Monday, February 11, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup For February 11, 2013: What’s working in Cincinnati and Boston?

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup
For February 11, 2013

Budget Note: Although special education is flat funded (for the sixth consecutive year) in Governor Corbett’s Proposed 2013-14 Budget, school districts are slated to see a ½% decrease in their special ed allocation that will be used to increase the State’s special education contingency fund from $10 million to $20 million.

What’s working in Cincinnati and Boston?
Not closing schools.  Not firing teachers.
Not charters.  Not vouchers.  Not diverting tax revenue to private and religious schools.
Not Teach for America.  Not parent triggers.
Not more tests with more negative consequences.
Partnering with non-profits to provide a wide range of coordinated intervention, prevention, enrichment and remedial services to kids – like their middle-class peers take for granted in well funded school districts.

Here’s our weekend posting in case you missed it…..
Saturday, February 9, 2013
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup For February 9, 2013 - Editorial: Here we go again on school funding?

Public education the focus of Pittsburgh rally
Yinzercation organizers urge audience members to push for sustainable government funding
By Amy McConnell Schaarsmith / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 11, 2013 12:06 am
American public schools have leveled the playing field for poor children and provided opportunities for children of all backgrounds for more than a century. But their ability to continue to do so will continue to erode unless the community works to establish adequate, equitable and sustainable government funding for public education, local education activists said Sunday.

Corbett's pension proposal drawing concerns
State workers unsure how their benefits will be affected
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 10, 2013 12:07 am
The package proposed by Gov. Tom Corbett to address the state's more than $40 billion pension debt leaves 386,000 state employees and teachers wondering how it will change their retirement income.  Specific answers aren't easy to come by because of the complexity of the changes and the uncertainty over whether there is legislative support for some or all of the proposals.
There is uncertainty for school districts as well, as they prepare preliminary budgets without knowing precisely what their state funding will be, given that the governor tied his education funding proposal to getting approval of his pension package.

Pennsylvania's GOP legislators seeking long-term pension solution
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau February 10, 2013 12:27 am
HARRISBURG -- Gov. Tom Corbett's proposal of sweeping changes to the statewide public employee retirement systems has been greeted by leading Republican legislators as a pension-reform starting point -- but one that requires legal and actuarial backup before they would proceed.  With both state payments and the unfunded liability of the systems on the rise, Republican leaders on pensions in the House and Senate are intent on change. But as they consider the governor's plan, they are seeking evidence that the state could win a legal battle promised by labor unions -- and that, even with success in court, the numbers add up to a long-term solution.

NEPA could lose $149 million in education over three years
Scranton Times-Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL (STAFF WRITER) February 10, 2013
Brandon Franchak's education is almost $2,700 short.  So are the educations of Destiny Babcock, A.J. Gajewski, Emily Moser and the rest of their classmates in the sixth-grade music class at Carbondale Area Elementary School.
In the first two budgets during Gov. Tom Corbett's administration and under the budget proposed last week, Carbondale stands to receive a total reduction of $4.4 million, compared to funding during the last year of Gov. Ed Rendell's administration. That is a three-year state funding reduction of almost $2,700 per student, according to a Sunday Times analysis.
The district, one of the poorest in Northeast Pennsylvania, has one of the largest losses per student in the state. The music program has been cut. Class size has gone from 20 or 21 to 27 or 28 students per class. After-school tutoring has been eliminated.
Similar cuts have been made across the region's 37 school districts, and the poorer the district, the more has been cut, according to the paper's analysis. The districts in Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties are facing a $149 million three-year reduction in state funding. Statewide, almost $2.5 billion will have been cut in three years if the budget Gov. Tom Corbett proposed last week is approved.

“Central to this plan is a proposal to convert local schools into community hubs that partner with elected officials, nonprofits, hospitals, universities, businesses and others to offer a wide range of services to local communities.  The idea is far from pie-in-the-sky. In Cincinnati, schools are considered "Community Learning Centers" that provide year-round programming, such as summer enrichment, comprehensive health services, adult education, early-childhood education, college access and mentoring services. Since this effort began in 2000, the district's high-school graduation rate has risen from 51 to 83 percent and it has become the highest-performing urban district in Ohio.”
Letters: Stop the cuts - invest in schools
THERE ARE several arguments to be made against the school district's plan to close more than three dozen schools and displace thousands of students.
Yes, as the Daily News noted ("Closures called discriminatory," Jan. 29), Action United has filed a civil-rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education citing data that show last year's eight school closures had a disproportionate, negative impact on African-American and disabled students. The Office of Civil Rights is now investigating the complaint. This year's proposed 37 closures follow the same pattern.

Philadelphia City Council set to hold school closing hearings
WHYY Newsworks By Benjamin Herold February 11, 2013
Jannie Blackwell, chair of City Council's education committee, called for hearings on the school district's proposed school closings as a chance to negotiate with the School Reform Commission and Superintendent William Hite. (Nathaniel Hamilton/for NewsWorks, file)
Over six weeks, parents, students, labor unions, and clergy have all taken turns blasting the School District of Philadelphia's plan to close 37 schools by next fall.
Now, City Council wants to get in on the act.
"Everybody agrees that some schools have to be closed. But certainly not all of them," said Jannie Blackwell, the chair of Council's education committee.
Blackwell, who represents the city's 3rd District in West Philly, has called hearings to begin at 11 a.m. Tuesday in Council chambers.

District to hold public hearings on Philly school closings
The notebook by Wendy Harris on Feb 08 2013 Posted in Latest news
The School Reform Commission will hold a series of public hearings over three days to hear testimony on the proposed school closures before the commission votes March 7. The meetings will take place Feb. 21, Feb. 22 and Feb. 23. All hearings will be held in the auditorium at the School District of Philadelphia headquarters, 440 N. Broad St., and will be divided up according to District planning area.  Those who want to testify must pre-register by calling the Office of Parent, Community & Family Engagement at 215-400-4180. Pre-registration runs from 9 a.m. Feb. 19 through noon Feb. 21. No more than 10 speakers will be permitted to testify about each school that is slated to close, and the guidelines as outlined in the District’s speaker policy for SRC public meetings will apply to the hearings.
The dates and times of the hearings are listed below:

List of Proposed Philadelphia School Closings
Philadelphia School District website
The following list of proposed school closures and moves as presented on December 13, 2013 and is current as of the date of this PUBLIC NOTICE and is subject to change. Any revisions to the recommendations will be made available by the start of the public hearings scheduled for  February 21, 2013, and will be posted on The School District’s website ( as well as the Facilities Master Plan site (

Getting kids to eat healthier school lunches is a challenge
Editor's Note: "What's For Lunch?" is a three-part, multimedia report by The Intelligencer and the Bucks County Courier Times.  Running Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, the series takes a hard look at what's for lunch in your kids' schools, finds out whether districts can both meet federal standards and still fill stomachs and shows just how far schools will go to get kids to eat better.
Visit for complete coverage. By Marion Callahan, Crissa Shoemaker DeBree and Gwen Shrift STAFF WRITERS Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2013 6:00 am
All the warnings from Washington about children's nutrition and the deficiencies in school lunch programs might simply have remained rhetoric, as so many things do, but at Springfield Elementary School, the rhetoric has been turned into action.
For proof, just drop by the cafeteria at lunch time and check out the healthful tacos, skim milk and fresh fruits and vegetables -- not to mention a masked man bobbing among the tables and leading chants of "sa-LAD." Yes, really.

“What makes Union City remarkable is, paradoxically, the absence of pizazz. It hasn’t followed the herd by closing “underperforming” schools or giving the boot to hordes of teachers. No Teach for America recruits toil in its classrooms, and there are no charter schools.”
The Secret to Fixing Bad Schools
New York Times Opinion By DAVID L. KIRP Published: February 9, 2013
WHAT would it really take to give students a first-rate education? Some argue that our schools are irremediably broken and that charter schools offer the only solution. The striking achievement of Union City, N.J. — bringing poor, mostly immigrant kids into the educational mainstream — argues for reinventing the public schools we have.
Union City makes an unlikely poster child for education reform. It’s a poor community with an unemployment rate 60 percent higher than the national average. Three-quarters of the students live in homes where only Spanish is spoken. A quarter are thought to be undocumented, living in fear of deportation.

Holding States and Schools Accountable
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH Published: February 9, 2013
As Congress contemplates rewriting No Child Left Behind, President George W. Bush’s signature education law, legislators will tussle over a vision of how the federal government should hold states and schools accountable for students’ academic progress.
Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, says the states should be allowed to set their own public school policies.  At a Senate education committee hearing on Thursday to discuss waivers to states on some provisions of the law, Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, forcefully urged the federal government to get out of the way.
“We only give you 10 percent of your money,” said Mr. Alexander, pressing John B. King Jr., the education commissioner for New York State. “Why do I have to come from the mountains of Tennessee to tell New York that’s good for you?”

Why Can Some Kids Handle Pressure While Others Fall Apart?
New York Times By PO BRONSON and ASHLEY MERRYMAN Published: February 6, 2013
Noah Muthler took his first state standardized test in third grade at the Spring Cove Elementary School in Roaring Spring, Pa. It was a miserable experience, said his mother, Kathleen Muthler. He was a good student in a program for gifted children. But, Muthler said, “he was crying in my arms the night before the test, saying: ‘I’m not ready, Mom. They didn’t teach us everything that will be on the test.’ ” In fourth grade, he was upset the whole week before the exam. “He manifests it physically,” his mother said. “He got headaches and stomachaches. He would ask not to go to school.” Not a good sleeper anyway, Noah would slip downstairs after an hour tossing in bed and ask his mom to lie down with him until he fell asleep. In fifth grade, the anxiety lasted a solid month before the test. “Even after the test, he couldn’t let it go. He would wonder about questions he feared he misunderstood,” Muthler said.
So this year, Muthler is opting Noah out of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, using a broad religious and ethical exemption.

“The federal government does not serve as a national school board,” Mr. Duncan said. “It never has, and it never should.”  “Still, spurred by efforts to qualify for the waivers and the administration’s Race to the Top grant program, 31 states now require that teacher evaluations be based in part on growth in student achievement on standardized tests, according to the Education Commission of the States.”
U.S. Department of Education Releases School-Level Assessment Data in Reading and Math for All Schools for 2008-09 to 2010-11
JANUARY 31, 2013 Contact:   Press Office, (202) 401-1576, 
The U.S. Department of Education announced today the release of student performance data in reading and math for all schools in the country for school years 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11. This is the first time the Department is releasing school-level state assessment data. The data are being released as part of the Department’s ongoing transparency efforts.
“It is important for the Department to continually provide transparency into our programs and the performance of our schools,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Releasing this school-level assessment data is an important step toward that goal. As we know, test scores alone will never determine how effective our schools are, and we are working to release more varied school-level data that we collect over the coming months.”

Public School Graduates and Dropouts from the Common Core of Data: School Year 2009–10
National Center for Education Statistics January 2013
Description: This report presents the number of high school graduates, the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR), and the dropout data for grades 9–12 for public schools in school year 2009–10 as reported by State Education Agencies to the NCES Common Core of Data Universe Survey of public elementary and secondary institutions

An Open Letter to Bill Gates: Why Not Measure This?
Education Week Living in Dialogue Blog By Anthony Cody on February 8, 2013 7:41 PM
Yesterday I posted an essay that pointed out that Bill Gates apparently uses a different set of outcomes in choosing a school for his own children than the measurable ones his foundation advocates for the children of the less fortunate. I shared the thoughts of mathematician Cathy O'Neil, who points out
...the person who defines the model defines success, and by obscuring this power behind a data collection process and incrementally improved model results, it seems somehow sanitized and objective when it's not.
Don't be fooled by the mathematical imprimatur: behind every model and every data set is a political process that chose that data and built that model and defined success for that model.

Child Trends Research-to-Results Brief by Christopher Boccanfuso, Ph.D., Kristin Anderson Moore, Ph.D., and Camille Whitney, B.A July 2010
This Research Brief brings together findings from a variety of research resources, including
rigorous program evaluations, to identify 10 actionable, feasible goals involving non-school
factors that affect educational outcomes and can be addressed through out-of-school-time
programs. These goals are to:
1) Reduce unintended pregnancies
2) Improve prenatal and postnatal maternal health
3) Improve parenting practices among parents of infants and young children
4) Improve young children’s nutrition and encourage mothers to breastfeed
5) Enhance the quality and availability of educational child care, preschool, prekindergarten, and full-day kindergarten
6) Connect children and adolescents with long-term mentors
7) Improve parenting practices among parents of school-age children and teens
8) Provide family and couples counseling to improve family functioning
9) Provide high-quality educational after-school and summer programs
10) Develop positive social skills and reduce delinquency among adolescents.

Charter Schools Unionize
Diane Ravitch’s Blog February 9, 2013
About 90% of the nation’s charter schools are non-union. The charter owners want it that way. It enables them to hire and fire at will and to make unreasonable demands on teachers, like a 9-hour or more work day. Some charters routinely expect teachers to work 50 or 60 hours a week. Unions get in the way of the owner’s control over the lives of teachers. Owners also like high turnover as they can constantly replenish their staff with those at the bottom of the salary scale and never have pension obligations.

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.  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.  
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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