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Research Indicates Virtual School Is Working

A recent study by Marty Lueken and Gary Ritter from the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform has found significant benefits for students attending the Arkansas Virtual Academy (ARVA).

ARVA is an online public charter school operated by the state, and 61% of ARVA students are eligible for free/reduced price lunch. Lueken and Ritter longitudinally compared ARVA students that were in grades 3-6 in the 2008-2009 school year to a specially designed control group. Each ARVA student was matched and compared with two similar students from traditional public schools. The matched students were in the same grade, from the same district, and were of similar socioeconomic status, race, and gender. Most importantly, the matched groups of students all had similar levels of prior achievement as measured through literacy and math test scores. This factor was given the most weight in the research design because prior achievement has been shown to be the single most important predictor of future achievement.

So how did the ARVA students compare to their peers in traditional public schools?

The study found that ARVA students outperformed their comparison groups in math and literacy, and no statistically significant negative effects were found. ARVA students’ actually had slightly lower initial test scores at the beginning of the study than their comparison groups, so this effect is even more pronounced. Furthermore, economically disadvantaged students in particular (as determined by free/reduced price lunch eligibility) experienced even greater benefits: students receiving free/reduced price lunch at ARVA grew 8 percentile points more than their comparison group. This benefit of attending ARVA is even more dramatic when we consider that these students were actually compared to a mixed group of peers that were not all economically disadvantaged – even disadvantaged students at ARVA significantly outperform traditional public school students of higher

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NAEP Flatline Highlights Ed Reform Need

By Jeanne Allen
National Journal
November 8, 2011

It’s hard to believe we even need to have a debate on whether or not — and how — the paltry results of the 2011 National Assessment of Education Progress, or The Nation’s Report Card, have an impact on policy decisions among our local, state and national leaders and what we should learn from those results. Consider what the data really shows:

Barely one percentage point gain overall compared to 2009 scores; specifically 4th- and 8th grade math was only one point higher as was 8th-grade reading. There were no gains in 4th-grade reading.

A persistent achievement gap that still represents a 25-point spread between black and white students, and 20%or higher in some cases between white and Hispanic.

Forty-two states have shown no significant improvement on either test since 2009.

Not to sound flippant, but I don’t really care what our goals are as a nation or locally, as long as we have fewer than 40% of our students in all but a few cases able to meet proficiency standards that are arguably less rigorous than the NAEP of old. Indeed, while it’s still the gold standard and exposes state tests for being inflated and lacking real meaning, NAEP has had it’s own roll backs so even a point here or there is nothing to cheer.

Beyond being a reminder that flatlining is not a good thing; there is also an important takeaway from the data when you scratch below the surface. Like both SAT and ACT results which, while not samples, also show stagnant results, NAEP scores among those who many believe have great schools at their disposal remain well below standards. While we must work hardest to improve conditions for our disadvantaged youth, we should be alarmed that white student progress remains alarmingly low considering

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