Tuesday, December 11, 2012

TIMSS/PIRLS 2011: “What’s remarkable is that in all the countries, this concept of an early start is there over and over again. You can get the early childhood experience in a variety of ways, but it’s important you get it.”

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1750 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, education professors, 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 http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
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Meet the new PA House Republican Representatives for 2013-14
Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus
Meet the new PA House Democratic lawmakers for 2013-14
A state legislative update from the PA House Democratic Caucus

PSERS board increases rate; unfunded liability continues to grow

Central Penn Business Journal By Jason Scott December 07. 2012 10:00AM
The employer contribution rate for the Public School Employees' Retirement System, or PSERS, will increase to 16.93 percent from 12.36 percent for the 2013-14 fiscal year that begins July 1 to help cover the underfunded pension plan.
The PSERS board on Thursday approved the bump, which is expected to cost state and local school taxpayers $2.3 billion.  The increase was no surprise. The plan has $48.8 billion in assets and is only 69.1 percent funded.
The rate would have been much higher without rate caps established under Act 120 of 2010, which reduced benefits for new hires and reamortized unfunded liabilities, delaying steep spikes in state contributions.

When Foundations Go Bad
Yinzercation Blog December 10, 2012
Money talks. And sometimes money buys contracts with companies that have an agenda to privatize our public schools. That appears to be the case with Philadelphia’s prominent William Penn Foundation: last week parents in that city accused the venerable foundation of contracting with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to develop a plan to close dozens of public schools while opening many more charter schools. They charge the foundation and consulting company with essentially acting as lobbyists to influence policy decisions in the School District of Philadelphia. Here’s why we should care in the rest of Pennsylvania when good foundations go bad.

From their earliest age, children must have words

Daniel Taylor, For The Inquirer POSTED: Monday, December 10, 2012, 6:31 AM
Some mornings, as I go out to my porch to get The Inquirer, I trip over a box of gently used books that some anonymous donor has left during the night for children at my hospital. This has been happening for years, and the generosity inspires me and my colleagues to help young children of lower-income families in Philadelphia increase their exposure to the spoken word.
As I drive to work with books in the backseat, my route takes me past Taylor Elementary School and Roberto Clemente Middle School. State reading scores at these schools are 50 percent and 40 percent proficient respectively. The poverty level at both is above 90 percent.

“The test designers included questionnaires for parents about preparation before formal schooling. Ina V. S. Mullis, an executive director of the International Study Center, said that students whose parents reported singing or playing number games as well as reading aloud with their children early in life scored higher on their fourth-grade tests than those whose parents who did not report such activities. Similarly, students who had attended preschool performed better.
“What’s remarkable is that in all the countries, this concept of an early start is there over and over again,” said Michael O. Martin, the other executive director of the center. “You can get the early childhood experience in a variety of ways, but it’s important you get it.”

U.S. Students Still Lag Globally in Math and Science, Tests Show

New York Times By MOTOKO RICH Published: December 11, 2012
Fourth- and eighth-grade students in the United States continue to lag behind students in several East Asian countries and some European nations in math and science, although American fourth graders are closer to the top performers in reading, according to test results released on Tuesday.
Fretting about how American schools compare with those in other countries has become a regular pastime in education circles. Results from two new reports, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, are likely to fuel further debate.

Tweet from Pasi Sahlberg @pasi_sahlberg
Read all results and background data of TIMSS and PIRLS 2011 at

Philly: District's voluntary transfer process leaves parents skeptical

Kristen A. Graham, Inquirer Staff Writer
POSTED: Tuesday, December 11, 2012, 5:37 AM
Jennifer Blaine treasured her diverse, excellent urban public school education, and very much wanted the same sort of experience for her daughter.
So Blaine, who lives in South Philadelphia, prepped herself for battle. Objective: getting Lily into one of the handful of top-tier neighborhood public elementary schools in the city.

Quick Study: Hite must act fast in a fragile district

Kristen A. Graham, Inquirer Staff Writer
POSTED: Monday, December 10, 2012, 6:43 AM
Bill Hite wants to know what's wrong.
Two months into what is arguably one of the toughest jobs in the city - school superintendent - Hite spends much of his time asking people what needs to be fixed, what they need, how the Philadelphia School District can improve.
During a seven-hour stretch last week - a little over half of his workday, consisting of a meet-and-greet with a local nonprofit board, a tea with Girl Scouts of America officials, two school visits, one keynote address at an awards banquet - the list was endless.

K-12 Education Advocates Lobby to Avert Fiscal Cliff

Education Week By Alyson Klein Published Online: December 7, 2012
The coming fiscal cliff—the looming conversion of tax-break expirations and across-the-board budget cuts aimed at prodding a long-term federal deficit fix—has education advocates in Washington on overdrive.
The number-one question keeping organizations that represent school districts and educators up at night is whether Congress will be able to reach an agreement to head off "sequestration,"a series of trigger budget cuts that will hit just about every federally funded education program on Jan. 2, unless Congress averts them by crafting a long-term agreement to curb the deficit. A number of K-12 programs, including Title I grants for districts and special education would be cut by 8.2 percent, although most districts wouldn't feel the squeeze until next fall.

Should education standards and funding vary by state?

New York Times Discussion: The American Way of Learning

New York Times – Room for Debate Discussion
The Common Core State Standards, adopted by48 states and supported by the Obama administration, have worried liberals who question their quality and conservatives who fear they erode states’ traditional responsibility for education. At the same time, the budget pressure of the impending “fiscal cliff” could reduce federal support for education, which would add to the state and local responsibility.  As these trends collide, Americans can take a step back and ask: Should education standards and funding vary by state?

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