Saturday, September 22, 2012

PA test scores drop – teacher beatings will continue. 2012 PSSA commentary, links to data, press release and reactions

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PA test scores drop – teacher beatings will continue

2012 PSSA commentary, links to data, press release and reactions

Ten years ago when NCLB was passed we talked about unrealistic targets of 100% proficiency that would one day cause all public schools to be labeled “failing”.  We are reaching that point.  Lower Merion High School, one of the top high schools in the state, in one of the wealthiest school districts in the state, did not make AYP this year.

No matter that the AYP targets have increased.
No matter that funding has decreased by a billion dollars.
For public school teachers, the beatings will continue.

But this year Pennsylvania’s “failing public schools” narrative has been updated:  the lazy, greedy, pension-bloodsucking, incompetent union hacks who don’t care about kids are now also cheaters.

More justification for more charter schools and EITC “scholarships” to private and religious schools that are never subjected to public scrutiny and don’t have to give these damn tests to their students.  More justification for increasing the taxpayer funded bailout of our parochial schools while accepting their performance as a matter of faith.  More justification for doing nothing to address conditions in our high poverty schools that are required to accept ALL students.

It would be useful for the Governor, the Secretary of Education or perhaps some of the over 100 members of the statewide press corps who receive these KEYSEC emails to go and actually spend a full day (or two) shadowing a teacher in one of our high poverty public schools.  Not just a whistle-stop photo op, but a hands-on, roll up your sleeves opportunity to see first hand the challenges that our teachers face every day.

Last year we posted that of 12 PA cyber charters only 2 made AYP, while 8 were in corrective action status.  This year only one cyber made AYP.  Coincidentally, that school, the 21st Century Cyber Charter, was created and is governed by professional educators - the Chief School Administrators from the four suburban Philadelphia counties' intermediate units and public school districts. (what a concept!) and has made AYP for 6 out of the past 7 years.

Agora Cyber, run by K12, Inc. continued their streak of never making AYP and is now in their 3rd year of Corrective Action 2 status.  A federal lawsuit filed against K12, Inc. in Virginia alleges that:
·         The company did not tell investors how much their business depends on “churn,” signing up new students when others drop out. The company also did not reveal that more than half of students at some K12 school did not return the following year.
·         The company listed students as inactive rather than sending them back to their home district. That allowed K12 virtual schools to continue collecting that student’s funding.
·         Some teachers reported having as many as 400 students.
In 2011 Ron Packard, K12 Inc.’s CEO received $5 million in compensation.  Charles Zogby, PA's Budget Secretary and Former Secretary of Education under Governor Ridge, served as K12's Senior Vice President of Education and Policy prior to being recruited to serve in the Corbett Administration.

Chester Community Charter, the state’s largest brick and mortar charter did not make AYP this year after being investigated for cheating in prior years.  The owner of the management company under contract to run the school is still fighting pending right-to-know requests in court.  The charter school reform legislation passed by the State House last June included specific language that would exempt him from the state’s right to know laws.  The Philadelphia Education Notebook reports that “Chester Community’s proficiency rates plummeted about 30 points in both reading and math, and the declines were fairly uniform across all grade levels and demographic subgroups.  The school, with more than 2,500 students on two campuses, …. is operated for-profit by Gov. Corbett’s single largest campaign contributor, Vahan Gureghian.  Its CEO sent a letter to parents blaming the sharp drops on severe state funding cutbacks that caused “sharp declines in services.”

PA Cyber, the state’s largest cyber charter, did not make AYP this year.  It’s founder and group of related companies are under investigation by the FBI and IRS.

End of the commentary

PA Department of Education – Posted September 21, 2012
2011-2012 PSSA and AYP Results

PA Department of Education – Posted September 21, 2012
Academic achievement reports/report cards for individual school districts
AYP performance, attendance, graduation and participation rates

PA Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) targets - READING:
2008-2010 – 63%
2011 – 72%
2012 – 81%
2013 – 91%
2014 – 100%

PA Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) targets - MATH:
2008-2010 – 56%
2011 – 67%
2012 – 78%
2013 – 89%
2014 – 100%

PA Department of Education Press Release September 21, 2012
Secretary of Education Announces 2011-12 PSSA Results
Harrisburg – As a result of the statewide investigation of adults making changes to students’ answer sheets on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessments, combined with increased testing security measures put into place earlier this year, statewide scores on the 2011-12 PSSAs declined slightly from last year, Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis said today.
As the investigation has uncovered, in some schools, adult alteration of student answer sheets was so widespread that test scores dropped significantly.

PA education secretary blames 0.06 percent of state teachers for 31 percent drop in statewide PSSA scores
Education Secretary Ron Tomalis says more enhanced security measures caused drop in test scores, not funding cuts or increased proficiency targets.
By Steve Esack and Eugene Tauber, Of The Morning Call 1:49 p.m. EDT, September 21, 2012
Fewer schools in the Lehigh Valley and across the state hit benchmarks on the math and reading Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests, according to data released Friday.
Of the Valley's 134 schools, 66 (or 30 percent fewer) are performing on grade level compared to last year. That closely mirrors the statewide numbers, where 31 percent fewer (or 1,478 schools) hit testing targets, which went up under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
But don't blame higher testing targets or decreases in state and local education spending for the drop in PSSA test scores, said Pennsylvania Education Secretary Ron Tomalis.

“Along with the decline in test scores, the number of schools statewide meeting achievement benchmarks declined sharply from last year, in large part because Pennsylvania's No Child Left Behind school accountability standards went up a sizable amount from 2011.

The state thresholds went up from 67 percent of students required to make the mark in 2011 to 78 percent this year. In reading, the benchmark went from 72 percent to 81 percent.

This year, 51 percent of schools statewide met state academic benchmarks by having the required percentage of students scoring at grade level or above. That was down from 75 percent in 2011.

In Philadelphia, only 33 - 13 percent - of the district's 250 schools met state standards, down from 41 percent in 2011.

Among city charter schools, 54 percent met the benchmarks, down from 63 percent in 2011. In Philadelphia's suburbs, 65 percent of schools made the mark, down from 81 percent.”
Posted: Sat, Sep. 22, 2012, 3:01 AM
Pennsylvania's school test scores drop for the first time since 2002
By Dan Hardy, Dylan Purcell, and Kristen A. Graham Inquirer Staff Writers
The percentage of Pennsylvania students meeting state math and reading standards on the PSSAs - the annual academic accountability test - declined this year for the first time since the tests began in 2002.
Education Secretary Ron Tomalis on Friday attributed the drop to tight security procedures enforced during the spring testing, especially in 110 schools across the state still under investigation for possible cheating from 2009 to 2011.

Pa. test scores drop; state officials blame past cheating
By Benjamin Herold and Dale Mezzacappa
for Notebook/NewsWorks on Sep 21 2012
Standardized test scores have dropped slightlyacross the state – and dramatically in Philadelphia and other Pennsylvania schools suspected of cheating between 2009 and 2011.
The disappointing results on Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) exams are the product of less cheating and tight new test security measures, according to state Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis.

Kirsch says Corbett's budget cuts are taking their toll on student achievement
AFT Pennsylvania President Ted Kirsch released the following statement on the release of the 2011-12 PSSA test scores and the Corbett administration’s attempt to deflect blame for a small drop in student test scores statewide.

Pa. Cyber School: Management Firings Will Not Hurt Students

 Nikhita Venugopal  
The CEO of The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, the largest in the state, recently released a statement on its Facebook page, addressed to PA Cyber parents, telling them that the school is financially sound and will continue to run smoothly without disruption.
The statement came after The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School board fired four members of its top management team, as reported by The Pittsburg Post-Gazette earlier this week. The fired employees include its director, finance director, personnel director, compliance officer, as well as a longtime lawyer.

Hackettstown school board approves shared superintendent, changes opt-out clause

By Tommy Rowan  The Express-Times  Published: September 19, 2012, 11:25
David Mango now runs two school districts.
School board members with the Hackettstown and Great Meadows school districts unanimously approved the Hackettstown superintendent to lead both districts under a four-year shared services agreement at their respective board meetings tonight.
Hackettstown board President Mike Herbst said the contract would save the school district $250,000 over the life of the deal.

After-School a Prime Time to Provide Arts Instruction

 Nora Fleming  
After-school programs provide a prime setting for the arts instruction that many schools have cut, reports the latest in a set of issue briefs released by the Afterschool Alliance.
"Arts Enrichment in Afterschool," is one of four briefs, supported with funding from the MetLife Foundation, targeting issues that impact middle school students and how after-school programs may address them.
According to the most recent brief, due to limited financial resources and pressure to meet testing standards, schools have been prone to cut arts instruction. Drama and dance classes, in particular, have been scaled back, the brief reports, with schools with high percentages of minority and low income students reducing these classes more than others.

Building One Pennsylvania 2012 Statewide Public Meeting
Promoting sustainable, inclusive and economically prosperous communities
Saturday, October 13, 2012 10 am to 11:30 a.m.  (doors open at 9:30 for registration)
Franklin Commons, 400 Franklin Avenue, Phoenixville, PA
Declining local tax bases, aging infrastructure, unfair state and federal policies are undermining our communities. It's time to stand together to support our diverse, middle class communities.
Join local elected, faith and civic leaders from across Pennsylvania for a public meeting to call on state and national policy-makers to act on bi-partisan solutions to the pressing problems impacting our communities.  
·                     Reduce our local property tax burdens  
·                     Invest in our schools  
·                     Redevelop our infrastructure while creating local jobs 
·                     Promote more balanced housing markets 
 The event is free but you must register in advance to reserve your seat. Register at or by emailing name, title, organizational affiliation, address, phone and email to   To defray the cost of the event, we are accepting donations. Suggested donation: $5-$10. 

Public Forum in Delaware County: What State and Federal Budget Changes Mean for DelCo Service Providers
Thursday, Sept. 27th at 1pm Media Borough Hall Community Center; 3rd & Jackson, Media, PA
The SEPA Budget Coalition will join with Family and Community Service of Delaware County and PathWays PA to host a forum on the state and federal budgets.   Experts from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center will offer a look ahead.  Congress faces dramatic budget choices that will have a deep impact on our ability to provide services DelCo families depend on.  Governor Corbett is also at a choice point, and there are some signs of a course correction in PA this coming year.  Please RSVP for the forum:
Click here to RSVP.

Education Voters PA Statewide Advocate Leadership Session Sept. 22nd
Added by Ian Moran
Time: September 22, 2012 from 8:30am to 4:30pm
Location: Temple University Harrisburg, 234 Strawberry Square
Education Voters of Pennsylvania will be holding a day-long summit for public education advocates across the state on Saturday September 22 in Harrisburg, PA. 
With public education coming under attack on multiple levels, the goal of this event is to bring together community members who are standing up for public schools in their own communities for training, planning and coordinating statewide efforts to maximize the impact that we all have.  We'll have a chance to brush up on and learn more about key policy issues, get training on effective advocacy tools and techniques and share stories and idea about local effort and how we bring this work together in a unified way.  Breakfast and lunch will be provided.
Click HERE for more details on parking, directions, etc.

2012 PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 16-19, 2012
Registration is Now Open!  Hershey Lodge & Convention Center, Hershey, PA

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!

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