Virtual School Meanderings

April 30, 2017

Worth A Read

Another regular Sunday feature.

Worth A Read

Impacts of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program After One Year

Posted: 26 Apr 2017 09:00 PM PDT

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) released a report entitled: ‘Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program: Impacts After One Year.’ The summary reads: “A new study finds that the nation’s only federally-funded private school voucher program for low-income parents had negative impacts on student achievement. However, the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) did have positive impacts on parents’ perceptions of safety at their child’s school.”

There Are No Quick Fixes for Teacher Shortage, Report Warns

Posted: 25 Apr 2017 09:00 PM PDT

Brenda Iasevoli reviews a new report from Dan Goldhaber and Thomas Dee, ‘Understanding and Addressing Teacher Shortages in the United States.’ The report’s authors contend that teacher shortages do not exist everywhere or in every field. The report suggests that teachers in shortage areas should receive extra pay, school districts should invest in better recruitment strategies, and recruiting candidates in anticipated need areas.

Education Savings Accounts: The New Frontier in School Choice

Posted: 25 Apr 2017 09:00 PM PDT

Adam Peshek, Gerard Robinson, and Nat Malkus have a new book out from the American Enterprise Institute on Education Savings Accounts or ESAs. “Yet, for all their potential import, ESAs are barely understood. This volume seeks to provide a comprehensive, fair-minded treatment of ESAs and will address the rationale for them, the challenges they pose, what it takes for them to work and the political and legal dynamics at play.”

Public Money for Private Schools: School Vouchers, ESAs, and Tax Credits

Posted: 24 Apr 2017 09:00 PM PDT

Ann O’Brien explains how vouchers, ESAs, and tax credits work, with links for those interested in learning more. “What are these policies? How do they differ? Here is some background information on a few key types of private school choice.”

Key Takeaways: State Accountability Plans Under ESSA

Posted: 20 Apr 2017 09:00 PM PDT

Education Week has created a dashboard for those interested in reviewing state plans submitted for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). A detailed look at each submitted plan is included.

The Upside to Teacher Resignation Letters Going Viral

Posted: 19 Apr 2017 09:00 PM PDT

Tim Walker shares a conversation with Alyssa Hadley Dunn, Michigan State University, who recently released two studies on teacher resignation letters. She says, “What these letters are telling teachers is this: ‘I am leaving so I can speak to what is happening. I will try to combat this so you can try to collectively organize and use these letters as support for the arguments you are making every day.’”

Assessing and Resolving California’s Growing Teacher Shortage Crisis

Posted: 17 Apr 2017 09:00 PM PDT

Christopher Holland critiques proposed legislative efforts in California in response to the state’s looming teacher shortage crisis. His commentary concludes with, “As a result, if state officials want to ensure that California is a perpetual leader in the twenty-first-century century global economy, they need to start seriously investing in public education and seek innovative new solutions to the teacher shortage issue.”

EBSCO Alerts

Now back to the regularly scheduled Sunday programming…

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

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

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

So nothing to report this week.

AERA 2017 – Who Loses Students to Low-Quality Schools? Relationships Between Cyber Charters and Educational Disadvantage Over Time

The ninth session I’m blogging at the 2017 annual meeting of the American Education Research Association (AERA) is:

Who Loses Students to Low-Quality Schools? Relationships Between Cyber Charters and Educational Disadvantage Over Time

  • In Event: School Choice: Politics of Opportunity and Identity

Sun, April 30, 2:15 to 3:45pm, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Meeting Room Level, Room 216 A


This research examines how shifts in knowledge about the quality of a specific school type relate to changes in demographics of school districts that lose students to this school type. To do so, this study analyzes cyber charter school enrollment in Pennsylvania, showing that as the perceived quality of the cyber charter school sector turns negative, the composition of school districts losing students to this sector changes so that educationally disadvantaged districts are more likely to lose a higher proportion of students. These findings have implications for school choice theory in that certain choice decisions may not promote educational improvement if educationally disadvantaged students are offered and make choices that perpetuate their educational disadvantage.


  • Bryan Arthur Mann, Pennsylvania State University
  • David P. Baker, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Renata Horvatek, The Pennsylvania State University

The original charter school legislation in Pennsylvania was introduced in 1997, and cyber charter schools emerged from this original legislation – which were actually codified in law in 2002.  Bryan’s study focused on examining the historical student enrollment data (i.e., expansion, distribution, and transition), as well as the historic media reporting about the sector – and what both mean from a systematic standpoint.

In terms of tracking and mapping the enrollment – it has been growing, and fairly consistently in terms of geographic spread throughout the state.

The research tracking has largely focused on student performance – and have generally shown a very weak level of performance.

The media tracking for a long time focused almost exclusively on issues related to funding and governance, but in recent years it has begun to transition to have some focus on student outcomes – but only in a negative way.

School districts where educational attainment has been low tend to lose more and more students to cyber charter schools.  Interestingly, based on the researcher’s data, most of the student moves into cyber charter schools meant that a student was transition from one low attainment school to an even weaker attainment school (i.e., generally leaving a poorly performing brick-and-mortar school to attend a worse cyber charter school).

AERA 2017 – Online Learning, Achievement, and Innovation in Charter Schools

The eighth session I’m blogging at the 2017 annual meeting of the American Education Research Association (AERA) is:

Online Learning, Achievement, and Innovation in Charter Schools

  • In Event: Roundtable Session 21

Sun, April 30, 10:35am to 12:05pm, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom Level, Hemisfair Ballroom 1

Session Type: Roundtable Session

Sub Unit

  • SIG-Charters & School Choice


  • Julie M Kallio, University of Wisconsin – Madison
  • Chris Torres, Michigan State University


Charter Schools’ Innovation Reporting Levels and Student Achievement


The purpose of this exploratory mixed-methods study was to define innovation reporting levels in charter schools in Miami-Dade and Sarasota Counties in Florida and to determine what relationship exists between this innovation reporting and student achievement (as measured by Florida school grades) in Title I and high minority student population charter schools. A qualitative analysis of School Improvement Plans and school websites resulted in a 62 charter school sample for which descriptive statistics were utilized to define student achievement (Florida school grades 2010-2013). The results demonstrated that innovation saturation exists in Title I schools and high minority student population schools (≥50%). Thus, there is no value added to student achievement (school grade averages) by reported innovation beyond a moderate level.


  • Einav Danan Cabrera, Florida Virtual School

Do Testing Conditions Explain Cyber Charter Schools’ Failing Grades?


Research finds that cyber charter schools underperform academically relative to traditional public schools, with significantly lower value-added on tested subjects. Our fieldwork suggests that the performance gaps may in part reflect artificial testing conditions experienced by cyber charter school students. We surveyed state education agency officials in 17 states with cyber charter schools. Initial analyses indicate that states in which cyber charter students are tested on schedules at variance with traditional public school testing schedules have lower performing cyber school sectors. We also find that higher cyber school student attrition is associated with lower academic performance. Additional analyses will examine the impacts of testing conditions in two cyber schools within a single state to deepen understanding.


  • Dennis Beck, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville
  • Robert A. Maranto, University of Arkansas
  • Angela Watson, University of Arkansas

K–12 Online Learning and School Choice: Growth and Expansion in the Absence of Evidence


In this paper, the author situates school choice within the field of K-12 online learning, specifically the use of full-time K-12 online learning in the form of cyber charter schools. The author then examines the use of cyber charter schools as a mechanism for school choice in K-12 online learning, specifically the effectiveness of cyber charter schools. This examination focuses on not just the findings, but critically examines the sources (and potential motivations) for those findings. Given the growth of full-time K-12 online learning, and the continued pressure by proponents to create favorable regulatory climates for cyber charter schools, a critical – but honest – examination of student outcomes is long overdue.


  • Michael Kristopher Barbour, Touro University – California

As I was a part of this session, I didn’t take notes to be engaged in the participatory nature of the roundtable.  I do have the hand-out that I used for the session at:

AERA 2017 – Investigating the Relationship Between Students’ Online Engagement and Their Online Course Outcomes

The seventh session I’m blogging at the 2017 annual meeting of the American Education Research Association (AERA) is:

Investigating the Relationship Between Students’ Online Engagement and Their Online Course Outcomes

  • In Event: Roundtable Session 20
    In Roundtable Session: 52.084-11 – Students’ Perceptions, Outcomes, Online Engagement, and Satisfaction

Sun, April 30, 8:15 to 9:45am, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom Level, Hemisfair Ballroom 3


This study used data from the fall 2014 semester at Wisconsin Virtual School to examine whether patterns of student engagement in online courses were associated with course out-comes. Using group-based trajectory modeling, the study found that student enrollments in online courses followed one of six engagement patterns, with average engagement ranging from 1.5 hours to 6 or more hours per week. Most students (77 percent) steadily engaged in their online courses for 1.5 or 2.5 hours per week. Students who engaged in their online course for two or more hours per week had better course outcomes than students who engaged for few-er than two hours per week.


  • Peggy Clements, American Institutes for Research
  • Heather Lavigne, Education Development Center, Inc.
  • Angela Pazzaglia, Education Development Center, Inc.
  • Erin Stafford, Education Development Center, Inc.

As I noted in the previous entry I have made it to AERA, but I’m actually chairing a session on Learning From the Federal Market-Based Reforms: Lessons for the Every Student Succeeds Act.  So if you are in this session, please post your notes in the comments below.

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