Thursday, August 1, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for August 1, 2013: “first person you encounter at a cyber school probably has a personal financial incentive to get you enrolled”

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 2650 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, 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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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for August 1, 2013:
“first person you encounter at a cyber school probably has a personal financial incentive to get you enrolled”

Congratulations to Mark B Miller, school director in Centennial School District, Co-Chair of Keystone State Education Coalition and Vice President of Pennsylvania School Boards Association.  He has been appointed to the Board of Directors of the Network for Public Education

State Sen. Mike Folmer: Five things we learned today
Senate Education Committee Chairman Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, stopped by to chat with the PennLive/Patriot-News editorial board on Tuesday afternoon.
The central Pennsylvania lawmaker is getting ready for a busy fall examining how the so-called "Common Core" learning standards handed down from Washington will affect Pennsylvania students. Folmer's committee will hold its second public hearing on the issue on Aug. 29 in Harrisburg.  He's also getting ready to take a crack at charter school reform -- a goal that's remained elusive for much of Gov. Tom Corbett's first three years in office. And there's still the Big Three of liquor privatization, pension reform and transportation funding facing lawmakers when they return to session in September.
Here's five things we learned from our wide-ranging conversation today.

“One of the differences between a cyber charter school and a brick-and-mortar school is that the first person you encounter at a cyber school probably has a personal financial incentive to get you enrolled. You definitely don't have that conflict of interest in any interactions with traditional public school employees. Who is looking out for the best interests of the child?”
Pennsylvania’s misguided cyber school choice
WHYY Newsworks Opinion By Brian Lutz July 31, 2013
Brian Lutz is a retired cyber school teacher.
The following essay is in response to a letter from cyber school teacher Pat Parris, titled "Support cyber schools, or Internet learners will be made second-class students," published June 17.
Online learning can provide many benefits, but it is not of service to all who enroll. In Pennsylvania online learning finds itself at the intersection of education reform, societal changes, economic realities and political extremism. Specific problem areas are cyber charter school funding, approval, oversight and accountability.

Corbett advisor Tomalis: Same salary, no commute
Post Gazette Early Returns Blog Published by Bill Schackner on Tuesday, 30 July 2013 5:02 pm.
Back on May 31, when Ron Tomalis relinquished his role as state Education Secretary, he assumed a newly established Corbett administration post as special advisor on higher education issues.  In that new job, Mr. Tomalis, who made $139,931 a year as secretary, kept his six-figure salary. But he apparently shed his daily commute.
Inquiries Friday and Monday to Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley and to the Education Department did not yield the location where Mr. Tomalis works. Today, Education Department spokesman Tim Eller said the former secretary who reports to the governor "works remotely and comes to the Capitol as needed."

Clergy organize to get better teachers in Pittsburgh Public Schools classrooms
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette July 31, 2013 12:08 pm
A group of Pittsburgh clergy members has formed to support the Pittsburgh Public Schools efforts to place a highly effective teacher in every classroom.
Made up of 25 local clergy members, Shepherding the Next Generation -- Pittsburgh announced its formation today during a press conference at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral next to the Pittsburgh schools administrative headquarters.

What will Common Core online testing mean for students and districts?
WHYY Newsworks By Shai Ben-Yaacov, @shaibenyaacov July 31, 2013
Listen to the interview as featured on NewsWorks Tonight.
We're living in an online world. We shop online, bank online, and starting next year, many states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, will test their students online. It's part of a move toward common core standards meant to better test critical thinking.
But there are still some questions, like how well it will work, and how much it will cost. NJ Spotlight Founder and Education Reporter John Mooney wrote about the change, and spoke with NewsWorks Tonight Host Dave Heller.

Philadelphia School Partnership directing $3 million to two schools in North Philly
WHYY Newsworks By Tom MacDonald @tmacdonaldwhyy July 31, 2013
An area nonprofit group is investing $3 million to help two Philadelphia public schools. The investment from the Philadelphia School Partnership is designed to help in a turnaround of the educational institutions.
The grants are for the Kelley and Blaine elementary schools in North Philadelphia. Both are facing a 50 percent increase in enrollment due to nearby closing schools. The investment comes because the two schools have good leadership, according to Mark Gleason, the executive director of the Philadelphia School Partnership.
"These are two principals who have demonstrated to us that they are laser-focused on creating academic environments to help children learn, even those with the biggest challenges," Gleason said.  Gleason contends building better schools and, if necessary shutting down the weak ones, is the direction the Philadelphia School District has to take.

Who is driving the bus at the Philadelphia School Partnership?

District cancels School Report Card community meetings after one got contentious
REGINA MEDINA, Daily News Staff Writer, 215-854-5985 POSTED: Thursday, August 1, 2013, 12:18 AM IT APPEARS the district and Philadelphia school parents are not meeting eye-to-eye. School officials planned several community meetings to collect feedback from parents about what they seek in a school report card - an evaluation of schools. Parents and community members, meanwhile, would rather ask the district why - as in why are officials seeking to implement new methods for evaluating schools when the schools are in a crisis born out of scarce funding and massive layoffs?

“Finally, as we have seen in Philadelphia and across the country, the primary uses of “school report cards” are not by parents, but by districts and private interests seeking to label schools as failing, to close down neighborhood schools, and to turn them over to charters.”
School Report Cards? Not In Our Name
Parents United for Public Education July 31, 2013 by REBECCAPOYOUROW1 Comment
Like many Philadelphia public school parents, I received an email from the district two weeks ago inviting me to weigh in on a new “school report card.”  This report card was billed as a tool to give parents more information to help us make better choices about our schools.  However, the school report card is the latest scheme in a series of efforts to grade public schools for questionable purposes.  In Philadelphia, we’ve had AYP, School Annual Reports, and a school performance index (redone as recently as spring 2011).  Interestingly enough, the Philadelphia School Partnership, a privately funded group, made up its own report card for schools last year, which was decried for its shady reliance on minimal data.

A $50-million-dollar question: Will Philly schools get needed funds from city sales tax?
by thenotebook on Aug 01 2013 Posted in Latest news
by Patrick Kerkstra for the Notebook and Holly Otterbein for NewsWorks
With less than six weeks remaining before city schools are scheduled to open, key elements of the District rescue package hastily assembled by state lawmakers in June remain unsettled, raising the specter that schools will open with skeleton staffs, or indeed, not open at all.
The most pressing concern this week is the $50 million at stake in the debate over the use of the city sales tax.

Sanchez suggests plan to find $50 extra million for schools
JAN RANSOM, Daily News Staff Writer, 215-854-5218 POSTED: Thursday, August 1, 2013, 12:18 AM CITY COUNCILWOMAN Maria Quinones-Sanchez thinks Gov. Corbett's recently approved plan to help the School District of Philadelphia close a massive budget gap is too risky, and yesterday she called on the city to do more. Sanchez wants the city to send a onetime grant of up to $50 million to restore school nurses, counselors, safety staff and other services - all of which are in jeopardy in the face of a $304 million budget hole. The funding would become available because tax revenues are now expected to be higher than initially anticipated, Sanchez said.

DN Editorial: 40, 39, 38, 37 ...
POSTED: Thursday, August 1, 2013, 3:01 AM
JUST ABOUT every elected official in the city and the state has said at one time or another that education is a priority. Today, 40 days before students start returning Sept. 9, it's time to face the truth: they're all lying.

WBUR NPR Boston Here & Now Radio Runtime 6:40 Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Crisis In Philadelphia Schools Comes To A Head
In Philadelphia, a long-running education crisis is coming to a head.
Many city teachers and students still don’t know where they’ll go to school in September, after the city laid off 4,000 employees — including almost 700 teachers — and closed 23 schools earlier this summer.  “The school officials were referring to this as ‘The Doomsday Budget,’” WHYY reporter Holly Otterbein told Here & Now. “It’s just a skeletal staff that remains.”

Follow the Money: Charter Schools and Financial Accountability
Susan DeJarnatt  Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law 2012
The Urban Lawyer, Vol. 44, No. 1, Winter 2012
Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-27 
Charter schools are an important and growing part of the nonprofit sector but the financial accountability and governance of the schools have received little attention from regulators or scholars. Highly publicized scandals of nonprofits have sparked strong interest in governance of nonprofits generally and have led to increased regulation. Charter schools receive more than $9 billion in public funds annually and the risk of improper use of that money merits attention. Although the charter school movement and the concerns it raises are national, this article focuses on Philadelphia as an example. In 2011-2012, one quarter of the public school students in Philadelphia attended charter schools. The Philadelphia School District provided $525 million to the 82 charter schools in the city. The vast majority of those schools also received funds from the state and federal governments as well. The District is expecting the percentage of students in charters to increase to forty percent in the near future.
The article examines the weaknesses of the existing oversight system which relies primarily on disclosure of information to the School District and other governmental agencies, all of which lack adequate resources to respond effectively to the disclosures. The goal is not to enter the debate about the educational value of charter schools but rather to focus on how the schools fit into the larger debate over governance of nonprofits. Charter schools share the same challenges of overreliance on disclosure instead of enforcement of rules, insufficient education and training of board members, and a lack of transparency. Nineteen Philadelphia charter schools have been the subject of criminal investigations by federal authorities, resulting in seven convictions and one suicide. The article reviews the issues raised by the available documents which raise questions about the salaries of school officials; the complex relationships between many schools and their founding agencies; the widely varying expenditures for legal representation, accounting, and management; and the concerns about conflicts of interest raised in some cases. The article proposes increased funding for oversight, use of more nuanced tools than just revocation of the charter, greater transparency by the schools, and greater emphasis on board training.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 50

Who does Tony Bennett think he’s kidding?
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss, Published: August 1 at 5:00 am
I wasn’t ready to return to work after foot surgery until I read the news about Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett, who, according to this AP story, pushed for a change in Indiana’s school grading system (when he ran the schools there)  to ensure that a favored Indianapolis charter school got an “A.”
The amazing story is told in a series of e-mails obtained by the Associated Press, which show how Bennett pushed staff members to make sure that the charter school headed by Christel DeHaan, an influential Republican donor, did not get a “C.” Anything other than an A was not acceptable, he made clear. After all, he had  been going around the state talking about how his standardized test-based school reform program had been working wonders. A “C” for this school would, apparently, hurt his accountability reputation.

Poverty in America: Why It Matters
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianerav July 31, 2013 //
For the past decade, corporate reformers have repeatedly said that poverty is an excuse used by and for bad teachers. If all teachers were “great” teachers, all children would have high test scores, there would be no achievement gap, and our problems would be solved. Forgive me if the logic doesn’t work, but I don’t entirely understand the train of thought. The bottom line is the reformy belief that all children, e ery single one, will achieve at the highest levels if great teachers accept “no excuses.”
A new report from ETS reminds us why poverty matters and how it affects the lives of children and families.

$20-million Walton donation will boost Teach for America in L.A.
LA Times By Howard Blume July 31, 2013, 12:05 a.m.
The Arkansas-based Walton Family Foundation announced Wednesday that it is donating $20 million to a nonprofit that recruits talented college graduates to teach in public schools for two years. The largest number of instructors, more than 700, is slated for Los Angeles.
The gift is a continuation of support that has totaled more than $100 million to New York City-based Teach for America over its 24 years. Walton’s cumulative contribution to TFA in Los Angeles is more than $10 million, according to the foundation. 

North Carolina Ends Teacher Tenure
Stateline Daily News Service of Pew Charitable Trusts By Adrienne Lu, Staff Writer July 29, 2013
North Carolina has become the latest state to overhaul its teacher tenure rules, directing school administrators to offer four-year contracts to top performers but one- or two-year contracts to everybody else.  Previously, all North Carolina teachers with five years of experience were eligible for tenure, which granted them a right to due process before dismissal. Now, longer-term job security will be limited to the 25 percent of teachers who are ranked most effective, based on yet-to-be-determined criteria.

STANDARDIZED Official Trailer
YouTube video runtime 2:42  Daniel Hornberger Published on Jun 15, 2013
The official trailer for STANDARDIZED, an exposé of the standardized testing industry and how it has undermined public education. This film will be released in the fall of '13.

Freedomworks: Top 10 Reasons to Oppose Common Core
Freedomworks By Julie Borowski on July 26, 2013

A Story About Michelle Rhee That No One Will Print
Taking Note Blog by JOHN MERROW on 31. JUL,
Michelle Rhee lobbies across the country for greater test-based accountability and changes in teacher tenure rules.  She often appears on television and in newspapers, commenting on a great range of education issues.  Easily America’s best-known education activist, she is always introduced as the former Chancellor of the public schools in Washington, DC, the woman who took on a corrupt and failing system and shook it up. The rest of the story is rarely mentioned.
The op-ed below has been rejected[1] by four newspapers, three of them national publications. One editor’s rejection note said that Michelle Rhee was not a national story.

No moon: Perseid meteor shower set to put on a great show before dawn August 12
You can expect to see up to 100 “shooting stars” per hour when 2013’s best meteor shower peaks before dawn August 12.
Astronomy By Richard Talcott — Published: May 27, 2013

(Cost Categories in Special Education Funding)
Wednesday, August 7, 2013 9:30 AM
William Pitt Union Ballroom, University of Pittsburgh

Save the Date: Diane Ravitch will be speaking in Philly at the Main Branch of the Philadelphia Free Library on September 17 at 7:30 pm..
Diane Ravitch | Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools
When: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 7:30PM 
Central Library
Cost: $15 General Admission, $7 Students
Ticket and Subscription Packages 
Tickets on sale here at 10:00 a.m. on August 23, 2013

Yinzers - Save the Date: Diane Ravitch will be speaking in Pittsburgh on September 16th at 6:00 pm.  Location and details to come.

Join the National School Boards Action Center Friends of Public Education
Participate in a voluntary network to urge your U.S. Representatives and Senators to support federal legislation on Capitol Hill that is critical to providing high quality education to America’s schoolchildren

Know Your Child’s Rights! 2013-2014 Special Education Seminars
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia July 9, 2013
The Law Center’s year-long Know Your Child’s Rights! seminar series on special education law continues in 2013-2014 with day and evening trainings focused on securing special education rights and services.  These seminars are intended for parents, special education advocates, educators, attorneys, and others who are in a position to help children with disabilities receive an appropriate education. Every session focuses on a different legal topic, service or disability and is co-led by a Law Center staff attorney and a guest speaker.
This year’s topics include Tips for Going Back to School; Psychological Testing, IEEs and Evaluations; School Records; Children with Autism; Transition Services; Children with Emotional Needs; Discipline and Bullying; Charter Schools; Children with Dyslexia; Extended School Year; Assistive Technology; Discrimination and Compensatory Education; and, Settlements. See below for descriptions and schedules of each session.

PSBA is accepting applications to fill vacancies in NSBA's grassroots advocacy program. Deadline to apply is Sept. 6.
PSBA members: Influence public education policy at the federal level; join NSBA's Federal Relations Network
The National School Boards Association is seeking school directors interested in filling vacancies for the remainder of the 2013-14 term of the Federal Relations Network. The FRN is NSBA's grassroots advocacy program that provides the opportunity for school board members from every congressional district in the country who are committed to public education to get involved in federal advocacy. For more than 40 years, school board members have been lobbying for public education on Capitol Hill as one unified voice through this program. If you are a school director and willing to carry the public education message to Washington, D.C., FRN membership is a good place to start!

PSBA members will elect officers electronically for the first time in 2013
PSBA 7/8/2013
Beginning in 2013, PSBA members will follow a completely new election process which will be done electronically during the month of September. The changes will have several benefits, including greater membership engagement and no more absentee ballot process.
Below is a quick Q&A related to the voting process this year, with more details to come in future issues of School Leader News and at More information on the overall governance changes can be found in the February 2013 issue of the PSBA Bulletin:

2014 PSBA Officer Slate of Candidates
PSBA website 7/24/2013
The 2014 PSBA Slate of Candidates is being officially published to the members of the association. More details on each candidate, including bios, statements, photos and video will be available soon online.

PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference
October 15-18, 2013 | Hershey Lodge & Convention Center
Important change this year: Delegate Assembly (replaces the Legislative Policy Council) will be Tuesday Oct. 15 from 1 – 4:30 p.m.
The PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference is the largest gathering of elected officials in Pennsylvania and offers an impressive collection of professional development opportunities for school board members and other education leaders.
See Annual School Leadership Conference links for all program details.

PAESSP State Conference October 27-29, 2013
The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel, State College, PA
The state conference is PAESSP’s premier professional development event for principals, assistant principals and other educational leaders. Attending will enable you to connect with fellow educators while learning from speakers and presenters who are respected experts in educational leadership.
 Featuring Keynote Speakers: Charlotte Danielson, Dr. Todd Whitaker, Will Richardson & David Andrews, Esq. (Legal Update).

EPLC Education Policy Fellowship Program – Apply Now
Applications are available now for the 2013-2014 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP). The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC).
With more than 350 graduates in its first fourteen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants.
Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders.  Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization.
The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 12-13, 2013 and continues to graduation in June 2014.

Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School FAST FACTS
Quakertown Community School District March 2013

"They don't feel they should be subject to this law, or, candidly, subject to you," Mutchler told senators on the state government committee, which is considering legislation to amend the five-year-old law. "They are a cancer on the otherwise healthy right-to- know-law."
Pa. official: Charter schools flout public-records law
By Amy Worden, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau POSTED: May 15, 2013
HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania's 180 charter schools routinely ignore the state's Right-To-Know Law even though as publicly funded institutions they are bound to comply with it, the chief of the state's Office of Open Records told a Senate committee on Monday.  Executive director Terry Mutchler said her office had received 239 appeals in cases in which charter schools either rejected or failed to answer requests from the public for information such as budgets, payrolls, or student rosters. She said her office ruled in favor of the schools on just six of those appeals.

PA Charter Schools: $4 billion taxpayer dollars with no real oversight

Keystone State Education Coalition Prior Posting
Charter schools - public funding without public scrutiny

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