Thursday, April 4, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for April 4, 2013: Districts are able to provide quality cyber and blended services at a fraction of the cost without wasting tax dollars on advertising and corporate bonuses.

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1900 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter.

The Keystone State Education Coalition is pleased to be listed among the friends and allies of The Network for Public Education.  Are you a member?

These daily emails are archived at
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Education Voters PA – Statewide Call to Action day April 10th

Download 1 page pdf with information about the April 10th call-in day.

Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for April 4, 2013:
Districts are able to provide quality cyber and blended services at a fraction of the cost without wasting tax dollars on advertising and corporate bonuses.

Boiled Frogs
Yinzercation Blog by Jessie Ramey April 3, 2013
Remember the story about boiling frogs? If you put a frog into a pot of hot water, he will jump right back out; but if you put him in a pot of cold water and slowly bring it to a boil, he doesn’t notice until it’s too late, and you have a boiled frog. Unless you want to cook poor little amphibians, the point of this story is that we humans often get used to terrible situations – even as the danger slowly increases around us. We can’t let this happen in public education, where our pot is nearing the boiling point.
Quite simply, the situation in our schools is worse this year than last year. Despite what Gov. Corbett’s administration continues to claim (see our response to yesterday’s ridiculous assertion), here in Pennsylvania our children are now dealing with the combined loss of nearly $2 billion. That’s the initial $1 billion trouncing that Gov. Corbett gave our schools in 2011, followed by the 2012 budget that locked those cuts in. Last year, the consequences of those cuts were new and raw, and our grassroots response was swift and loud. But we need to remember what is happening right now and not become complacent: we can’t accept this as some inevitable new reality.

“It’s not that I’m against assessments — I think we need to make sure our kids understand what they are being taught — but what we have now is testing without a purpose and a system that only benefits the testing companies and the people who want to privatize public education.  “I see this as sort of a Berlin Wall and I hope enough people get upset about it and knock it down.”
Educators weigh in on calls for PSSA ‘opt-’out
Delco Times By TIMOTHY LOGUE Published: Thursday, April 04, 2013 @timothylogue
A Western Pennsylvania mother’s opinion piece in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about opting her 9-year-old son out of Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests has garnered a lot of attention and, as of Wednesday night, more than 27,000 recommendations by Facebook users.
“After doing some research and talking with other parents, my husband and I decided to ‘opt out’ Jacob from the PSSA tests,” Kathy M. Newman wrote in the piece, which ran Sunday. “We are opting him out because we do not like what high-stakes tests are doing to Jacob, to our family, to his teachers, to his school and, ultimately, to our entire education system.”

“Ms. Newman's opinion piece has drawn more than 40,000 page views on And more than 400 people from around the country have posted comments, both in agreement and disagreement.”

Op-ed on PSSA exams hits nerve with parents

Some parents have become increasingly unhappy with what they see as the negative effects of high-stakes tests.
By Eleanor Chute and Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette April 4, 2013 12:22 am
If you want to get a conversation started with parents, just mention two words: "standardized tests."  Since standardized tests have become increasingly important in schools under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, some parents have become increasingly unhappy with what they see as the negative effects of high-stakes tests, including what they call a narrowing of the curriculum to focus on tests.

Piccola: Charter school reform needs to put students, not special interests, first: As I See It
Patriot-News Op-Ed  By Jeffrey Piccola on April 03, 2013 at 8:30 AM
Cyber charter schools are meeting unique needs in public education—needs defined by 38,000 parents who view cyber schooling as the best, and sometimes only, alternative for their children. Parents, better than anyone, know when they see failure and know when they see hope. Cyber charter schools provide that hope, save taxpayers money, and save children’s lives. Tragically, the voices of parents and children seeking better educational options are missing from almost every educational discussion in Harrisburg.

IMHO, Ex-senator and unabashed choice/privatization advocate Piccola has a particularly rosy view of cyber charters and seems to have a complete and total disregard for taxpayers on this matter.  Districts are able to provide quality cyber and blended services at a fraction of the cost without wasting tax dollars on advertising and corporate bonuses.
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

Two principals are first Philly casualties of cheating probes
Submitted by thenotebook on Wed, 04/03/2013 - 12:55
by Dale Mezzacappa and Benjamin Herold for the Notebook and NewsWorks 
In the first fallout from Pennsylvania’s nearly two-year-old investigation into possible cheating on state standardized tests at 53 Philadelphia District schools, two city principals have surrendered their administrative credentials

Perkiomen Valley School Board seeks change in charter school funding formula
Pottstown Mercury By Mark D. Marotta Journal Register News Service 04/02/13 03:39 pm
PERKIOMEN—The Perkiomen Valley School Board is prepared to vote April 8 on three resolutions calling for state legislative action to reform the funding formula for charter and cyber charter schools, as well as the pension system for school employees.

“Truebright is one of more than 130 charters nationwide run by followers of Imam M. Fetullah Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the Poconos.”
Former administrator from Truebright to testify
Martha Woodall, Inquirer Staff Writer  Thursday, April 4, 2013, 3:01 AM
A former administrator from Truebright Science Academy Charter School will testify about operations of the North Philadelphia charter when a school district hearing resumes Thursday.
The charter school, which is linked to a controversial Turkish imam, is fighting to remain open.

Philly schools will make bidders compete for all potential 'Renaissance' schools
WHYY Newsworks By Benjamin Herold April 2, 2013
In a break from recent practice, the Philadelphia School District will require this year's three potential Renaissance charter operators to compete for the right to manage each of the traditional public schools that have been designated for turnaround.  "We didn't want a situation where we had specific operators targeting specific schools," said District Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn.
As a result, Mastery Charter Schools, Scholar Academies and Universal Companies will all formally vie to manage Alcorn, Kenderton and Pastorius elementary schools as charters beginning next school year.

2 Philly principals surrender administrative credentials
Philly School Files Blog by Kristen Graham POSTED: Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 9:56 AM
Two Philadelphia School District principals whose schools were under investigation for possible state-exam cheating have surrendered their administrative credentials.
Barbara McCreery, the former principal of Communications Tech High School, surrendered her administrative license "in lieu of discipline."
Lola Marie O'Rourke, the former principal of Locke Elementary, surrendered her superintendent's letter of eligibility, supervisory and administrative credentials, also in lieu of discipline.

An urban school district that works — without miracles or Superman
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog by Valerie Strauss on April 4, 2013 at 4:00 am
To listen to some school reformers, you’d think there are no urban traditional public schools that are successful. Here’s a different story, adapted and excerpted from “Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System And A Strategy For America’s Schools” (Oxford University Press), by David Kirp, professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He is a former newspaper editor and policy consultant, as well as the author of numerous articles in various publications and several books, including “Shakespeare, Einstein and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education.” His new book, “Improbable Scholars,” tells the story of the public schools in Union City, N.J., where teachers do an amazing job of teaching high-poverty students without employing “miracle” reforms.

Restorative Practice: Opening Up, Students Transform a Vicious Circle
New York Times By PATRICIA LEIGH BROWN Published: April 3, 2013 27 Comments
OAKLAND, Calif. — There is little down time in Eric Butler’s classroom.   “My daddy got arrested this morning,” Mercedes Morgan, a distraught senior, told the students gathered there.
Mr. Butler’s mission is to help defuse grenades of conflict at Ralph J. Bunche High School, the end of the line for students with a history of getting into trouble. He is the school’s coordinator for restorative justice, a program increasingly offered in schools seeking an alternative to “zero tolerance” policies like suspension and expulsion.
The approach now taking root in 21 Oakland schools, and in Chicago, Denver and Portland, Ore., tries to nip problems and violence in the bud by forging closer, franker relationships among students, teachers and administrators. 

“…it suggests that the angry, worried debate over how to improve the nation’s mediocre education — pitting the teachers’ unions and the advocates of more money for public schools against the champions of school vouchers and standardized tests — is missing the most important part: infants and toddlers.”

Investments in Education May Be Misdirected

New York Times Business Day By EDUARDO PORTER Published: April 2, 2013
….Children of mothers who had graduated from college scored much higher at age 3 than those whose mothers had dropped out of high school, proof of the advantage for young children of living in rich, stimulating environments.  More surprising is that the difference in cognitive performance was just as big at age 18 as it had been at age 3.
“The gap is there before kids walk into kindergarten,” Mr. Heckman told me. “School neither increases nor reduces it.”  If education is supposed to help redress inequities at birth and improve the lot of disadvantaged children as they grow up, it is not doing its job.

Incentivizing cheating: Can we learn from Atlanta?
Public school teachers and administrators trickled into the Fulton County jail in Atlanta today. It’s the deadline for educators indicted in a widespread cheating scandal in the Atlanta public schools to surrender, or face arrest. In all, 35 people face charges in an alleged conspiracy to inflate standardized test scores in order to receive cash bonuses.  To critics who believe standardized testing in public schools is out of control, the lesson from Atlanta is clear: the stakes are too high.

PBPC Launches New Policy Webinar Series
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center April 3, 2013
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center is launching a new webinar series that will connect you — direct from your computer — to the latest policy debates in Harrisburg. From education funding to expanding health care coverage to constructing a fair tax system, our webinar series will provide you information you need to know and show you how you can shape the debate in the State Capitol.

Here’s the first one in the PBPC webinar series:
Webinar: Selling Snake Oil to the States: ALEC’s State Tax and Budget Agenda at Work in Pennsylvania Tuesday April 9, 2013, 4-5 p.m.
The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC — a leading voice for state Voter ID and Stand Your Ground laws — is a driving force behind state budget and tax policies that benefit the wealthy and corporations at the expense of public investments. ALEC’s hand is evident in legislative proposals in Pennsylvania to cut taxes for profitable corporations at the expense of schools, health care and human service programs.
Join Greg Leroy, Director of Good Jobs First, and Dr. Peter Fisher of the University of Iowa for a webinar that will debunk ALEC’s myths about taxes, employment policies and economic growth. Learn about new efforts in Pennsylvania to divert state resources to pay for a new round of tax cuts to profitable corporations.

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.

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