Tuesday, November 12, 2013

PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 12, 2013: Teaching kindergartners keyboarding skills for online tests: “I can tell them to press ‘A,' but they may not know what that is yet.”

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for November 12, 2013:
Teaching kindergartners keyboarding skills for online tests: “I can tell them to press ‘A,' but they may not know what that is yet.”


61% of low-income families have no age appropriate books at home.
About First Book: http://www.firstbook.org/



Charter school eyed by FBI, Pa. watchdog says
MARC LEVY, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS POSTED: Monday, November 11, 2013, 3:40 PM
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Monday he has given information to the FBI about spending practices at a Pittsburgh charter school that included billing Pennsylvania taxpayers to develop a charter school in Ohio and to furnish the spouse of a board member with a cellphone.  It also included meals at some of Pittsburgh's finest restaurants, retreats at ritzy resorts and pricey catered meetings.
The auditor general's office gave the information on Urban Pathways to the FBI early in 2013, DePasquale said. Some was discovered by agency auditors, while other pieces came from a source that DePasquale did not want to identify.
"This rose to the level that we thought was significantly beyond something that was just questionable expenditures," DePasquale said.

Pittsburgh charter school eyed by FBI, state official says
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review By Bobby Kerlik  Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, 2:48 p.m.
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said on Monday that he referred questionable spending practices at a Downtown charter school to the FBI because a state audit this year uncovered what appeared to be Pennsylvania taxpayer money going toward building a school in Ohio.
DePasquale said his office found “potentially criminal” spending practices at Urban Pathways during a routine audit in the spring. He said money was unaccounted for at the same time the school was building a facility in Youngstown. The audit found that the spouse of at least one board member was getting a free cell phone from the school.
“We know (the FBI) has it. We know they're taking it seriously,” said DePasquale, adding that he referred the results to the FBI in the spring. “The concern we had was Pennsylvania tax dollars going towards building a school in Ohio.”
Medical Academy Charter School submits curriculum, partnership proof
School presents curriculum, arranges three partnerships.
By Bill Landauer, Of The Morning Call 11:33 p.m. EST, November 11, 2013
Catasauqua Area School Board members have heard of two versions of the Medical Academy Charter School.  At Monday's board meeting, the school's founder, Dr. Craig Haytmanek, told the board about progress being made at one version of the fledgling Catasauqua-based school.
That's the version board members thought they were greenlighting when they approved the charter in early 2012. That Medical Academy Charter School, operating from the bottom floor of the former Lincoln Middle School on Howertown Road, offers students from throughout the Lehigh Valley a springboard into careers in the health care industry. Lesson plans include health care as the main theme. Kids will soon take advantage of career shadowing opportunities at many health care providers who'd signed special arrangements with the school.
Then there's the other Medical Academy Charter School — the one school directors hear about in anonymous letters from former employees and from former teachers and students. That Medical Academy Charter School, detractors say, offers little in the way of health care education, lacks academic rigor and is plagued with discipline problems.
Letters: Reinstate school funding formula
Brett Schaeffer Communications Director Education Law Center Philadelphia
POSTED: November 07, 2013
IT'S GOOD to see Rep. John Taylor engaged in the school-funding discussion in his Oct. 25 letter. We need the entire Philadelphia delegation working on this issue in Harrisburg.
It is important, though, to clarify some of Rep. Taylor's points.
Rep. Taylor is correct in saying that a school-funding formula was enacted under Gov. Ed Rendell. However, that formula was not used to calculate the state funding cuts in 2011 and it was ultimately amended out of law in 2012.
So, Gov. Corbett has not been using a funding formula.
Now, let's look at the numbers.
The School District of Philadelphia received, as Rep. Taylor notes, $1,072,038,281 in Basic Education Funding (BEF) in 2010-11. The BEF line item for the district in 2013-14 was, as Rep. Taylor notes, $983,928,923.
That's $88.1 million less.
Combine that reduction with the state block-grant cuts of approximately $200 million for tutoring programs and charter-school reimbursements, and Philadelphia faces a gap of nearly $300 million.

“How do you teach letter keys when the youngest kids are still learning their letters?” Lynch said. “I can tell them to press ‘A,' but they may not know what that is yet.”
With the national introduction of exams aligned specifically to Common Core standards, students struggling to master handwriting and basic classroom etiquette will be expected to begin taking non-graded online exams as early as next year, including third-grade reading comprehension tests that require advanced keyboarding skills.  Many Pennsylvania districts lack tech support to offer widespread online testing, state Education Department spokesman Tim Eller said. Schools have the option to administer pencil-and-paper versions of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment and Keystone assessments.”
Schools work on computer, keyboard skills so students capable of taking online exams
TribLive By Megan Harris Published: Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, 11:33 p.m.
When teacher Andrew Lynch begins a kindergarten technology class at Fairmount Primary Center in Brackenridge, he starts slowly — “This is a mouse, this is a monitor, this is where you put your hands on a keyboard.”  “I had a girl the first two weeks of school who started every day trying to manipulate the monitor with her fingers,” he said. “For a lot of our youngest kids, smartphones and touch screens are all they've ever known.”
Teachers worry that upcoming online exams may unfairly assess student progress and understanding, or worse, that students will be penalized by unforeseen and all-too-common problems in being connected to the Internet as states and school districts work to upgrade lesson plans and infrastructure.
District, Catholic, charter schools share applications
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Tuesday, November 12, 2013, 2:01 AM
For the first time, students applying to high school at Philadelphia School District, charter, and Catholic schools will be able to start the process with similar one-page applications, Mayor Nutter's Office of Education announced.  The forms were developed by the district, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Charter Schools for Excellence, and other organizations that are members of the Great Schools Compact.

Wednesday, the House Local Government Committee is scheduled to hold an
informational meeting on House Bill 1651, Rep. Glen Grell’s (R-Cumberland) three-point pension reform plan.
Lawmakers' third rail Grell hybrid pension plan good approach, if only ...
Scranton Times-Tribune Editorial November 10, 2013
Social Security long was known as "the third rail" of American politics, in that it was fatal to the careers of politicians who dared to touch it.  That no longer is the case, as conservative politicians openly clamor for "entitlement reform" that would diminish Social Security and Medicare benefits.
Pennsylvania lawmakers have a far more intractable third rail - the notion that they cannot reduce pension benefits that state and public school employees have not yet earned. They won't go near that reform - not because the public doesn't want it, but because of opposition from a powerful constituency, public employees and their unions.
What goes up cannot come down
Even an otherwise sound approach to pension reform promoted by Republican Rep. Glenn Grell of Cumberland County, with support from Democratic state Sen. John Blake of Lackawanna County, is predicated on the notion that nothing can be done about the unsustainable pension increases that lawmakers lavished upon themselves, state employees and public school employees back in 2001.

Governor Corbett In Charge Of Filling Vacancy On The School Reform Commission
CBS November 9, 2013 4:00 AM By Mike DeNardo
PHILADELPHIA (CBS)–Governor Corbett is still trying to fill a vacancy on the School Reform Commission.  The Governor gets to appoint three of the five members on the School Reform Commission and name a chair.  Governor Corbett says he’s in the process of filling the opening that was created when SRC chair Pedro Ramos resigned last month.

“Public comment must be received at least 48 hours prior to the IRRC’s Thursday, Nov. 21 meeting – in other words, by 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 19.”
Dinniman: Just Say No to the Proposed Keystone Graduation Exams
Let the IRRC and Your Local Legislators Know of Your Concerns
Senator Andy Dinniman’s website
The Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania State Board of Education have proposed the Keystone Graduation Exams to the Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission, which is set to vote on them on Nov. 21.
If approved, Pennsylvania would usher in new high-stakes tests in Algebra 1, biology and literature that students must pass in order to graduate, regardless of their grade point average.
These Keystone Graduation Exams are being tied to Common Core, new standards whose advocates say will better prepare students for college and 21st century careers. Common Core has its supporters and critics.
By combining the exams with Common Core, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and State Board of Education have made it impossible to reject one while supporting the other. Thus the only way to stop the high-stakes exams – and this new unfunded mandate on local schools – is to have the IRRC reject the entire proposed Final-Form Chapter 4 regulations and send them back to the Pennsylvania State Board of Education for further review and changes.

'In God we trust' bill in Pa. House promotes a divisive religious message
WHYY Newsworks NOVEMBER 11, 2013 ESSAYWORKS by Ed Joyce, president of the Delaware Valley chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
A bill sponsored by Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny) will require Pennsylvania public school districts to post "In God We Trust" in every school building under legislation that advanced out of a committee in the state House of Representatives last week. The bill passed by a 14-to-9 vote, with only one Democrat and one Republican crossing party lines.
I have serious problems with this bill. First the bill clearly promotes a religious, rather than a historical message. Congress did not authorize the use of "In God We Trust" as the national motto until 1956 in response to the Red Scare. Although some claim the words "In God We Trust" are deeply rooted in our country's religious heritage, a look at the motto's history reveals that the Founding Fathers never intended these words — or any other religious reference — to become the country's motto. In fact, when originally commissioned to create a Great Seal for the country, our founders, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams, devised the motto as "E Pluribus Unum" meaning "from many, one." In more recent years, the words "In God We Trust" have served as a rallying cry for those who wish to promote a particular Christian faith.

The Future of Our Schools: Teachers Unions and Social Justice
Thursday, November 14, 2013 - 4:30pm
University of Pennsylvania, Annenberg Rm. 111
3620 Walnut St. PhiladelphiaPA 19104
See map: Google Maps
Lois Weiner is a professor of education at New Jersey City University. She brings to her wide-ranging scholarship first-hand experience, as a classroom teacher and union officer.
In her presentation at University of Pennsylvania, she will analyze how changes being made to public education in Philadelphia, including school closings, budget shortfalls, and use of standardized testing to judge student and teacher performance, relate to the global project that is reshaping education throughout the world. Her presentation will take up ideas she explores in her most recent book, The Future of Our Schools: Teachers Unions and Social Justice(Haymarket Press, 2012).

Congratulations! Getting elected to the school board was the easy part…..
PSBA New Board Member Training: Great Governance, Great Schools!
November 2013-April 2014
Announcing School Board Academy’s New Board Member Training: Great Governance, Great Schools!
You will need a wealth of information quickly as you jump out of the starting block and hit the ground running as a newly elected member of the board of school directors. New board members, as well as veterans who might like a refresher, will want to make the most of the opportunity to attend PSBA's New Board Member Training Program: Great Governance, Great Schools! .

The November 13 episode of EPLC/PCN "Focus on Education" will discuss Special Education: Student Rights and Services. 
The hour long program produced by EPLC and PCN is broadcast on PCN at 9:00 p.m. on the 2nd Wednesday of every month. PCN also typically repeats the episode at later times each month.  Previous episodes can be viewed online here. Topics we have covered thus far in 2013 are school violence, student testing, the work of school boards, how schools are funded, the dropout crisis, parents as advocates, and arts education.  To learn more, visit PCN's "Focus on Education" web page. Information about sponsorships available for the show can be obtained by contacting Ron Cowell at 717-260-9900 or atcowell@eplc.org

EPLC is recruiting current undergraduate or graduate students to serve as part-time interns 
EPLC is recruiting current undergraduate or graduate students to serve as part-time interns beginning January or May of 2014 in the downtown Harrisburg offices. One intern will support education policy work including the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign. The second intern position will support the work of the Pennsylvania Arts Education Network. Ideal candidates have an interest/course work in political science/public policy, social studies, the arts or education and also have strong research, communications, and critical thinking skills. The internship is unpaid, but free parking is available. Weekly hours of the internship are negotiable. To apply or to suggest a candidate, please email Mattie Robinson for further information at robinson@eplc.org.

Common Core/Keystone Exams: The PA State Board of Education (Board) has submitted the final-form regulation entitled “Academic Standards and Assessment."
The Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) plans to meet and act on this regulation at our public meeting at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, November 21, 2013.
Regulation #6 – 326: Academic Standards and Assessment
Amends existing regulations to reflect Pennsylvania's Common Core Standards in English language arts; address test security concerns; and require students to demonstrate proficiency on the Keystone Exams in order to graduate from high school.
The agenda and any changes to the time or date of the meeting will be posted on IRRC’s Web site at www.irrc.state.pa.usPlease note that any comments should be submitted to the Board prior to the 48-hour blackout period, which begins at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday,November 19, 2013. Please provide IRRC with a copy of any comments submitted, as well. Please note that all correspondence and documents relating to a regulation submitted to IRRC are a matter of public record and appear on IRRC’s Web site.
For a copy of the regulation or if you have any substantive questions regarding the regulation, please contact the Board at (717) 787-3787. You can also download the final-form regulation from IRRC’s Web site using the following link:

The University of Pittsburgh School of Education Center for Urban Education presents  “Building the Capacity of Schools to Meet Students’ Needs”
Pedro A. Noguera, PhD; Friday, November 15, 2013; 3:30 – 5:00 p.m.
David Lawrence Hall, Room 121; 3942 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh
The event is free and open to the public

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, 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. BuildingOnePa.org

The National School Boards Association 74th Annual Conference & Exposition April 5-7, 2014 New Orleans
The National School Boards Association 74th Annual Conference & Exposition will be held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, LA.  Our first time back in New Orleans since the spring of 2002!
General Session speakers include education advocates Thomas L. Friedman, Sir Ken Robinson, as well as education innovators Nikhil Goyal and Angela Maiers.
We have more than 200 sessions planned! Colleagues from across the country will present workshops on key topics with strategies and ideas to help your district. View our Conference Brochure for highlights on sessions and focus presentations.
Questions? Contact NSBA at 800-950-6722 (NSBA) between the hours of 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. EST

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

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