Friday, April 12, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for April 12, 2013: State "very concerned" about reports of too much PSSA prep

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for April 12, 2013:
State "very concerned" about reports of too much PSSA prep

Pennsylvania's charter school law is long overdue for reform: As I See It

Patriot-News Op-Ed  By Stuart L. Knade on April 11, 2013 at 9:45 AM
Stuart L. Knade is interim executive director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
When Pennsylvania’s charter school law was enacted in 1997, the overall concept seemed promising. Independently operated public schools, freed from many of the regulations and mandates constraining traditional public school systems would be laboratories for educational innovation, producing new strategies and methods that could benefit students in all schools.  Sadly, the promise has yet to become reality due to major flaws in that law and its companion cyber charter school law.

State "very concerned" about reports of too much PSSA prep
Philly daily News Attytood Blog by Will Bunch Thursday, April 11, 2013, 5:26 PM
Following up on my story earlier this week about a small but growing protest movement of parents opting their kids out of Pennsylvania's standardized PSSA tests, an official said the state Department of Education is "very concerned" about anecdotal reports of too much test prep and not enough conventional learning in the weeks leading up to the exams.  But Timothy Eller, the spokesman for the state Department of Education, also gave a full-throated defense of the high-stakes test that the state uses to evaluate which schools are rated as "failing" and will soon be used to grade teacher performance. Indeed, he compared the experience to an annual physical exam.

Closing the learning-time gap
thenotebook by James H. Lytle on Apr 11 2013 Posted in Commentary
Amid all the debate about addressing the achievement gap, one obvious explanation has escaped attention: the amount of time that kids from different backgrounds spend engaged in school or school-related activities.  Having worked in or observed both public and private schools -- including inner-city, magnet, suburban, independent, and boarding schools -- I’ve concluded that there is a striking and straightforward explanation for why kids in the inner city do relatively well through 3rd grade before starting to fall by the wayside. They are not getting nearly enough time in structured learning environments.  Using high school as the point of comparison, let's see how learning time varies among the different types of schools.

“Before enacting new tax cuts, Pennsylvania should get its fiscal house in order, addressing transportation, education and growing pension costs. Then perhaps, with loopholes closed and real accountability in place, some of the new revenue could go to modest tax reduction.”
Pennsylvania should close its tax loopholes: As I See It
Patriot-News Op-Ed  By Sharon Ward on April 11, 2013 at 8:30 AM
For public policymakers, as for doctors, a guiding principle should be “first, do no harm.”
Unfortunately, Harrisburg has not taken this principle to heart in recent years. The last two state budgets cut more than a billion dollars for public schools and universities. Infrastructure investments have been delayed, and county human services funding has been slashed. Classrooms are more crowded, unemployment is rising, and local taxes are higher.
There is more harm to come. Hidden deep within Gov. Tom Corbett’s latest budget plan are major income tax cuts for corporations beginning in 2015 that, when fully phased in, will cost hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Profitable corporations will pay less, hardworking families will pay more, and our schools and communities will deteriorate.

Paying for preschool with a $1 a pack cigarette tax
Washington Post By Lyndsey LaytonPublished: April 10
President Obama’s plan to pay for universal preschool for 4-year-olds by doubling the federal tax on cigarettes was quickly attacked by tobacco companies, which argued Wednesday that it is unfair to saddle smokers with the costs.  In discussing the administration’s proposed 2014 budget, Education Secretary Arne Duncan told reporters that raising the federal tobacco tax by 94 cents would generate $75 billion over the next decade, enough to pay for federal subsidies to states to enroll all low-income and some moderate-income 4-year-olds in quality preschool.
The president’s plan would expand such preschool services to 1.1 million additional four-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families, according to the Education Department.

“The Obama administration's proposal aims to expand preschool to include every 4-year-old whose family makes less than 200 percent of the poverty line.”
Obama Pre-K Expansion Battle Pits Kids Against Cigarettes
Huffington Post by Joy Resmovits 04/10/2013 7:35 am EDT 
President Barack Obama's 2014 budget pits education activists against the tobacco industry by proposing to help fund a new early childhood education program with a tax hike on tobacco.
The education advocates took up that fight early Wednesday. The Center for American Progress, a left-wing think tank with close ties to the administration, released an analysis showing the expansion is badly needed. The analysis by Juliana Herman, Sasha Post, and Melissa Lazarin found that while many states are expanding access to state-funded preschool -- such as Mississippi, which recently established its first program -- many of these programs won't be available to any 3-year-olds. And for 4-year-olds, the wait lists are long.
"This investment could help jumpstart preschool programs in states without adequate preschools and could also help states with programs reach the lowest-income children," the authors wrote. "This would free up state dollars to expand access for higher-income children and improve program quality.

PEAK outreach seeks to get parents on-board early with reading
Pottstown Mercury By Evan Brandt  Sunday, 04/07/13 12:01 am
POTTSTOWN — To say that Pottstown’s early education efforts are community-wide is to understate the matter.  Recognizing when it was established in 2006, that some of the most important years in a child’s education career happen before they ever get to school, Pottstown’s program —   Pottstown Early Action for Kindergarten Readiness, or PEAK    — does more than just train preschool teachers and provide curriculum to local pre-schools, it reaches out to parents who, coordinator Mary Reick will happily tell you, are a child’s first, best teachers.

Filmmaker wants to document Pottstown’s pioneering early ed efforts
Pottstown Mercury By Evan Brandt Sunday, 04/07/13 12:01 am
POTTSTOWN — Lights, camera, education.
A Virginia filmmaker who made a short film about Pottstown’s pioneering early education program called PEAK has alerted the district of his desire to make a full-length documentary film about the first children to benefit from the program.  Superintendent Jeff Sparagana told the school board recently that filmmaker John Harrington, president of Virginia-based Madison films, has expressed an interest in building on the work he did in 2009 when he put some film shorts together for a presentation on Pottstown’s early education efforts for the Pennsylvania Office of Childhood Development and Early Learning.
The video, which won an award, highlights the PEAK approach, developed with the help of the   National Institute of School Leadership   .  Harrington hopes to track some of the students he first filmed through their education in Pottstown to explore how their early education experience may have helped “and have the students and parents tell their story about their partnership with PEAK,” Sparagana said.

Charter reform sought by Seneca Valley – Eliminate the pension double-dip
Post-Gazette By Laure Cioffi April 11, 2013 4:55 am
Seneca Valley school board members want to reform Pennsylvania's cyber charter school law, and they want the public to join their quest.  Board members plan to vote on a resolution Monday calling for the state Legislature to make changes to the law that would make those schools more accountable for the public funds they receive.  Seneca Valley officials contend there is "double dipping" because school districts are required to pay pension costs as part of the cyber charter school tuition formula. But under the state retirement code, the schools are reimbursed for up to 50 percent of their pension costs.

Obama Budget Increases Education Spending, Flatlines Key Funds For Poor And Students With Disabilities
Huffington Post by Joy Resmovits 04/10/2013 1:19 pm EDT 
While President Barack Obama's 2014 budget proposal asks for an overall spending increase to education, most of that will go to new programs and competitive grants as two key funds devoted to poor students and students with disabilities flatline.
According to the administration's budget documents, amid a slew of other budget cuts, the Obama administration is asking for $71.2 billion in discretionary funding for education, an ask that represents a 4.6 percent or 3.1 billion increase over 2012 levels.

Michelle Rhee’s Reign of Error
Taking Note Blog by JOHN MERROW on 11. APR, 2013
With the indictment of former Atlanta School Superintendent Beverly A. Hall and 34 other public school employees in a massive cheating scandal, the time is right to re-examine other situations of possible illegal behavior by educators.  Washington, DC, belongs at the top of that list.
 Michelle A. Rhee, America’s most famous school reformer, was fully aware of the extent of the problem when she glossed over what appeared to be widespread cheating during her first year as Schools Chancellor in Washington, DC.  A long-buried confidential memo from her outside data consultant suggests that the problem was far more serious than kids copying off other kids’ answer sheets.  (“191 teachers representing 70 schools”).  Twice in just four pages the consultant suggests that Rhee’s own principals, some of whom she had hired, may have been responsible (“Could the erasures in some cases have been done by someone other than the students and the teachers?”).

Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School FAST FACTS
Quakertown Community School District

Keystone State Education Coalition Prior Posting from Monday, May 21, 2012
PA Charter Schools: $4 billion taxpayer dollars with no real oversight
Charter schools - public funding without public scrutiny
Proposed statewide authorization and direct payment would further diminish accountability and oversight for public tax dollars

Network for Public Education
Webinar: How to Organize a Grassroots Group; Saturday, April 13 at 2:30 pm EDT
Many of those who have joined our network want to get involved in grassroots work to change the direction of education in our communities. We are now planning a series of web forums to share concrete ways to do just that. The first will focus on how to organize grassroots groups.
Phyllis Bush and members of the North East Indiana Friends of Public Education will share their experiences in getting organized. Formed just two years ago, this group helped elect teacher Glenda Ritz as state superintendent of education.
The webinar will take place on Saturday, April 13, at 2:30 pm Eastern time, 11:30 am Pacific time. You can register here. You will be emailed a link to the webinar a day or two before the event.
WTXsW � A 5 �& P+ 3zuDAHGM7NBE25DqeBNPm7WClrklE8aPiIC0Zqg3Xm9BaRLCxrTqAEdtnBv9lyUVaZz2iTUDaCRWR_k7hCDHEpx7A=">register here. You will be emailed a link to the webinar a day or two before the event.

Lawrence A. Feinberg
Keystone State Education Coalition
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

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