Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Value-Added Results for Public Virtual Schools in California

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Value-Added Results for Public Virtual Schools in California

Article excerpt

Introduction

In 2000 approximately 45,000 K-12 students nationwide engaged in some type of formal online learning course or activity. By 2010 that number had grown to over 4 million (Staker, 2011). The accelerating growth in public online coursework at the K-12 levels elevates the importance of research into the efficiency and effectiveness of online education. Nationally we have a critical and pressing need to expand our knowledge base to facilitate the identification of what works best in online learning environments (Means et al., 2010).

The purpose of this study was to determine whether the virtual schools operating in California in the 2010-2011 academic year produced equivalent or different value added results on standardized tests in English language arts and mathematics. To be precise, we looked at eight specific courses, four in math and four in English language arts, offered at the 32 identified virtual schools whose student level test score data for successive years was provided by the California Department of Education (DOE). (The research was conducted independently by the authors and was not supported nor endorsed by the California DOE.) For this study, virtual schools were defined as those schools in which instruction was delivered entirely or primarily through online methods. The California DOE provides a service that identifies schools that deliver a minimum of 30% of content online. This threshold was too low for our purposes so further identification of schools for this study was accomplished through a comprehensive review of all listed charter school websites for information on their primary delivery method. In particular, we looked for schools whose names reflected some online or electronic component and schools that specifically designated themselves as online in their program descriptions. Given the challenges in defining and categorizing online schools, one limitation of the study is that the schools subsequently included in this report likely do not represent a complete sample of all online schools in California.

Method

The research objective was to identify, in each of the eight separate courses, schools that produced statistically superior value added metrics. The initial data pool consisted of all students who took a math or English language arts California Standards Test (CST) in the spring, 2011 at any one of the 32 identified public online schools. This initial pool was back-mapped by the California Department of Education to retrieve corresponding CST test scores for 2010, regardless of which public school generated the pretest score. Thus any student from the initial pool who was also tested anywhere in California in 2010 would remain in the pool. Those students for whom no pretest score could be retrieved were then eliminated from the pool. In English language arts approximately 82% of the initial pool was retained for the study. In mathematics approximately 77% of the initial pool was retained for the study. Each student record provided by the California DOE contained a scrambled student id number, school id, test and grade level information, and scaled scores for 2010 and 2011. The initial data set for the 32 virtual schools consisted of 5,666 records. Several records could not be used due to missing test scores or test id information in either English or mathematics. Students from cohorts of pretest-posttest pairings of fewer than 36 students were also excluded. The number of usable records for English totaled 5085. The number of usable records for mathematics was 4147. The mathematics number was significantly lower due to the fact that students taking the California summative exam were excluded from the mathematics portion of the study. The California mathematics summative exam is given to all students who have completed algebra 2 prior to the current academic year regardless of whether or not they are currently enrolled in any math class. Therefore the summative exam cannot be associated with any specific course. …

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