Virtual School Meanderings

February 6, 2019

Questions About “Virtual Charter School Accountability: What We Can Do Now”

So this report came across my electronic desk again in the past few weeks.

Virtual Charter School Accountability: What We Can Do Now –

And looking at it a bit more closely this time around, I have some questions…

If you review the document, some of the main themes that are included are: what is a virtual charter school, what types of students enroll in those schools, how have those schools struggled to serve students in the past, what are the ways those schools have been approved and evaluated, and what ways should those schools be approved and evaluated?

Now the reason this report stood out to me this time around was because I am current working on the latest version of the National Education Policy Center’s Virtual Schools in the US report.  And the cross over or a lack thereof is fascinating…  The NEPC reports provide 1) the most complete data related to virtual charter school student demographics and student performance, 2) an update on what the research related to virtual schools and, specifically, virtual charter schools has to say (including things like definitions, student performance, approval and evaluation procedures, and 3) a complete listing of all of the proposed and passed legislation and regulations related to digital learning in all 50 states, as well as the federal government.  Each section makes specific recommendations for policymakers.

Given the crossover (I’ve colour coded it for you above), you’d expect the authors of the Virtual Charter School Accountability: What We Can Do Now report to make extensive use of the annual NEPC reports…  However, that is not the case.

If you look at the Virtual Charter School Accountability: What We Can Do Now report, the only references to the annual NEPC report are:

  1. It is about full-time virtual schooling delivered under a charter contract granted by a state-endorsed authorizer. This is an important distinction since the vast majority of students in full-time virtual schools are in charter schools.
  2. Two national companies, Connections and K12, manage high-enrollment charters in a number of states. K12’s Ohio Virtual Academy currently enrolls just under 10,000 students and Commonwealth Connections Academy in Pennsylvania has over 9,000 students.
  3. Figure 2: Enrollment in Full-Time Virtual Schools
  4. It will come as no surprise that operators of virtual charters are challenging this barrage of bad news. Those
    interested in the technical arguments made by operators and researchers can find online the statements by
    K12, CREDO, the National Education Policy Center , and other groups that participated in recent

Basically, there is one reference related to defining virtual charter schools, two references related to student enrollment figures, and one reference that places the research-based arguments of the NEPC on the same level as the greed-based arguments of the largest corporate profiteer from virtual charter schools.

Interestingly, as an aside, there are nine references to the single CREDO study.

I guess it is better for a charter school organization to reference a single study by an research body that has almost always manipulating the methodology to find in favour of charter schools, than it is for them to reference seven years of annual studies by an organization that – heaven forbid – receives funding from a teachers’ union!

But this does explain a lot about what is wrong with educational research around the issue of school choice.  You have one side that looks at all of the data and incorporates the research from all corners of the field, and then another side that simply selects the data and research that fits their already constructed narrative – which in most cases runs counter to the research in the larger field.

January 31, 2019

iNACOL Announces Top Issues For Education Transformation With State And Federal Policy Priorities Briefs

An item from the neo-liberals.

To view this email as a web page, go here.
iNACOL Announces Top Issues for Education Transformation with State and Federal Policy Priorities Briefs

With a goal to ensure our nation’s education system is fit for purpose and better able to prepare students for the future, today iNACOL (@nacol) announced its policy agenda with the publication of two issue briefs, iNACOL 2019 State Policy Priorities and iNACOL 2019 Federal Policy Priorities.

School leaders are increasingly recognizing that K-12 education needs to change so that students graduate with the knowledge, skills and dispositions needed for life. In greater numbers, educators are rethinking how to design learning environments that prepare all students for success. Policy actions, however, are needed to drive this transformation and advance educational practices that lead to high-quality learning for all learners.

“We have identified policy conditions and emerging issues for federal and state policy leaders to address,” said iNACOL President and CEO Susan Patrick(@susandpatrick ). “Educators and school leaders need space and support to improve learning environments that better support students coming of age in a rapidly changing economy. Working with K-12 education leaders and practitioners leading the design of new innovative learning models, we would like to shine a light on these recommendations to advance supportive policy and catalyze best practices for future-focused education systems that are holistic, equitable and based on the best science of how students learn and develop.”

At the state level, iNACOL’s Center for Policy Advocacy provides policy analysis and recommends governors, state legislators and other policymakers work together with their communities to:

At the federal level, iNACOL is working to analyze the improvements needed in policy to enable states and localities to move ahead:
  • Modernize educator and leader preparation programs for the future through a pilot program in a reauthorized version of the Higher Education Act;
  • Redesign systems of assessments by expanding the Innovative Assessment pilot;
  • Increase access to broadband connectivity by supporting the E-Rate andLifeline programs; and
  • Leverage resources and align postsecondary transitions across K-12, higher education and the workforce.
Download full copies of the iNACOL 2019 State Policy Priorities and iNACOL 2019 Federal Policy PrioritiesContact the iNACOL Center for Policy Advocacy for more information.

About iNACOL

The mission of iNACOL is to drive the transformation of education systems and accelerate the advancement of breakthrough policies and practices to ensure high-quality learning for all. Visit our websitelike us on Facebookconnect with us on Linkedin and follow us on Twitter.

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January 29, 2019

Eleventh Annual State of the Nation: K-12 E-Learning in Canada Report Released

I noticed that this was posted yesterday to the State of the Nation: K-12 E-Learning in Canada website and I wanted to re-post it here today.

Over the past three weeks we have been providing some of the initial sections of the eleventh annual State of the Nation: K-12 E-Learning in Canada report through this blogging medium.  Today, the researchers for the project released the 2017 version of the State of the Nation: K-12 E-Learning in Canada, which is available for download at:

As noted above, this issue of the State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada report marks its 11th year, and the sixth year of the Canadian eLearning Network’s (CANeLearn) support of this research. This report follows the relatively extensive tenth anniversary edition and the annual report has undergone significant changes. This 11th issue describes changes that have occurred in relation to the governance and e-learning activity over the past year in the provinces and territories. The full jurisdictional profiles can be found on the report website at Additionally, any brief issue papers and vignettes received are simply introduced or referred to in this report, but are presented in full on the website. The online version of the State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada will continue to be a more comprehensive resource for e-learning in each jurisdiction.

While there have been no major changes in the nature of regulation governing K-12 distance and online learning activity in distance or online learning remains relatively stable. The 263,686 students or 5.1% proportion of students engaged in K-12 distance and online learning across the country was a slight decrease in the overall participation level from the previous two school years yet represents only approximately a half a percent proportion difference and, from a proportional standpoint, the number of K-12 students engaged in distance and online learning has remained relatively steady over the past six years. Yet at the same time estimates of blended learning activity have shown a sharp increase. However, estimates of blended learning continue to be a best effort attempt at trying to quantify this type of e-learning activity.

The State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada report, and its accompanying publications on its project website, provides critical information and insight into how Canadian educational authorities and governments are integrating technology-supported approaches to prepare students for today’s economy and a future society in which the use of technology will be ubiquitous. This report and website provide a benchmark for educators and offers background, guidance, and ideas for the improvement of policy and practice in online and blended learning. The Canadian eLearning Network is a proud supporter and partner of this research, its publication, and the dissemination of its findings and supporting research publications

December 28, 2018

Improving Equity And Accountability: Report of the Funding Model Review Panel

Shortly before Christmas this report was released by the Government of British Columbia.  As folks may remember, the purpose of this process was “to review and provide recommendations to the way funding is allocated in the K-12 public education sector in British Columbia,” including the funding for distributed learning (i.e., distance learning).  You can find out more at:

One of the most important items in the report was:

“Recommendation 9

The Ministry should base funding allocations for school age education programming on the number of students, rather than on the number of courses being taken.  The Ministry should phase out the current course-based funding model by the 2020/2021 school year.

Recommendation 10

With the shift to a per-student-based funding model, the Ministry should develop a new policy and program delivery model for Distributed Learning to ensure consistent access to quality programming for all students in the province.”

In terms of the actual content, the main section related to distributed learning is for Recommendation 9, which can be found on page 26 of the report.  Read as a whole, the report seems to be suggesting that distributed learning should be funding at the same level as brick-and-mortar schooling.

You may recall, that was one of the recommendations that I made in the report on the funding of distributed learning in Canada that I authored, which can be found at:

I would copy and paste more of the material into this message, but the Government of British Columbia has locked the document to prevent folks from copying and pasting.

November 13, 2018

Publication Alert 📚 New Research in Online & Blended Learning

From the inbox over the past couple of days.


 Our latest publications are now available!

Stay up to date with the latest research on virtual learning by following new publications. Below you will find the abstracts to our most recent publications, as well as links to the full, downloadable reports. We hope you find them helpful.

Explore the Latest Research

Helping Online Students Be Successful: Student Perceptions of Online Teacher and On-Site Mentor Instructional Support
Jered Borup, Chawanna Bethany Chambers, George Mason University, Rebecca Stimson, Michigan Virtual

Abstract: In the United States, K-12 online course enrollments have grown dramatically in the past 20 years. Although online courses provide students access to flexible learning options that are unavailable in their brick-and-mortar school, the flexibility inherent in online learning also makes it difficult for students to complete their courses. In an attempt to better support their students and reduce online course attrition rates, some brick-and-mortar schools provide their online students with an on-site mentor who helps to facilitate student learning. In fact, Michigan brick-and-mortar schools are required by legislation to provide their students who are enrolled in an online course with an on-site mentor. However, little is known about how students perceive the support provided by their onsite mentor and online teacher. For this report we conducted eight focus groups with 51 students and asked students in the focus groups to share their perceptions and experiences regarding their online teachers’ and on-site mentors’ efforts and interactions with them. Read More →

Helping Online Students Be Successful: Student Perceptions of Online Teacher and On-site Mentor Facilitation Support
Jered Borup, Chawanna Bethany Chambers, George Mason University, Rebecca Stimson, Michigan Virtual

Abstract: In this report, we focus on findings related to on-site mentors’ and online teachers’ facilitation efforts that required interpersonal and management skills: (1) facilitating interactions, (2) developing caring relationships, (3) motivating students to more fully engage in learning activities, and (4) organizing and managing student learning. In the accompanying report, Helping Online Students Be Successful: Student Perceptions of Online Teacher and On-site Mentor Instructional Support (embed link to report), we share and discuss student perceptions related to the instructional responsibilities that required knowledge of the online program and course content: (1) advising students regarding course enrollments, (2) orienting students to online learning procedures and expectations, and (3) instructing students regarding the course content. Read More →

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