Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 6, 2013: Broad Foundation - Closing Schools as a Means for Addressing Budgetary Challenges

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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 6, 2013: Broad Foundation - Closing Schools as a Means for Addressing Budgetary Challenges

Roebuck Seeking Co-sponsors for Comprehensive Charter and Cyber Charter School Reform Legislation

PA House Education Committee Public Hearing:
Cyber Charter Funding Reform
Thursday, March 14, 2013 10:00 AM Room 140 Main Capitol
HB 618 (Emrick) and HB 759 (Reese)
Here’s some background on these two bills:
Charter and Cyber Charter Funding Reforms Proposed
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai’s website 1/25/2013
HARRISBURG – The House Republican Caucus today unveiled a legislative package aimed at reforming charter and cyber charter school funding.

House bill would shut Pa. liquor stores, open sales to groceries and pharmacies
Governor's proposal may get makeover
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau March 6, 2013 12:02 am
HARRISBURG -- For the first time since Gov. Tom Corbett unveiled his plan to disband state-run alcohol sales, privatization is headed for a vote. But with the chairman of the House Liquor Control Committee developing an extensive amendment, the forthcoming bill may not mirror the governor's proposal.  House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, who has led privatization efforts in the Legislature, on Tuesday introduced legislation to implement the governor's plan, which would shutter state wine and liquor stores while opening sales to sites such as groceries and pharmacies. Mr. Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, said he expects a House panel to clear the legislation March 18, with a vote by the full House two days later.

Superintendent Linda Lane said there is going to be "a lot of pushback" on the pension plan which would change future benefits that are as of now unearned. "Even if it were to go through, it would result in a rush to the exit in 2015 like this state has never seen."  She said teacher departures would be so great that it may be difficult to find teachers in certain areas. "That would be a real statewide human resources issue," she said.”
Pittsburgh Public Schools will still run out of money in 2015 despite smaller deficit
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 5, 2013 9:57 pm
Pittsburgh Public Schools officials estimate that even though 2012 is estimated to have ended with a significantly smaller deficit than forecast at the start of the year, the district still will run out of money in 2015.  …..Mr. Joseph said federal sequestration could cause the district to lose between $3.3 million and $4.3 million in 2013-14.

Medical Academy in compliance with charter, Catasauqua Area School District officials say
Lehigh Valley Live By Precious Petty | The Express-Times 
on March 05, 2013 at 11:50 PM, updated March 06, 2013 at 12:22 AM
Medical Academy officials have addressed problems that led Catasauqua Area's superintendent in January to question whether the school is operating in compliance with its charter.
School directors did not take formal action on the matter this evening, but indicated the academy's charter is not in jeopardy. Three board members who recently visited the school praised its staff and students.

In Philly, the struggle to make high school work pits sentiment vs. data
WHYY Newsworks By Benjamin Herold March 5, 2013
Graphics by Michelle Schmitt and Todd Vachon  Download Audio File »
For almost an hour, Frank Thorne stood in line, waiting to denounce Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite.  It was early January. Nearly a thousand angry people were packed into a school auditorium. Along one wall, looking unhappy, stood a handful of North Philadelphia politicians, including Darrell Clarke, the president of City Council.
A first grader, then a teacher, then a parade of parents and activists blasted Hite's unprecedented plan to close 37 city schools, including Strawberry Mansion, their neighborhood high school.
By the time Thorne got to the microphone, he could barely contain his anger.

“While the fiscal crisis will not allow a pain-free path forward, we urge the District to heed the one clear lesson to be learned from existing research: Students will do better if they are transferred to schools with strong academics and support services.” 
Inquirer LTE: School closures lack clear yield
By Kate Shaw, Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 3:01 AM
Kate Shaw is executive director of Research for Action, a nonprofit educational research and policy organization.
THE PROPOSED closure of 29 school buildings throughout Philadelphia represents one of the most significant education-policy challenges our region has ever confronted. The implications for the district's finances, students' academic prospects and the sense of community in dozens of neighborhoods are difficult to gauge, given the magnitude of the change.
The plan is based on two major assumptions. The district argues that savings from the closures could help fill the looming deficit and that closing chronically low-performing schools will produce greater academic opportunities. But a review of the existing research on school closings and the experience of other districts should temper expectations on both counts.

“My point is merely that those pursuing school-closure strategies should be mindful that every school, even the lowest-performing, is woven into the fabric of its neighborhood—and tugging on that thread affects the entire cloth.”
Can Bad Schools Be Good For Neighborhoods?
Educationnext By Andy Smarick 02/22/2013
As a college freshman in an introductory sociology class, I was assigned the book There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz. This story of two young boys trying to survive one of Chicago’s most impoverished and dangerous housing projects is absolutely heart-wrenching.
I won’t forget the book’s emotional grip, but equally influential to my intellectual development was the policy and political back story that explained how the boys’ toxic surroundings came to be.
Nearly two decades later, I’m still chastened by the book’s central lesson: A government policy developed by mostly benevolent leaders hoping to improve the lives of the disadvantaged—in this case, by razing old, low-income, ostensibly decaying neighborhoods in favor of gigantic public-housing skyscrapers—did incalculable harm to those it was designed to help.
This has been on my mind in recent weeks, as the national school-closure conversation has flared. Much of that conversation is familiar, but one assertion made by critics, namely that school closures destabilize entire neighborhoods, raises a question that hasn’t been discussed nearly enough. And though some might wave it away as irrelevant or worse, the lessons of the Kotlowitz book force me to take it seriously:
Can a bad school be good for a neighborhood?

Closing Schools 4 Choice (and Excellence)
Edushyster Blog Posted on March 1, 2013
The best way to enhance the excellence of our public schools is by closing them.
It is a well-known true fact that the fastest way to improve schools in order to launch students on a path to 21st century prosperity is to close them. In fact, nine out of ten advocates of closing schools in order to promote enhanced choice and excellence have found that choice and excellence are enhanced when schools are closed. Unfortunately, closing a school while the students are still inside can prove difficult, especially in this era of putting students first.

Broad Foundation School Closure Guide
Closing Schools as a Means for Addressing Budgetary Challenges
Developed by district operators with support form the Broad Foundation Updated 9/15/09

Education Department Releases New School-Level Graduation Rate Data to Better Inform Parents, District Leaders
U.S. Department of Education MARCH 5, 2013   
To view the data released today, click here.
Contact:   Press Office, (202) 401-1576, 
Today the U.S. Department of Education released provisional school-level graduation rates for 2010-11 – the first school year for which all states used a common, rigorous measure for reporting high school graduates. The data release furthers the Department's efforts to provide transparent information to parents and students about their schools and ensure all schools are preparing students for college and careers.

News Corp. Has a Tablet for Schools
New York Times By AMY CHOZICK Published: March 6, 2013
For nearly two years, Joel I. Klein helped Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation weather a phone-hacking scandal at the company’s British tabloids with the promise that he would eventually be able to return to the role the company hired him for: to spearhead News Corporation’s new venture into the public school market. That day has finally come.

Jeb Bush Quietly Lays Campaign Groundwork Through Foundation for Excellence in Education
“The chatter is he's up to something,” says one Florida operative
By McKay Coppins BuzzFeed Staff posted on March 5, 2013 at 3:16pm EST
If Jeb Bush decides to convert his media tour into a presidential bid in a couple years, he won't have to look far for a campaign staff: The well-funded education foundation he runs out his office in a Miami hotel is stacked with former political operatives, a large communications team, and a rapidly growing staff whose work stretches into 40 states.  It is common practice for undeclared presidential candidates to build a campaign infrastructure under the guise of a political action committee, but Bush appears to be laying the groundwork for a potential campaign through his foundation, multiple Florida political strategists told BuzzFeed.

John Thompson: Texans Debunk Test-Driven Reform
Education Week Living in Dialogue Blog By Anthony Cody on March 5, 2013 10:54 AM
Guest post by John Thompson.
Addressing the Save Texas Schools rally in Austin on Feb. 23, Superintendent John Kuhn nailed the essence of test-driven "reform." "Some people have forgotten that good teachers actually exist. They spend so much time and effort weeding out the bad ones that they've forgotten to take care of the good ones. This bitter accountability pesticide is over-spraying the weeds and wilting the entire garden." He later rebutted a key argument of market-driven "reform," reminding us that "They say 100,000 kids are on a waiting list for charter schools. Let me tell you about another waiting list. There are 5 million kids waiting for this Legislature to keep our forefathers' promises." (you can read and view his entire speech here.)

K12 Inc. Reaches Tentative Settlement in Investor Lawsuit
Education Week Marketplace K-12 Blog By Sean Cavanagh on March 5, 2013 11:05 AM
The for-profit education provider K12 Inc. has reached a tentative settlement in a class-action securities lawsuit brought by investors who said they were misled by the company's business practices and academic performance.  The online schools provider has agreed to pay $6.75 million to plaintiffs who have brought the suit, while company officials said they also continue to deny any claims of wrongdoing.

“The further we progressed through the waiver process, the more we felt we were being asked to adopt another national, one-size-fits-all model of education,” Baesler said at her Monday press conference.
North Dakota withdraws No Child Left Behind waiver
Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler announced Monday that she has withdrawn North Dakota’s application for a waiver to the federal No Child Left Behind law.
The waiver would have allowed the state to opt out of certain requirements by meeting specific criteria such as implementing teacher and administrator evaluations, and creating and testing college preparedness standards.  North Dakota applied for the waiver in September under former Superintendent Wayne Sanstead.  As of last week, the federal Department of Education had not yet approved North Dakota’s waiver and Baesler decided to withdraw it.

Honoring Valor: National History Day Student Competition
Letters of intent due by April 1, 2013
The Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Army Heritage Center Foundation, and the Pennsylvania State Museum are pleased to announce a competition for students in Middle and
High School to demonstrate how and why societies honor valor. Inspired by the valor exemplified by Soldiers at Gettysburg in 1863, citizens on September 11, 2001, and the responses of individuals battling disease or injustice, the competition will recognize students who demonstrate
excellence in identifying and describing how and why societies honor their valiant men and women.

PSBA officer applications due April 30
PSBA’s website 2/15/2013
Candidates seeking election to PSBA officer posts in 2014 must file an expression of interest for the office desired to be interviewed by the PSBA Leadership Development Committee.
This new committee replaces the former Nominations Committee. Deadline for filing is April 30. The application shall be marked received at PSBA headquarters or mailed first class and postmarked by the deadline to be considered timely filed. Expression of interest forms can be found online at

Edcamp Philly 2013 at UPENN May 18th, 2013
For those of you who have never gone to an Edcamp before, please make a note of the unusual part of the morning where we will build the schedule. Edcamp doesn’t believe in paying fancy people to come and talk at you about teaching! At an Edcamp, the people attending – the participants - facilitate sessions on teaching and learning! So Edcamp won’t succeed without a whole bunch of you wanting to run a session of some kind! What kinds of sessions might you run?
What: Edcamp Philly is an"unconference" devoted to K-12 Education issues and ideas.
Where: University of Pennsylvania  When: May 18, 2013  Cost: FREE!
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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