Monday, October 7, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for October 7, 2013: Statewide coverage/reaction to new PA School Performance Profiles

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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for October 7, 2013:
Statewide coverage/reaction to new PA School Performance Profiles

After doing a pretty good job of staying offline overseas last week we’re back in business this morning…..

On Friday PDE announced the release of new School Performance Profiles that assign a single number rating for each school.  Standardized test scores have long been strongly correlated with students’ household income.  Will PDE have the resources to mine the data, identify those schools that are able to overcome that generalization and look at what potential best practices might account for the outliers’ performance?

The relationship between student performance and family income is not just an issue in our urban districts.  Take a look at these eye-opening two maps from the PA Association for Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) showing the increasing disparity in income across Pennsylvania from 1979 to 2011:
The Concentration of Wealth and the Spread of Poverty in Pennsylvania School Districts
PA Association of Rural and Small Schools Posted on Saturday, September 28, 2013
These two maps describe the increasing disparity in income across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The maps are divided into the constituent school districts ( 501 in 1979 and 500 in 2011). The 1979 map shows the average personal income in the state as $13,721. The average is determined by dividing the total personal income in the state ( only in state residents) then divided by the total number of tax returns.
In 1979 there were 300 school districts above the average and 201 below.  In 2011 the average personal income was $53,588. In that year 378 school districts were below the average and 122 school districts above. The disparity is growing exponentially. Under these circumstances whatever taxation is used to fund public schools, it must be statewide and not local.

Education Policy and Leadership Center

Department of Education Releases 2012-13 School Performance Profile
PDE PRESS RELEASE: October 04, 2013
The Pennsylvania Department of Education today released the new School Performance Profile that will show the academic performance of the state’s public schools.  Today’s launch includes a profile for nearly 2,400 of Pennsylvania’s 3,000 public schools that reported accurate and timely data to the department, said Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn C. Dumaresq.  For the first time, parents, taxpayers and educators will have access to a  comprehensive, straight-forward and user-friendly resource that will provide detailed information on the quality of public schools, including traditional public schools, brick-and-mortar and cyber charter schools, as well as career and technology centers.  ….The reason for this partial release is to accommodate the requests of 626 schools that reported errors in their Keystone Exams’ student growth measurements.  The department determined that as a result of a lack of accurate data reported from these schools, their full performance profile will be suppressed until mid-December to allow for data corrections.
The affected schools will have an opportunity to make corrections to their Keystone Exams growth data prior to the School Performance Profile being available for all of Pennsylvania’s public schools in December.  In addition, the compare feature in the School Performance Profile will not be available until the December update.

To view the new Pennsylvania School Performance Profiles:
AP: Pennsylvania school grading data released
Delco Times By KATHY MATHESON, The Associated Press POSTED: 10/04/13, 8:52 PM EDT |
HARRISBURG (AP) — Pennsylvania education officials released performance scores Friday for nearly all of the state’s 3,200 traditional, charter, cyber and technical schools, saying they will give parents, administrators and taxpayers the ability monitor student achievement, build on successes and better address failings.  The performance scores were available online at, and acting Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq said she was pleased by the number of public school buildings that scored well.
The data release came after a four-day delay prompted by complaints from school officials that technical errors had resulted in many students’ tests not being included in the scoring. As a result, performance scores for 626 buildings were incomplete while school officials try to correct the errors before the end of the year.  School Performance Profiles offer academic ratings for each building based on a 100-point scale.

Midstate: Inaugural report cards for Pa. schools don't make the grade with district officials
By Jan Murphy | on October 04, 2013 at 7:04 PM
Acting Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq couldn’t offer sweeping observations about how well all Pennsylvania public schools are performing based on the state’s new report cards released on Friday.  Acting Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq is pleased with public schools' overall performance based on the report cards she's seen so far from the state's first annual School Performance Profile. She still hasn’t received building-level report cards for 626 of the state’s the 3,000 public schools – and won’t until December.  But of the ones she has seen, Dumaresq seemed pleased at how many district schools, charter schools and vo-tech schools earned a passing score in this first annual School Performance Profile.

Philly: Pa. school test results woefully incomplete
LAST UPDATED: October 5, 2013, 2:01 AM POSTED: October 4, 2013, 1:57 PM
Pennsylvania's Department of Education released a massive new system Friday for evaluating public schools, but its own performance on how it executed that release was viewed as lackluster by some local school officials.  Newly defined performance scores were excluded for more than 600 of the state's 3,000 public schools, including charters, because of concerns about potential errors on one measure, the Keystone Exams. Coding problems prevented student growth from being calculated.  As a result, 20 percent of schools statewide received no overall score. Among those were 177 middle schools, high schools, and charter schools in the Philadelphia region, including all the high schools in the Philadelphia School District.
Also for that reason, the state delayed a feature on the website that would have allowed the public to compare schools.

Are Erie schools making the grade?
BY ERICA ERWIN, Erie Times-News  OCTOBER 5, 2013 12:01 AM EST
The report card is incomplete, but Erie School District schools appear to be lagging behind many others in districts throughout the region.  School Performance Profiles released Friday by the state Department of Education for about 2,300 schools across the state showed that Erie elementary schools scored well below many schools in more affluent suburban and rural districts in 2012-13, based on standardized test scores and other factors.

Poconos: State writes new chapter in evaluating schools
Individual buildings within districts will now be graded
By Christina Tatu Pocono Record Writer October 05, 2013
The state Department of Education Friday rolled out its new School Performance Profile system to measure the academic performance of individual schools.  The new system replaces "Adequate Yearly Progress" reports and assigns schools a score out of 100.
But how to make sense of the new system? Here, parents and taxpayers, are some Frequently Asked Questions about the new assessments:
What's the purpose of the new school performance profiles?

Lehigh County: Performance ratings released for most Lehigh County schools
By Precious Petty | The Express-Times  on October 04, 2013 at 9:02 PM
The Pennsylvania Department of Education today rolled out ratings based on students' test scores, year-to-year progress and other criteria for nearly 2,400 schools.
Among Lehigh County high schools, Northwestern Lehigh topped the ratings with 85.1 out of 100 points, followed by Whitehall with 84.7 and Parkland with 83.1.
Catasauqua Area, Northern Lehigh, Dieruff and Allen high schools earned ratings of 76.1, 65.1, 60.3 and 53.1, respectively. Ratings for Emmaus, Salisbury and Southern Lehigh high schools were not available today.

York County: New school-rating scores released for most schools in Pennsylvania
Results are pending for many secondary schools because of corrections needed.
By ANGIE MASON Daily Record/Sunday News UPDATED:   10/05/2013 12:20:10 AM EDT
New school performance scores were released by the state on Friday, but the results are still pending for many secondary schools in York County because of corrections being made to data.
The state education department released the first School Performance Profiles on Friday. The new system scores public schools on a scale up to 100 based on several measures of achievement, including scores on the PSSA tests in reading, math, science and writing, student growth data, graduation and attendance rates and more.
But more than 600 schools around the state -- including about 24 in York County -- opted not to have their scores released until data related to the Keystone exams and student growth is corrected, according to the state.

Chester County: State education data produces Chesco confusion
By Kendal Gapinski, Daily Local News 10/05/13, 2:08 PM EDT
Many school districts around Chester County decided to omit data from state Keystone exams in their School Performance Profiles after state officials discovered those profiles may be incorrect.
According to Mary Curley, director of communications for Chester County Intermediate Unit, after the state discovered a possible coding error due to students not filling in a bubble on the top of the tests, the Pennsylvania Department of Education gave districts the option to not include the data in the profiles and review it.
The department also delayed the release of the profiles from Sept. 30 until Friday.

Delaware County: New school performance assessment launched by PDE
By Tim Logue, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 10/03/13, 10:12 PM EDT |
A new formula for assessing public school performance will be rolled out today by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.   Gone is the much-maligned barometer known as Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, a by-product of the No Child Left Behind Act that called for 100 percent student proficiency on standardized math and reading tests by 2013-14.

Westmoreland educators complain about early release of incorrect data
The Tribune-Review By Megan Harris and Kate Wilcox  Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Educators say state education officials botched the release of what should have been the department's crowning achievement, the latest piece of a new accountability system designed to replace No Child Left Behind.  Acting Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq delayed the debut of a new website several days after complaints from more than 20 percent of the state's 3,000 schools that data were incorrect or incomplete. The site, made available Friday afternoon, was first scheduled to appear Monday.  In development for more than three years, School Performance Profiles feature one number grade for every school — from 0 to 100, or up to 107 with extra credit. Districts do not receive scores as a whole.
Spokesman Tim Eller reported on Monday that 626 schools asked for their score growth data to be excluded until corrections are made and 1,444 schools requested updates in other data. For schools with missing data or incomplete scores, he said, the state will issue new scores in January.
Pittsburgh: Pa. schools report reveals mixed results in Pittsburgh
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 5, 2013 12:24 am
Pittsburgh Public Schools released the results of state tests showing scores down in math and reading in all grades from 3-8 but stronger than the expected results on the new end-of-course Keystone Exams taken in Algebra 1, literature and biology.  Pittsburgh announced its districtwide test results for the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests and the Keystones as the state released the new School Performance Profiles Friday.  "The PSSAs are down and down a lot. The Keystones are shockingly high," Superintendent Linda Lane said.

Philly: State assessment scores show drop in reading and math proficiency
THE PHILADELPHIA School District yesterday released its results for the state's top standardized test - the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSA - and the news wasn't pretty.  The scores marked the second year in a row that the overall percentage of students scoring "proficient" or "advanced" on math and reading exams were down, across all grade levels and subgroups.  The district said average math proficiency scores fell four points from 51 percent to 47 percent, according to the district. Reading proficiency rates dipped 2.5 percentage points, from 44.8 to 42.3.

Chester Upland hires district liaison to charter schools
By John Kopp, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 09/25/13, 11:19 PM EDT |
CHESTER — The Chester Upland School District recently hired Jan Gillespie-Walton to serve as the district’s liaison to the charter schools located within the district’s borders.   Gillespie-Walton, a former regional superintendent for the School District of Philadelphia, will examine performance metrics at the charter schools, including academic achievement, attendance, special education, compliance and incidents of violence. She is expected to regularly visit the charter schools and provide a monthly report to Superintendent Gregory Shannon.

"If the city is going to prosper in the long term and be competitive with Boston and New York," said Penn education professor Torch Lytle, "if you kiss your public school system goodbye, you're really undermining your prospects."
Just scraping by is no answer to fixing city schools
Welcome to another chapter of our region's continuing drama, Why Think Big?
Rather than tend to the large picture, civic leaders offer short-term solutions. Problems get fixed, if they get fixed at all, with the funding equivalent of chewing gum.  Elected officials view the school crisis as a budget problem, when it is so much bigger than that - competition, curriculum, training, testing, unions, you name it - and threatens our progress. Instead, Mayor Nutter and City Council President Darrell L. Clarke continue to bicker over which $50 million approach is better. The fighting makes local potentates look petty and small, especially to Harrisburg.
Which is quite an accomplishment. Thinking small is the specialty of the state House - and the Senate.

Hundreds of letters decry problems at underfunded city schools
A homeless Philadelphia third grader does not have access to a full-time counselor, even though federal law requires it.  A first grader's attends school in an annex that had an assistant principal last year but now has no administrator.  And a high school senior cannot get access to transcripts to apply to college because her school has only a part-time guidance counselor.
These were among 260 separate complaints sent to the state by parents of city schoolchildren that education advocates described at a City Hall news conference Thursday. The documents depict deficiencies in the city's cash-strapped schools that they say violate state or federal laws.

“But behind the outrage is an inconvenient truth: Taxpayers across the U.S. will soon be spending $1 billion a year to help families pay private school tuition — and there’s little evidence that the investment yields academic gains.”
Vouchers don’t do much for students
Politico By STEPHANIE SIMON | 10/6/13 10:50 PM EDT
Ever since the administration filed suit to freeze Louisiana’s school voucher program, high-ranking Republicans have pummeled President Barack Obama for trapping poor kids in failing public schools.  The entire House leadership sent a letter of protest. Majority Leader Eric Cantor blistered the president for denying poor kids “a way into a brighter future.” And Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal accused him of “ripping low-income minority students out of good schools” that could “help them achieve their dreams.”

The influence of new philanthropy on democracy
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss, Published: October 5 at 4:00 am
Education reform has been heavily influenced in recent years by massively wealth philanthropists who fund their own favored school reforms and then bring public policy along with them. How this is affecting the democratic process is the subject of a piece in Dissent Magazine titled, “Plutocrats at Work: How Big Philanthropy Undermines Democracy,” by Joanne Barkan, a writer based in New York City and Truro, Massachusetts.  Barkan explains why the current stream of philanthropic giving is different from private donations made in the past, and she uses school reform as a case study of the problems facing the democratic process when the very wealthy have, for various reasons, a wide berth to influence public policy.
You can read the whole piece. Here’s part of it, with permission from the author:

From Junk Bonds to Junk Schools: Cyber Schools Fleece Taxpayers for Phantom Students and Failing Grades
PR Watch by Mary Bottari — October 2, 2013 - 7:38am
The data is in and K12 Inc.'s brand of full-time public "cyber school" is garbage. Not surprising for an educational model kicked off with a $10 million investment from junk-bond king Michael Milken.  Milken was the Wall Street financier who virtually invented junk-bonds -- high-risk securities that were used to leverage hostile buyouts in the "go-go" 1980s. Milken came to symbolize Wall Street excess, serving as inspiration for the Michael Douglas character Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movie Wall Street. Milken spent almost two years in a federal penitentiary for securities fraud.
After he was released from prison, Milken set his sights on the $600 billion public education "market," forming new companies including Knowledge Universe and Knowledge Learning, parent company of the KinderCare child care chain. With his $10 million stake in K12 Inc., Milken aided one of his Vice Presidents and another junk dealer, Ron Packard, who specialized in mergers and acquisitions for Goldman Sachs back in the '80s.  The duo prepped to exploit the public education sector, and boy, have they. His various educational ventures have made Milken one of the richest men in America, and Packard raked in over $16 million in compensation from 2008 to 2012 as CEO of K12 Inc. Almost all of that money came from U.S. taxpayers.

Deciding Who Sees Students’ Data
The New York Times By NATASHA SINGER Published: October 5, 2013
WHEN Cynthia Stevenson, the superintendent of Jefferson County, Colo., public schools, heard about a data repository called inBloom, she thought it sounded like a technological fix for one of her bigger headaches. Over the years, the Jeffco school system, as it is known, which lies west of Denver, had invested in a couple of dozen student data systems, many of which were incompatible.  In fact, there were so many information systems — for things like contact information, grades and disciplinary data, test scores and curriculum planning for the district’s 86,000 students — that teachers had taken to scribbling the various passwords on sticky notes and posting them, insecurely, around classrooms and teachers’ rooms.
There must be a more effective way, Dr. Stevenson felt.  InBloom, a nonprofit corporation based in Atlanta, seemed to offer a solution: it could collect information from the district’s many databases and store it in the cloud, making access easier, and protect it with high-level encryption.

Stubborn shutdown heads into second week
Politico By SEUNG MIN KIMJOHN BRESNAHAN and BURGESS EVERETT | 10/5/13 9:06 AM EDT Updated: 10/7/13 5:13 AM EDT
The government shutdown is lurching into a second week after a fruitless weekend on Capitol Hill.  A rare Saturday session was dominated by now-familiar shutdown messaging from Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, with each side trying to blame the other for keeping the government shuttered. Even House-passed legislation that would pay federal workers prompted an angry reaction from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
There were no signs of serious negotiations over the weekend, and the longer the standoff drags on the more likely the fight will bump up against the Oct. 17 deadline to raise the debt ceiling — setting the stage for a giant battle over fiscal policy in the coming weeks.

Interested in keeping the “public” in public education?  Sign up for text grassroots alerts from the Network for Public Education.
Join NPE's NIXLE Group by texting "4NPE" to 888777.  After sending the initial text, NIXLE will ask for a "zipcode" - providing a zipcode will limit messages to local interest of each subscriber. Leave the zipcode blank if you want to receive all grassroot alerts from NPE.

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).

PASCD Annual Conference ~ A Whole Child Education Powered by Blendedschools Network November 3-4, 2013 | Hershey Lodge & Convention Center
We invite you to join us for the Annual Conference, held at an earlier date this year, on Sunday, November 3rd, through Monday, November 4th, 2013 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center.  The Pre-Conference begins on Saturday with PIL Academies and Common Core sessions.  On Sunday and Monday, our features include keynote presentations by Chris Lehmann and ASCD Author Dr. Connie Moss, as well as numerous breakout sessions on PA’s most timely topics.
Click here for the 2013 Conference Schedule
Click here to register for the conference. 

Philadelphia Education Fund 2013 EDDY Awards November 19, 2013
Join us as we celebrate their accomplishments!
Tuesday, November 19, 2013 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm WHYY, 150 North 6th Street, Philadelphia
Invitations coming soon!

Building One Pennsylvania
Fourth Annual Fundraiser and Awards Ceremony
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2013 6:00-8:00 PM
IBEW Local 380   3900 Ridge Pike  Collegeville, PA 19426
Building One Pennsylvania is an emerging statewide non-partisan organization of leaders from diverse sectors - municipal, school, faith, business, labor and civic - who are joining together to stabilize and revitalize their communities, revitalize local economies and promote regional opportunity and sustainability.

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

Proposed Amendments to PSBA Bylaws available online
PSBA website 9/17/2013
A special issue of the School Leader News with the notice of proposed PSBA Bylaws amendments has been mailed to all school directors and board secretaries.
This issue also is available online in the Members Only section by clicking here. Voting on PSBA Bylaws changes will take place at the new Delegate Assembly on Oct. 15, 2013, at the Hershey Lodge & Convention Center from 1-4 p.m. All member school entities should have appointed their voting delegates and submitted names to PSBA. Details on selecting an entity's voting delegate can be found in previous issues of the School Leader News.

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