1997 only two schools had K12 online programs. 11 years later up to 44 states had significant online learning opportunities according to Watson,Gemin, and Ryan’s 2008 Keeping pace wit hK-12 online learning.Majority of schools are virtual high schools but increasingly more K8 schools are opening.3. Estimated 1,030,000 students enrolled in some type of online program during the 2007-2008 academic year. This is a 47% increase from just two years previously.4. For most students this supplements their face to face or home schooling program. However there is a growing trend towards more full-time programs.3. Student body is expanding and becoming increasingly diverse. This is due to more and more at-risk students using virtual schools for credit recovery and legislative mandates, such as Michigan and Alabama, which require as part of graduation an online learning component. Other states may soon follow.
Long trial periods can act as a sifting mechanism during which weaker students to drop out, masking attrition rates for lower performing students. FLVS 1999 -2000 evaluation report—reported a 71% retention rate. If included dropout students from trial period – 54%In turn, virtual schools with generous trial periods would be able to report high retention rates because students who were having trouble and would have likely struggled to complete the course would have dropped out by the time the virtual school began counting then as students.
159 US schools located:: NACOL Clearinghouse list, State-led schools from Keeping Pace with K-12 Education 2007Canadian schools selected based on Email survey : 3 questions; 2 open-ended,
Single district, Cyber charter, and State –led: 67%
Single district, Cyber charter, and State –led: 67%Fairly representative set of responses compared to the sample set.
US: Of the 88 schools surveyed, 27 schools had no trial period compared to 61 schools had a trial periodTrial periods were a common practice in the US.Several instances where a trial period was marked by an event such as submitting your first assignment, taking your first quiz, paying your tuition; in contrast to a time period that was common in the US.
US most common: 28-30 days about 4 weeks accounted for 28.3% of the sampleMost common (14 days) 14-15 days: 2 weeks accounted for 26.7% of the sample
Ran One way ANOVAs to see if there were any significant differences in trial length based on school type or region.For School types found that US significant with an f value of 3.909Did a Post HokTukey test to see which variables were significant and found that
Wide range from passing the course w/ 60% to a mastery level with 90% or betterUS had significant variation within this category.
Wide range in completion definitions.
Not define by grade: elementary school
This study gives us evidence beyond anecdote or guess, that variations are significant and there is a need to standardize trial period policies and course completion definitions.We need to count students in the same time and same manner.Ideally, best if we could align this with how brick and mortar schools are calculating attrition/retention to allow for comparisons
AERA 2009 - Variability in U.S. Virtual School Policies Affecting Course Completion Rates
U.S. VIRTUAL SCHOOL TRIALPERIOD AND COURSE COMPLETION POLICY STUDY ABIGAIL GONZALES, BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY MICHAEL K. BARBOUR, WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY AERA 2009
State of Virtual Schools in U.S. Growth in schools 1997: 2 states with K12 online learning opportunities 2008: 44 states (Watson, Gemin, & Ryan, 2008) Majority virtual high school. Trend in K-8 arena. Growth in student population 40,000 to 50,000 students enrolled in 2000 (Clark, 2001) 1,030,000 students enrolled in 2007-2008. (Picciano& Seaman, 2009) Primarily supplements brick-and-mortar schooling Increasingly diverse student body
Challenges of virtual schooling Attrition is a significant problem (Carr, 2000; Lary, 2002; Rice, 2005) Researchers call for standardizing performance measures (Smith et al., 2005; Pape et al., 2006; Watson et al., 2006) Two studies examining policies (Pape et al., 2006; Watson & Ryan, 2007) Findings: variety in policies adopted Study weakness: Small sample size 32 and 3 VS Trial periods can sift out weaker students (Ballas&Belyk, 2000; Cavanuagh, Gillan, Bosnick, Hess, & Scott, 2005; McLeod, Hughes, Brown, Choi, & Maeda, 2005) Variance in policies make comparison of quality indicator meaningless.
Policies Affecting VS AttritionRates When do we count students? TrialPeriod Policy: period of time where student withdraws with no penalty. Begin counting at date of enrollment? After 4 weeks? When submit first assignment? How do we count students in retention stats? Course Completion Policy: # students completing course # students started course Who counts as “completing”. Passing grade? Failing grade? Remains in course?
Research Questions1. What is the variation in trial period policies in US? Variability across types schools & geographic regions2. What is the variation in how US virtual schools define course completions? Variability across types schools & geographic regions
Methods Sample 159US schools Schools listed in iNACOL‟sOnline Learning Clearinghouse List „07 State-led schools in Keeping Pace w/ K12 Online Learning (Watson, 2007) Survey Study 3-question email survey w/ introduction, purpose Presence of trial period Length of trial period in days Definition of successful course completion
US Geographical Regions Northeaste rn States Central States Western States Southeaste rn States
Representativeness by Region Sample Populatio PopulatioRegion Sample % n n%Central States 23 26.1 41 25.5Northeastern 8 9.1 18 11.2StatesSoutheastern 20 22.7 33 20.5StatesWestern States 37 42 67 41.6Total 88 159
Responses by School Type Sampl Sample Populatio Population %School type e % nCyber 16 18.2 34 21.1CharterFor Profit 1 1.1 9 5.6Multi-district 7 8.0 11 6.8Private 13 14.8 21 13Single-district 26 29.5 49 30.4State – led 17 19.3 24 14.9University – 8 9.1 11 6.8ledTotals 88 159
Trial Period Prevalence Trial: 61 No trial: 27 Total: 88
Trail Period Length in Days Range: 1-185 Mean: 19.59* Instances where event marked end of trial period*w/o extreme outliers
Trial period length variationsby…School type: Sig. @ p=.05 df(5) f3.909 Differences: Private school vs. state-led, cyber charters, and single-district Private schools had shorter trial periods compared to other schoolsGeographical region: No significant difference
Completion Definitions where…Grade Relevant vs. Irrelevant vs. Other
Course Completion Definitions where…Grade is RelevantDefinitions US US %Pass the course 38 44.2(60%)Pass course & final 2 2.3Pass w/ ≥ D/64% 1 1.2Pass w/ ≥ C-/70% 6 7Pass w/ ≥ B-/80% 4 4.7Pass w/ ≥ A-/90% 1 1.2Totals 52 60.6%
Course Completion Definitions where…Grade is IrrelevantDefinitions US US % 16 18.6Remain in courseComplete all/majority of 11 12.8courseworkTotals 27 31.4%
Course Completion Definitions where…OtherDefinitions US US %Mastery not defined by grade 1 1.2Individual schools define completion 4 4.7Totals 5 5.9%
Course completion variationsby…School type: No significant differenceGeographical region: No significant difference
Findings SummaryTrial Period Presence Prevalent practice ~70% Supports Watson & Ryan 2007 survey of 32 VS with ~66%Trial Period Length Average length ~ 20 days Most common lengths: 2 and 4 weeks Supports Watson & Ryan 2007 findings Regional differences: Not sig. School type: Sig. - private schools
Findings SummaryCourse completion definitions Wide variation between and within groups Remain in courseFuture Research Student characteristics, experience, and reason for dropping out during trial period duration Comparison study with Canadian trial period and course completion policies
Implications Need common metrics for calculating attrition Best if same as bricks-and-mortar schools Gather data for internal and external reporting Internal= Institutional metrics External = Standardized metrics Determining metric easier since geography and school type factor little
Assistant ProfessorWayne State University - Detroit, MI firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.michaelbarbour.com