake Journal

Bill gives schools flexibility in meeting needs of each student
Arizona Capitol Times

Educational Equity

Anti-Asian Violence: What Schools Should Start Doing About It
Education Week

Diverse Leaders are Changing Education

Broadband Connectivity

What You Need to Know About the Emergency Connectivity Fund
THE Journal

Educator Workforce

As Pandemic Upends Teaching, Fewer Students Want to Pursue It
The New York Times

Diversity debate over teaching licenses creates confusion for Minnesota’s teachers of color.
Sahan Journal

What diverse teacher preparation programs get right

An Accidental Experiment: An Emergency Teacher License Gives An Unexpected Boost To Teacher Diversity

Aurora Institute in the News



The Canopy Project: A look at innovation in our schools and in our system – via EducationNC

Developing a Learner-Centered Culture – via Medium

Join Our Community
Our Center for Policy  leads the multi-stage evolution of policy necessary for the growth of effective student-centered learning models toward the goals of high-quality learning and equity. Our policy priorities are designed to ensure the nation’s education system is fit for purpose and help move states forward from their current state of education to future systems.
CompetencyWorks is an online resource dedicated to K-12 competency-based education. Drawing on lessons learned by innovators, we share knowledge through a practice-focused blog, research reports on emerging issues, policy advocacy, and resources curated from across the field.
The Aurora Institute hosts a resource library containing more than 200 materials. Working collaboratively with diverse experts in the field, the Aurora Institute produces reports, books, policy briefs, blog posts, webinars, and related resources on key topics and tough issues that equip and empower educators and leaders to catalyze and scale personalized, next-generation learning models.
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The mission of Aurora Institute is to drive the transformation of education systems and accelerate the advancement of breakthrough policies and practices to ensure high-quality learning for all.

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Expanding possibilities for alumni engagement

As I say each week…  From the neo-liberal, educational privatizers masquerading as an academic body – so the term research here is used VERY loosely (as none of this actually represents methodologically sound, reliable, valid, or empirical research in any real way).

Check out this week’s highlights from the Christensen Institute. 
Christensen Institute · 92 Hayden Avenue · Lexington, MA 02421 · USA

Are Grade Levels Getting In The Way of Learning?

A newsletter 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!

Are Grade Levels Getting In The Way of Learning?

By Nikki Herta, Friday, April 2, 2021 4:55 PM


Meet Mike Burde, assistant superintendent at Kenowa Hills Public Schools, who shares his vision for a system of schooling that goes beyond “time-based advancement” and instead revolves around personal mastery.



The Digital Backpack Podcast

You’re receiving this email because you subscribed to notifications from Michigan Virtual‘s blog, The Digital Backpack. Every week, we’ll send you a digest of our latest articles.


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Do corporate subsidies work? No, and they starve public schools.

Filed under: virtual school — Michael K. Barbour @ 12:08 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

This item was an interesting read.



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Corporate subsidies not only rarely work, but they’re also starving public schools



This week, we’re talking with Christine Wen. She’s planning/fiscal policy coordinator of Good Jobs First, a national think tank that studies state and local job subsidies, including corporate tax breaks.

She’s one of the authors of Good Job First’s new study, Abating Our Future: How Students Pay for Corporate Tax Breaks.

The topline fact in Abating Our Future is mind-melting. School districts nationwide lost nearly $2.4 billion to corporate subsidies in fiscal year 2019. That’s money meant for students that ended up in the pockets of Amazon, Tesla, and other corporations.

And that’s based on data from only 27 states. In the other 23 states plus Washington, D.C., (which should be a state), school districts fail to disclose any meaningful information about how much money they’re losing to corporations.

Last week sure was a doozy for those of us who think corporations should pay more in taxes. The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) also released a report revealing that at least 55 of the largest American corporations paid no federal income taxes on their 2020 profits.

How can we adequately pay for public goods, things we all rely on like public health and clean water, without raising taxes on those who can afford it? We simply can’t. We desperately need a more progressive tax system.

Here’s my conversation with Christine.

JEREMY: What were the overall findings of your research?

CHRISTINE: We found that school districts in America reported losing at least $2.37 billion in FY 2019 to corporate tax abatements. That’s a 13-percent jump from two years earlier. One hundred and forty-nine districts reported having foregone more than $1,000 per student.

We have found evidence that poorer districts are more affected. The true total is likely a lot higher than $2.37 billion, because a lot of districts under-report. There’s no data at all from 23 states, for a variety of reasons. And we know most of these states have tax abatements.

JEREMY: When most people hear about tax policy, their eyes glaze over. It’s complicated stuff. Can you explain in simple terms how these subsidies impact school districts? What does this mean for students?

CHRISTINE: When cities and counties (and very rarely, school districts) give out tax abatements to corporations, it usually cuts into the funding earmarked for K-12 education, which depends a lot on local taxes. I say “usually” because some states do try to make up the loss. The state might adjust its funding, or localities might raise their taxes.

But even in these instances, the offset is only partial or arrives too late, leaving schools strapped. And if these tax abatements did result in growth as intended, enrollments would increase, creating the demand for a bigger budget.

Tax abatements could contribute to chronic underfunding of schools, and students don’t get the resources they need to succeed.

JEREMY: Corporate leaders and some policy makers argue that subsidies are worth it because they grow the tax base. Is this true?

Subsidies could very well grow the tax base, though often they don’t. Some states keep such poor records of the costs and the outcomes, that such claims have no legs to stand on.

A lot of times, tax incentives create no net new jobs. They just shift the existing jobs or investments from one locality to another, sometimes within the same metro area. It’s a zero-sum game. Even if growth happens, it often can’t be traced to the incentives.

Taxes are just too small a fraction of a typical company’s expenses for abatements to be the decisive factor in where to relocate or expand. A company may choose its location regardless of the subsidies offered.

Basically, subsidies are often wasteful, and places do fine without them.

JEREMY: How hard was it to get the data you used in the report? Why isn’t it comprehensive?

CHRISTINE: The data in this report is as comprehensive as it can be. We looked at about 90 percent of all districts that produced financial reports, where these disclosures are made.

We scraped together 10,370 pdfs from numerous sources, and manually extracted all the tax abatement information (these are not structured or machine-readable). It took two people about six months to do.

The thing is, the $2.37 billion is based only on what was reported. A lot more taxes were abated that didn’t get reported. In a few states, the state officials set bad guidelines on what districts need to report, and the excuses they give are just plain indefensible.

In the report, we list a number of things that states can do better, which would enable us to capture the true cost of tax abatements.


Stay in touch,

Jeremy Mohler
Communications Director
In the Public Interest


In the Public Interest
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