Panel: Does Online and Personalized Instruction in High Schools Hold Promise for Reducing Inequality and Improving Educational Outcomes?

Saturday, November 10, 2018: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Wilson A - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Chairs:  Nat Malkus, American Enterprise Institute
Discussants:  Patricia E. Burch, University of Southern California

What Are the Effects of Online Credit Recovery on Academic Outcomes for at-Risk Students?
Jessica Heppen and Jordan Rickles, American Institutes for Research

Online Instruction and Outcomes over Time in High School: Implications for Equity and Achievement
Carolyn J. Heinrich1, Jennifer Darling-Aduana1, Annalee Good2 and Huiping Cheng2, (1)Vanderbilt University, (2)University of Wisconsin, Madison

Personalized Learning in High Schools
Laura S. Hamilton1, Elizabeth D. Steiner1, Elaine Wang1, Laura Stelitano2, Karen Christianson1 and Kaitlyn Kelly2, (1)RAND Corporation, (2)University of Pittsburgh

K-12 schools in the United States are making major investments in online/digital education, with proponents often touting educational technology (ed-tech) as a tool for increasing equity and enhancing learning opportunities for all students.  At the same time, the successful integration of ed-tech into student learning requires coordinated efforts and capacity-building across district, school, classroom and student levels of enactment and use.  As ed-tech increasingly competes with face-to-face methods of instruction for limited educational resources, it is critical to ensure that the technologies, modes of delivery, and supporting conditions are effectively leveraged to enhance learning and reduce achievement gaps, especially for those students historically underserved in K-12 schools. The evidence to date shows there is enormous variability in how online/digital instruction is rolled out, accessed, and supported in K-12 schools.  Yet initial purchases of ed-tech at state or district levels are rarely followed by the gathering of transparent evidence on how the instructional tools are used and to what effect.  As educators increasingly devote valuable resources and instructional time to ed-tech, we need to know much more about its effectiveness and the supports required to improve equity in learning opportunities and outcomes through their use, especially for students from historically underserved subgroups. 

The papers in this panel focus on a major growth area in ed-tech integration: online course-taking, credit recovery and personalized learning in high schools, and they are generating some of the most rigorous and in-depth evidence to date on its use and effects.  As the use of (online) credit recovery as a tool for increasing credit accumulation and graduation rates rises, so do concerns that its use may trade off the benefits of traditional courses. One paper explores the effectiveness of credit recovery in helping at-risk high school students graduate from high school or prevent them from dropping out, using data from students in North Carolina Public Schools who failed at least one core, required course.  Another paper presents results from a randomized controlled trial in Chicago Public Schools that examined credit recovery for ninth graders who failed Algebra I and its effects on students’ math achievement, engagement, course-taking patterns, school persistence, and graduation. The researchers found that in-person instructional support for students in the online course may increase its effectiveness, and thus, they also describe an ongoing study in Los Angeles Unified Schools that implements a blended credit recovery model (with both online and in-person instructional support).  A third paper focuses on online course-taking in Milwaukee high schools, including for credit recovery, which is increasingly accessed by students falling behind in their progress toward graduation, and examines how it is used and whether students gain academically through its use over time. The fourth paper in the panel addresses more in-depth what “personalized learning” (PL) models look like at the high school level. Few studies have examined PL in high schools, and little is known about how instructional practices in PL-focused schools compare with those in high schools nationally, a gap this study aims to fill.

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