Archives for category: Online Learning

A new study conducted by Jennifer Heissel, a researcher at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy, concludes that students who study Algebra I online do not perform as well on tests as their peers who learned the subject in traditional classes.

The study was published in the journal Economics of Education Review.

The study exploited a 2011 district policy change in North Carolina that allowed advanced eighth-graders to take Algebra 1 online. Prior to the change, none of the middle school students took Algebra 1; instead they waited until ninth grade to take it in a regular classroom.

North Carolina has developed one of the leading virtual education systems in the country, allowing rural middle school students the chance to take high school courses that would be otherwise unavailable. The virtual Algebra 1 middle school program increased equity in access at a lower cost than a traditional classroom, and most advanced students passed the course.

“However, equity in access does not guarantee equity in outcomes,” Heissel wrote in the study. “Policymakers should carefully weigh these tradeoffs.”

What surprised Heissel most was that the effect was seen in students who normally perform above average.

“Generally, no matter what you throw at high achievers, they end up fine,” Heissel said. “That’s what concerns me: If even the advanced students can’t do well, why would we think it would work well for all?”

Jeb is back, writes Peter Greene, with the same old snake oil. Having lost the GOP presidential nomination, he has returned to his favorite song: Public education is failing, and we (the reformers) need to disrupt it, monetize it, privatize it, and sell lots of technology to it.

As Peter shows, there is nothing new in what he has on offer. The same overworked and faulty statistics about massive educational failure (we would now be a fourth world nation if any of this baloney were true). The same claims about the wonders of technology. The same empty claims for privatization and profiteering. Merit pay. No unions. Test scores as the be-all and end-all of education.

Peter writes:

Jeb loves him some vouchers. In his perfect future, the money will follow the child. I always think this is a bold choice for a nominal conservative politician, since it is literally taxation without representation– taxpayers who don’t have kids get to pay for schools, but they have no voice in what kind of schools they get. And if the money follows the kid, why can’t the kid just have a big party?

But I have to take my hat off to somebody who still believes in vouchers. It’s the kind of devotion you usually find only in members of the Flat Earth Society, an adherence to a long-debunked belief that doesn’t have a speck of evidence to support it.

Float Free as a Bird

But why have a school at all, says Bush. Why not just get your AP Calculus from this on-line provider, and get your English from some other provider. Watch for the Amazon.com of homeschooling. Let students move through coursework at their own personal speed. Assess student mastery of skills through the year, and never social promote. Yes, we’ll have Competency Based Education, but we’ll call it something else.

Jeb’s answer to everything: get rid of public education.

Jeb Bush is the Ivan Illich of the right.

A growing number of studies conclude that students perform worse on tests when they take them online than when the questions are on paper.

A study published by MIT and conducted at the U.S. Military Academy found that the students who did not use computers scored significantly higher than those who did.

The researchers suggested that removing laptops and iPads from classes was the equivalent of improving the quality of teaching.

The study divided 726 undergraduates randomly into three groups in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 academic years. The control group’s classrooms were “technology-free,” meaning students were not allowed to use laptops or tablets at their desk. Another group was allowed to use computers and other devices, and the third group had restricted access to tablets.

“The results from our randomised experiment suggest that computer devices have a substantial negative effect on academic performance,” the researchers concluded, suggesting that the distraction of an electronic device complete with internet access outweighed their use for note-taking or research during lessons.

The research had an unusual twist: the students involved were studying at the West Point academy in the US, where cadets are ruthlessly ranked by exam results, meaning they were motivated to perform well and may have been more disciplined than typical undergraduates.

But even for the cream of the US army’s future crop, the lure of the digital world appears to have been too much, and exam performance after a full course of studying economics was lower among those in classes allowed to use devices.


“Our results indicate that students perform worse when personal computing technology is available. It is quite possible that these harmful effects could be magnified in settings outside of West Point,” the researchers concluded.

The Hechinger Report reported that writing online essays may contribute to a widening of the achievement gap.

The U.S. Department of Education launched a study of fourth graders using computers for writing compared to fourth graders using paper and pencil.

High-performing students did substantially better on the computer than with pencil and paper. But the opposite was true for average and low-performing students. They crafted better sentences using pencil and paper than they did using the computer. Low-income and black and Hispanic students tended to be in this latter category.

“(T)he use of the computer may have widened the writing achievement gap,” concluded the working paper, “Performance of fourth-grade students in the 2012 NAEP computer-based writing pilot assessment.” If so, that has big implications as test makers, with the support of the Department of Education, move forward with their goal of moving almost all students to computerized assessments, which are more efficient and cheaper to grade.
In the study, high-performing students — the top 20 percent of the test takers — produced an average of 179 words per assignment on the computer, three times the number of words that the bottom 20 percent produced. They also used spellcheck, backspace and other editing tools far more often. The researchers found that these high-performing students were more likely to have access to a computer and the Internet at home.

But these high achievers were in the minority. More than two-thirds of fourth-graders’ responses received scores in the bottom half of a 6-point scoring scale that rated grammar and writing quality. Overall, the average fourth-grader typed a total of 110 words per assignment, far less than the 159-word average on the 2010 paper test.

In looking for explanations for the disparity in performance, it seems likely that the high-performing students are more familiar with computers than low-performing students or even those in the middle.

But it is also likely, at least to me, that it is easier to read and re-read a passage when it is on paper than to read it online. Some young children may have difficulty scrolling up and down the page.

And there may be a difference in recall associated with the medium. That requires further study.

Let me confess that I have tried and failed to read books on a Kindle or similar device. It is easy to lose your place; it is hard to find it again. Maybe the difficulty is age-related; after all, I have only been using a computer for 32 years and began using it as an adult. Children who grow up in the digital age may not have the same visual problem that I have in reading large blocs of text. But it will take more studies to figure out when it is beneficial to use the computer and when it is not. Unfortunately policymakers have rushed into online instruction and online assessments on the assumption (untested) that there are no downsides. They do this, as the Hechinger Report says, because the computer makes it easier and cheaper to grade tests. Standardization has some benefits. But it also has drawbacks. We should be aware of both.

As we have seen again and again, in the rhetoric  of the Gates Foundation, Mark Zuckerberg, and assorted tech entrepreneurs, “personalized learning” means learning on a machine. In typical corporate reform talk, where up means down and reform means destruction, personalized means impersonalized.

 

And here it comes, as described by Politico Education:

 

“DISPATCH FROM SXSWedu: “Who here has ever complained about No Child Left Behind?” iNACOL President and CEO Susan Patrick asked a room full of people during a panel discussion at SXSWedu in Austin. The vast majority of hands shot up, our own Caitlin Emma reports. “The future is now,” she said. The Every Student Succeeds Act represents an “incredible opportunity,” Lillian Pace of KnowledgeWorks said: States couldn’t fully implement personalized learning systems under No Child Left Behind, but now there’s an opportunity to do something different. That’s particularly true when it comes to testing, she said. And there’s been a lot of discussion at SXSWedu about what New Hampshire is already doing with its Performance Assessment for Competency Education pilot. It took a while to get federal officials on board, New Hampshire Deputy Education Commissioner Paul Leather said. Leather said he first pitched former Education Secretary Arne Duncan on the idea just six months into the Obama administration. But Duncan told Leather to come back when the idea was more fully formed. So Leather did and blew Duncan away with his presentation: New Hampshire’s assessment pilot received federal approval last year.

 

“- Leather said his state has been working on competency education for about two decades. “It’s not a Johnny come lately” idea for the state and it shouldn’t be one for other states, he said. Seven states will have the opportunity to pilot [http://politico.pro/1QCPQAx ] innovative assessment systems under ESSA. But New Hampshire is a pioneer and for most states that are considering applying for the pilot, it’s their only frame of reference for an innovative assessment system, Pace said. States considering these systems should think carefully about what works best for them, Leather said – because what works for New Hampshire won’t necessarily work everywhere.”

A few days ago, I added Boise superintendent Don Coberly to the blog’s honor roll because of his forthright opposition to a campaign intended to discredit public education. It turns out that the superintendent and every member of his school board signed on to a joint response to the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation’s efforts to diminish public regard for public education.

 

Superintendent Coberly was not alone.

 

A long list of Idaho superintendents also spoke out and I now add them to this blog’s honor roll. They spoke out against a well-funded campaign to slander the public schools of the state and thereby to persuade the public to support privatization.

 

The Idaho-based Albertson Foundation has run a propaganda campaign called “Don’t Fail Idaho,” attacking the SAT scores of the public schools. The superintendents have issued statements supporting their schools against this campaign of misinformation.

 

Here is a great statement by Superintendent Wendy Johnson of the Kuna School District. It includes graphs that show the plans of the district’s graduates. (Added bonus: She quotes yours truly. Smart woman! Well-read, too!)

 

Here is another statement, signed by 13 superintendents.

 

They wrote:

 

In recent weeks, many of your readers may have seen an advertisement presented by the “Don’t Fail Idaho” campaign which dramatically drops four Idaho students in the middle of the desert and leaves them there with one student left on the bus, forlornly waving to those that were “left behind.” The claim of this advertisement is that four out of five students are not prepared for life after high school.

 

As superintendents of many schools in this area, we feel it is important to defend our districts against a blatant attempt to undermine support for the public school system that serves this area. The “Don’t Fail Idaho” campaign and its parent organization, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation, have based their claims on SAT data which is a predictor of a student’s performance in the first semester of their first year in a four-year institution. This data is tremendously narrow and does not reflect what is happening in our schools and with our students.

 

Our students leave our high school campuses and embark on multiple career and college paths. Some choose junior colleges. Some choose two-year technology programs. Some attend technical schools and academies. Some start their own businesses or attend management schools. The SAT has no predictive power for these viable avenues. Those that choose a four-year university may be subject to those national statistics, but we teach our students that they can beat those odds every day, and they do.

 

In just the first semester of the 2015-2016 school year, 10 of our high schools had 1,082 students enrolled in dual credit courses through Idaho State University earning 3,577 credits in that time. That is only a portion of what we offer our students. We also offer courses from CSI, CWI, BSU, and U of I, not to mention the AP and professional technical certificate bearing courses. In addition, according to the NAEP (the nation’s report card), Idaho ranks higher than 22 other states in math and reading for 2015.

 

Is there room for improvement in our schools? Certainly. We embrace that challenge and continue in our commitment to improve our schools and the experience that our students gain while attending. While we recognize the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation and its dedication to helping students in Idaho succeed, we ask that the foundation ceases this divisive campaign and support Idaho’s students in a way that does not cut down the very teachers, paraprofessionals and administrators who have dedicated their lives to improving the lives of the students in Idaho. Growth and economic development in Idaho is dependent upon all of us working together. We ask that the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation work with us in our efforts to educate all students.

 

If the “Don’t Fail Idaho” organization continues to drop those students in the desert, rest assured that our districts will pick up those remaining students and place them at the doorstep of their pathway to a successful future.

 

 

Wayne Rush, another Idaho superintendent, released his own statement:

 

 

My first reaction when I saw the ad was to yell at the television. What would bring anyone to produce advertisements declaring that 80 percent of Idaho’s teens are not prepared for life after high school? If you have not seen the ad, it shows a school bus carrying five students, four are left at the side of the road somewhere in Idaho’s desert and one remains on the bus. The announcer says, “4 out of 5 Idaho teens aren’t prepared for life after high school. If we don’t work together to change education we are all going nowhere.” The logo “Don’t Fail Idaho” appears. When you go to their website, you find that the Idaho Business for Education (IBE) and the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation (JKAF) are misusing SAT data and a State Board of Education goal to make this ridiculous claim.

 

It makes me very sad that the J. A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation is undermining Idaho’s public education and the state as whole to promote its agenda. I worked for the JKAF for more than six years and know the love and commitment that Joe and Kathryn Albertson had for Idaho’s youth. They and their family have given so much to our state and I am forever grateful. However, this campaign leaves me perplexed as to why they would twist data to put Idaho, our schools, teachers, and our youth in the worst possible light.

 

The College Board (which produces the SAT) and universities that use these scores have never made the claim that not reaching a benchmark score on the SAT means you are not prepared for life after high school. The College Board states, “The SAT Benchmark score of 1550 is associated with a 65 percent probability of obtaining a first-year GPA of B minus or higher at a four-year college.” A test is one predictor of college success, but not the best. The courses our students take like dual credit and career and technical courses (such as auto, business, and engineering) are much better predictors of success after high school.

 

I am proud of our community, parents, students, teachers, and staff for the efforts each has made in providing a high quality education here in Gem County. Our staff works every day in preschool through high school to prepare our students for a successful future. They are continually improving teaching and learning for the advancement of our students.

 

These SAT scores come from a recent effort by Idaho and the Emmett School District to increase the number of students that are going on to some form of post-secondary education, whether trade school, two-year, or four-year college. The state now requires students to take a college entrance exam, like the SAT to graduate from high school. The state will pay for all juniors to take the SAT assessment and 88 percent of Idaho’s juniors are now taking this exam. Emmett School District has chosen to have the entire junior class take the exam. This is a great step to encourage students to attend postsecondary education and to help us align our curriculum to ensure students are college and career ready.

 

We gain a lot of good information from this assessment. This fall, our teachers dove deeply into the results to discover areas where we need to improve. It also allows our students to see how they perform compared to average scores from students enrolled in colleges and universities they are interested in attending.

 

It does make a difference when school districts and our state make bold moves to improve education. The College Board reported that in Idaho, “In 2013, 1,740 students met the benchmark. In 2015 that number of successful students more than doubled, with 4,250 meeting the benchmark.” We ought to be proud of the progress we are making not running advertisements saying we are failing.

 

To prepare students for life after high school, our teachers provide college-level, dual credit courses for our high school students. Just this fall, our students completed 168 courses earning 504 college credits through the University of Idaho, Boise State University, Northwest Nazarene University, and the College of Idaho. They were successful in courses such as college level math, chemistry, psychology, medical terminology, biology, history, and political science. We have had many students complete over 30 college credits before they graduate from Emmett High School. These students are clearly ready for college.

 

In addition, our students are participating in clubs, drama, music, sports, as well as many other community activities and events that help prepare them for life after high school. Our high school won first place in 3A State Football this fall and our girls just took 3rd place in the state basketball tournament. These students are learning what they can accomplish through grit and team work.

 

Idaho, our teachers and staff, and our students are not failing Idaho. We roll up our sleeves every day and work hard to prepare for a bright future.

 

Ironically, some of these statements were published in the Idaho Education News, which is funded by the Albertson Foundation.

 

Another irony, Joe Albertson, who founded the grocery store chain that is the basis of the family fortune, was a 1925 graduate of Caldwell High School in Caldwell, Idaho. A public school.

NBC News has caught on to one of the biggest hoaxes of the corporate reform movement: the failure of virtual charter schools. About 200,000 students are currently enrolled in virtual charters. The attrition rates are high, but the industry spends taxpayer dollars constantly recruiting to increase their numbers. It is good to see the mainstream media catching on to what critics of virtual charters have known for a few years.

 

Some sharp eyed person in their news department learned about the CREDO study last fall that showed that students enrolled in these stay-at-home schools lose ground academically. In the case of math, they lose a full year of instruction for every year they are enrolled. In reading, they also lose ground, as much as 72 days.

 

The CREDO study says:

 

The first set of analyses examines the academic growth of online charter students compared to the matched VCRs made up of students who attended brick-and-mortar district-run schools. These schools are typically referred to as traditional public schools (TPS). Compared to their VCRs in the TPS, online charter students have much weaker growth overall. Across all tested students in online charters, the typical academic gains for math are -0.25 standard deviations (equivalent to 180 fewer days of learning) and -0.10 (equivalent to 72 fewer days) for reading (see Figure 3). This means that compared to their twin attending TPS, the sizes of the coefficients leave little doubt attending an online charter school leads to lessened academic growth for the average student. (p. 23).

 

As the report from NBC shows, some “reformers” are growing disillusioned with virtual charters, but others keep making excuses and say that the bad guys in the industry are anomalies. This is an excuse we are getting used to.

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