Monday, April 8, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for April 8, 2013: Parents can keep their kids out of PSSAs


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.

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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 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 progress."
Are charter schools working? It's anybody's guess
Philly.com by Joel Naroff POSTED: Sunday, April 7, 2013, 6:40 AM
Joel L. Naroff is president and chief economist of Naroff Economic Advisors, Inc. He resides in Holland, Bucks County. Contact him at jnaroff@phillynews.com.
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 Renaissance Schools 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.

Take 5 minutes and join Education Voters PA for the Statewide Call to Action Wednesday April 10th!
Education Voters PA

"A national dialogue about the overuse or potential misuse of standardized testing results is a healthy conversation to have,"
Parents can keep their kids out of Pennsylvania's assessment tests
Patriot News By Kathy Matheson The Associated Press  on April 07, 2013 at 3:25 PM,
PHILADELPHIA — When students at Pittsburgh's Linden Elementary 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.
Newman 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 civil disobedience."

Standardized test irregularities in Pa. remain under investigation
Pittsburgh 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)
Chambersburg Public 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
Washington Post 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.

Post Gazette Issue One / The PSSAs April 7, 2013 12:12 am
Tests are overused
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 tests
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.

USC, Mt. Lebo top two scoring districts in state
The Pittsburgh Business Times annually ranks school districts based on a three-year average of PSSA test scores.
By Ethan Lott Research Director-Pittsburgh Business Times Apr 5, 2013, 5:00am EDT
Upper St. Clair School District and Mt. Lebanon School 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. 2.  Unionville-Chadds Ford School District and Tredyffrin-Easttown School District, both located in Philadelphia's western suburbs, hold the third and fourth positions.

Three Pennsylvania classmates get perfect SAT scores
Three students from Upper Dublin High School in Montgomery County, Penn., all scored a perfect score of 2400 on their SATs.
By Lauren DiSanto and Deanna Durante, NBCPhiladelphia.com February 2, 2013
Three 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 Upper Dublin High School juniors dedicated years, studying for this one test.

Area educators express concerns to House Democrats
Scranton Times-Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL (STAFF WRITER) Published: April 5, 2013
If the state's flawed charter school funding formula was fixed, Scranton School 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 formula, Scranton 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.

A multi-city reporting project will look at expanding learning time
The notebook by Paul Socolar on Apr 05 2013 Posted in Latest news
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-ChicagoEdNews 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 its philanthropy.
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.

Philly considers hiking liquor-drink tax to 15 percent
SEAN COLLINS WALSH, Daily News Staff Writer walshSE@phillynews.com, 215-854-4172
POSTED: Friday, April 5, 2013, 5:43 AM
NEED A REASON to drink? How about improving the futures of Philadelphia's schoolkids?
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 sides.

Discrimination lawsuit filed against North Philadelphia Turkish-run charter school
Martha Woodall, Inquirer Staff Writer POSTED: Saturday, April 6, 2013, 3:01 AM
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.

Duncan called the Atlanta 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 score-rendered failures.”
Atlanta's School Scandal Isn't Local
How education reform's "no excuses" motto causes cheating
The New Republic BY DANIEL DENVIR April 5, 2013
Last 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 problem is that any school systems that have accomplished great turnarounds of schools are going to become suspect, and people will assume that there must have been some cheating involved.”
Atlanta Cheating Scandal Reverberates
Education Week By Lesli A. Maxwell Published Online: April 4, 2013
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.

Gates Foundation: Proceeding With Care on Tying Evaluations to Teacher Pay
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation by LYNN OLSONVICKI PHILLIPS April 05, 2013
For more context, The Washington Post features an op-ed today by Bill Gates, A fairer way to evaluate teachers.
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.

Bill Gates: A fairer way to evaluate teachers
Washington Post Opinion By Bill Gates, Published: April 3
Bill Gates is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
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 players.
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.

Accountability for Mr. Gates: The Billionaire Philanthropist Evaluation
By Anthony Cody on April 5, 2013 12:24 AM
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 practices.
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.”
Questioning Charter School Superiority
Education Week Reality Check Blog By Walt Gardner on April 5, 2013 7:15 AM
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.

“Truth” - National Review does the Common Core…..
The Truth about Common Core 
Why are prominent conservatives criticizing a set of rigorous educational standards?
National Review By Kathleen Porter-Magee & Sol Stern APRIL 3, 2013 4:00 A.M.
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 South Side High 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 co-authors of the principals’ letter against evaluating teachers by student test scores, which has been signed by 1,535 New York principals.

No more pencils…..
Cursive handwriting disappearing from public schools
Washington Post By T. Rees ShapiroPublished: April 4
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.

PCN Focus on Education: PA School Boards Wed April 10 at 9:00 pm
Find out just what is is that your local school board does and what it takes to serve on the board.
Calendar: PCN Public Affairs Start Time: 9:00 pm End Time: 10:00 pm
Produced by PCN and the Education Policy and Leadership Center.
Location: PCN in Camp Hill  Closed Captioning: Yes

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

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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