Wednesday, November 26, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 26: Cyber charters are falling short of expectations/ five pieces on fair funding

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3500 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg
The Keystone State Education Coalition is pleased to be listed among the friends and allies of The Network for Public Education.  Are you a member?
The Keystone State Education Coalition is an endorsing member of The Campaign for Fair Education Funding


Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 26, 2014:
Cyber charters are falling short of expectations/ five pieces on fair funding



Upcoming PA Basic Education Funding Commission Public Hearings
Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 10 AM East Stroudsburg; Carl T. Secor Administration Bldg., 50 Vine Street, East Stroudsburg Area School District

Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 10 AM - 12:00 PM Lancaster; location TBA
* meeting times and locations subject to change



"From every standpoint - academic, financial, and quality of oversight - there is ample evidence that Pennsylvania's cyber charters are falling far short of expectations. Meanwhile, state policymakers have failed to pass meaningful reforms: a report earlier this year by the National Education Policy Center found that 33 separate reform proposals have either failed or stalled out.  The legislature has a long to-do list when it reconvenes in early 2015. Cyber-charter reform should be right at the top. In the meantime, the state ought to exercise caution concerning any further expansion of the sector."
Cyber charters are falling short of expectations
Inquirer Opinion By Kate Shaw and Adam Schott POSTED: November 26, 2014, 1:08 AM
Kate Shaw is executive director ( kshaw@researchforaction.org) and Adam Schott is director of policy research ( aschott@researchforaction.org) at Research for Action, a Philadelphia-based, nonprofit education research organization.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has just concluded hearings on three proposed cyber-charter schools. If approved, these schools have the potential to divert millions from Pennsylvania's brick-and-mortar charter schools at a time of unprecedented financial and structural challenges.  Even without these new cyber charters, the sector continues to expand. While the number of cyber schools is down slightly to 14 (from a high of 16 in 2013), enrollment is up - reaching nearly 36,000 students according to the most recent data from Education Department. The combined enrollments of cyber schools would make it the second-largest district in Pennsylvania.  This growth - and now the prospect of even more cyber charters - is alarming considering any basic assessment of the sector's performance.

Pennsylvania's ad hoc school funding is unfair, unpredictable: PennLive letters
Penn Live By Letters to the Editor  on November 25, 2014 at 11:00 AM WILLIAM H. KERR, Superintendent of Schools, Norwin School District, Westmoreland County
Pennsylvania is one of only three states without a consistently applied school funding formula, which creates unfairness for students and disparities among school districts across the state. State officials must find an equitable method to distribute state funds for public education so that all students can be better served and have access to high-quality educational programs and services.  Recently, more than 850 educators across Pennsylvania met via video conference at 29 locations on the same night to discuss the need for a fair public school funding formula. Discussions focused on how the Pennsylvania legislature determines the amount and method of Basic Education Funding by using inconsistent criteria. The last true school funding formula, eliminated in 2011, calculated state aid based on a district's actual costs which created a more level playing field and a state financial commitment for educating students.

Fair funding for Pa. schools
By Neil D. Theobald POSTED: Wednesday, November 26, 2014, 1:08 AM
Neil D. Theobald is president of Temple University. This commentary is adapted from testimony delivered on Nov. 18 to the Commonwealth's Basic Education Funding Commission. theobald@temple.edu
In 1866, the architect of New York City's Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted, was asked to come to San Francisco and re-create Central Park on a windswept expanse of sand dunes near the future Golden Gate Bridge. Olmsted's response accurately describes, I believe, the task facing the Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Commission:  "The conditions are so peculiar and the difficulties so great that I regard the problem as unique. It must be solved, if at all, by wholly new means and methods. It requires invention, not adaptation."

Funding should be driven by enrollment, education leaders say
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Monday, November 24, 2014 3:25 pm
School funding needs to start with the actual number of students in a district.
That’s what Jay Himes told state officials in Lancaster on Monday.
Himes, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, testified at the Basic Education Funding Commission’s public hearing at Intermediate Unit 13.
The commission was created by legislators in June to study a new way of distributing cash to Pennsylvania's 500 school districts. Pennsylvania is one of only a handful of states that do not have a predictable education funding formula based on student enrollment and characteristics.

DN Editorial: Formula for disaster
Philly Daily News Editorial POSTED: Tuesday, November 25, 2014, 3:01 AM
EACH YEAR Pennsylvania hands out $5.5 billion in subsidies for basic education that follows a formula which is outdated and ignores the realities of local school districts.   To use just one example: districts that have lost students in recent years get the same amount of state subsidy, even though they are educating fewer children. And don't even talk about making allowances for such factors as poverty.  In fact, in 2007, a "costing-out" study commissioned by the legislature concluded that the state's public schools were underfunded by $4.38 billion. The study further concluded that Philadelphia schools were underfunded by nearly $5,000 per student. Schools got a one-time boost following the study, but that increase was short-lived.  Fortunately, the current legislature recognizes the need to change the formula and created a bipartisan commission, with members from the legislature and the governor's office, to devise a new and improved formula.

Developments in fair education funding
PA School Talk Blog Posted by Kate Welch on November 25, 2014 at 5:30pm
November has been a busy month in public education news.
On November 10, the Education Law Center and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia filed a major suit against the governor, legislature, and Department of Education on behalf of parents, school districts, and community groups. Eleanor Chute of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote a spot-on piece detailing the funding lawsuit.
Consensus is building across the state that fair funding is vitally important to our commonwealth's future--that means both sufficient funds to educate every child and equitable distribution to make sure funds go to the communities that need them the most. Just yesterday the Philadelphia Daily News Editorial Board published a piece arguing for both of those goals.
In Lancaster City, school board member Jennifer Desmarais articulated her district's decision to sue, seeking to better serve its student population (87% of whom live in poverty).
These are just a few highlights of the articles and editorials spreading the word on the recent fair funding lawsuit and the need for adequate funding. Check out the suit's website, "Thorough and Efficient," for more explanation and links to pieces from across the state discussing it.

PA Basic Education Funding Commission

The Campaign for Fair Education Funding

Thorough and Efficient? A video short on Pennsylvania’s Education Funding Lawsuit

Thorough and Efficient: Pennsylvania School Funding Litigation website
The Education Law Center of Pennsylvania and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia filed suit in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court on November 10, 2014 on behalf of six school districts, seven parents, and two statewide associations against legislative leaders, state education officials, and the Governor for failing to uphold the General Assembly’s constitutional obligation to provide a"thorough and efficient" system of public education.

Wolf rounds out panel of fiscal advisers
Inquirer Commonwealth Confidential Blog POSTED: TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2014, 3:17 PM
Governor-elect Tom Wolf has tapped union leaders, former Rendell administration officials and private business executives to join his committee to address the expected budget crisis on the horizon.  Leading the Budget Deficit and Fiscal Stabilization Task Force are former budget secretary Mary Soderberg and Montgomery County Commission Chairman Josh Shapiro.  The Independent Fiscal Office released a report this month projecting a more than $2 million budget deficit in 2015. Wolf delivers his first budget address in March.
"Pennsylvania is facing challenging economic times, a multi-billion dollar budget deficit, and negative cash flow projections," said Gov,-elect Wolf. "My Budget Deficit and Fiscal Stabilization Task Force will get to work to determine the scope of the challenges facing Pennsylvania and begin to discuss how we can get Pennsylvania's fiscal house in order."
Other members of the committee include:

Governor-Elect Wolf Names Budget Deficit and Fiscal Stabilization Task Force
November 25, 2014 by Wolf Transition
YORK, PA - Governor-elect Tom Wolf today named his full Budget Deficit and Fiscal Stabilization Task Force, which will work to address the looming budget deficit. The Task Force will be led by Mary Soderberg and Montgomery County Commission Chairman Josh Shapiro.  Earlier this month, the Independent Fiscal Office found that Pennsylvania is facing a multi-billion dollar budget deficit. This news is only the beginning of what we will learn about the structural budget problems left by the current Administration. In addition to the projected budget deficit, Governor-elect Wolf will enter office amid cash flow projections that indicate the state will be cash flow negative from January through March.
"Pennsylvania is facing challenging economic times, a multi-billion dollar budget deficit, and negative cash flow projections," said Governor-elect Tom Wolf. "My Budget Deficit and Fiscal Stabilization Task Force will get to work to determine the scope of the challenges facing Pennsylvania and begin to discuss how we can get Pennsylvania's fiscal house in order."

Constitution High students march to Liberty Bell to protest Ferguson
the notebook By Shannon Nolan and Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 25, 2014 03:07 PM
Students from Constitution High School protested by the Liberty Bell pavilion Wednesday. They made a spontaneous decision to rally against the grand jury's decision not to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.  Cimani Cox was sitting in English class when teacher Rob Hall brought up what had happened the night before in Ferguson -- a grand jury's decision not to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.  She decided she had to do something about it. After all, this is Constitution High School.  Before long, she had the support of principal Tom Davidson and teachers for a protest march.   Carrying signs and chanting, the students walked a little more than a block to the Liberty Bell, where they surprised tourists and were surrounded by police on bicycles. About 250 of the 375 students participated in the 45-minute action.

Reader feedback invited: Teaching about Ferguson in Philadelphia
the notebook By Paul Socolar on Nov 25, 2014 01:03 PM
Many Philadelphia students have yesterday's news on their minds today -- of the non-indictment in last summer's police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. And some teachers and schools have changed their plans for the day to give students an opportunity to respond.
The Notebook would like to hear from teachers, parents, and others about how you are engaging with young people about that news. Please share your experiences and thoughts in our comments.


Testing Resistance & Reform News: November 19 - 25, 2014
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on November 25, 2014 - 1:10pm 
As you give thanks over the upcoming holiday, please join FairTest in our gratitude for the thousands of parents, teachers, students, administrators, community activists, school board members, researchers and commentators who are standing up to protect our children from standardized testing misuse and overuse.  Here are a few of their recent stories.

"The program — started more than a decade ago by educators at Boston College — is based on the simple idea that a child distracted by pain, fear, or deprivation can’t possibly do as well in school as a child without those challenges. So City Connects tries to resolve as many of those issues as possible — whether that’s buying Christmas presents, fighting obesity, getting students into drawing lessons, or helping kids negotiate playground bullies.
In a new study, students who went through Boston schools with a City Connects program, like Edison, were shown to drop out of high school at half the rate of their peers from other schools.  City Connects is now in 62 schools in Boston, Springfield, and Dayton, Ohio, serving 20,000 students, most of whom are among the most disadvantaged in their communities."
Community Schools: Helping students with needs that extend outside the classroom
Boston Globe By Karen Weintraub GLOBE CORRESPONDENT  NOVEMBER 24, 2014
Mark Griffin starts every weekday standing at the door of the Thomas Edison K8 School in Brighton: “Great hat!” “Don’t you look good today!” “How’re you making out?”
His pleasantries are a nice way to start the day, but they also have a point. As Griffin greets more than 400 students each morning, he’s looking to see who is shivering in a too-thin coat, whose eyes look rimmed with tears, which parents are walking their kids to school and staying for the free breakfast themselves.  “It’s hard to concentrate on schoolwork when there are other things much more important to them that need to be addressed,” Griffin said.  Nearly all students at Edison are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, which means they come from families that lack middle-class advantages.  That’s where Griffin comes in. He’s employed by a program called City Connects that helps Edison kids with needs that extend outside of the classroom.

U.S. Wants Teacher Training Programs to Track How Graduates’ Students Perform
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH NOV. 25, 2014
The federal Department of Education announced preliminary rules on Tuesday requiring states to develop rating systems for teacher preparation programs that would track a range of measures, including the job placement and retention rates of graduates and the academic performance of their students.  In a move that drew some criticism, the Education Department said the new rating systems could be used to determine eligibility for certain federal grants used by teacher candidates to help pay for their training.  Critics have long faulted teacher training as inadequately preparing candidates for the realities and rigors of the job.  In a conference call with reporters, Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, said that far too many education programs set lower requirements for entry than other university majors.

U.S. Rules Aim to Heighten Tracking of Ed. Schools' Performance
Education Week By Stephen Sawchuk Published Online: November 25, 2014

Teacher colleges would need to provide proof of their graduates’ classroom skills in helping advance student learning, under proposed rules issued Nov. 25 by the U.S. Department of Education.  Programs that failed to do so could eventually be blocked from offering financial aid to would-be K-12 teachers in the form of federal Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education, or TEACH, grants, according to the long-delayed proposal.
The rules are the Obama administration’s attempt to toughen what have long been considered ineffectual requirements for teacher-preparation programs in Title II of the Higher Education Act. Even so, under its proposal, few consequences would kick in before 2020—years after President Barack Obama will have left office.


Discipline, Disabilities, School to Prison, Disproportionality
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Saturday, December 13, 2014 from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM
United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Presenters include Sonja Kerr; Howard Jordan, ACLU; Dr. Karolyn Tyson; Michael Raffaele, Frankel & Kershenbaum, LLC
This session is designed to assist participants to understand the specifics of the federal IDEA disciplinary protections, 20 U.S.C. §1415(k) as they apply to children with disabilities. Topics will include functional behavioral assessment, development of positive behavioral support programs for children with disabilities, manifestation reviews and avoiding juvenile court involvement. 
Questions? Email cbenton@pilcop.org or call 267.546.1317.

Register Now – 2014 PASCD Annual Conference – November 23 – 25, 2014
Please join us for the 2014 PASCD Annual Conference, “Leading an Innovative Culture for Learning – Powered by Blendedschools Network” to be held November 23-25 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center in Hershey, PA.  Featuring Keynote Speakers: David Burgess -  - Author of "Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator", Dr. Bart Rocco, Bill Sterrett - ASCD author, "Short on Time: How do I Make Time to Lead and Learn as a Principal?" and Ron Cowell. 
This annual conference features small group sessions (focused on curriculum, instructional, assessment, blended learning and middle level education) is a great opportunity to stay connected to the latest approaches for cultural change in your school or district.  Join us for PASCD 2014!  Online registration is available by visiting www.pascd.org

January 23rd–25th, 2015 at The Science Leadership Academy, Philadelphia
EduCon is both a conversation and a conference.
It is an innovation conference where we can come together, both in person and virtually, to discuss the future of schools. Every session will be an opportunity to discuss and debate ideas — from the very practical to the big dreams.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 25: What's the deal with school funding reform in Pennsylvania?

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3500 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg
The Keystone State Education Coalition is pleased to be listed among the friends and allies of The Network for Public Education.  Are you a member?
The Keystone State Education Coalition is an endorsing member of The Campaign for Fair Education Funding


Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 25, 2014:
What's the deal with school funding reform in Pennsylvania?



Upcoming PA Basic Education Funding Commission Public Hearings
Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 10 AM East Stroudsburg
Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 10 AM - 12:00 PM Lancaster
* meeting times and locations subject to change




PA Basic Education Funding Commission (Updates)
Agenda and some testimony from yesterday's hearing in Lancaster and video from day one in Philadelphia last week have been posted.

Senate Leaders Announce Changes in Leadership Staff
PA Senate GOP website  November 24, 2014
(HARRISBURG) – Changes to Senate Republican Leadership senior staff will take place with the beginning of the 2015-16 legislative session, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25), Senator Jake Corman (R-34), Senator Pat Browne (R-16) and Senator John Gordner (R-27).

Pennsylvania's Republican legislative leadership teams start to fill in senior staff posts
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com on November 24, 2014 at 6:24 PM
The new power couple in the Pennsylvania State Senate - President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati and Majority Leader Jake Corman - announced several senior staff hires for the 2015-16 legislative session Monday.
Drew Crompton, already Scarnati's chief of staff, will add the role of general counsel to the majority caucus. He will be joined by Dave Thomas, incoming chief counsel to the majority leader, at the top of the Senate GOP's legal team.

Wolf Steering Committee members eager, expectant
PLS Reporter Author: Josh Levy/Monday, November 24, 2014/Categories: News and Views
Last Tuesday, Gov.-elect Tom Wolf named the Steering Committee for his transition team. The PLS Reporter had an opportunity to contact a few of them to discuss their expectations for the team.  Joseph Meade, government affairs director for the Philadelphia Museum of Art and recent appointee to Wolf’s Transition Team, told The PLS Reporter that “we’re at a critical juncture for the commonwealth.” 

PA-Gov: Rendell to Serve as Honorary Chair of Wolf’s Inaugural Committee
PoliticsPA Written by Nick Field, Managing Editor November 24, 2014
The incoming Democratic Administration is extending a symbolic hand to the last Democratic Administration.  Gov-elect Tom Wolf announced today that former Governor Ed Rendell will serve as Honorary Co-Chair of his Inaugural Committee.

What's the deal with school funding reform in Pennsylvania?
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Monday, November 24, 2014 3:50 pm
People are talking.  Talking about school funding.
So many people that it's hard to keep track.
Legislators, school administrators and advocacy organizations seem to agree on one point: something needs to change.  But how to do that is up for debate.  In the last year, we've seen at least five big pushes to change the way money is distributed to the state's 500 school districts.  Below is a rundown of those efforts.  Pennsylvania is one of only a handful of states that do not have a predictable education funding formula based on student enrollment and characteristics.

“While I like you folks in Harrisburg, the ability of the commonwealth to actually run school districts in fiscal distress does not have a strong track record,” she said.  She said the community and board have “cut and closure fatigue.”
Mrs. Lane also said the charter school funding formula needs to be changed. She said the practice of funding online charters the same as other charter schools “screams for attention.”  “Online schools are in no way comparable in costs to brick and mortar schools,” Mrs. Lane said. “We know. We are running one.”
Pittsburgh superintendent Lane calls for changes in state education funding formula
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette November 25, 2014 12:00 AM
Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent Linda Lane has told a state panel that without the district’s “healthy” fund balance and “major, painful reductions,” Pittsburgh would have joined Duquesne, Chester-Upland and Philadelphia as a distressed district.
Mrs. Lane spoke Monday at a Basic Education Funding Commission hearing in Lancaster, Pa. The panel of Corbett administration officials and legislators is required to report its recommendations on a school funding formula to the General Assembly by June 2015.
Based on her prepared remarks, Mrs. Lane called on the commission to consider enrollment as well as equity, including recognizing it costs more to educate some children than others, such as students who are homeless, are English language learners or have mental health needs, such as chronic stress based on violence in the neighborhoods.

Education funding figures were skewed
Lancaster Online Opinion by Adam Schott Sunday, November 23, 2014 6:00 am
The letter-writer, a member of the School District of Lancaster board, said the views expressed in this letter are his own.
James Paul's column (“Smarter way to fund schools,” Nov. 16) was about the most intellectually dishonest piece I've come across on school funding.  In his column, Paul:
— Provided misleading information on Pennsylvania's investments in classroom instruction. The adequacy suit to which School District of Lancaster is a party concerns the state's basic education subsidy, which is nowhere near $27 billion.  I can only presume Paul arrives at this figure by summing: (1) all state spending on education, including for public colleges and universities; (2) local aid, a large and growing share of the total funding picture; and (3) federal aid for programs like special education.
— Failed to note that Pennsylvania students actually score above average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and have higher-than-expected scores in some areas considering our poverty rates. It's an incredibly demanding test, and even half the students in Massachusetts — generally considered to be the top-performing state in the nation — score below proficient in certain cases.
 — Relied on standardized test scores — obviously just one measure of school performance — to indict Pennsylvania's public education system. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Foundation (which doesn't disclose its donors) is, for some reason, a relentless advocate for the state's public cyber charter schools, which have amassed millions in profits while posting lousy results against this same standard.  Not one of the state's 14 cybers met the state's threshold for acceptable school performance in 2013-14.

Education is the focus the Lancaster Chamber's annual State of the County event
Education numbers:
• Return on investment of $1 spent on early childhood education: $17.
• Difference in annual earnings between a high school dropout and someone with a bachelors degree: $36,000.
• Rank of Lancaster County among surrounding counties of residents with college degrees: 4 of 6.
• Year by which the United Way of Lancaster County wants to have all children ready to enter kindergarten: 2025.
Lancaster Online By BERNARD HARRIS | Staff Writer Monday, November 24, 2014 4:58 pm
Failure starts early.
Fewer Lancaster County children are entering kindergarten ready to learn.
If they are behind in reading by the time they enter the third grade, studies show they will be less likely to graduate high school, more likely to become pregnant and less likely to have earn family supporting wages.  And that has ripple effects on the broader community, from the cost of social services to the county’s future economic development.  “Education is not just an education issue. Education is a business issue. Education is human services issue. Education is a community issue,” Lancaster of Chamber of Commerce President Tom Baldrige told 375 people Monday who gathered for the annual State of the County luncheon at the DoubleTree Resort near Willow Street.

Trombetta back in court for evidence suppression hearing
Beaver County Times Online By J.D. Prose jprose@timesonline.com Monday, November 24, 2014 7:00 pm
PITTSBURGH -- Indicted Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School founder Nick Trombetta is expected back in federal court in Pittsburgh on Tuesday for the fifth installment of his evidence suppression hearing that started in late September.  When U.S. District Court Chief Judge Joy Flowers Conti continued the hearing Nov. 12, prosecutors were ready to call PA Cyber board Chairman Ed Elder to the stand. The hearing started Sept. 30 and has been continued four times.
Trombetta, an Aliquippa native and East Liverpool, Ohio, resident, faces 11 federal charges, including five counts of filing a false tax return. Trombetta is trying to persuade Conti to toss out secret recordings and wiretaps made by the FBI because, he claims, they involved four attorneys and were protected by attorney-client privilege.

Speculation Of New Philadelphia Charter Schools Has Operators Recruiting Families
CBS Philly By Pat Loeb November 24, 2014 6:13 AM
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Now that the Philadelphia School District has accepted applications for new charter schools, charter operators are revving up the pressure to get new schools approved. Some are already recruiting families for schools that may never exist.  Parents in the Port Richmond section of the city were invited to a meeting about a new charter school in their neighborhood. Except there is no new charter in the neighborhood. American Paradigm has applied to open one, but a decision is three months away. Company CEO Jurate Krokys says the meeting was inspired by the district’s charter application, which asks about community engagement.

Neff: SRC action on teachers' contract was unfair, but conditions in schools are unjust
the notebook By Marjorie Neff on Nov 24, 2014 12:27 PM
The School Reform Commission’s decision to cancel the contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and require teachers and staff to contribute to their health insurance premiums has been described as unfair. I agree.  I expect that my colleagues on the SRC feel the same way. But our decision was born in response to a larger and profound injustice being inflicted on Philadelphia’s children.   When we describe something as unfair, we usually mean we think it’s wrong. When something is unjust, it goes beyond issues of fairness to violate a moral code. People of good will can disagree about whether requiring teachers and staff to contribute to health insurance premiums is the fair or right thing to do.  But there can be no argument that denying children basic conditions for learning is an injustice.  
In a fair world, teachers would be paid much more and the SRC would have voted to affirm that. Unfortunately, we had to make a decision in the world we actually live in, with the resources we actually have.

Paying More and Getting Less, A Tale of Two School Districts
Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools website by Anne Gemmell Posted on November 24, 2014
The following testimony  from Anne Gemmell at last week’s “people’s hearings” prior to the regular session, draws out the inequity in the way education is funded in our state.
Good afternoon, Senator Patrick Brown, fellow esteemed members of the Basic Education Funding Commission and concerned citizens of our region. Thank you for being here today to listen to the families affected by the lack of a sensible funding formula for our schools. Leadership begins with listening.

York County township talking "secession" from a school district
WITF.org Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Nov 24, 2014 2:12 PM
 (Washington Township, York County) -- A group of residents of Washington Township in York County it wants to "secede" and join another district for the educational benefits.
The Washington Township Education Coalition is asking the state Department of Education to approve the move out of Dover School District and into Northern York County School District.
Ralph McGregor, vice-chair of the group, says Northern York County students score higher on tests.  The coalition has also noted the potential tax benefits on its website, though McGregor denies it plays a role.  "To remove the connotation or the misconcept that people had, they thought, before it was investigated, that taxes would be higher in Northern," he says.

Saucon Valley board, teachers urged to extend olive branch by state official
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times on November 24, 2014 at 7:33 PM
A Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board hearing examiner Monday urged the Saucon Valley School District and its teachers union to extend an olive branch to each other.   The school district has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the Saucon Valley Education Association, accusing them of bargaining in bad faith.  The two sides met before Hearing Examiner Jack Marino Monday for five hours but only made it through two witnesses. He likened the dynamic between the two sides to a "bad marriage."

“The SPP scores are more accurate at identifying the percentage of economically disadvantaged students in a school than at identifying the effectiveness of a school,” Fuller wrote in his brief which matched data about the economic demographics of students with their school’s scores.  “It’s actually kind of stunning just how strong the correlations is,” Fuller told The Mercury last week.”It explains so much.”
Pottstown school scores reflect poverty more than performance
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 11/23/14, 3:41 PM EST | UPDATED: 20 HRS AGO
While it’s certainly not the only factor involved, its hard to deny the correlation between an increase in the number of poor students in a Pottstown school building, and the decrease of its School Performance Profile score.  As The Mercury reported last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Education released scores for its two-year-old School Performance Profile and results locally were mixed.  Nowhere were they more mixed than in the Pottstown School District which boasted the school whose scores increased by more than any other in the area — Lincoln Elementary — and the school whose scores declined more than any other in the area — Franklin Elementary.  In an effort to explain the disparity, a clue can be found in looking at the poverty of the students being tested.

Pottstown schools using this year’s score as a baseline to measure growth
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 11/23/14, 3:41 PM EST | UPDATED: 12 MINS AGO
POTTSTOWN >> Understanding how well a school or school district is doing its job is most often a matter of assessment and comparison.  The newest method of assessment in the Commonwealth is the Pennsylvania School Performance Profile and Thursday night, Pottstown Superintendent Jeff Sparagana gave an overview of the district’s latest scores to the school board.  “The numbers are positive,” he said, adding “of course, there is still room to grow.”
As The Mercury reported last week, the two-year-old assessment method being used by the Pennsylvania Department of Education focuses as much on “growth” as it does on results, or “achievement.”  Forty-percent of a school’s total score is based on how much student achievement has grown in math, reading, science and writing in a given year as the level of achievement they have actually reached. Achievement comprises another 40 percent.
The remaining 20 percent is divided up among other factors such as test participation rates, graduation rate, participation in advance placement classes and attendance.

Phoenixville ‘disappointed’ with School Performance scores
By Frank Otto, fotto@pottsmerc.com@fottojourno on Twitter POSTED: 11/24/14, 6:38 PM EST |
PHOENIXVILLE >> Administration in the Phoenixville Area School District expressed “disappointment” in the scores achieved by some of their schools after the 2013-14 School Performance Profiles were released this month.  During the Phoenixville Area School Board meeting Thursday night, Assistant Superintendent Regina Palubinsky discussed how choices relating to when students took tests, which contribute to School Performance Profile scores, may have contributed to the 75.7 rating at Phoenixville Area High School.  Some members of the public at Thursday’s meeting lambasted the district for the scores.  “I hope this will be a big topic at the curriculum meetings for some time,” said board President Josh Gould after the Palubinsky’s presentation finished.  School Performance Profiles are in their second year after replacing the federal Adequate Yearly Progress standards. Based on a mixture of factors that include attendance and graduation rates, the scores heavily factor year-to-year growth in grades measured by several tests including the Keystone and Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) exams.

Test results: Pa. scores down with reduced funding
Education Week Published Online: November 24, 2014
PITTSBURGH (AP) — With school districts across the state now in their fourth year of facing fewer state and federal resources, statewide results of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests show declines in every grade level in nearly every subject tested.
The pattern of lower scores on the 2014 PSSA tests holds true for subgroups of students who are white, black, economically disadvantaged, English language learners or are in special education.
Overall on the assessments tests, there were these declines in the percentage of students scoring proficient and advanced in grades 3-8:

What It Takes to Fix American Education
Daily Beast by Jonah Edelman 11.23.14
We’re spending way too much time focusing on who is ‘winning’ and ‘losing’ debates over education, and not enough on implementing proven solutions.  As a parent, a mentor, the son of a civil rights leader turned child advocate and a former aide to Robert F. Kennedy, and an advocate for children for nearly twenty years, I can tell you this with confidence: when it comes to helping underserved students succeed, there’s no silver bullet or quick fix.
But there are real solutions:


Discipline, Disabilities, School to Prison, Disproportionality
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Saturday, December 13, 2014 from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM
United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Presenters include Sonja Kerr; Howard Jordan, ACLU; Dr. Karolyn Tyson; Michael Raffaele, Frankel & Kershenbaum, LLC
This session is designed to assist participants to understand the specifics of the federal IDEA disciplinary protections, 20 U.S.C. §1415(k) as they apply to children with disabilities. Topics will include functional behavioral assessment, development of positive behavioral support programs for children with disabilities, manifestation reviews and avoiding juvenile court involvement. 
Questions? Email cbenton@pilcop.org or call 267.546.1317.

Register Now – 2014 PASCD Annual Conference – November 23 – 25, 2014
Please join us for the 2014 PASCD Annual Conference, “Leading an Innovative Culture for Learning – Powered by Blendedschools Network” to be held November 23-25 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center in Hershey, PA.  Featuring Keynote Speakers: David Burgess -  - Author of "Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator", Dr. Bart Rocco, Bill Sterrett - ASCD author, "Short on Time: How do I Make Time to Lead and Learn as a Principal?" and Ron Cowell. 
This annual conference features small group sessions (focused on curriculum, instructional, assessment, blended learning and middle level education) is a great opportunity to stay connected to the latest approaches for cultural change in your school or district.  Join us for PASCD 2014!  Online registration is available by visiting www.pascd.org

January 23rd–25th, 2015 at The Science Leadership Academy, Philadelphia
EduCon is both a conversation and a conference.
It is an innovation conference where we can come together, both in person and virtually, to discuss the future of schools. Every session will be an opportunity to discuss and debate ideas — from the very practical to the big dreams.

Monday, November 24, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 24: Suit calls PA state school funding arbitrary and irrational

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3500 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg
The Keystone State Education Coalition is pleased to be listed among the friends and allies of The Network for Public Education.  Are you a member?
The Keystone State Education Coalition is an endorsing member of The Campaign for Fair Education Funding


Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 24, 2014:
Suit calls PA state school funding arbitrary and irrational




Upcoming PA Basic Education Funding Commission Public Hearings
Monday, November 24, 2014 at 10 AM IU#13 Lancaster
Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 10 AM East Stroudsburg
Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 10 AM - 12:00 PM Lancaster
* meeting times and locations subject to change




Did you catch our weekend postings?
Keystone State Education Coalition PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 22, 2014:
How do Pennsylvania cyber charter schools stack up on state scores?

"Now the plaintiffs have data to back testimony about how many students are below proficient on state standardized tests, just how far below adequate their resources are and how many teaching jobs and academic programs they had to cut as state and federal funding fell.
Now there are Pennsylvania System of School Assessments tests in reading and math covering grades 3-8, PSSAs in science and writing in selected grades, and end-of-course Keystone Exams, part of a state graduation requirement, in Algebra 1, literature and biology at the secondary level.  In addition to tests, the state in 1999 added statewide academic standards, which since have been expanded and revised. Before that, the complaint notes, the state “had no established standards by which a thorough and efficient system of education could be objectively measured.”  By having the standards, the complaint states, the General Assembly articulated “what an adequate public education system must accomplish.”
With state tests and standards, the state also began holding school districts, teachers, principals and administrators accountable for students’ meeting those standards."
Suit calls state school funding arbitrary and irrational
Test scores behind judicial order request
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette November 23, 2014 12:00 AM
In 1999, the state Supreme Court ruled that the question of state school funding was a political issue for the Legislature, not one for the judiciary.  Now, a new lawsuit filed in Commonwealth Court last week once again seeks a judicial order, this time armed with state test results showing schools failing to meet state academic standards and a study commissioned by the Legislature quantifying the disparity in resources.  The latest complaint called the current funding system arbitrary and irrational, saying, “Students in property- and income-poor districts are not given an opportunity to receive an adequate education where all students can meet state standards, while their peers in property- and income-rich districts receive a high-quality education.”

York Dispatch EDITORIAL: York City education is a county issue
York Dispatch  POSTED:   11/21/2014 12:50:32 PM EST
It's on.  The York City school board this week rebuffed a state-appointed recovery officer's attempt to turn over district schools to a for-profit charter company, setting the stage for a court fight.
David Meckley had given the board an ultimatum — approve the deal or he would seek a state takeover of the district.  The board didn't reject the proposal outright; it merely tabled the matter after members asked for more details.  But if Meckley is going to make good on his threat, it's now or never.  After all, the clock is ticking down to Democrat Tom Wolf's inauguration, and the incoming governor does not support a full charter conversion of the York City School District.
The board doesn't win the game if it runs down that clock, but it does avert a total loss — for the time being, at least.  The question will be the same for the new administration:
What do you do about a district that is bleeding money and failing its students?

Testimony from Opt Out hearings - Philadelphia City Council Education Committee - November 19, 2014
On November 19th, the Education Committee of the Philadelphia City Council held public hearings on the impact of standardized testing on teaching and learning. These videos are students, parents and teachers who testified.  For transcripts of all written and oral testimony go to: goo.gl/fQnvGz

On Sunday the Philadelphia Inquirer ran an opinion piece by Janine Yass (which is posted below), a board member of the Philadelphia School Partnership and vice chair emeritus of the Center for Education Reform in Washington.  Blog readers should be aware that her husband, Jeff Yass and his two colleagues at the Susquehanna International Group in Bala Cynwyd are the funders behind the Students First PAC which has contributed millions towards school privitization in Pennsylvania over the past few years.  Here are some of our prior postings:
Follow the Money: Who gave/received school privatization contributions in Pennsylvania in 2014
Six millionaires/billionaires contributed $1,482,604 to privatize democratically-governed Pennsylvania public education.
Keystone State Education Coalition Octobber 8, 2014

FOLLOW THE MONEY: Contributions to Students First PAC
Not Exactly Grassroots: $6.66 Million from just 19 donors
Keystone State Education Coalition January 9, 2012

Follow the Students First PAC Voucher Money Trail
Keystone State Education Coalition May 6, 2011

Here's our previous posting detailing 2010 contributions of just under $6 million:
A September 15th 2010 Philadelphia Inquirer article described how a trio of wealthy Bala Cynwyd businessmen with a passion for school choice gave a combined $5 million to Senator Anthony Williams, then one of three Democrats running against Dan Onorato in the Democratic primary.  The three - Joel Greenberg, Jaffrey Yass, and Arthur Dantchick, all of the Susquehanna Investment Group - funneled most of their contributions through the Students First PAC
Two members of the Susquehanna Group, Joel Greenberg and David Pollard, were subsequently appointed to Governor-elect Corbett’s Education Transition Team, with Greenberg appointed as Co-Chairman.  While gubernatorial candidate and Senate Education Committee member Senator Anthony Williams received the lion’s share of $5,077,413.07, it is worth noting who received some of the rest.  Over $400,000 went to Legislative Leadership and Education Committee Members:
January 3, 2011 Follow the Students First PAC Voucher Money
Keystone State Education Coalition January 3, 2011

Janine Yass: The facts on charter schools
Inquirer Opinion by Janine Yass POSTED: Sunday, November 23, 2014, 1:09 AM
Janine Yass is a board member of the Philadelphia School Partnership and vice chair emeritus of the Center for Education Reform in Washington
The 40,000 students on charter school waiting lists in Philadelphia have high hopes as the School Reform Commission starts to review new applications for the first time in seven years.
More than 40 nonprofit charters submitted applications on behalf of tens of thousands of families; many of these families have been kept at bay for years while demanding better educational opportunities for their children. They are hoping that their voices will finally be heard.
The discussion about charter schools is filled with politically charged rhetoric, is rarely about what parents want, and is almost never about individual schools' results. So as the School District gears up to review the new charter applications, let's hope they look at the facts:

Rhodes scholars named for 2015
Jordan Konell, a senior at Yale University and graduate of Central High School in Philadelphia, spent time at the Public Interest Law Center and as a community organizer in Take Back Your Neighborhood. 
Philly.com by JOE MANDAK , THE ASSOCIATED PRESS November 23, 2014, 11:53 AM
A Philadelphia man pursuing a degree in African American Studies and Political Science at Yale has been named one of 32 U.S. Rhodes Scholars.  Jordan Konell will use his scholarship to pursue a master's degree in Comparative Social Policy at Oxford University in England. Konell is a senior at Yale.  Rhodes Scholarships were created in 1902 by the will of British philanthropist Cecil Rhodes. Winners are selected on the basis of high academic achievement, personal integrity, leadership potential and physical vigor, among other attributes.  Konell was editor-in-chief of the Yale Undergraduate Law Review and has worked at Philadelphia's Public Interest Law Center and as a community organizer. He's also a jazz trombonist.

Studying for the Test by Taking It
New York Times By BENEDICT CAREY NOV. 22, 2014
PROTESTS are flaring up in pockets of the country against the proliferation of standardized tests. For many parents and teachers, school has become little more than a series of workout sessions for the assessment du jour.  And that is exactly backward, research shows. Tests should work for the student, not the other way around.  In an experiment published late last year, two University of Texas psychologists threw out the final exam for the 900 students in their intro psych course and replaced it with a series of short quizzes that students took on their laptops at the beginning of each class.  “They didn’t like it, at least at first,” said one of the professors, James W. Pennebaker. The other professor, Samuel D. Gosling, added, “For the first few weeks, every time their friends went out drinking, they couldn’t go — they had yet another quiz the next day.”

So, We Should Teach to the Test?
Academe Magazine Blog November 22, 2014
In an exasperating article on the op-ed page of The New York Times today, science writer Benedict Carey argues for the benefit of testing, conflating all types from yearly standardized tests to weekly quizzes and ignoring the indisputable fact that tests are primarily regressive (they test what is known, sometimes at the expense of what might be discovered) and inherently stifling of creativity. He writes, without exploring the implications of his statement:

"Next month, the Federal Communications Commission will consider a proposal from its chairman, Tom Wheeler, that would raise taxes on phone lines by a modest 16 cents a month to make sure that every public school and library has reliable and fast Internet connections."
Faster Broadband for Schools and Libraries
New York Times By THE EDITORIAL BOARD NOV. 22, 2014
Next month, the Federal Communications Commission will consider a proposal from its chairman, Tom Wheeler, that would raise taxes on phone lines by a modest 16 cents a month to make sure that every public school and library has reliable and fast Internet connections. The commissioners should vote yes.  Most of the country’s schools and libraries do not have the high-speed connections they need to take full advantage of the Internet, the F.C.C. says. Not surprisingly, schools and libraries in poorer and more rural parts of the country tend to have worse service than those in urban and affluent areas.
Under a program known as E-Rate, the F.C.C. provides grants to schools and libraries with money that comes from an average tax of 25 cents per month on every phone line. The program has a spending cap of $2.4 billion a year, which hasn’t changed much since 1997 when it was originally set at $2.25 billion a year. That’s because the government did not adjust the cap for inflation between 1997 and 2010. Mr. Wheeler is proposing to raise the cap to $3.9 billion.
That additional money would pay for new fiber-optic lines, Wi-Fi routers and the cost of Internet service. The commission has said it wants every school to have connections sufficient to transmit one billion bits of data per second per 1,000 users. About 68 percent of American school districts say they don’t have a single school that can meet that target now. The commission has different targets for libraries based on how many people they serve, but half of all public libraries report connection speeds of less than 10 megabits per second.



“Circuit Rider” Lawrence Feinberg to visit LMSD on 11/25 to speak about PA school funding
Lower Merion School District Announcements Posted: November 18, 2014
With school funding a hot issue in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, an alliance of state education leaders is engaged in a campaign to build support for changing the way the state pays its school bills. During the yearlong campaign, 11 "circuit riders" will attempt to build support among current superintendents, business managers, and school board members for a movement for education-funding changes.  Please join us on Tuesday, November 25 at 8:30 AM as "circuit rider" Lawrence Feinberg will speak at the District's Legislative Committee meeting in the District Administration Building Board Room.
Click here for a recent article on philly.com about the circuit riders.

Register Now – 2014 PASCD Annual Conference – November 23 – 25, 2014
Please join us for the 2014 PASCD Annual Conference, “Leading an Innovative Culture for Learning – Powered by Blendedschools Network” to be held November 23-25 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center in Hershey, PA.  Featuring Keynote Speakers: David Burgess -  - Author of "Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator", Dr. Bart Rocco, Bill Sterrett - ASCD author, "Short on Time: How do I Make Time to Lead and Learn as a Principal?" and Ron Cowell. 
This annual conference features small group sessions (focused on curriculum, instructional, assessment, blended learning and middle level education) is a great opportunity to stay connected to the latest approaches for cultural change in your school or district.  Join us for PASCD 2014!  Online registration is available by visiting www.pascd.org

January 23rd–25th, 2015 at The Science Leadership Academy, Philadelphia
EduCon is both a conversation and a conference.
It is an innovation conference where we can come together, both in person and virtually, to discuss the future of schools. Every session will be an opportunity to discuss and debate ideas — from the very practical to the big dreams.