Established in 2006, the Keystone State Education Coalition is a growing grass roots, non-partisan public education advocacy group of several hundred locally elected, volunteer school board members and administrators from school districts throughout Pennsylvania. Our mission is to evaluate, discuss and inform our boards, district constituents and legislators on legislative issues of common interest and to facilitate active engagement in public education advocacy.
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for April 8, 2013: Parents can keep their kids out of PSSAs
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.
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for April 8, 2013:
Parents can keep their kids out of PSSAs
“But as with any experiment, we
need to be able to evaluate the results, which so far appear mixed.
Pennsylvania's revised method of evaluating charter schools reported that only
28 percent of the more traditional charter schools and none of the state's
Cyber Schools (another outsource) met the standards for "adequate yearly
Are charter schools working? It's anybody's
by Joel Naroff POSTED: Sunday, April 7, 2013,
Joel L. Naroff is president and chief economist of Naroff Economic
Advisors, Inc. He resides in Holland, BucksCounty.
Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charter schools may be the best
thing for education, but there is no way to know that.
We are in the middle of a grand
experiment in public education. Charter schools are opening everywhere,
including ones specializing in the arts, sciences, and technology. Outsource
programs such as RenaissanceSchools and Knowledge Is
Power are taking over large segments of inner-city systems. Private,
not-for-profit organizations have become the "savior" of our
"failing school systems."
Are charter schools the pathway
to the future or fool's gold? Are our public schools failing, and if so, which
ones and why? Should we use a combination of approaches? Unfortunately, we have
absolutely no idea of the answers because we don't have an accurate method of
determining success or failure.
PHILADELPHIA — When students at Pittsburgh's
LindenElementary School sit down to take the
PSSAs starting Monday, Kathy Newman's third-grader will be sitting out. Instead of poring over the Pennsylvania
System of School Assessment examswith his peers, 9-year-old Jacob will be
reading in the library or helping out in his younger sibling's classroom.
has exercised the rarely used opt-out provision for the annual standardized
tests — and caused a buzz by encouraging others to follow her "act of
Standardized test irregularities in Pa. remain under
Tribune-Review By Craig
Smith Monday, April 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m. Pennsylvania
school officials continue to investigate whether testing irregularities are the
result of cheating, the outcome of which could put dozens of educators'
certifications in jeopardy.
Test-cheating drew national
attention last week with the surrender of 35 Atlanta educators accused under the state's
racketeering law of boosting scores to increase their pay.
“The ultimate goal, in any
event, should be providing space to allow teachers to get back to teaching the
way they see fit.”
NCLB school assessments must give way to
local control (EDITORIAL)
Opinion Online Editorial April 7, 2013
Local schools will face
their annual final exams, in a manner of speaking, when the
state begins its Pennsylvania System of School Assessment next week. A direct result of President George W. Bush's
desire to set high standards in education, and a way to measure them, the No
Child Left Behind Act of 2002 requires standardized testing of any
public school that receives federal education money.
But here's the thing: The law
has demanded steadily increasing performance targets over the past decade or
so. And this is the last year that schools can score anything less than 100
percent. After this year, all students must score no worse than proficient for
a school to avoid sanctions, and those sanctions become more harsh and
stigmatizing with every unsuccessful year that passes. Think about that. Every single student
proficient? According to standardized testing? It's almost as though Bush and a
bipartisan Congress wanted public schools to be subjected to a nightmare grind
right at the time charter and cyber schooling was beginning to take off.
PA Mom: Why I won’t let my son take
high-stakes standardized test
Answer Sheet Blog by Valerie Strauss on April 7, 2013
at 2:02 pm
Here’s a Q & A with a Pennsylvania mother
about why she decided not to let her 9-year-old son take the state’sstandardized
test. Kathy Newman is part of a growing movement of parents who are
choosing to “opt out” of the state’s test-based accountability system — at
least in states that give families that option. (In Florida, for example, it is very hard to opt
out; you can see that byreading
this post about a severely disabled, blind boyforced to take the state’s standardized
accountability test.) Newman wrote
a piece for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about her decision. Following
is a Q & A I did with her by e-mail.
I am appalled by state
Department of Education press secretary Tim Eller's response ("PSSAs Are Valid," April 2 letters) to Kathy
M. Newman's March 31 Forum article ("Why I Won't Let My Son Take the PSSA"). Suggesting
that Ms. Newman, or any parent who chooses to opt out of the PSSA, has a plan
to abolish all assessments is absurd and harmful.
New Jersey parents joining nationwide boycott of state standardized
NorthJersey.com BY LESLIE
BRODY STAFF WRITER THURSDAY, APRIL 4, 2013
A handful of New Jersey families will join an
increasingly vocal national group boycotting state standardized tests this
|spring, in the belief that they hinder true learning, fail to measure
students’ skills, waste time and squander money. This fledgling revolt comes at a time when
education officials in New Jersey
and elsewhere are relying more heavily on test scores to evaluate teachers,
principals and schools, with the strong backing of President Obama and the
vehement opposition of powerful teachers unions.
Business Times annually ranks school districts based on a three-year average of
PSSA test scores.
Lott Research Director-Pittsburgh
Business Times Apr
St. ClairSchool District
and Mt.LebanonSchool District
hold down the top two spots on the statewide list of the top-scoring public
school districts. Upper St. Clair was No. 1
last year. Mt.Lebanon moved up three spots to No.
District and Tredyffrin-EasttownSchool District, both located in Philadelphia's western suburbs,
hold the third and fourth positions.
Three Pennsylvania classmates get perfect SAT
Three students from UpperDublinHigh
School in Montgomery
County, Penn., all
scored a perfect score of 2400 on their SATs.
By Lauren DiSanto and Deanna Durante,
students from Montgomery County,
Pa., accomplished something
extremely rare -- they all scored a perfect score of 2400 on their SAT. And what's even more rare is that all three
students are classmates at the same school.
The UpperDublinHigh School
juniors dedicated years, studying for this one test.
Area educators express concerns to House
Scranton Times-Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL (STAFF WRITER)
If the state's flawed charter
school funding formula was fixed, ScrantonSchool District would
have enough funding to place a police officer in each of the district's
elementary schools, Superintendent William King said Thursday. At a House Democratic Policy Committee
hearing held at the University
of Scranton, Mr. King and
other educators testified about education funding and school safety. ….The state's funding formula for charter
schools has drawn harsh criticism and calls for reform. Two years ago, Mr.
Corbett eliminated the 30 percent of charter funding returned to districts. The
amount each school district pays charter schools varies - even for the same
charter school. If the state changed the
could afford the $550,000 a year it would take to place a school resource
officer in each of the district's 11 elementary schools, Mr. King said.
In conjunction with partner
education news organizations in other cities, theNotebook is
launching a year-long reporting project to write about the issue of expanding
learning time. We will join Catalyst-Chicago, EdNews Colorado, GothamSchools, andEdSource Today (which covers
California) in this collaboration, supported by a grant from the Ford
Foundation, which has made “more and better learning time” a priority in
Expanding learning time for
students, especially those in low-income communities, has emerged as a major
reform initiative. Some
argue that additional time that is wisely used can be a key lever for
educational equity. In addition to
reporting on developments in their own localities, the five news organizations
will take advantage of this collaboration to produce a cross-city report that
compares and contrasts policies and practices.
NEED A REASON to drink? How
about improving the futures of Philadelphia's
Mayor Nutter and City Council
are rarely on the same page these days, but the possibility of increasing the
"liquor-by-the-drink" tax to help pay for the School Reform
Commission's request for $60 million seems to be gaining traction on both
Discrimination lawsuit filed against North Philadelphia Turkish-run charter school
Woodall, Inquirer Staff Writer POSTED: Saturday,
April 6, 2013,
Regenna A. Jalon, who worked at
the North Philadelphia school for four years,
said in a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in late February the school
engaged in a pattern of hiring, promoting, and paying less-qualified Turkish
nationals more than American-born educators who were certified and had more
experience. A Truebright lawyer said the
school denied any wrongdoing when the suit surfaced during a hearing Thursday
on the charter school's renewal.
Jalon was one of at least nine
Truebright staffers who filed initial discrimination complaints with the U.S.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2011. She filed her suit in federal
court after the EEOC issued a letter in January that said she could proceed
with the action.
scandal a "cultural problem," and a "very isolated"
incident that can be fixed through "better test security." But
similar cheating has cropped up in 37 states, according
to the advocacy group FairTest, including the cities of Houston, New York, and Detroit. In Philadelphia,
one in five district schools has been investigated for cheating, and former El
Paso Superintendent Lorenzo García is now in prison, convicted after
forcing low-performing students out the school house door to boost scores. The
same in Washington, DC
during the tenure of Michelle Rhee, who refused to speak to the USA Today reporters who uncovered
potential cheating. Rhee now leads nationwide reform lobby StudentsFirst, bankrolled by
hedge fund managers and powerful foundations. The group pushes for test scores
to play a greater role in teacher evaluation and also to eliminate tenure,
without which teachers will be all the more terrified of being judged test
Atlanta's School Scandal Isn't
education reform's "no excuses" motto causes cheating
Friday, erstwhile all-star Atlanta Schools superintendent Beverly Hall and 34
Atlanta administrators, principals, teachers and other staff were indicted on
multiple counts, including conspiracy charges under a RICO
statute often used to prosecute organized crime figures and drug
dealers. The indictment lays out the conspiracy in lurid detail: Teachers
gathered in a locked windowless room to pencil in the right standardized test
bubbles and erase the wrong ones, hoping to win bonuses for high marks and
living in fear that poor scores would cost them their jobs. One principal even
wore gloves when handling the tampered tests so that she would not leave
fingerprints behind. In all, 43 Atlanta
elementary and middle schools were found to have statistically improbable
erasure patterns in at least one-quarter of their classrooms. Dozens of staff
have made confessions to law enforcement.
In the prosecution’s
disciplined prose, Atlanta's
cheating conspiracy reads like something of a textbook case of municipal-level
corruption. But what the indictment vividly describes is far more troubling,
the inevitable outcome of a test-score obsession imposed by America's
self-described "school reform" regime: harried educators teaching,
and now cheating, to the test.
The criminal indictments last
week of retired Atlanta
schools Superintendent Beverly L. Hall and 34 other educators for their alleged
roles in a far-reaching cheating scandal could have widespread fallout and
potentially undermine efforts in other school districts to improve the academic
achievement of poor and minority students, according to education leaders.
As states and districts begin
putting new teacher support and evaluation systems in place, they’re asking how
the information from those systems should inform teacher compensation. That’s
an important question given how much money we spend on education and how to
ensure the best results for students. But states and districts should proceed
cautiously as they move into this uncharted territory.
You might think that’s surprising
coming from us. People sometimes assume that because Bill came from the private
sector, the foundation supports awarding merit pay or bonuses to teachers
annually based on test scores. Actually,
we don’t think that’s the right solution for education. We’ve looked closely at
lessons from education and other sectors in the U.S., talked with experts, and
examined the practices of high-performing education systems in other nations.
Tom Brady may be the best
quarterback in football, but he is also infamously, hilariously slow. YouTube videos of
his 40-yard dash have gotten many thousands of hits from sports fans looking
for a good laugh. If the New England
Patriots had chosen a quarterback based only on foot speed, they would have
missed out on three Super Bowl victories. But National Football League teams ask
prospects to run, jump and lift weights. They interview them for hours. They
watch game film. In short, they use multiple measures to determine the best
In much the same way that
sports teams identify and nurture talent, there is a window of opportunity in
public education to create systems that encourage and develop fantastic
teachers, leading to better results for students.
Efforts are being made to
define effective teaching and give teachers the support they need to be as
effective as possible. But as states and districts rush to implement new
teacher development and evaluation systems, there is a risk they’ll use hastily
contrived, unproven measures. One glaring example is the rush to develop new
assessments in grades and subjects not currently covered by state tests. Some
states and districts are talking about developing tests for all subjects,
including choir and gym, just so they have something to measure.
Bill Gates, who is more
responsible than anyone for the absurd evaluations by which teachers are now
being held accountable, had the gall to write this week in a
tone of exasperation about the results of his own advocacy for these very
Yesterday I asked when Mr. Gates, the
great enthusiast for accountability for others, might hold himself accountable
for his own handiwork.
As wealth has concentrated in
the accounts of individuals such as the Gates, Walton and Broad families, they
have used this to wield unprecedented power over the lives of those of us
without access to such resources. They pay for research that creates the very "facts" upon
which public debate is based. They pay for their own media outlets, and heavily
subsidize others. Their money redirects existing grassroots groups, and
underwrites new ones. They work with ALEC to write legislation, and funnel
money through PACs to buy off politicians to move it forward across the
country. They are utterly insulated from any sort of accountability. They do
not face voters in any election. Nobody "evaluates" them. They cannot
be fired. They may on occasion choose to engage in a dialogue,
but they are not obliged to respond to the substance of the criticisms raised.
As my question indicated, this accountability they demand from teachers is a
street that goes one way only.
“Charter schools deserve credit for their accomplishments, but they play
by a completely different set of rules. Not only do most charters require
parents to sign a contract that outlines their responsibilities, but they also
reserve the right to counsel out underperforming students. These students
invariably end up in traditional public schools, which become the schools of
last resort. It's little wonder, therefore, that some charter schools can post
the results that Rees heralds.”
Education Week Reality Check
Blog By Walt Gardner on April 5,
It's not often that I get a
chance to appear in the same column on the same day as the leader of a major
movement in education. But on Mar. 3, my views about the success of charter
schools were published right below those of Nina Rees, the president and chief
executive of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools ("Inside the World of Charter Schools,"
The New York Times).
In her letter to the editor,
Rees wrote that "charter students from low-income families are
outperforming their traditional public school peers." This is the claim
she repeated in an op-ed on Mar. 27 ("Will Obama's Budget Recognize Charter Schools?"
The Wall Street Journal). To support her view in the essay, Rees cited a
multiyear study of KIPP that was released in February by Mathematica Policy
Research. According to investigators, after three years students in KIPP were
11 months ahead of their traditional public school peers in math, 14 months
ahead in science, and 11 months ahead in social studies.
The new Common Core math and
reading standards adopted by 45 states have come under a firestorm of criticism
from tea-party activists and commentators such as Glenn Beck and Michelle
Malkin. Beck calls the standards a stealth “leftist indoctrination” plot by the
Obama administration. Malkin warns that they will “eliminate American
children’s core knowledge base in English, language arts and history.” As
education scholars at two right-of-center think tanks, we feel compelled to set
the record straight.
Here’s what the Common Core
State Standards do: They simply delineate what children should know at each
grade level and describe the skills that they must acquire to stay on course
toward college or career readiness. They are not a curriculum; it’s up to
school districts to choose curricula that comply with the standards. The
Fordham Institute has carefully examined Common Core and compared it with
existing state standards: It found that for most states, Common Core is a great
improvement with regard to rigor and cohesiveness.
“If you want to know how your
child is doing in school, ask his or her teacher. Do not ever believe that your
child’s potential for success in college and in life can be demonstrated by an
elementary, or even a middle-school test. Even SAT’s have limited value in
predicting college success. The rigor of the courses a student takes in high
school is a far better predictor.”
Principal warns parents: ‘Don’t buy the
bunk’ about new Common Core tests
Washington Post Answer
Sheet Blog by Valerie Strauss on April 7, 2013
at 4:00 am
I recently wrote
a piece about why the standardized assessments that are being designed
to align with the Common Core State Standards will not be as “game changing” as
supporters, such as Education Secretary Arne Duncan, have promised. Here, an
award-winning New York
principal who was once a Common Core supporter writes about problems with the
coming assessment. Carol Burris is principal of SouthSideHigh
School in New York.
She was named the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School
Administrators Association of New York State. She is one of the
the principals’ letter against evaluating teachers by student test
scores, which has been signed by 1,535 New
The curlicue letters of cursive
handwriting, once considered a mainstay of American elementary education, have
been slowly disappearing from classrooms for years. Now, with most states
adopting new national standards that don’t require such instruction, cursive
could soon be eliminated from most public schools. For many students, cursive is becoming as
foreign as ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. In college lecture halls, more
students take notes on laptops and tablet computers than with pens and
notepads. Responding to handwritten letters from grandparents in cursive is no
longer necessary as they, too, learn how to use email, Facebook and Skype.
The Pennsylvania Budget and PolicyCenterApril 3, 2013
The Pennsylvania Budget and PolicyCenter 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.
Webinar: Selling Snake Oil to the
States: ALEC’s State Tax and Budget Agenda at Work in Pennsylvania Tuesday April 9, 2013,
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
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
Webinar: How to Organize a
Grassroots Group; Saturday, April 13 at 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 Eastern time, Pacific time. You can register
here. You will be emailed a link to the webinar a day or two before the