July 2, 2021
KALAMAZOO, Mich.—For Dr. Gary Miron, professor of Evaluation, Measurement and Research (EMR), the greatest joy of his work is connecting policy makers with data and empirical evidence they can use.
On April 13, 2021 he had the opportunity to do just that as he gave a presentation on the expansion of privately operated charter schools and virtual schooling based on two reports from Western Michigan University (WMU) and the National Education Policy Center. Both reports are co-authored by WMU graduate students.
The first, “Profiles for For-Profit and Nonprofit Education Management Organizations," catalogs the organizations that manage charter schools, and the second, “ Full-Time Virtual and Blended Schools: Enrollment, Student Characteristics, and Performance,” focuses on profiling characteristics of virtual and blended schools.
“The findings are especially relevant here in Michigan as our state is an outlier nationally. We have over 85% of our charter schools that are owned and operated by private EMOs. With increased interest in virtual schooling due to the pandemic, it’s important that policy makers understand who is running these schools and how well they perform,” said Miron.
Miron’s presentation gave a high-level overview of the two reports and focused on data specific to Michigan. For example, only 8 out of 47 virtual schools in Michigan had received acceptable school ratings, and none of the 33 blended schools in Michigan had acceptable school ratings. Miron recommended policy makers require far more stringent controls and transparency than are evident in current practice. “Virtual schools aren’t going away. I believe they can be more effective, but a new model for is needed that focuses on student engagement and learning, not profit margins for the private entities that operate them. Our policy makers can help with that,” he said.
Miron enjoys modeling for his EMR students how research and evaluation findings can directly inform policy and encourages them to engage in this work as well. Graduate students in the EMR program have had the opportunity to participate in conference calls with U.S. Senators and their staff when they’ve contact Miron to discuss policy-relevant work. Some EMR students have participated in national presentation of the findings, including testimony for state legislatures or the U.S. Congress. “This is the kind of work that excited me when I was in graduate school and I hope I can help others find this excitement as well.”
A recording of the meeting video is available.