Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup For January 23, 2013: Not the best day for PA charter schools....

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup
For January 23, 2013

Ex-workers claim K12, Inc., operator of cyber-charters played games with enrollment figures

WHYY Newsworks By Benjamin Herold January 21, 2013
Dozens of former employees claim that K12 Inc, a for-profit education company, used dubious and sometimes fraudulent tactics to mask astronomical rates of student turnover in its national network of cyber charter schools.
K12 manages Agora, the second largest cyber charter in Pennsylvania. The company is also involved in pending applications to open two new cybers in the state. The Pennsylvania Department of Education is expected to decide on the proposals later this month.
The former employees allege that K12-managed schools aggressively recruited children who were ill-suited for the company's model of online education. They say the schools then manipulated enrollment, attendance and performance data to maximize tax-subsidized per-pupil funding.
These claims by anonymous "confidential witnesses" are spelled out in court documents filed last June as part of a class-action lawsuit by the company's investors.
Allegations touch upon Agora
Many of the allegations come from people who worked for the Agora Cyber Charter School, based in Wayne, Pa. With more than 8,000 students, Agora enrolls roughly a quarter of the 32,000 Pennsylvania students that have opted to attend cybers, which are independently managed schools providing mostly online instruction.

Related prior posting from yesterday: “What we are having now is private control of public schools…”
Charter schools now big business nationwide
Pottstown Mercury By Eleanor Chute For The Associated Press  Monday, 01/21/13 
….Charter schools are public schools that have their own boards and are chartered by a local school district in the case of a bricks-and-mortar charter or by the state for a cyber charter. School districts pay a fee set by the state for their residents to attend.
Increasingly, locally elected school officials are finding their districts competing against charter schools allied with big organizations with big money and their own ideas for students.
“It’s had a large impact on the growth of charter school reform,” said Gary Miron, an education professor at Western Michigan University who studies charter schools.

Related prior posting: Your Tax Dollars: It’s All About the Kids…..
K12 Inc. chief executive Ron Packard paid $5 million compensation package in 2011
Washington Post By Emma Brown Posted at 12:15 PM ET, 12/09/2011
Ronald J. Packard, the chief executive of Herndon-based education company K12 Inc., earned a total compensation package worth $5 million in fiscal 2011, according to an amended annual report filed Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
That’s nearly twice the $2.67 million Packard earned in 2010. It includes $551,000 in cash, $4.2 million in stock awards and about $290,000 in other compensation.

Related prior posting: Charles Zogby, PA's Budget Secretary and Former Secretary of Education under Governor Ridge, served as K12's Senior Vice President of Education and Policy prior to being recruited to serve in the Corbett Administration.
“According to disclosures reported in Business Week, Pennsylvania’s Agora Cyber Charter School—K12 Inc.’s online school generated $31.6 million for K12 Inc. in the past academic year."

Pa. charter school ratings plummet under new calculations
Federal government says state had used grading system that was too lenient.
By Steve Esack and Eugene Tauber, Of The Morning Call 9:12 p.m. EST, January 22, 2013
The number of charter schools hitting testing benchmarks plummeted after the federal government said the state Education Department graded them too leniently.
At first, nearly half of the state's 156 charter schools whose students took the 2012 PSSA math and reading tests made so-called Adequate Yearly Progress under a new grading system Education Secretary Ron Tomalis implemented last summer.
The new system, which Tomalis initiated without federal approval and at the behest of a charter school lobbying group, made it easier for charter schools to reach federal standards than traditional public schools. It classified charters, no matter their size, as school districts, which are measured on a broader scale than individual schools.

PDE Recalculation of Charter School Achievement Shows Significant Decline
PSBA’s website January 22, 2013
As required by the U.S Department of Education (U.S. DOE), the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has recalculated the academic performance of charter schools for 2011-12, with the data showing a marked decline in the number of schools that met targets for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and an increase in those charter schools that are in warning, improvement or corrective action status.The recalculations show that only 28% of all charter schools met AYP, as compared to 49% determined under the calculations made last fall. 
The recalculations affected 144 brick and mortar charter schools, and 12 cyber charter schools.  According to the recalculations released in January:
  • There are 34 fewer charter schools in total met AYP, dropping from 77 (49%) to 43 (28%).
  • No cyber charter schools met AYP.
  • There are 7 fewer charter schools that received a “Making Progress” designation.
  • There are 27 more charter schools that received a “Warning” designation. 
  • There are 9 more charter schools in either “Corrective Action I or II” under the recalculations.

What Works: University Affiliation and Additional Funding
District studies options for Penn Alexander kindergarten sign-ups
Kristen A. Graham, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER  January 22, 2013, 9:59 PM
For now, a lottery is still in place for next year's kindergarten classes at Penn Alexander, a public school in West Philadelphia so well regarded that 70 parents were prepared to camp outside for four days and nights to secure spots for their children.
But after a meeting with more than 100 parents and interested community members Tuesday, Philadelphia School District Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said he was willing to work with the community to explore alternative solutions.
"Serving every student in the catchment area is the desire of individuals, and that's what we would like to do," Hite said, adding that he was "not guaranteeing" that goal.

“…the efforts of the school district should be directed toward using this publicity to aggressively call upon all the colleges and universities in Philadelphia to create neighborhood lab schools. If you build it, they will come.”
Penn Alexander School: The lottery is a travesty
 Inquirer Letter to the Editor by Dom Giordano January 23, 2013, 3:01 AM
I WAS RECENTLY on the website and came upon this question: "We are considering moving to West Philadelphia from Lansdowne so our daughters can attend the Penn Alexander School. The attendance area is basically 40th-46th streets between Sansom and Baltimore Avenue. Is it possible to buy a nice place under 200k? Is it relatively safe? What are the taxes like?"  Most of the people who answered said it was a safe area and a mecca for families with kids who wanted the school and the diversity of the city. Imagine that - an area of the city and a school serving as a magnet, attracting young families, improving real estate values and providing Philadelphia with a source of better taxes.

More charges for Philadelphia charter school founder
Martha Woodall, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER POSTED: Tuesday, January 22, 2013, 5:22 PM
The U.S. Attorney's office this afternoon announced five additional criminal charges against charter school founder Dorothy June Brown and three former charter administrators.
The superseding indictment charges Brown 75, of Haverford, and Joan Woods Chalker, 74, of Springfield, Delaware County, with two new counts of wire fraud and one more count of obstruction of justice.  Courteney L. Knight, 65, of King of Prussia, was charged with two more counts of obstruction of justice. Michael A. Slade Jr., 31, of Philadelphia was charged with a single count of obstructing justice.
The grand jury alleged that the wire fraud and obstruction of justice occurred as part of schemes to defraud three charter schools Brown had she founded of $214,095.

Duquesne recovery plan may call for closing elementary school

By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 22, 2013 10:15 pm
The chief recovery officer of the Duquesne City School District said in a letter Tuesday that it is financially unfeasible for the district's current K-6 school to continue to operate next year or for a charter school to operate in the city.  The other two options outlined in the letter from Paul B. Long are to send the K-6 students to nearby districts on a tuition basis with voluntary agreements with the receiving districts or to send the students to nearby districts on a mandate, which would require new state legislation.

New York Archdiocese to Close 24 Schools
New York Times By SHARON OTTERMAN Published: January 22, 2013
The New York Roman Catholic Archdiocese announced Tuesday that it would close 22 elementary schools and 2 high schools, saying it could no longer afford to spend millions each year supporting schools that were not economically self-sufficient.
Because finances were the most significant factor in the decisions, schools filled with children from poor and immigrant families will be hit hard. 

Education Committee Revs Back Up In 113th Congress
It's back to school for Congress.
By Joy Resmovits Huffington Post Education Reporter Posted: 01/22/2013 2:27 pm
Today, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, held his first organizational meeting with the 113th Congress's iteration of his committee. In his opening remarks, Kline said reauthorizing No Child Left Behind will remain a "top priority." NCLB, the sweeping law that governs public K-12 education, expired in 2007.
As we've previously reported, it will be hard for Kline to push a bill to the floor that is similar enough to the Senate's approach that it can be conferenced, and eventually signed into law. And besides, the White House is unlikely to get involved -- the Education Department is in the process of implementing the waivers most states have signed up for in an attempt to ditch the huge George W. Bush law.

Pennsylvania Congressmen Glenn Thompson and Lou Barletta serve on this committee
US House of Representatives
Education and the Workforce finalized subcommittee assignments.

Senate Bill 225 would significantly reduce the number of state standardized tests students must pass to graduate — from 15 to five in reading, writing, biology, Algebra I and U.S. history. It would also leave whether to count the state exams toward anything besides graduation requirements up to local school boards. “
Texas Senate Education Leader Files Testing Bill
Texas Tribune by Morgan Smith January 22, 2013
State Sen. Kel Seliger, the Amarillo Republican who chairs the Senate Higher Education Committee, filed a bill Tuesday offering broad changes to student assessment and high school graduation requirements in Texas.

National High School Graduation Rate Climbs

 Caralee Adams  
The national high school graduation rate has improved notably, with 78.2 percent of public school students receiving a diploma in 2009-10, up from 75.5 percent the year before, according to the newest figures released from the National Center for Education Statistics Tuesday.
In 2005-06, the rate was 73.4 percent, and in 2000-01, it was 71.7 percent.
There were 38 states with an increase of one percentage point or more, in the most recent analysis. Overall, 3.1 million students received a diploma in 2009-10, the report, "Public School Graduates and Dropouts from the Common Core of Data: School Year 2009-10" finds.

If you are a Pennsylvania educator, Teachers Lead Philly would like to know what you and your colleagues think about teacher evaluation (survey)
To what extent should teachers be involved in determining what an effective teacher is?
On Jun 30, 2012, Pa Governor Corbett signed HB1901 (3885), a law that requires teachers to be evaluated by multiple measures including student achievement, graduation rates and locally-designed rubrics.
Teachers Lead Philly would like to know what you think about teacher evaluation. TAKE THE SURVEY, and share it with a friend! 

Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
SAVE THE DATE: 2013 Pennsylvania Budget Summit Feb. 21st
Many Pennsylvanians have sent a clear message to Harrisburg in recent months: The state budget cuts of the past two years were too deep. It is time to once again invest in classrooms and communities.  Next month, Governor Tom Corbett will unveil his 2013-14 budget proposal. Join the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center for an in-depth look at the Governor's proposal and an update on the federal budget -- and what they mean for communities and families across Pennsylvania.
2013 Pennsylvania Budget Summit
Thursday, February 21, 2013, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Hilton Harrisburg, 1 North Second Street, Harrisburg, PA
Registration is free and lunch is included.


The Education Policy and Leadership Center, with the Cooperation of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) and Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), will conduct A Series of Regional Full-Day Workshops for 2013 Pennsylvania School Board Candidates.  Registration is $45 and includes coffee/donuts, lunch, and materials.  
Philadelphia Region Saturday, February 2, 2013 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Montgomery County Intermediate Unit, 1605 W. Main Street, Norristown, PA 19403
Harrisburg Region Saturday, February 9, 2013– 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Pennsylvania School Boards Association Headquarters, 400 Bent Creek Boulevard, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
Pittsburgh Region Saturday, February 23, 2013 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Doubletree Hotel Pittsburgh/Monroeville, 101 Mall Blvd., Monroeville, PA 15146
To register, please click here.

2013 PSBA Leadership Symposium on Advocacy and Issues
April 6, 2013 The Penn Stater Convention Center Hotel; State College, PA
Strategic leadership, school budgeting and advocacy are key issues facing today's school district leaders. For your school district to truly thrive, leaders must maintain a solid understanding of these three functions. Attend the 2013 PSBA Leadership Symposium on Advocacy and Issues to ensure you have the skills you need to take your district to the next level.

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