Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dispatches from a ‘low-achieving' Philadelphia school

“Only public schools, operated by school districts with elected school boards are open to all children and fully accountable to all taxpayers.”
Baruch Kintisch, Director of Policy Advocacy, Education Law Center, in testimony before the PA House Democratic Policy Committee, July 17, 2012

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Posted: Wed, Aug. 1, 2012, 3:00 AM
LTE: Dispatches from a ‘low-achieving' Philadelphia school
Inquirer Letter to the Editor By Hillary Linardopoulos
Hillary Linardopoulos teaches third grade at Julia deBurgos School.
I teach at a low-achieving school. Well, I don't see it that way, but the state of Pennsylvania does.
Julia deBurgos School, in Kensington, is one of many Philadelphia schools designated as "low-achieving" on a state Department of Education list published last week. The list is based on the 2010-11 state test scores in reading and math — and nothing else. And even though my school made what's defined as "adequate yearly progress" on those tests, there we were on the list.
Now, under the new Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit, my students will have the "opportunity" to go to "better" schools. The main problem is this: My school is not a bad school. My school is incredible.
A staggering 95 percent of our students come from poor families, nearly 30 percent are learning English, and at least 16 percent have special needs. You will never hear me use those numbers as excuses, though. I tell anyone who will listen that my students are some of the most intelligent, engaging, enthusiastic, and resilient children in Pennsylvania.

PA EITC 2.0 Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program FAQ
PA Department of Community and Economic Development

Details on Act 85 of 2012, PA’s new EITC 2.0 Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit “Supervoucher” Program.

Pennsylvania’s "Failing Schools" List For the 2012-2013 school year.
Here the list of low achieving schools released by PDE last week

Posted: Wed, Aug. 1, 2012, 3:01 AM
More charges possible in complex Philadelphia charter-school case
By Martha Woodall Inquirer Staff Writer
Federal prosecutors unveiled a 62-count indictment against charter school mogul Dorothy June Brown and four codefendants last week, and said in court papers that additional charges could be lodged.  "This is an ongoing criminal investigation," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in documents filed Friday in U.S. District Court, "and the government anticipates that it may seek the return of a superseding indictment that adds charges against some of the current defendants and potentially other persons not yet charged."

"Significant barriers to entry" at many Philadelphia charters, says District report
by Benjamin Herold for the Notebook and WHYY/NewsWorks on July 31 2012
A School District review found “significant barriers to entry” to numerous city charter schools, according to a draft report obtained by the Notebook/NewsWorks.
In at least one case, an unidentified charter only made its enrollment applications available on only one day per year.  Another unnamed charter required applicants to complete an 11-page application, write an essay, respond to 20 short-answer questions, provide three recommendations, be interviewed, and provide records related to their disciplinary history, citizenship and disability status.

"What they're going to be getting financed with public money is phony science.  They're going to be getting religion instead of science," Barbara Forrest, a founder of the Louisiana Coalition for Science, told AP.
Louisiana Voucher Program Includes Schools That Teach Creationism, Reject Evolution
Huffington Post no by line Posted: 07/31/2012 12:31 pm
Public dollars in Louisiana's landmark new voucher program will go toward sending children to schools that teach creationism and reject evolution, the Associated Press reports.
Under the new initiative, the most sweeping voucher program in the country, tens of millions of taxpayer dollars will be shifted from public schools to pay private schools, private businesses and private tutors to educate students across Louisiana.
The program is the cornerstone of Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal's bold effort to reform public education in the state. Critics are concerned about funding and fairness -- vouchers would cover the full cost of tuition at more than 120 private schools, including small, Bible-based church schools. Jindal says the program will spur school competition and expand parental choice.
Several of those religious schools that will be receiving public funds to take in new students from public schools also teach curricula that question the age of the universe, defying scientific evidence and theory and promote religious doctrine that "challenges the lessons central to public school science classrooms," according to the AP.

Tests Don’t Assess What Really Matters

New York Times Opinion – Room for Debate: Can School Performance Be Measured Fairly?

How can you measure the achievement of students, teachers and schools in a way that is fair, accurate and doesn't provide incentives for obsessive testing, and cheating? 
Leonie Haimson, a New York City public school parent, is the executive director of Class Size Matters, a citywide advocacy group.
UPDATED JULY 29, 2012, 7:06 PM
Campbell's Law predicts that any time huge stakes are attached to quantitative data, the data itself will become inherently unreliable and distorted through cheating and gaming the system. In the New York City public schools, the overemphasis on standardized testing has led to test score inflation and numerous cheating scandals. Precious resources are diverted to for-profit testing companies, and learning time is lost as students spend weeks preparing for the tests, and teachers are pulled out of the classroom for days at a time to score them. Meanwhile school budgets are scraped to the bone and class sizes are rising. In New York City, class sizes in the early grades are the largest in 13 years.
The new federal mandate that teachers be judged at least in part on how well student test scores have risen is exacerbating this trend. Schools with the greatest numbers of poor, immigrant and special needs children will be increasingly subject to slash and burn tactics: mass closures and/or firings of educators, making it even more unlikely that qualified, experienced teachers will be drawn to working with the most at-risk students in the future.

Nearly 250 Communities Apply for Promise Neighborhood Grants

 Alyson Klein  
The U.S. Department of Education got 242 applications for a slice of the nearly $60 million in funding for the program, which helps communities pair education with other services, including pre-kindergarten, health, and arts education. That's a slight increase over last year.
The department is aiming to allocate $27 million for up to seven "implementation" grants—which help communities create actual Promise Neighborhoods, and $7 million for up to 14 "planning grants", which help communities figure out what services they need. Communities don't need to have won a planning grant to qualify for an implementation grant, but it helps give them a leg up in the competition.

EPLC’s 2012 Arts and Education Symposium: Save the Date, Thursday, October 11

Education Policy and Leadership Center
Please mark your calendars and plan on joining EPLC, our partners, and guests on October 11 in Harrisburg for a full day of events.  Stay tuned to for information about our 2nd Arts and Education Symposium.  Scholarships and Act 48 Credit will be available.  Outstanding speakers and panelists from Pennsylvania and beyond will once again come together to address key topics in the arts and arts education and related public policy advocacy initiatives.  This is a networking and learning opportunity not to be missed!

Who’s Failing?
One third of the 415 schools on Pennsylvania’s “Failing Schools” List made AYP (105) or were making progress (33) on the 2011 PSSAs
PSBA has concerns with EITC 2.0 program 7/27/2012
The Pennsylvania Department of Education yesterday published the list of low-achieving elementary and secondary schools to be used in determining eligibility for scholarships through the EITC 2.0 Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program under the new Act 85 of 2012.
This proposal would broaden the current EITC program to create a school voucher-type system making students who live in the attendance boundary of one of the schools on the list potentially eligible for scholarship under the program.
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association remains concerned of the effects this voucher-lite program will have on school districts. While PSBA continues to review Act 85 and its implementation, including the list of low-achieving schools, we raise several concerns which include:
  • Despite being categorized as a low-achieving schools, several schools on the list, which was prepared using 2010-11 PSSA results, actually reached their student achievement targets and achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in 2010-11. Labeling these schools as low-achieving when they have met the student achievement standards set by the state and federal government functions to create two separate and conflicting measurements for student achievement. (Download PSBA's enhanced list of 15% lowest-performing schools (XL file).)

PSBA 2013 Officer Candidates Slated
If you are not planning to attend the October Leadership Conference and would like to vote for any of these candidates please see the absentee ballot information below and note the August 15 deadline for absentee ballot requests
At its May 19 meeting at PSBA Conference Center, the PSBA Nominating Committee interviewed and selected a slate of candidates for officers of the association in 2013.
They are:
Marcela Diaz Myers, Lower Dauphin SD, Dauphin County
President (automatically assumes the office of president)
Jody Sperry, Conneaut SD, Crawford County
Richard Frerichs, Penn Manor SD, Lancaster County
Mark B. Miller, Centennial SD, Bucks County
First Vice President
Larry Breech, Millville Area SD, Columbia County
Second Vice President
Edward J. Cardow, Chichester SD, Delaware County
Second Vice President

Absentee ballot procedures for election of PSBA officers
Absentee ballot requests must be received no later than August 15
PSBA website 6/1/2012
All school directors and school board secretaries who are eligible to vote and who do not plan to attend the association's annual business meeting during the 2012 PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference in Hershey, Oct. 16-19, may request an absentee ballot for election purposes.
The absentee ballot must be requested from the PSBA executive director in accordance with the PSBA Bylaws provisions (see PSBA Bylaws, Article IV, Section 4, J-Q.). Specify the name and home mailing address of each individual for whom a ballot is requested.
Requests must be in writing, e-mailed or mailed first class and postmarked or marked received at PSBA Headquarters no later than Aug. 15. Mail to Executive Director, P.O. Box 2042, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055 or e-mail

NSBA Federal Relations Network seeking new members for 2013-14
School directors are invited to advocate for public education at the federal level through the National School Boards Association’s Federal Relations Network. The National School Boards Association is seeking school directors interested in serving on the Federal Relations Network (FRN), its grass roots advocacy program that brings local board members on the front line of pending issues before Congress. If you are a school director and willing to carry the public education message to Washington, D.C., FRN membership is a good place to start. 
Click here for more information.

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