Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup For January 24, 2013: No cyber charter school in Pennsylvania made AYP

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup
For January 24, 2013

Corbett says education funding is tied to pension savings
POSTED: Wednesday, January 23, 2013, 11:13 PM
Gov. Corbett said Wednesday that he would not slash funding in his forthcoming budget for basic education or the four state-related universities, although he cautioned that could change if there was no legislative giveback on one of his priorities: reining in public-employee pension costs.
"This is the driver," Corbett said of tackling what his administration has called Pennsylvania's pension crisis. "We are going to present a budget based on some assumptions, and based upon getting some reforms done. And if they can't get the reform done, then there's going to have to be some adjustments to the budget."
With that, the governor drew a line that could end up defining the coming budget battle in the Capitol. On Feb. 5, he is scheduled to deliver his budget proposal to the legislature, and he and top aides have spent the last few months crisscrossing the state to build his case for why pension costs - the "tapeworm," as he has repeatedly called it - should take precedence.

No cyber charter school in Pennsylvania made Adequate Yearly Progress

By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 23, 2013 12:37 pm
Recalculated figures for attaining Adequate Yearly Progress on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams for 2012 released by the state Department of Education show that the number of charter schools hitting the targets for AYP dropped from 77 to 43.
With the recalculation, no cyber charter school in Pennsylvania made AYP.
The recalculation has its most significant effect on the status of brick-and-mortar charter schools, which accounted for 76 of the schools originally designated as making AYP.
Only one cyber charter school -- 21st Century Cyber Charter based in Exton, outside Philadelphia -- made AYP under the original calculations released in September. It has been downgraded under the new calculations.

Post-Gazette Graphic: New Calculations Show Decline in Charter School AYP Rating

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.  The U.S. Department of Education, however, shot down that change in November. It ordered Pennsylvania to recalculate the charters' AYP status on the school level and publicize the results by January. So under the federal order, charters must have the school-level and district-level grades.

Philly charters see yearly progress benchmarks downgraded
Under recalculated standards, 23 out of 80 Philly charters met state's adequate yearly progress standard in 2012
thenotebook on Jan 23 2013 by Paul Socolar and Dale Mezzacappa
Twenty Philadelphia charter schools that had been previously listed as meeting the state's adequate yearly progress standard in 2012 have now been graded by the state as not making AYP. The Pennsylvania Department of Education was ordered by the federal government to recalculate and publish AYP status for charters using the same standard used for traditional district schools.

This was neither a new “stricter method” nor a “new way of measuring” charter performance.  On the contrary, the US Department of Education merely ordered that Pennsylvania calculate AYP for charters exactly the same way that it has been done historically, thereby not using the change in methodology that Secretary Tomalis initiated unilaterally this year.
Pennsylvania charter schools fare poorly under different method of measuring performance
Patriot News By Jan Murphy |  January 23, 2013 at 8:53 PM
A  stricter method for measuring charter school performance has added fuel to the debate over whether these independent public schools perform better than traditional school district schools.
A new way of measuring charter performance  ordered by the U.S. Department of Education casts this public school choice movement in a less favorable light. 

Regional Choice Initiative: Creative curriculum shows what's possible when districts in Beaver County agree

By Taryn Luna / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 24, 2013 5:57 am
Cash-strapped public school districts are constantly looking for new ways to maintain enrollment and compete with charter and cyber schools vying for their students.  In Beaver County, where enrollment has dropped 17.5 percent in 10 years, school administrators have gotten creative.
The county's 14 school districts and neighboring Elwood City in Lawrence County offer a program that allows high school students to take classes in other districts if courses are not available in their home school and it provides tuition, books and fees for courses at local universities.
The Regional Choice Initiative was funded in 2007 with a $10 million, five-year U.S. Department of Education grant. The Beaver Valley Intermediate Unit, which coordinates the program, received a one-year extension to continue it this year with funds remaining from the initial grant.

PA Senate Majority Policy Committee Explores Special Education Challenges Facing School Districts
PA Senate Republicans website January 23, 2013
Harrisburg – The Senate Majority Policy Committee, chaired by Sen. Ted Erickson (R-26), held a public hearing today on the challenges school districts face in meeting state and federal special education mandates.  Testifiers, including superintendents and education advocates, spoke about the increase in the number of students needing special education services, the regulations driving up special education costs and how to address them, and the inequities in the state special education funding formula.
"Special education costs are borne by the local school districts and taxpayers, even though the mandates come from the federal and state government," said Erickson. "The current funding formula does not provide that state funding is distributed on an equitable basis to school districts across the state.  And the federal funding is inadequate for the requirements it has placed on our schools."

York City School District financial recovery meetings scheduled
York Blog Cram Session Posted on January 23, 2013 by Angie Mason
David Meckley, the York City School District’s chief recovery officer, has scheduled several meetings related to the district’s financial recovery process, according to a news release.
Two public meetings have been scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 4 at the district administration building, 31 N. Pershing Ave., York, and 6 p.m. March 14, at Martin Library, 159 E. Market St., York. At the first, Meckley will discuss the process he will follow in developing an academic and financial recovery plan for the district and listen to community suggestions and concerns, the release says.

Chester Upland taps expert in hunt for superintendent
Delco Times by John Kopp Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Chester Upland School District Receiver Joseph Watkins hired an executive search expert to lead the district’s search for a permanent superintendent. He also announced the district hired a chief business administrator.  Watkins announced Tuesday that Joseph J. O’Brien, of the Chester County Intermediate Unit, will head efforts to recruit candidates for the opening. Watkins said he wants the post filled by April 1. He said several candidates already have expressed interest.

Philly school closings need close look
Inquirer Letter to the Editor by Alan Butkovitz Philadelphia City Controller.
POSTED: Wednesday, January 23, 2013, 5:56 AM
The Philadelphia School District faces major challenges as both a financial and an educational endeavor. For the past 15 years, the district has spent beyond its means, and its students have been flooding into the burgeoning charter-school sector, drawn by the promise of better, safer schools. Whether because of poor economic conditions or bad policy decisions, the district's finances have deteriorated into a full-blown state of emergency, with the entire $2.3 billion enterprise on the verge of collapse (or at least that's what the public has been told). It was only by borrowing $300 million that the district was able to operate this school year.
In short, very real financial issues have led to the latest proposal to fundamentally change the structure and scope of the district. As city controller, I have a responsibility to evaluate the soundness of the plan.

Salt in Schenley’s Wounds
Yinzercation Blog January 23, 2013
Is Pittsburgh seriously going to consider handing over the beautiful old Schenley High School to a charter school operator? Closing that building back in 2008 raised many concerns in the community about dismantling a thriving urban high school. More recently, Schenley alumns and supporters have raised serious questions about the rationale for the closing, which was based in large part on the estimated costs of asbestos remediation. It now appears those costs may have been vastly overstated and that the School Board may not have had important data on which to base their decision. Protestors have gathered over 1,000 signatures on a petition these past couple of weeks asking the School Board to take its time and investigate these significant charges.

U.S. Dept. of Ed. Says Fewer Students Dropping Out of High School
Education Week Finding Common Ground Blog By Peter DeWitt on January 24, 2013 6:06 AM
It came as welcomed news when the latest U.S Department of Education report stated that fewer students dropped out of school in the 2009-2010 school year. According toLos Angeles Times reporter Michael Muskal, "The percentage of U.S. students graduating from high school within four years rose to its highest level in decades in 2010, while the rate of those who dropped out fell to one of its lowest in years."
For decades the public school system has been plagued by negative news and under scrutiny for low high school graduation rates and high student dropout rates. Along with a recent Economic Policy Institute (EPI) study that suggests, "Prominent international tests skew comparisons of test scores, and U.S. student performance actually ranks much higher than believed," the public school system seems to be sharing in some good news lately.
The EPI report states, "when comparing apples to apples in weighing U.S. student performance against that of other industrialized countries--U.S. students don't rank 25th in math, but 10th; and in reading, the country is not 14th, but 4th."

Texas House eliminates funding for standardized testing
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog by Valerie Strauss on January 24, 2013 at 6:02 am
The revolt against standardized testing in Texas has taken a new twist: The Texas House has put forth a draft 2014-15 budget that zeroes out all funding for statewide standardized assessment. By way of explanation, Speaker Joe Straus said, “To parents and educators concerned about excessive testing, the Texas House has heard you.”
The Dallas Morning News said that the draft budget is not likely to stand, given that the Senate’s preliminary budget has about $94 million allocated for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, the standardized test known as STAAR. The two budgets will have to be reconciled and it is hard to believe the state will get rid of the testing altogether. Besides, federal law requires standardized testing under the No Child Left Behind law.
But the House move underscores growing discontent with high-stakes testing in the state where it was born when George W. Bush, as governor, implemented the precursor to No Child Left Behind, which he took national when he became president.
Texas over the last year has been in the forefront of growing protests across the country against standardized testing, which has become the main metric in school reform, used to assess schools, students, teachers, districts and states.

"When President Obama talks about good schools, he is talking about schools for other people's children, not his own."
Published Online: January 22, 2013
Mr. Obama: Most Schools Aren't Like Your Daughters' School
I want to send my grandson to Sidwell
Education Week Commentary By Alan C. Jones
At the beginning of this school year, I accompanied my daughter in her search to find a good public school for my grandson. Because of my lifelong career in education—teacher, principal, professor of education—my daughter felt that I was well qualified to help her with the search. In her words: "Dad, you'll know the right questions to ask."  She was wrong.
Nothing could have prepared me for the mindlessness of the hallways, classrooms, and main offices I observed in the coming weeks. I reviewed curriculum with no art or music and only sporadic attempts at teaching science. I followed a school schedule heavily focused on basic literacy skills. I found kindergarten programs with no recess. I observed classrooms where students were required to repeat state standards written on the chalkboard and spend hours completing mountains of worksheets designed to make children more test-savvy.
There were breaks in the day that amounted to forced marches to and from bathrooms. Following these brief breaks, students were led back to classrooms for timed tests, test-preparation games, and the distribution of awards for those who met the state standard for the day

Pennsylvania Congressman Chakah Fattah serves on the House Appropriations Committee
Lowey Announces Democratic Members of US House Appropriations Committee, Ranking Members, Subcommittees
January 23, 2013 Contact: Matt Dennis 202-225-6506
Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), Ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, today announced the Democratic members who will serve on the Committee in the 113th Congress and the makeup of the 12 Appropriations subcommittees. The selections were ratified yesterday by the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and today by the Democratic Caucus.

US Ed Department Releases New Publications Highlighting ESEA Flexibility
US Department of Education 01/23/2013 01:17 PM EST
With 34 states and the District of Columbia approved for ESEA flexibility, the U.S. Department of Education released a series of new publications this week, describing the flexibility program and the ways in which some participating states are advancing important education reforms.

Why Gloomy Pundits and Politicians Are Wrong About America's Education System
Atlantic Monthly January 2013  Reuters By Derek Thompson
A eye-opening new paper comparing U.S. students to their international peers by social class finds that the richest Americans are world-class readers, and in math, our disadvantaged kids have improved more than almost any other country
Here's what everybody knows about education in the United States. It's broken. It's failing our poorest students and codding the richest. Americans are falling desperately behind the rest of the developed world.  But here's what a new study from the Economic Policy Institute tells us about America's education system: Every one of those common assumptions is simplistic, misguided, or downright wrong.

SCOPE seeks a Senior Research Director
The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) seeks a Senior Research Director, who will be responsible for conducting and managing research projects, as well as managing research staff, and who will report directly to the faculty directors.
SCOPE was formed in 2008 to develop research, policy, and practice strategies for addressing issues of educational quality and equality. It is associated with the Stanford Graduate School of Education and the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. The Center’s faculty directors are Professors Prudence Carter and Linda Darling-Hammond.

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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