Categories for Structural Interventions

How to assess the effectiveness of virtual schools

August 31, 2020

“Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2019”.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic closed down K-12 education and established an overwhelming interest in remote learning, there has been a rush towards creating virtual schools (also referred to as virtual charter schools, virtual academies, online schools, or cyber schools).  There is a belief that virtual schools can customize online curriculum to individual students more effectively than curriculum in traditional classrooms, expand student choices, and attain greater student achievement than in traditional school models.  And, the promise of lower costs makes this alternative attractive to both policymakers and for-profit provider.  The question is, does research back up these claims?

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) report—Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2019—is its seventh annual report attempting to answer these questions.  This report is a comprehensive attempt to analyze the characteristics and performance of K-12 virtual schools, review the current research as it relates to virtual school practices and outcomes, examine state legislative efforts to monitor these programs, and make policy recommendations.

Even though the current number of schools represents a small portion of the overall K-12 system, they constitute some of the fastest-growing options.  The report examined two models: virtual schools (in which students receive all of their instruction on-line) and blended schools (offering a combination of face-to-face and online activities).  Both are models that will be receiving much attention as K-12 education tries to navigate the Covid-19 waters. As of the 2017-18 school year, there were 501 virtual schools serving 300,000 students across 35 states.  This represents a 20% growth over the previous five years.  Seventy-nine percent of these students were enrolled in virtual charter schools, twenty-one percent enrolled in district operated schools.  Sixty percent of the total enrollment was in schools operated by for-profit organizations.

In the same year, there were 300 blended learning schools serving 132,960 students across 33 states. Enrollment in this model has grown dramatically, increasing from 36,605 students in 2015-16 to 132,960 students in FY 2017-18 (263% increase).  Only 26.7% of blended schools were operated by for-profit organizations.

This report examined the relative performance of virtual schools, blended schools and traditional schools using annual state-assigned school performance ratings and high school graduation rates.  School performance ratings varied somewhat across states, but generally included: student academic performance, graduation rates, achievement gaps, attendance, parent/student satisfaction, etc.  The resulting data classified schools as academically acceptable or academically unacceptable.  Less than fifty percent (48.5%) virtual schools had acceptable school performance ratings.  Only 44.6% of blended schools had acceptable school performance ratings.  There was no data provided for traditional district schools. 

An analysis of high school graduation rate data produced similar results.  Only 50% of students in virtual schools graduated on time from High Schools, compared to 61.5% for blended schools and 84% for traditional district schools.

Citation(s): Molnar, A., Miron, G., Elgeberi, N., Barbour, M.K., Huerta, L., Shafer, S.R., Rice, J.K. (2019). Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2019. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved August 25, 2020]from http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/virtual-schools-annual-2019.

Links:http://nepc.colorado.edu/sites/default/files/publications/Virtual%20Schools%202019.pdf

 


 

How to effectively use technology to maximize homework outcomes

August 31, 2020

“Teachers’ Use of Technology for School and Homework Assignments: 2018–19 First Look”This report was generated in response to the enormous role technology is, and will increasingly be, playing in providing remote learning opportunities for students, whether in supporting part-time “school based” education or temporarily replacing it altogether.  The provides data on the access and availability of computers, smartphones, and the Internet to students at home, the impact that students’ access to technology outside of school has on teachers’ homework assignments, and ways that teachers provide assistance to their students who have limited access to technology and the Internet outside of school.  The following are some of the more important findings.

Teacher Awareness of Home Computer Availability and Use:  Teachers are on the front line of interfacing with students about their access to computers and the Internet at home.  Yet, they often have inexact information in this area.  Teachers reported that they get information by doing surveys of students or parents (51 percent), talking to students or parents individually (84 percent), and developing a sense while working with students.  Yet, among all teachers, a little over one in five reported being very knowledgeable and one in two reported being somewhat knowledgeable about their students’ access to computers and the Internet at home.School Support for Access to Computers and Internet:  Only twenty-six percent of teachers reported that their students have district- or school-provided computers for students to take home on a long-term basis during the school year. Thirty-six percent of teachers reported that the teachers estimated the percentage of their students who have access to a computer at home, including district- or school-provided computers for students who take them home. About two-thirds of teachers estimated that 75 percent or more of their students have access to a computer at home. While computers and Internet service might exist in students’ households, computer availability for homework and the reliability of computer connections to the Internet can vary considerably. About a third (35 percent) of teachers estimated that their students’ home computers were very available for school assignments. Twenty-nine percent of teachers thought it very likely that their students’ home computers had reliable Internet access.

Access to Technology and Homework Assignments:  About half of the teachers reported that their students’ access to technology and the Internet outside of school has a moderate (28 percent) or large (20 percent) influence on the homework they assign to them.  About a fifth (19 percent) of teachers reported that they often assign technology-based homework and an additional 28 percent reported doing so sometimes. The teachers who assign technology-based homework, at least rarely, were asked the extent that their students have difficulty completing this type of homework because they are not familiar with how to use technology. 

Among the 98 percent of teachers whose students are given online or computerized assessments by the state, district, or school, 44 percent reported that their students were very prepared and 39 percent reported students to be somewhat prepared to use the technology required for these assessments.

The overall conclusions of this survey is that, while there have been successes along the way to integrating technology into education, there is a long way to go in terms of data systems, resources, accountability, and ongoing support to meet the new needs for remote learning.

Citation(s): Gray, L., and Lewis, L. (2020). Teachers’ Use of Technology for School and Homework Assignments: 2018–19 (NCES 2020-048). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved [date] from https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2020048

Link: https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2020/2020048.pdf

 


 

Annual Survey Examines Parent Views on Wide Range of Critical Education Issues

August 25, 2020

“Amid Pandemic, Support Soars for Online Learning, Parent Poll Shows: Education Next released the findings from its 14th annual survey of American views on education.  The survey was conducted in May 2020.  While this was early in the Covid-19 pandemic, unemployment was already 14.7%, the economy in recession, and the schools were shutdown.  This survey provides one of the first opportunities to evaluate the public’s views on education in this context.  Survey participants were asked their views on: teacher pay, school funding, online education, home schooling, school choice, vouchers, charter schools, school reform, overall satisfaction with teachers and schools, the impact partisan politics has on people’s opinions, cost of higher education, and the impact of populism in public schools.  The following examines several of these catagories in greater detail. 

The public’s greatest support for increasing teacher pay and K-12 school funding occurred in the previous year’s (2019) survey.  This support declined slightly in 2020, but remains close to the all-time high for the past 14 years.  Fifty-five percent of participants say teacher salaries should increase. There remains a significant distance between Democrat’s support (66%) and that of Republicans (40%).  Increases to school funding was supported by 45% of participants, with 47% saying it should stay the same and 10% favoring a reduction.  As with the previous issue, opinions divided significantly along partisan lines with 56% of Democrats in favor of increasing spending compared to 31% of Republicans.  While it is encouraging that overall support for increasing teacher salaries and school funding has held steady or increased over recent years, the current support for each issue is still only half of those surveyed.

One of the most relevant and timely areas of the survey was participant views regarding online education and homeschooling.  In 2020, 73% of parents say they are willing to have their child take some (almost half) high school courses via the internet, representing a 17% increase from the response in 2009.  Support for homeschooling has remained steady over the years with 49% of parents supporting the right of parents to education their children at home.

Overall, those surveyed gave public schools and school teachers high marks.  Fifty-eight percent gave their “local” schools and A or B, and 30% gave the “nation’s” schools a similar high grade.  The latter score was the highest ever recorded by the surveys.  Participants were asked what percentage of teachers were excellent, good, satisfactory, or unsatisfactory.  They rated 61% of teachers as excellent or good, with 14% being unsatisfactory.Results from the 2020 Education Next Survey of Public Opinion”

Citation(s):   Henderson, M. B., Houston, D. M., Peterson, P. E.,  West, M. R. & Shakeel, M. D. (2020). Amid Pandemic, Support Soars for Online Learning, Parent Poll Shows Results from the 2020 Education Next Survey of Public Opinion.  Education Next20(13), 8-19.

Link: https://www.educationnext.org/amid-pandemic-support-soars-online-learning-parent-poll-shows-2020-education-next-survey-public-opinion/

 


 

Why Practices Fail

May 29, 2020

The 2020 pandemic is unprecedented in living memory. This event necessitates schools adopting new technologies and teachers mastering new ways of delivering instruction. Education is engaged in a grand experiment, implementing new practices in fifty states with over 13,000 school districts. Change on this magnitude would be daunting even in normal times, and is particularly difficult in a decentralized system such as in the United States. What we know is there are bound to be many failures. Fortunately, the past 15 years have seen remarkable progress in the creation of a science of implementation to address such hurdles. This paper offers examples of failed practices in guiding schools to avoid making similar mistakes over the coming year. 

Citation: States, J., & Keyworth, R. (2020). Why Practices Fail. Oakland, CA: The Wing Institute. https://www.winginstitute.org/roadmap-overview

Link: https://www.winginstitute.org/roadmap-overview

 


 

How can schools reduces student absenteeism?

March 4, 2020

Attendance Playbook: Smart Solutions for Reducing Chronic Absenteeism. Student absenteeism has significant negative impacts on students and school systems. Nearly 8 million students are chronically absent. Excess absenteeism impacts student achievement as the chances of a 9th-grade student graduating drops by 20% for every week of missed instruction. Chronically absent students cost schools financially. Over six years (2008–2009 through 2013–2014), school districts in California lost an estimated $7.3 billion ($1.22 billion per year) in funding due to student absences (Harris, 2016). This report examines 24 of the most effective and scalable interventions employed to remediate the impacts of chronic absenteeism. For additional information, please see Wing Institute Chronic Student Absenteeism: A Significant and Overlooked Obstacle to Student Achievement.

Citation: Jordan, P. (2019). Attendance Playbook. Washington D.C.: FutureEd. https://www.hsredesign.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Attendance-Playbook.pdf

Linkhttps://www.hsredesign.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Attendance-Playbook.pdf

 


 

Are high rates of teacher turnover a serious problem for schools?

February 13, 2020

The trouble with teacher turnover: How teacher attrition affects students and schools. Schools in the United States continue to experience a shortage of classroom teachers. Teacher shortages negatively impact school systems, including but not limited to student learning and available district resources. This study finds higher turnover rates in the southern states; among mathematics, science, special education, English language development, and foreign language teachers; in schools serving students of color and from low-income families; and among teachers of color. The analysis reveals factors associated with higher turnover rates, ranging from insufficient administrative support to teacher compensation. Finally, the paper proposes strategies to address teacher turnover to ensure a stable teacher workforce.

Citation: Carver-Thomas, D., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2019). The trouble with teacher turnover: How teacher attrition affects students and schools. education policy analysis archives27, 36.

Linkhttps://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/download/3699/2230

 


 

How important is teacher compensation?

February 13, 2020

The Unavoidable: Tomorrow’s Teacher Compensation. This research examines the issue of teacher compensation. The author finds that teachers earn significantly less than they could make working in other comparable fields. The results show teacher salaries have been stagnant as a result of money has been funneled to increasing the number of educators and support personnel in schools. An examination of school expenditures reveals substantial growth in the costs of teacher pensions, and health care coverage has negatively affected teacher compensation. Consequently, inadequate teacher compensation reduces teacher retention and, ultimately, the quality of instruction. The research cautions against merely throwing money at the problem, as is commonly the case in many policy initiatives that do not directly impact how teachers teach.

Citation: Hanushek, E. A. (2020). The Unavoidable: Tomorrow’s Teacher Compensation. Stanford Hoover Education Success Initiative. http://hanushek.stanford.edu/publications/unavoidable-tomorrow’s-teacher-compensation

Linkhttp://hanushek.stanford.edu/publications/unavoidable-tomorrow’s-teacher-compensation

 


 

How does class size reduction measure up to other common educational interventions in a cost-benefit analysis? (Wing Institute Data Mining)

January 23, 2020

Why is this question important? Given the limited resources that are available for the education of children, it is important to select interventions that have the greatest impact we can afford. Using Stuart Yeh’s effectiveness cost ratio formula, a rough comparison can be drawn comparing class size reduction with other educational interventions.

Citation: Yeh, S. S. (2007). The Cost-Effectiveness of Five Policies for Improving Student Achievement, American Journal of Evaluation, 28(4), 416-436.

Link: https://www.winginstitute.org/how-does-class-size

 


 

How important is school financing to student success?

January 15, 2020

Does School Spending Matter? The New Literature on an Old Question. The impact of school finances on student achievement has long interested educators. Research conducted before the mid-1990s suggested a link between the available resources provided schools and student outcomes, but much of this research is correlational. Because correlational research cannot imply causation, studies of a more rigorous nature are needed if policymakers are to redesign school financing that predictably maximizes learning for all students, regardless of the parent’s socio-economic status. Recently published studies employing larger data-sets and based on quasi-experimental methods offer a clearer understanding of how schools might be better funded. This paper of American United States school finances finds evidence to support the importance of providing equitable funding across school districts. These results have important policy implications and suggest areas for future research.

Citation: Jackson, C. K. (2018). Does school spending matter? The new literature on an old question (No. w25368). National Bureau of Economic Research.

Linkhttps://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/0fe6/d628994e0fdc26a605cbf13d98929b94bb53.pdf?_ga=2.32626302.115129415.1578943387-1285604847.1578943387

 


 

Credit Recovery Programs, A Major Intervention in Need of Research

December 17, 2019

Practice Outpacing Policy?  Credit Recovery in American School Districts. Traditionally, students who failed classes could get credit by taking the class over during summer school.  In a relatively brief period of time, most high schools have a undergone a complete and rapid transformation in this area, shifting to “credit recovery” programs to help at-risk students earn credits towards graduation for classes they have failed.  These programs typically offer online alternatives to students rather than having them retake the failed class.  In the 2015-16 school year approximately three out of four high schools offered credit recovery programs with about 6% of all students participating.  This growth in credit recovery programs, rapid expansion of new online models, and numerous cases of misuse to inflate graduation rates highlight the need for research into the implementation and effectiveness of this intervention.

This study examined the policies and practices of a representative sample of high schools to identify how they structure their credit recovery programs.  It found:  Over 95% of the credit recovery program had online components (58% online with some in-person instruction, 37% were exclusively online).  Seventy-eight percent used just one online credit recovery provider to manage their system.  Eighty-seven percent of districts offer credit recovery programs year-round.   Forty percent of the districts limited credit recovery to courses

Traditionally, students who failed classes could get credit by taking the course over during summer school. In a relatively brief time, most high schools have undergone a complete and rapid transformation in this area, shifting to “credit recovery” programs to help at-risk students earn credits towards graduation for classes they have failed. These programs typically offer online alternatives to students rather than having them retake the failed class. In the 2015-16 school year, approximately three out of four high schools offered credit recovery programs with, about 6% of all students participating. This growth in credit recovery programs, a rapid expansion of new online models, and numerous cases of misuse to inflate graduation rates highlight the need for research into the implementation and effectiveness of this intervention
This study examined the policies and practices of a representative sample of high schools to identify how they structure their credit recovery programs. It found: Over 95% of the credit recovery program had online components (58% online with some in-person instruction, 37% were exclusively online). Seventy-eight percent used just one online credit recovery provider to manage their system. Eighty-seven percent of districts offer credit recovery programs year-round. Forty percent of the districts limited credit recovery to courses required for graduation. Only 16% limited the option to twelfth graders, allowing students from all high school grades to avail themselves of the option. The study concluded that “many districts’ policies allow lots of flexibility for student access and assessment with relatively little constraint. Taken individually, these policies could be justifiable but taken together, and they leave credit recovery programs ripe for abuse.”

Citation:  Malkus, N. (2019). Practice Outpacing Policy?  Credit Recovery in American School Districts.  American Enterprise Institute.

Web Address: https://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Practice-Outpacing-Policy.pdf