Sunday, December 9, 2012

Why Is Pennsylvania Mad for Cybercharters?

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, 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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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

Focus on Pa Cyber: Auditor general's report reveals pressing problems

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Editorial December 9, 2012 12:20 am
A lot of the negative attention focused on the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School is the result of its unique role that began as a pioneer and mushroomed into questionable, overlapping business ventures.
A grand jury investigation is believed to be focused on former school executives who wore multiple hats at Pa Cyber, the Avanti Management Group and the nonprofit National Network of Digital Schools Management Foundation. Millions of dollars that started out as revenue from taxpayers flowed through Pa Cyber to those spin-offs, and sorting that all out is a matter for federal investigators.
But the result of Auditor General Jack Wagner's most recent review of the Beaver County-based school, released Thursday, points to a different set of problems, ones that are pronounced at Pa Cyber but also prevalent at other charter schools throughout the state.

Pa. auditor general blasts cyber-charter funding, again
by thenotebook on Dec 07 2012
by Benjamin Herold for NewsWorks, a Notebook news partner
Outgoing state Auditor General Jack Wagner has said for years that Pennsylvania sends too much money to its 16 cyber charter schools.
This week, Wagner said an audit of the state's largest cyber school showed the outcomes of that flawed funding system: unspent millions of taxpayer dollars, wasteful contracts, and too much money spent on advertising.

Why Is Pennsylvania Mad for Cybercharters?

Diane Ravitch’s Blog December 8, 2012 //
Pennsylvania is on its way to becoming the Wild West for Cybercharters, where anything goes, so long as it’s online.  The state already has 16 Cybercharters. Now it is considering another 8 of them. The only states with more students enrolled in virtual charters are Ohio and Arizona.

Saturday postings: Why do hedge funds ADORE charters? Pt. II: 39%+ Return/Meet PA new House members

Editorial: When it comes to pension crisis, Corbett has right idea

State Sen. Dominic Pileggi and most others in the legislature concur, at least about changing the sytem. The former Chester mayor and Republican leader in the Senate has proposed a change in the pension system, moving future employees from a defined benefit to a defined contribution, pretty much what most workers in the state already are doing. In other words, welcome to the world of 401Ks.
But Corbett seems ready to go further, talking about actually reducing or rolling back benefits in the future. Good for him.  The state cannot and probably should not look to reduce benefits already owed to unionized state employees, teachers and lawmakers.
But the state is peering into the abyss of a $41 billion pension shortfall that is a powder keg, threatening to wreak havoc not only on the state budget, but at the local level for municipalities and school districts as well. Taxpayers already are on the hook for a $1.6 billion public pension hit this year. That number is expected to balloon to as much as $4 billion a year and stay there for decades.

Philly District has new model for handling students' academic and behavioral problems
by thenotebook on Dec 07 2012 by Charlotte Pope
The School District has begun to roll out a new system for responding to poor classroom performance, bad behavior, and truancy in students.
The West Philadelphia Parent and Family Resource Center, in collaboration with the School District of Philadelphia’s Parent University, held the second of four parent workshops Thursday to introduce a new system called RtII, or Response to Instruction and Intervention.
The RtII model promises targeted interventions and the differentiation of universal instruction to meet individual student needs. The model is built around levels of school support in academics, behavior, discipline, and attendance. All of them use alternatives to suspension and expulsion, routine intervention assessments, and frequent progress monitoring.

How one school ‘turnaround’ worked (without firing the teachers)

New data released by the Education Department shows that the results of its efforts so far to turn around the country’s  lowest-performing schools are mixed. The Obama administration has been pushing its turnaround policy through the School Improvement Grant program, which requires districts that get the money to choose one of four corporate-based options to improve student achievement  (which is evaluated on standardized test scores). 
Critics say that the four options — which all involve changing some or all of the teachers and administrators, including one that calls for closing the school entirely — are all punitive and won’t likely work in the long run. There are, though, other ways to improve schools that focus on the children, not the adults. Here’s the story of one troubled school that was turned around with help from a data-driven dropout program called Diplomas Now, which targets and provides support to middle school students through mentoring relationships and is based on research by Johns Hopkins University Professor Bob Balfanz. Here, NPR’s Ray Suarez reports on a Baton Rouge middle school and its experiences with this program. (video runtime 9:15)

“It would be one thing if charter schools were vast improvements, but what we know is they’re not. Essentially (CPS) is cannibalizing the system to privatize it.”
Parents United for Responsible Eduction
Chicago - Cannibalizing the system
From today’s Tribune: Chicago Public Schools said Friday it plans to add four more charter schools to the nine charters previously approved for the coming year, which quickly became fuel for critics of the district’s plans to close many neighborhood schools.

Converting schools to charters a simmering issue in Miami-Dade

Two parents in Key Biscayne have hired an attorney to negotiate the procedure for voting on converting their school into a charter.


For the second year in a row, Florida parents are preparing to battle in Tallahassee against the powerful school-choice lobby over the so-called parent trigger bill.
And the issue — enabling parents to convert traditional public schools into charter shools — is simmering in Miami-Dade.

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