NEPC Resources on Virtual Education
NEPC Review: Public-Private Virtual-School Partnerships and Federal Flexibility for Schools during COVID-19 (Mercatus Center, March 2020)
Education Interview of the Month: Greg Smith Interviews Faith Boninger and Alex Molnar About Personalized Learning and Digital Privatization
Education Interview of the Month: Greg Smith Interviews Michael Barbour and Bryan Mann on Virtual Schools
Computer technology has made it possible to aggregate, collate, analyze, and store massive amounts of information about students. School districts and private companies that sell their services to the education market now regularly collect such information, raising significant issues about the privacy rights of students.
This 2015 report is third in a series of annual reports on virtual education in the U.S.. It is organized in three major sections. Section I examines the policy and political landscape associated with virtual schooling and describes the current state of affairs related to finance and governance, instructional program quality, and teacher quality. The authors analyze to what extent, if any, policy in the past year has moved toward or away from their 2014 recommendations.
Personalized Instruction: New Interest, Old Rhetoric, Limited Results, and the Need for a New Direction for Computer-Mediated Learning
The pace of technological advancement, combined with improvements technology has brought to other sectors, is leading policymakers and educators alike to take another look at computers in the classroom, and even at computers instead of classrooms. In particular, advances in computational power, memory storage, and artificial intelligence are breathing new life into the promise that instruction can be tailored to the needs of each individual student, much like a one-on-one tutor.
A new report compares the performance of Florida Virtual School (FLVS) students with students in traditional brick-and-mortar schools and concludes the FLVS students perform about the same or somewhat better on state tests and at a lower cost. The report claims to be the first empirical study of K-12 student performance in virtual education. This is not correct, and the report in fact confirms the findings and repeats the methodological flaws and limitations of previous research.
Based on the presumed success of school choice programs, Expanding the Education Universe: A Fifty-State Strategy for Course Choice seeks to take choice a step further. Each student would design a personal program of online and off-line courses chosen from a marketplace of curricula developed by for-profit and not-for-profit vendors, as well as school districts or other public entities. Such course choice would, the report contends, alleviate transportation problems, provide greater options, and circumvent the restricted offerings even in choice schools.
This second annual report in a series on virtual education is organized in three major sections. Section I examines the policy and political landscape associated with virtual schooling and describes the current state of affairs related to finance and governance, instructional program quality, and teacher quality. The authors analyze to what extent, if any, policy in the past year has moved toward or away from the 2013 recommendations.
This report attempts to shed light on the lower enrollment rates of children with disabilities in charter schools in New York City. It concludes that distinct differences in enrollment patterns can be largely attributed to lower application rates and not active measures by charter school officials to push out or “counsel out” students with special needs. While the report raises interesting issues about application and transfer patterns, it ultimately fails to provide useful results to inform policymakers.
This policy brief addresses considerations for state and local policymakers as they decide whether and how to finance supplemental online education alternatives and/or full-time virtual schools. The authors begin with a discussion of the sparse and inconsistent literature regarding the financing of new online models, and then present empirical illustrations for determining costs.
This national study, which comprehensively reviews 311 virtual schools operating in the United States, finds serious and systemic problems with the nation’s full-time cyber schools. Despite virtual schools’ track record of students falling behind their peers academically or dropping-out at higher rates, states and districts continue to expand virtual schools and online offerings to students, at high cost to taxpayers.
K12 Inc. enrolls more public school students than any other private education management organization in the U.S. Much has been written about K12 Inc. (referred to in this report simply as “K12”) by financial analysts and investigative journalists because it is a large, publicly traded company and is the dominant player in the operation and expansion of full-time virtual schools.
The Fordham Institute’s Teachers in the Age of Digital Instruction is an advocacy document outlining a vision for how technology might transform the teaching profession. The report’s rationale is based on claims that the current education system lacks the capacity to support the revolutionary changes needed to unleash the technological innovations of online instruction that will yield increased effectiveness and efficiency.
This fifth and final paper in the Fordham Institute’s series examining digital learning policy is Overcoming the Governance Challenge in K-12 Online Learning. The purpose of this report is to outline the steps required to move the governance of K-12 online learning from the local district level to the less restrictive state level and to create a free market for corporate innovation in K-12 online learning. Unfortunately, the report is based on an unsupported premise that K-12 online learning will lead to increased student achievement.
Schools and school systems throughout the nation are increasingly experimenting with using various instructional technologies to improve productivity and decrease costs, but evidence on both the effectiveness and the costs of education technology is limited. A recent report published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute sets out to describe “the size and range of the critical cost drivers for online schools in comparison to traditional brick-and-mortar schools” (p. 2).
Over just the past decade, online learning at the K-12 level has grown from a novelty to a movement. Often using the authority and mechanism of state charters, and in league with home schoolers and other allies, private companies and some state entities are now providing full-time online schooling to a rapidly increasing number of students in the U.S. Yet little or no research is available on the outcomes of such full-time virtual schooling.
In a decade, virtual education in its contemporary form of asynchronous, computer-mediated interaction between a teacher and students over the Internet has grown from a novelty to an established mode of education that may provide all or part of formal schooling for nearly one in every 50 students in the US. In a non-random 2007 survey of school districts, as many as three out of every four public K-12 school districts responding reported offering full or partial online courses.
Knowledge Universe and Virtual Schools: Educational Breakthrough or Digital Raid on the Public Treasury?
Source: Education Policy Studies Laboratory
This report considers one little-known-but large and influential-technology enterprise, Knowledge Universe, and examines the operations of its school-related division, K12, Inc.