Friday, September 28, 2012

PSSA advisor says PA Ed Sec'y Tomalis 'overstated' impact of cheating on test scores; she says it's speculation to say increased security alone brought down scores.

“Tuition free online public schools” are not free.
They take significantly more of your local tax dollars than it costs them to educate their students, accumulating large balances of excess funds, spending your local tax dollars on advertising and corporate bonuses while achieving lackluster academic results.  Only one of 12 Pennsylvania cyber charter schools made AYP for 2012.  Most have never made AYP.

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1650 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, PTO/PTA officers, teacher leaders, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter.

These daily emails are archived at
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

“… should be noted, as Tomalis acknowledged, that continuing investigations into alleged improprieties involve only six of 500 school districts and three charter schools. The secretary admitted that scores declined even when removing all test-score results from the statewide totals where cheating is alleged to have occurred.”
Posted: Thu, Sep. 27, 2012, 3:01 AM
PSSA: Letters: Senator Hughes - A lesson failed: Schools funding counts
Philadelphia Daily News by Pa. Sen. Vincent J. Hughes 7th District
AT A NEWS conference on Friday, state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis released the results of the 2011-12 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA). The PSSA tests measure a student's achievement of certain academic standards and determine if school programs are adequate enough to enable students to attain proficiency of these standards. Every student attending a public school in Pennsylvania is required to take the test.
The results should be disappointing for every Pennsylvania citizen. The announcement that student test scores declined on the PSSA exams marks a sharp turnaround for our state. These results illustrate an undeniable truth: adequate funding matters.

PSSA: PSSA advisor says Education Secretary Ron Tomalis 'overstated' impact of cheating on test scores
She says it's speculation to say increased security alone brought down scores.
By Steve Esack and Eugene Tauber, Of The Morning Call 10:42 p.m. EDT, September 27, 2012
Last week, state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis said he relied on a team of outside statistical experts to come to the conclusion that his efforts to stop cheating caused a statewide drop in PSSA test scores.
Tomalis said the experts on the Pennsylvania Technical Advisory Committee concluded neither budget cuts nor rising accountability benchmarks had any bearing on the reduction in math and reading scores, which caused more than 600 fewer schools to hit federal testing standards.
"We hit the reset button on student achievement on our PSSA," Tomalis said last Friday in releasing the results of the 2012 Pennsylvania System of School Assessments.
"Right now this is our first indication, the first year, that we really believe the data you see before you indicates student achievement in all of our public schools in Pennsylvania," he continued. "We can't go back and figure out when the cheating started, where it started and in what year. But the things that we did this year, the efforts we took, make sure that we believe we have an accurate read."
But the chairwoman of the advisory committee on Thursday said the committee never reached those conclusions. She said Tomalis may have exaggerated the results of the committee's statistical analysis of scores.

SB1115: Pa. special-ed funding linked to charter law changes
By Dan Hardy Inquirer Staff Writer Posted: Fri, Sep. 28, 2012, 3:01 AM
A long-awaited overhaul of Pennsylvania's special-education funding system is on hold this fall, awaiting agreement on proposed charter law changes, according to the chairman of the House Democratic Policy Committee.
A Republican spokesman denied that, saying the issues were not being linked.
In June, a state special-education funding bill won overwhelming Senate approval and unanimous House support in preliminary votes.  But the last-minute insertion of an amendment to the state charter law sidetracked final approval. Both issues were shelved until this fall.
Parts of the proposed changes to the charter law are controversial, including the creation of a state board with the power to approve charter applications and a proposal to exclude records of charter school "vendors," including for-profit charter operators, from the state's Right to Know Law. Now, only school boards can approve regular charter applications.

SB1115: Pennsylvania Legislature Considering Charter School Regulation Bill

CBS By Pat Loeb September 27, 2012 6:23 AM
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - A bill before the Pennsylvania legislature would grant the state broad, new power to regulate charter schools, including over-ruling local school district decisions on granting charters and setting enrollment goals.
The charter school proposal is actually an amendment to a bill that was supposed to reform special education funding. Education secretary Ron Tomalis says the Corbett Administration thought it would be faster.

“Ms. Iriti stressed the need to make the Promise the center of an "ecosystem" of government and civic groups working to prepare high school students for college and beyond.”

Pittsburgh Promise scholarship recipients perform well in college

September 27, 2012 6:18 pm
Early data indicates that recipients of the Pittsburgh Promise are persevering in college, a University of Pittsburgh researcher said today during the scholarship program's annual report to the community.
Seventy-six percent of 2008 and 2009 Promise recipients returned for their second year of college, Jennifer Iriti of Pitt's Learning Research and Development Center, said. That's higher than the 66 percent retention rate of students in an American College Testing sample from the same years, she said.
Ms. Iriti stressed the need to make the Promise the center of an "ecosystem" of government and civic groups working to prepare high school students for college and beyond.

Duquesne schools' board of control concur with 'financial recovery' designation

By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette September 27, 2012 2:58 pm
The Duquesne City School District's solicitor has notified the Pennsylvania Department of Education that the state board of control overseeing the district will not seek a hearing to contest the financial recovery designation given to the district last month.
Using new legislation for distressed school districts approved in June, state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis gave a preliminary declaration of financial recovery to Duquesne in August. The board of control had until Wednesday to notify the department if it wanted to contest the preliminary declaration.

Southern Lehigh worried about timing of new Keystone Exams
School Board says juniors will be tested on courses they may have taken years ago.
By Melinda Rizzo, Special to The Morning Call 5:16 p.m. EDT, September 27, 2012
The Southern Lehigh School Board is worried that workload, college testing and timing could work against this year's juniors as they take the state's new Keystone Exams for the first time.
Juniors will be given Keystone tests in algebra I, literature and biology, Superintendent Leah Christman said at the board's meeting Monday night.
The tests are end-of-course assessments, according to the state Department of Education website. The exams are aimed at assessing content proficiency, the website said.

PA mayors sign onto letter saying sequestration is a threat to metro economies.
Capitol Ideas Blog by John Micek September 27, 2012
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Allentown chief executive Ed Pawlowski are among the urban mayors who have signed onto a letter to Congressional leaders warning that federal budget sequestration could have a harsh effect on the nation's metro economies.
The Sept. 21 letter, sent on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, landed in the in-boxes of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., House Speaker John Boehner and House and Senate floor leaders Nancy Pelosi of California and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Thursday, September 27, 2012
PSSA: Going from bad to worse on the PSSA front
Delco Times Heron’s Nest Blog by Phil Heron, Editor
There is bad news and worse news when it comes to standardized education testing in Pennsylvania. Scores are down, and they’re going to get worse.
That’s what I took out of last night’s ‘Live From the Newsroom,’ our weekly live-stream community affairs broadcast. My thanks to Dan McGarry, assistant superintendent in Upper Darby, and Larry Feinberg, a member of the Haverford School Board and leader of the Keystone Education Coalition, for joining us and offering their views on the four most-feared letters in education.

Education Voters PA  September 26, 2012

Education Voters PA County Legislative Guides Available

These legislative guides from Education Voters PA are a great resource – for each county they list your state senators and state representatives along with their contact information, committee assignments and the school districts that they represent.
A full list of legislative guides can be viewed and downloaded HERE:

Does anybody have any research showing that TIF programs are effective?

U.S. ED Unveils $290 Million in Performance-Pay Grants

 Stephen Sawchuk  
The U.S. Department of Education today unveiled its fourth batch of Teacher Incentive Fund grants, a program that supports differentiated compensation systems.
TIF has had more makeovers than Madonna since its 2006 inception, so if you haven't paying attention, there are a few tweaks to this round worth noting.
First, the program has expanded to include career ladders, whereby teachers get additional professional responsibilities, not just higher pay, as part of the programs. Second, grantees had to secure more support from teachers' unions and others up front, rather than during a planning year. (This isn't exactly easy to do; read more about that from colleague Jackie Zubrzycki's recent story). And finally, the competition paid special attention to the science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM fields.
Overall, the Obama administration has attempted to move the program from one focused mostly on pay to a broader strategy for improving teaching that puts evaluation systems at its core. (It echoes the approaches taken in the Race to the Top program and the the ESEA Flexibility waivers.)

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. 

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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