Thursday, December 6, 2012

Pa. considers 8 new 'cyber charters,' while critics question cost and quality

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.

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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.

Pa. considers 8 new 'cyber charters,' while critics question cost and quality
by thenotebook on Dec 05 2012 Posted in Latest news
by Benjamin Herold for NewsWorks, a Notebook news partner
Amid concerns about quality, cost, and corruption in Pennsylvania's extensive system of cyber charters, state officials are considering eight new proposals for independently managed schools providing mostly online instruction.
The new cyber charters, which would receive public funding that would otherwise benefit traditional school districts, aim to serve almost 10,000 students by 2017.
If all the pending proposals are approved, the new cybers would receive roughly $350 million in taxpayer money over the next five years, according to a NewsWorks/Notebook analysis.
During hearings held in Harrisburg last week, Pennsylvania Deputy Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq touted the value of online options.
"The beauty of the cyber charter is that any child, anywhere in Pennsylvania can participate," said Dumaresq. "I think they serve a unique role in providing additional opportunities for students."

Ethics complaint accuses Boston Consulting Group, William Penn Foundation of violating lobbying code

Citypaper by Daniel Denvir Follow on Twitter @DanielDenvir
Advocacy groups will file a complaint with the Philadelphia Board of Ethics Wednesday charging the Boston Consulting Group with violating city code by failing to register as a lobbyist while proposing that the School District close down traditional public schools, possibly accelerate privatization through charter expansion and increased private management, and bust blue-collar unions. The William Penn Foundation, it charges, also violated the code by failing to register as the principal on whose behalf, along with the undisclosed anonymous donors they solicited funds from, BCG was lobbying.
"This complaint is fundamentally about the public understanding that the controversial plan by the Boston Consulting Group was funded by narrow private interests with a specific agenda," said Parents United co-founder Gerald Wright in a press release. "They have been allowed unprecedented access to information and data denied to the public, and they have had unprecedented access to lobby top decisionmakers without ever identifying as lobbyists."
BCG and William Penn denied the allegations.

Editorial: Gov. Corbett to the rescue? Not on pension reform

Published: Wednesday, December 05, 2012, 5:55
By Patriot-News Editorial Board 
It's a bird. It’s a plane. It’s ... another government report telling Pennsylvanians what they already know: We have $41 billion in public pension obligations, and it’s scary. 
If Gov. Tom Corbett is serious about tackling this key issue, he should put out real solutions, not more reports detailing the problem.  By now, most people understand how we got in this mess. They are aware that former Gov. Tom Ridge approved higher benefits for public sector workers from the governor and judges on down the line to teachers and janitors. 
They are aware that the stock market has not been kind in the last decade and returns have been sub-par. And some also are aware that under Gov. Ed Rendell, school districts and the state were allowed to underfund or even skip their pension payments. 
We all understand the mistakes, but the Keystone Pension Report that was released last week with much fanfare from Corbett’s budget office did nothing to further the debate on what to do about the crisis.

State begins using Keystone Exams before securing federal approval
Posted: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 5:00 am By Joan Hellyer Staff Writer
…..The state education department is making the move to the Keystone Exams for secondary students before securing approval from the U.S. Department of Education, a spokesman said. It initially sought federal permission early this year to use the Keystone tests instead of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams used previously to test high school juniors.
“Through verbal and email discussions, the department has not received any indication that this request will be denied, and since the Keystone Exams are more rigorous, the department anticipates the U.S. Department of Education will approve the request,” state education department spokesman Tim Eller said.
States are required to let the U.S. Department of Education know if any "significant changes" will be made to its assessments system, an official at the federal agency said on Tuesday.
The testing changes can be implemented before states receive full federal approval, said the U.S. Department of Education official who asked not to be identified.
Federal authorities are evaluating Pennsylvania's proposed changes and "anticipate having a response ready soon," the official said.

Gates Foundation gives Philly $2.5 million for schools

POSTED: Wednesday, December 5, 2012, 8:11 PM
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded Philadelphia $2.5 million Wednesday to promote collaboration between public and charter schools and fund projects aimed at boosting teacher training and principal leadership, among other things.
Philadelphia was one of seven cities nationwide to get Gates money, which will be distributed over three years. The public and charter school communities in each city - the others are Boston, Denver, Hartford, Conn., New Orleans, New York City, and Spring Branch, Texas - have signed agreements pledging cooperation and stating mutual goals.
Philadelphia's Great Schools compact also includes archdiocesan schools. As a group, the Great Schools participants aim, over five years, to replace 50,000 seats in struggling schools with seats in high-quality ones.
The money, to be managed by the nonprofit Philadelphia Schools Partnership, will fund three specific projects:

Gates gives Philly schools $2.5 million to work together
by thenotebook on Dec 05 2012 Posted in Latest news
by Benjamin Herold for NewsWorks, a Notebook news partner
Philadelphia's traditional public schools, charters and Catholic schools historically have been rivals.  Now they are receiving $2.5 million over the next three years from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to foster greater collaboration.
The money will be used to:
·                     Create a yearlong residency program for training urban principals
·                     Expand Mastery Charter Schools' existing program for training teacher coaches
·                     Develop new assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards in math and English.
Philadelphia was one of seven cities to receive grants totaling $25 million.

Race to the Bottom

New York Times Editorial Published: December 5, 2012
Competition among states and cities to lure businesses in hopes of creating jobs is not new, but it has become more fierce in recent years. An investigation by The Times found that state and local governments are giving out $80 billion a year in tax breaks and other subsidies in a foolhardy, shortsighted race to attract companies. That money could go a long way to improving education, transportation and other public services that would have a far better shot at promoting real economic growth.
Instead, with these giveaways, politicians and officials are trying to pick winners and losers, almost exclusively to the benefit of big corporations (aided by highly paid lobbyists) at the expense of small businesses. Though they promise that the subsidies are smart investments, far too often the jobs either don’t materialize or are short-lived, leaving the communities no better off.

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