Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for August 7, 2013: Livin’ On Prayers and Passion: A South Philly school makes music despite obstacles

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 7, 2013:
Livin’ On Prayers and Passion: A South Philly school makes music despite obstacles

NSBAC’s Friends of Public Education: New national grassroots public education network launches (are you a member?)
Friends of Public Education, a new national grassroots network launched by the National School Boards Action Center (NSBAC), will bring together local leaders and concerned citizens from across the country to speak out on federal legislation to strengthen public education. The network, which can be accessed NSBAC website’s,, will help bolster support for a strong public education for all students.

“But in the end, it will be parents, speaking with each other and with their local school boards and legislators, who will insist that sanity prevail and local control and reason be restored. It will be parents who insist that school not be a place of the continual measurement of deficits, instead standing as places that allow students to show what they know beyond a standardized test. Parents won’t “buy the bunk” and they will tire of data driven, rather than student driven, instruction. Then the “Hard Times for These Times” will end.”
What big drop in new standardized test scores really means
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss, Published: August 7 at 5:00 am
New standardized test scores are  out today in New York, and here’s a post that tells you what to make of the results. This was written by award-winning Principal Carol Burris of South Side High School in New York, who has for more than a year chronicled on the test-driven reform in her state (here, and here and here and here, for example). Burris was named New York’s 2013 High School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and in 2010,  tapped as the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State. She is the co-author of the New York Principals letter of concern regarding the evaluation of teachers by student test scores. It has been signed by more than 1,535 New York principals and more than 6,500 teachers, parents, professors, administrators and citizens. You can read the letter by clicking here. 

Gov. Tom Corbett's shadow hangs over PASSHE chancellor vote
Morning Call Capitol Ideas Blog By Steve Esack August 6, 2013
The veil of secrecy will be lifted Wednesday.
Will we see Gov. Tom Corbett’s face behind it?
The governing board of Pennsylvania System of Higher Education is scheduled to vote on a new chancellor to serve as sort of superintendent of the 14 state-owned universities.
The names of all job applicants, including the final three finalists, have been kept secret under a policy that calls for confidentiality the board adopted in January. That is different the board’s prior practice of publicizing the names of the three finalists.
However, at least one finalists’ name is known, and he is Ron Tomalis, Gov. Tom Corbett’s ex-education secretary. Tomalis -- coincidently or not -- voted to implement the confidentiality policy prior to him stepping down from his sis secretary gig and becoming a stay-at-home-bureaucrat because Corbett named him special adviser to the governor on higher education – a newly created position with no office hours and a $139,931 salary.
As this Morning Call story shows, there is speculation Tomalis has used inside knowledge and/or political influence to get thisclose to being named chancellor since he his bachelor's degree would disqualify him from serving as an adjunct professor at most state-owned universities. 

Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education to select new leader
Secrecy surrounds the hiring process
By Bill Schackner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 7, 2013 12:02 am
The next chancellor of Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities likely will be chosen today from among three finalists by the State System of Higher Education's board of governors, which has scheduled a special conference call meeting.  No matter which candidate prevails, the search to fill Pennsylvania's highest paid state government job is different from past searches in at least one significant -- and some say, troubling -- respect.

New Pittsburgh teacher ratings tougher than ones now
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 6, 2013 12:10 am
If a new teacher evaluation system had been in effect this past school year, more Pittsburgh Public Schools teachers would have received unsatisfactory ratings than actually received them.
A dry run shows that 9.3 percent of city classroom teachers would have received failing -- the new term for unsatisfactory -- ratings, compared to the roughly 3 percent who actually received unsatisfactory ratings in June.
The new system doesn't take effect until this coming school year.

Philly finance director says Council should move on sales tax; Clarke: Council will OK it
WHYY Newsworks By Holly Otterbein, @hollyotterbein August 5, 2013
City finance director Rob Dubow said Council needs to express support for the sales-tax extension before the city can borrow $50 million for the school district. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)
Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke's office said Monday that legislators will make permanent a 1 percent sales tax that was due to expire next budget year.
"Council will pass an extension of the sales tax," said Jane Roh, a spokeswoman for Clarke. "There is just disagreement at the moment about what the final sales-tax extension will look like."

Lawmaker's bill sparks Creationism debate: Tuesday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek |  on August 06, 2013 at 8:23 AM
Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Rep. Steve Bloom, is circulating a cosponsorship memo for legislation that would allow public school students to question or critique "the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories."   The Carlisle lawmaker says the bill isn't intended to supplant currently taught material on evolution or global warming, but to encourage debate if a student disagrees, The Inquirer reports.

Pa. lawmaker's education bill reignites creationism debate
By Angela Couloumbis and Amy Worden, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau August 04, 2013
HARRISBURG - A Republican state representative calls it a matter of academic freedom.
Science-education advocates claim it's nothing but a backdoor attempt to allow public schools to discuss Bible-based creationism.  Rep. Stephen Bloom (R., Cumberland) circulated a memo to his colleagues Thursday seeking cosponsors for planned legislation to allow students in public elementary and secondary schools to question or critique "the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories."

PA Representative Stephen Bloom’s “Academic Freedom” Co-sponsorship Memoranda
PA House website August 1, 2013 10:32 AM
Academic freedom in the classroom is an essential educational value treasured by generations of teachers, students, and parents in Pennsylvania’s public K-12 schools. Nonetheless, efforts to squelch and stifle free critical inquiry in the classroom have too frequently arisen, often in the context of the teaching and debate of controversial scientific theories and paradigms. The irony in this, of course, is that the very means by which good science advances is through rigorous debate and creative challenges to the status quo. It is the exercise of academic freedom which drives the ongoing scientific process of discrediting and replacing our faulty theories and testing our ever-shifting paradigms.

Dealing With Common Core Standards in PA
PA House GOP Blog August 6, 2013 / admin / No comments
On Monday, the PA House Education Committee held a hearing with several PA Department of Education officials for an update on several changes being made regarding Common Core standards.  Watch the hearing here.
Changes discussed were part of House Resolution 338, passed on June 18, which encouraged PDE to make several changes to state academic standards for K-12 education. As a result of that resolution, the following changes have been implemented:

Trombetta's sister faces hearing in tax case
Beaver County Times Online By J.D. Prose August 6, 2013 12:15 am
PITTSBURGH -- Elaine Trombetta Neill, the sister of embattled Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School founder Nick Trombetta and the wife of Beaver County's probation director, has an Aug. 22 hearing set in her federal tax evasion case.

Tax Dollars for Private School Tuition Gain in States
Stateline by Pew Charitable Trusts By Elaine S. Povich, Staff Writer
Opponents called it a “bombshell” and “sleaziness.”  Backers said it was “historic” and would free low-income students from failing public schools. Hyperbole aside, the Alabama Legislature’s last-minute move to create a $3,500 state tax credit for private school tuition is emblematic of a growing movement in the states.  Thirteen states created or expanded tuition tax credits, private school scholarships or traditional vouchers in 2013, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Eight states did so in 2012 and seven states in 2011, according to the group.

ALEC Has a Stranglehold on Pennsylvania Legislature
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianerav August 6, 2013 //
Jodi Hirsh of Pittsburgh writes that ALEC has forty members in the Pennsylvania legislature, and many hold key positions. ALEC is the voice of major corporations, who oppose any sort of government regulations.

Save Valerie Strauss from Jeff Bezos
Jersey Jazzman Blog Tuesday, August 6, 2013
So Mr. Amazon is buying the Washington Post - gosh, I haven't been this excited since Kate named the baby...Honestly, who cares? Newspapers are dying, and everyone knows it. Why should we give a flying fig?  Oh, yeah - that:
There's one area where Bezos has been hyper-active, but largely unknown to the general public: education reform. A look at the Bezos Family Foundation, which was founded by Jackie and Mike Bezos but is financed primarily by Jeff Bezos, reveals a fairly aggressive effort in recent years to press forward with a neoliberal education agenda:

“He and other educators say that the new school building is an opportunity to show that a large, urban public high school can be a viable alternative to the rising tide of charter schools, voucher systems and private education.”
A $147 Million Signal of Faith in Atlanta’s Public Schools
New York Times By KIM SEVERSON Published: August 6, 2013
ATLANTA — The most expensive public high school ever built in Georgia opens Wednesday in an old I.B.M. office building.  With 11 stories, a 900-car parking deck and views fit for a corporate executive, the school, North Atlanta High, looks very much like the fancy office buildings and glittery shopping strips that populate its Buckhead community.

“Kaplan points out that people should also consider the larger implications of the citywide bare bones budget cutting: “Schools make neighborhoods viable, so we need to ask, what is the position of Philadelphia – to build neighborhoods or decimate them?”
This summer, Kaplan and Argerakis awaited June 30 fiscal deadline with strained nerves; unfortunately, their fears were confirmed, more staff members were let go and after-school programs will be entirely slashed.”
Livin’ On Prayers and Passion: A South Philly school makes music despite obstacles
WXPN The Key August 2, 2013 | 11:15 AM | By Madeleine Kruhly
Located in a high-need section of South Philadelphia, the Andrew Jackson Public School had been without a music education program for thirty years.
That was, until the arrival of Chris Argerakis. He has since introduced drumsticks and guitar picks, rooting rock in Andrew Jackson’s curriculum.  Joining the teaching staff five years ago, Argerakis has acted to build a program to provide a practical music education. He does so in spite of a shoestring budget from the School District: $100 for the year.

Documenting Coltrane's Philly years, before he was a star
WHYY Newsworks By Peter Crimmins, @petercrimmins August 6, 2013
Video by Charlie Kaier
“The film paints mid-century Philadelphia as a vibrant jazz scene, where clubs such as the Showboat and the Zanzibar regularly drew major talents, including Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, and fostered ambitious young musicians who could play out almost every night of the week.”
A new documentary film about John Coltrane proposes that Philadelphia is the city of a Brotherly Love Supreme.  The legendary jazz saxophone player lived in Philadelphia through most of the 1950s, nurturing the artist toward a breakthrough that sent bebop on a spiritual path.
"Coltrane's Philadephia," a 28-minute documentary produced by the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, will premiere Wednesday evening at the International House in University City. WHYY contributed editing facilities to the project.

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 at Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill. 
The lecture is being hosted by Great Public Schools (GPS) Pittsburgh, which is a new coalition of community, faith, and labor organizations consisting of Action United, One Pittsburgh, PA Interfaith Impact Network, Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, SEIU, and Yinzercation.  Co-sponsors for the event include the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, the PA State Education Association, Temple Sinai, and First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh Social Justice Endowment.  More 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

PILCOP 2013 Symposium on Equality: Privatization
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia Thursday, September12, 2013
This year’s day-long Symposium will be held on Thursday, September 12th and will explore the debate over privatizing government services such as healthcare, land management and education.  The Symposium on Equality annually convenes thought leaders and outstanding advocates  to engage in meaningful discussion and exploration of the day’s most pressing civil rights and social issues. This year’s event will foster conversation, collaboration and exploration of the debate over privatizing government services such as healthcare, land management and education.

PILCOP 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:

Electing PSBA Officers: 2014 PSBA Slate of Candidates
Details on each candidate, including bios, statements, photos and video are online now
PSBA Website Posted 8/5/2013
The 2014 PSBA Slate of Candidates is being officially published to the members of the association. Details on each candidate, including bios, statements, photos and video are online at

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).

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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