Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for September 11, 2013: Teaching? Piece of cake. Everybody knows you can pick that up in just five weeks….

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3000 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

These daily emails are archived at
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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for September 11, 2013:  Teaching? Piece of cake. Everybody knows you can pick that up in just five weeks….

Pennsylvanians Want a School Funding Formula
Press Event Monday September 23rd, 11:30 am Capitol Rotunda, Harrisburg
Every child in Pennsylvania deserves an opportunity to learn, whether they are from large or small, rich or not-so-rich, urban, suburban or rural school districts, charter schools or cyber schools; whether their legislator is a freshman state representative or a senate officer.
Grassroots Advocacy by Education Voters PA; Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley and the Keystone State Education Coalition
Sign up here if you may be able to join us to represent your schools and community: 

One thing that all sides in the education debate in PA seem to agree upon is the need for a fair and adequate funding formula
The folks representing charters, choice and vouchers at yesterday’s House Democratic Policy Committee hearing in Philly made it clear that they too believe Pennsylvania needs a school funding formula.
If you agree please consider signing this petition to Carolyn Dumaresq, Acting Secretary for Education, The Pennsylvania State House, The Pennsylvania State Senate, and Governor Tom Corbett, which says:  "The Pennsylvania legislature must adopt a fair education funding formula AND provide the funding investments needed to ensure that every student has an opportunity to learn."
Will you sign the petition too? Click here to add your name:

Renaissance Underway at Chester Upland School District
NBC Philadelphia By Sarah Glover Sep 9, 2013
Chester-Upland School District is experiencing change that could be monumental this school year.  The man behind it all is Gregory G. Shannon, the district's new superintendent. He's affectionately known as the "turn around superintendent." 
Thus far, he is living up to that promise, but the challenge might appear daunting to most.
The district is one of the worst performers, academically, in the Commonwealth. Out of Pennsylvania's 498 school districts, Chester-Upland ranked 496th for PSSA scores in 2012, according to the Pittsburgh Business Times. The graduation rate has not been above 50% for the last three years. The Delaware County communities served by the district -- Chester, Upland and Chester Township -- for years have been under-served due to the history of poor management and severe financial problems.
Shannon started working for Chester Upland in mid-July, but began volunteering in June.
This summer, Shannon rolled up his sleeves and directed all school district employees to participate in a reclamation campaign. He and the staff hit the streets and begin selling the Chester Upland School District to parents. 

Lincoln Park Charter CEO with Ties to Trombetta resigns
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review By David Conti  Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, 10:16 p.m.
A longtime educator with deep ties to indicted Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School founder Nick Trombetta stepped down as leader of another Beaver County school.  Rebecca Manning, the CEO of Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School in Midland since Trombetta founded it in 2006, resigned late last week, school board President Chris Shovlin said Monday.
Resignation of Beaver County charter school CEO accepted by board
Tribune Review no by line Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, 7:51 p.m.
Directors of a Beaver County charter school founded by indicted cyber-education leader Nick Trombetta accepted the resignation of the school's CEO on Tuesday.
Rebecca Manning, who led the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School in Midland since Trombetta founded it in 2006, cited personal reasons for her departure.
Gap between richest 1% and rest of American widest since Roaring '20s
TribLive by AP Published: Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, 6:33 p.m.
WASHINGTON — The gulf between the richest 1 percent and the rest of America is the widest it's been since the Roaring '20s.
The very wealthiest Americans earned more than 19 percent of the country's household income last year — their biggest share since 1928, the year before the stock market crash. And the top 10 percent captured a record 48.2 percent of total earnings last year.
Income inequality has been growing for almost three decades. And it grew again last year, according to an analysis of Internal Revenue Service figures dating to 1913 by economists at the University of California, Berkeley, the Paris School of Economics and Oxford University.
Saucon Valley teachers urge board to settle contract after 438 days
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times  September 10, 2013 at 10:51 PM
Saucon Valley teachers have been working without a contract for 438 daysand they want to reach a fair deal.  Members of the Saucon Valley Education Association packed tonight's school board meeting, clad in red, so their president could address the board at the close of the meeting.  The union has tried to avoid the strife and stress of the last contract, which resulted in two strikes, and take a new approach to negotiations, said Theresa Andreucci, association president. Teachers have been performing their professional duties and volunteering outside their contractual obligations, she said.
"It's time to work together to treat this school district and this 

Bethlehem schools prime example why Pennsylvania needs a ban on swaps, Senate panel is told
Bethlehem school director testifies about the lessons learned from the millions the district lost in bad swap deals.
By Steve Esack, Call Harrisburg Bureau 8:02 p.m. EDT, September 9, 2013
HARRISBURG — The Bethlehem Area School District was front and center during a Senate hearing Monday on bipartisan bills that would ban school districts, municipalities and counties from using risky derivative swaps when borrowing money.  Those who want a ban — such as Bethlehem schools Director Michele Cann and former state Auditor General Jack Wagner — testified that Bethlehem's example shows swaps are akin to taking taxpayer money to a casino.
Pittsburgh Public Schools postpones discussion of envisioning plan
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette September 10, 2013 8:48 pm
At its education committee meeting tonight, the board of Pittsburgh Public Schools postponed its discussion on the district's envisioning plan.  After the board discussed student attendance, board president Sharene Shealey said the group had run out of time to discuss envisioning, which is a major strategic planning effort by the district. A meeting will be scheduled at a later date.

State Rep. Brian Sims: "I think hands down, the most important thing we heard from everyone is that we need an equitable funding formula. That's not rocket science," he said. "I'm really hopeful that we're going to be able to take back to Harrisburg this demand for a funding formula."
Hite visits Jackson School to see problems
Susan Snyder and Michaelle Bond, Inquirer Staff Writers  September 11, 2013, 1:08 AM
When Philadelphia School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. showed up unannounced Tuesday morning at Andrew Jackson School, principal Lisa Ciaranca Kaplan asked: "Am I in trouble?" The South Philadelphia school, hit with large class sizes, was featured in an Inquirer article Tuesday on how Kaplan and teachers grappled with those classes, including one with 26 first graders. Hite, however, hadn't come to lower the boom. He had talked to Kaplan last week about class size concerns, and Jackson was one of the schools on his radar to visit, he said.

“I needed to see this to remind me of the thousands of parents who care, the kids ready to learn and teachers who work because they love their jobs. I needed it to remind me of what there is to build on here, and what the stakes are in the debates over the district's future.”
School starts in North Philly -- hope abounds
WHYY Newsworks Dave Davies Off Mic By Dave Davies @davedavieswhyy September 9, 2013
I needed that.
Spend enough time reading about the Philadelphia schools crisis, and without even realizing it, you can begin to view the city's public schools as nothing but a sea of misery and dysfunction.
School violence, budget deficits, union disputes, empty staff positions, angry parents, kids let down at every turn.  That's why I'm so glad that I spent a chunk of yesterday morning observing the first day of class at the Tanner Duckrey School at 15th and Diamond streets in North Philadelphia.

‘Who is going to help me?’ In Philly schools, life without counselors
MSNBC by Trymaine Lee@trymainelee 7:41 PM on 09/06/2013
With just days before the start of classes for Philadelphia public school students, elementary school counselor Nikkie Wong Phing is on edge. It’s not the typical anticipation that comes with the start of a new school year, of greeting returning students after a long summer break or coaxing new ones down unfamiliar halls.
“It’s a mix of everything,” Wong Phing said. “But it’s mostly anxiety.”

"Seniors wanted to know about college applications," she wrote. "Fuggedaboutit." 
Philadelphia Students Head Back To School Amid Cuts, Fewer Teachers And Missing Staff Posted: 09/10/2013 7:34 am EDT
PHILADELPHIA -- All eyes were on the City of Brotherly Love Monday as students and teachers returned to its massively diminished public schools for the first day back from summer vacation.
Officials said the first day went smoothly, given the circumstances: Twenty-four schools were closed; the district has a junk credit rating; contracts have expired for many school employees; and the district is running a deficit of $304 million. Music and sports will only be available for the first semester. Gov. Tom Corbett (R) was still withholding $45 million in federal money as he sought $104 million in concessions, including a massive pay cut, from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers union.

With new job title, William Penn Foundation seeks new leader
WHYY Newsworks By Zack Seward, @zackseward September 10, 2013
After an abrupt split with its former president last November, the William Penn Foundation says it should have a new leader in place by the end of this year.  According to board chair David Haas, the foundation and Jeremy Nowak parted ways because of "differences in approach" to accomplishing strategic objectives.  Haas says the foundation has spend months assessing its longer-term needs and goals, and is now actively seeking a new "managing director."

Education lessons from around the world
RadioTimes with Marty Moss-Coane September 10, 2013 Audio Runtime 52:01
American students routinely score low compared to other industrialized countries on problem-solving tests in math, science and reading.  What are we doing wrong and are there lessons we can learn from schools around the globe?  To get to the bottom of these questions, journalist AMANDA RIPLEY followed three U.S. exchange students into classrooms in Finland, South Korea, and Poland, some of the top education systems in the world.  She writes about their observations in her book The Smartest Kids in the World – and How They Got That Way. Marty talks to Ripley and one of the exchange students about what education ideas we should borrow from abroad.

“We know what works,” she writes. “What works are the opportunities that advantaged families provide for their children.”
Loud Voice Fighting Tide of New Trend in Education
The New York Times By MOTOKO RICH Published: September 10, 2013
Diane Ravitch made her name in the 1970s as a historian chronicling the role of public schools in American social mobility. In the 1990s, she went to work in the Bush administration’s Education Department, where she pushed for a rejection of 1960s relativism and a return to basics and standards. After leaving government, she called for the removal of incompetent teachers, for tying school performance to student scores, and for closing failing schools.
Now Ms. Ravitch, 75, is in the full flower of yet another stage in her career: folk hero to the left and passionate scourge of pro-business reformers. She has come to doubt the whole project of school reform, saying it will solve little without addressing poverty and segregation. 

New report finds teachers need more effective professional development to meet higher standards
NSBA School Board News by Alexis Rice September 10, 2013
Despite decades of research, teacher professional development is not adequately helping teachers to develop their students’ critical thinking skills and subject matter knowledge so that they can be ready for college and the workplace, a new report by the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Center for Public Education (CPE) finds.

Teaching? Piece of cake. Everybody knows you can pick that up in just five weeks….
Teach for America is a deeply divisive program. It also works.
Washington Post By Dylan Matthews, Published: September 10 at 12:38 pm
Teach for America, the nonprofit organization that places high-achieving college graduates in school districts in underserved areas of the country, hasn’t lacked for evaluations over the years. As I explained back in April, the majority of evaluations have shown either that TFA teachers are as effective as their peers, or that they are even better than traditional teachers in some categories. A vocal minority resists this conclusion, but the best data we have suggests that TFA either does no harm or does active good.

Is Teach For America Undermining the Chicago Public Schools?
Edushyster Blog Posted on September 9, 2013
An internal TFA document shows plans for a dramatic charter expansion in the Windy City
When news broke this summer that Teach for America was expanding its presence in Chicago amid the largest school closings in that city’s history and the layoffs of thousands of teachers and school staff, thereaction was swift, furious and extended well beyond the usual chorus of TFA detractors. At the time, I argued that the heated-back-and-forth, while welcome, missed the point. In city after city, TFA has largely abandoned its earlier mission of staffing hard-to-fill positions in public schools, serving instead as a placement agency for urban charters. In Chicago, however, TFA’s role appears to go far beyond providing labor for the fast-growing charter sector. An internal TFA document indicates that the organization has a plan to dramatically expand the number of charter schools in the city.

TFA looks to capitalize on School District of Philadelphia crisis
Teacherbiz Blog SEPTEMBER 10, 2013 · 8:46 PM
Like many other urban districts across the country, the School District of Philadelphia ended the last academic year in a financial crisis–one that resulted in a “doomsday budget” which cut thousands of teaching and staff positions, eliminated programs, and closed dozens of buildings.  Despite very real fears that the district would not have the funds or the resources to open its doors on September 9th, the first day of classes began as scheduled (sort of) for the thousands of students the district serves.
On their first day of school, Philadelphia students were met with conditions that make academic success very difficult to achieve—conditions that are all too familiar in many inner-city schools across the country.  In Philly this year, classes with more than 30 students aren’t uncommon (some buildings are reporting classes with more than 40 students)–and some high schools are only staffing one guidance counselor for thousands of students. In short, and by all accounts, the district is barely functioning.
Amid all this chaos, Teach for America’s Greater Philadelphia chapter is advertising, on its website, that “Today in Philadelphia, only 61% of kids graduate from high school within four years, and only 10% will go on to graduate from college.  It’s clear that not all of Philadelphia’s students are getting the education and opportunities they deserve.”
As a solution, and taking advantage of the poor conditions that result from financial crisis (just as they did in Chicago, where they’re expanding their presence–particularly with plans to support the expansion of privately-operated charters while the district lays off thousands of public school teachers), Teach for America has initiated a regional restructuring plan that will transfer Camden and Trenton from the Greater Philadelphia chapter to Teach for America New Jersey.  Doing so, says TFA, will allow Greater Philadelphia “to focus our full efforts on the opportunities and challenges ahead of us in Philly” (where, incidentally, TFA alum Marc Mannella is CEO of the KIPP charter network).

What You Need to Know about Virtual Charter Schools
I often receive questions, on and off the blog, about virtual charter schools. This post will summarize the key things
that you need to know to be an informed consumer. Begin with the
politics and money promoting virtual charter schools. Colin Woodard
won the prestigious George Polk award last year
for this expose 
of the effort to bring virtual charter
schools to Maine. It is a stunning piece of investigative
reporting. Virtual charters have a terrible track record. They have
a high attrition rate, low test scores, and low graduation rates.
Their one positive feature is that they make a lot of money for

Parents as Advocates for Children and Education - EPLC "Focus on Education" TV Program on PCN Sept. 11th
Next Wednesday, September 11, tune in to the next episode of EPLC's "Focus on Education" series, which will discuss Parents as Advocates for Children and Education and air at 9:00 p.m. on PCN television.  The panel will include: 
  • Ron Cowell, President of The Education Policy and Leadership Center;   
  • Corinna Vecsey Wilson, PCN Host of the "Focus on Education" programs;  
  • Deborah Dunstone, President, Pennsylvania PTA;
  • Sylvia P. Simms, Founder and President of PARENT POWER and Commissioner, School Reform Commission, The School District of Philadelphia
  • Bonita Allen, Former Member, Pennsylvania Title I State Parent Advisory Council and now a SPAC Parent Involvement in Education Consultant; and   
  • Kurt A. Kondrich, M.Ed., Chair, Pennsylvania State Interagency Coordinating Council and Director of Family and Community Outreach, Early Intervention Specialists
EPLC and PA Cable Network (PCN) have partnered for a monthly program focusing on education issues in Pennsylvania.  The first episodes aired from February to June and covered school safety issuesstudent testingthe work of school boardshow public education is funded in Pennsylvania, and the school dropout crisis.  The program was paused for the summer months.
The episode next Wednesday, September 11 will be broadcast on PCN at 9:00 p.m., and "Focus on Education" will not be broadcast monthly through December.  Tapings of the episodes which aired in February through June are available on the PCN web site.
To learn more, visit PCN's "Focus on Education" web page.

Keystone State Education Coalition Co-Chair and PSBA Pres-Elect Candidate Mark B Miller on tap for Bucks County Town Hall Meeting to discuss possible Property Tax reform, HB 76 on Sept. 12th.
Thursday evening September 12th, 7 to 9 p.m. @ Kings Caterers, 4010 New Falls Road, Bristol

PILCOP 2013 Symposium on Equality September 12, 2013
Privatization: Looking out for the Public Good
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Thursday, September 12, 2013 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
University of Pennsylvania Law School Levy Conference Center
3400 Chestnut Street Philadelphia, PA
Join us for a day of panels, discussions and presentations on what privatization means for communities and individuals, using healthcare, education and land use as examples.
Details and tickets here:

Education Law Center Annual Event Sept. 18th, 2013
Featuring Morris Dees and honoring education advocates Barbara Minzenberg and the Philadelphia Student Union.  Wednesday, Sept. 18th at 5:30 p.m., Crystal Tea Room, Wanamaker Building 100 Penn Square East, Philadelphia

PA Special Education Funding Formula Commission Upcoming Meeting Has Been Rescheduled to Sept 26th in Reading
Was originally scheduled for September 19.  No venue announced yet
To consider charter and cyber special education funding

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:

Yinzers - Diane Ravitch will be speaking in Pittsburgh on September 16th at 6:00 pm at Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill.
5505 Forbes Avenue  Pittsburgh, PA 15217 
Free and open to the public; doors open at 5:00 pm
Hosted by Great Public Schools (GPS) Pittsburgh: Action United, One Pittsburgh, PA Interfaith Impact Network, Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, SEIU, and Yinzercation.
Co-sponsored by Carlow Univ. School of Education, Chatham Univ. Department of Education, Duquesne Univ. School of Education, First Unitarian Church Social Justice Endowment, PA State Education Association, Robert Morris Univ. School of Education & Social Sciences, Slippery Rock Univ. College of Education, Temple Sinai, Univ. of Pittsburgh School of Education, and Westminster College Education Department.
Children’s activities provided by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University’s HearMe project. 

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

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).
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Lawrence A. Feinberg
Keystone State Education Coalition
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

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