Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Fiscal Cliff: How Would Federal Spending Cuts Affect Your District?/National Review and do Common Core

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1700 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, 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
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What Works: an informal collection of strategies and programs to inform the public discussion of how to improve student learning for high poverty populations of students.

Corbett: Pa. must address pension woes now

Trib Live By Brad Bumsted and Mike Wereschagin December 5, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
With Pennsylvania having a crisis from spiraling public pension costs, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett on Tuesday outlined potential fixes he will offer to legislative leaders in January before presenting his 2013 state budget.  Corbett told the Tribune-Review that options include increasing the state retirement age, which varies by agency, and changing how pension benefits are calculated by not including overtime and adding lower-salaried years into the formula.
Any changes would start with new employees but, if he can get lawmakers to agree, could include workers who haven’t put in the 10 years required to become vested in the system.
Making changes won’t fix the problem in the short term, but the state cannot afford to postpone action any longer, Corbett said. As pension costs rise — state payments are due to increase by $511 million next year — other items in the budget will get squeezed.
“Everything is being somewhat driven by what the effect of the pension is,” Corbett said. “People need to know why this is an issue.”

Philly parents groups, NAACP to file ethics complaint over school district consultant

Kristen A. Graham and Jeff Gammage, Inquirer Staff Writers
POSTED: Wednesday, December 5, 2012, 3:01 AM
Members of two parent groups and the city's NAACP chapter plan to file a city ethics complaint Wednesday alleging that William Penn Foundation-funded work that a consulting firm did for the Philadelphia School District this year constituted lobbying.
For several months, the Boston Consulting Group studied the district's operations. It came up with an extensive set of recommendations on how to cut costs and restructure operations in a school system hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.
Parents United for Public Education, the Philadelphia Home and School Council, and the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP say William Penn, which paid BCG more than $1 million for its work, essentially wrote a check for BCG to lobby the district on a pro-charter-school agenda and to target dozens of schools for closure.

Spencer: Time to get to work on CUSD’s recovery
Published: Tuesday, December 04, 2012
Delco Times Opinion By GIL SPENCER
By Friday, the Chester Upland School District will be in the hands of an Ivy League-educated, Republican, evangelical, school choice advocate named Joe Watkins. With the power vested in him by the state of Pennsylvania (and a Delaware County Court judge), he will implement a plan meant to save the district from oblivion.
Whenever I hear about someone having a plan, I immediately think of Sonny Liston.
When told that another fighter had a plan to beat him, Liston allegedly replied, “Everybody’s got a plan, till they get hit.”

PDE PRESS RELEASE December 04, 2012
Jefferson County Educator Named Pennsylvania’s 2013 Teacher of the Year
Hershey – Ryan Devlin, a teacher in the Brockway Area School District, Jefferson County, today was named Pennsylvania’s 2013 Teacher of the Year at the Keystone Awards of Excellence banquet in Hershey.  “On behalf of Governor Tom Corbett and the citizens of Pennsylvania, I congratulate Ryan for achieving this well-deserved, prestigious award,” Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis said in announcing the award.
 “As a dedicated professional, Ryan’s commitment to both the teaching profession and his students demonstrates that Pennsylvania is home to quality individuals who are in the classroom educating our children.”

List: What Common Core authors suggest high schoolers should read

 A Post story by my colleague Lyndsey Layton about controversy surrounding the Common Core English Language Arts standards — or, more specifically, the call for reading by high school seniors to be 70 percent non-fiction — has generated a lot of online interest. A number of the hundreds of comments on the story mention some of the  reading recommendations from the Common Core authors that Layton mentioned in the story, including “the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (2009) and “Executive Order 13423: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management,” published by the General Services Administration.” Here is the full list of reading “exemplars” for high school.

Common Core State Standards for School Leaders
“School leaders helping all students become college and career-ready”
Curated by Mel Riddile

New education standards elbow out literature

Is nonfiction more rigorous than literature? An important education initiative thinks so

 TUESDAY, DEC 4, 2012 02:41 PM EST
English teachers are fretting that a set of curriculum guidelines could reduce the teaching of fiction and poetry in the classroom, the Washington Post reports.  The Common Core State Standards, which will be implemented by more than 40 states by 2014, require that 50 percent of elementary school reading be nonfiction, climbing to 70 percent by 12th grade. Supporters, the Post says, believe American students have suffered from “a diet of easy reading and lack the ability to digest complex nonfiction, including studies, reports and primary documents,” leaving them unprepared for higher education and the working world.
Schools face problems ranging from overcrowded classrooms to crumbling buildings to malnourished students. But the idea of rigorous common standards in general, if not these specific guidelines, has support from powerful interests including the Department of Education, the U.S. Army and numerous reformists. Some of the suggested ideas would be a notable change from what almost all Americans remember of high school.

Obamacore: The White House Takes the Schools
National Review Online By Stanley Kurtz December 3, 2012 12:05 P.M.
President Obama’s bid to control what your children learn in school is surely one of the most important and disturbing of his many transformative plans. Not only is Obama’s attempt to devise what is in effect a national K–12 school curriculum arguably unconstitutional and illegal, the fact that most Americans have no idea that the new “Common Core” (a.k.a. Obamacore) even exists may be the most troubling thing about it.
Today’s Washington Post features an article on the controversy being kicked up by the new English curriculum that 46 states and the District of Columbia are just now waking up to. Not coincidentally, this new education war is hitting less than a month after Obama’s re-election, just in time to prevent the public from taking the most effective step it could have to block the changes. You have to get nearly to the end of today’s Post article even to get a hint of the fact that Obama is the real force behind the new curriculum. Following that link takes you to an article that more frankly lays out Obama’s role in commandeering the substance of what’s taught in the nation’s schools. The print version of this September 21, 2012 article featured a more revealing headline than the web version: “Education overhaul largely bypasses Congress.”

Common Core: David Coleman's letter in NYT is good example of Pynchon's law. All they have to do is get you asking wrong questions
Tweet from Susan Ohanian ‏@susanoha

 “Three federal programs critical to education -- Title I funds for poor students, state grants for special education and Head Start -- would lose $2.7 billion over 10 years if sequestration goes forward, according to a Senate report.”

First Five Years Fund Urges Lawmakers To Invest In Early Childhood Education (VIDEO)

The Huffington Post  |  By Alex Kuczynski-Brown Posted: 12/03/2012 3:44 pm EST
As Congress seeks to avoid triggering across-the-board cuts to education, the nonprofit First Five Years Fund is urging legislators to invest in quality early childhood development. According to a video released by the organization, investing now in early childhood education would ensure that students are school and workforce-ready, reducing the achievement gap and boosting graduation rates.  In a press statement, Kris Perry, the group's executive director, spoke to the importance of funding Head Start pre-school programs, which primarily serve low-income families.

Fiscal Cliff: How Would Federal Spending Cuts Affect Your District?

 Alyson Klein  
If lawmakers don't act to head off a series of automatic spending cuts, states and districts around the country will feel a squeeze—but some may be more heavily impacted than others, according to an analysis released today by the American Association of School Administrators.
AASA, which represents superintendents and other administrators, took a look at how every state and virtually every school district around the country would be impacted by automatic spending cuts (known as sequestration), which are set to hit on Jan. 2. Unless lawmakers and the administration can reach a long-term deal on deficit reduction, many federal programs, including most in the U.S. Department of Education would face a cut of roughly 8 percent. Most districts wouldn't begin to feel the pinch until the new school year starts in the fall. More here.

AASA Fiscal Cliff Toolkit: Supports Report Detailing Uneven Impact of Sequester

AASA created this toolkit in tandem with our recent Economic Impact report, Federal Public Education Revenues and the Sequester, to help school districts and education stakeholders raise awareness about the true local impacts of the looming cuts of the fiscal cliff and sequester.
Includes excel spreadsheets detailing (one state per page, 10 pages per file) the share of federal, state and local dollars for every school district in the nation. You can look up your district to see the role of federal dollars in your operating budget.

Gates’ Grants Back Public-Charter Cooperation

New York Times By MOTOKO RICH Published: December 5, 2012
In an effort to encourage collaboration between charter schools and traditional neighborhood schools, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded $25 million in grants to seven cities.
The Gates Foundation, which is one of the largest philanthropic players in public education, was scheduled to announce the grants on Wednesday to Boston, Denver, Hartford, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia and Spring Branch, Tex.

Nation's education chief visits NOLA to monitor school reforms; opposes vouchers

FOX8 WVUE New Orleans Written by: Sabrina Wilson Updated: Dec 04, 2012 7:04 PM EST
New Orleans, La.—The nation's education chief spent the day in the city to get an update on school reforms. And he also voiced his sentiments on school vouchers which have stirred up controversy in LouisianaDuncan's visit comes just days after Governor Bobby Jindal's school voucher program was ruled unconstitutional by a Baton Rouge judge. The vouchers which cover private school tuition were being funded with tax dollars set aside in the Minimum Foundation Program, which was set up to fund the state's public schools years ago.
Duncan opposes vouchers.
"I'm a big proponent of choice and competition, but I really want to make every single public school a great school, and so I've never supported vouchers. The overwhelming majority of children in our country, 90 to 95 percent always have, and always will attend a public school," Duncan stated during a question and answer session with news reporters.

Education Policy and Leadership Center
"Western Pennsylvania Breakfast Series" Thursday, December 6, 2012
Continental Breakfast - 8:00 a.m.   Program - 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
Holiday Inn Pittsburgh University Center 100 Lytton Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 SUBJECT: The Resegregation of Suburban Schools: A Hidden Crisis In American Education
SPEAKER:  Erica Frankenberg, Ed.D.  Assistant Professor, Department of Education Policy Studies College of Education, Penn State University
Registration is free, but everyone must RSVP at

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