Friday, November 15, 2013

PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 15, 2013: WVBE: 96% of students who were proficient in reading in third grade graduated from high school.

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for November 15, 2013:
WVBE: 96% of students who were proficient in reading in third grade graduated from high school.

SB1085 improves opportunities for charter school operators to spend your school tax dollars without any oversight or controls

Witness in Brown trial: Dead aunt signed charter school contract
A counselor who had worked for charter school founder Dorothy June Brown told federal jurors Thursday that she forged the signature of her late aunt in 2009 on a contract between a charter school and one of Brown's management firms.  The contract was supposed to have been approved in March 2007. Doris Evans said her aunt, Fannie Lee Coleman, had died in 2005.
Evans, who spent more than three hours on the stand in U.S. District Court, was the sixth witness in Brown's $6.7 million charter fraud trial to testify of falsified documents and records of the four charter schools that Brown had founded.
More doctored documents described in charter school fraud trial
By Martha Woodall, Inquirer Staff Writer POSTED: November 14, 2013
After James D. Marshall Jr. became board president of the Agora Cyber Charter School in 2007, he signed lots of documents for the school.  But he told jurors in the $6.7 million fraud trial of school founder Dorothy June Brown that he did not sign a management contract with Brown's Cynwyd Group L.L.C. in 2006 - even though his name was on it.  "That's not my signature," Marshall testified when Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank R. Costello Jr. showed him a contract dated May 10, 2006, that contained his name.

West Virginia State Education Board Members Step-Up Efforts To Ensure All Students Are Reading On Grade Level
West Virginia State Board of Education Posted: November 14, 2013
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE) today gave the green light to plans to accelerate state literacy rates.  Board members agreed to support the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) joining The Campaign for Grade Level Reading (
This latest effort is another milestone in the board’s journey to meet Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s challenge to improve the reading proficiency of our youngest learners. In his State of the State Address, the governor asked the state board to take actions within its authority to assure all students are reading at grade level by the end of the third grade.
“We know that one of the most important factors in student success is the ability to read,” said Gayle Manchin, WVBE president. “A 2011 study documented the impact of reading proficiency on staying in school.  Ninety-six percent of students who were proficient in reading in third grade graduated from high school. Reading proficiency is also linked to student self-esteem and disciplinary action which indirectly shapes educational achievement.”

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
The Campaign is a collaborative effort by foundations, nonprofit partners, states and communities across the nation to ensure that more children in low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career, and active citizenship. The Campaign focuses on the most important predictor of school success and high school graduation—grade-level reading by the end of third grade.  Research shows that proficiency in reading by the end of third grade enables students to shift from learning to read to reading to learn, and to master the more complex subject matter they encounter in the fourth grade curriculum. Most students who fail to reach this critical milestone falter in the later grades and often drop out before earning a high school diploma. Yet two-thirds of U.S. fourth graders are not proficient readers, according to national reading assessment data. This disturbing statistic is made even worse by the fact that more than four out of every five low-income students miss this critical milestone.

Getting kids to read: The 5 key habits of lifelong readers
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS November 14 at 12:25 pm
How do people become lifelong readers? That’s a subject tackled in a new book, “Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits,” by Donalyn Miller, a sixth-grade language arts teacher in Texas who is known as the Book Whisperer.

“Casey urged his GOP colleagues to go beyond the “usual Washington reaction” of just talking to staff or other members of Congress on the issue, but rather engage leaders from the business sector on the merits of early childhood education.”
Sen. Bob Casey Jr. touts universal pre-K bill, but admits it will be a tough battle to pass in Congress
By Ivey DeJesus |  on November 13, 2013 at 4:14 PM
Sen. Bob Casey Jr. on Wednesday lent his support to legislation that would expand preschool education across the country, long a legislative priority of President Obama, but admitted that Democrats had a long road ahead in the battle to pass the bill.
The so-called universal preschool bill, the Strong Start for America’s Children Act, is a 10-year initiative to expand and improve early learning opportunities for children from birth to age five. The bill would fund preschool for 4-year old children from families earning below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
The proposed legislation, Casey said, is based on the “irrefutable” evidence that early learning determines a child’s economic future as well as job creation and the country’s ability to compete in the global economy.

“District spokesman Fernando Gallard said the reduction in the expulsion-rate had much to do with the implementation of the district's "Response to Instruction and Intervention" program – a data-driven model which works with children deemed to be potential discipline problems through early-education intervention efforts.  "It's an entire different focus than before," said Gallard, "no longer a focus on zero tolerance."
Pa. black, Latino students disproportionately suspended from school, ACLU report finds
Black and Latino students are being disproportionately suspended from Pennsylvania's schools under the auspices of  "zero tolerance" provisions.
This from a new report by the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which analyzed aggregate data from each of the state's 500 school districts.
Key findings of the report include:
  • Black students make up 13.6 percent of Pennsylvania's student population, but they received almost half of the out-of-school suspensions, at 48.25 percent.
  • Seventeen percent of black students were suspended at least once, a rate five times that of white students.
  • One out of every 10 Latino students were suspended at least once, one of the highest Latino suspension rates in the country.
  • Students with disabilities were almost twice as likely as other students to receive out-of-school suspensions – 11.1 percent versus 5.7 percent.
  • Black students with disabilities received OSSs at the highest rate of any group – 22 out of every 100 were suspended at least once.
"Our report is intended to spark discussion within school communities and policy-making circles about what works best to create a healthy and safe school climate, not to point fingers," wrote the ACLU's Harold Jordan, author of the report. "A critical examination of school discipline data and discipline practices is a first step."

“Is the new definition of "right to know" now "pay to know"?
School District court case opens up questions about 'pay to play'
The Notebook by Helen Gym on Nov 13 2013 Posted in Commentary
“Pay to play” is a widely reviled practice in government, but that’s effectively what the District's legal argument would establish through its challenge of an open records case in state court.
For more than 10 months, Parents United for Public Education and our lawyers at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia have been fighting to make public the Boston Consulting Group’s list of 60 schools recommended for closure and the criteria it used for developing the list. In 2012, BCG contracted with the William Penn Foundation to provide “contract deliverables,” one of which was identifying 60 public schools for closure. William Penn Foundation solicited donations for this contract, including some from real estate developers and those promoting charter expansion. The “BCG list” was referred to by former Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen in public statements. But District officials refused to release the list, saying that it was an internal document and therefore protected from public review.

Holocaust lesson: Reps should keep their hands off curriculum
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Editorial November 14, 2013 8:51 PM
The Holocaust is one of the singular events of human history. Other mass exterminations of people have occurred across the ages but nothing that matches the immense scale and the modern industrial process that the killings entailed. Students should know the depths of depravity plumbed under Adolf Hitler’s reign in Germany.  Given the dismal state of historical knowledge these days, it is not surprising to read in a recent Post-Gazette story that ignorance about events that should never be forgotten is easy to find among public school students. But does that mean that elected officials must intervene to require their schools to teach the subject?

Cyber school advocates: Don’t punish us for one school’s scandal
Beaver Times Online By Natasha Lindstrom Calkins Media November 13, 2013 8:24 pm
HARRISBURG — A charter school reform proposal in the state Senate would punish all of Pennsylvania’s cyber schools based on the alleged fiscal mismanagement of a single school, cyber school advocates argued Wednesday.  PA Families for Public Cyber Schools led a rally in the state Capitol urging lawmakers to vote down legislation that would reduce cyber school funding statewide by 5 percent. They argued the “arbitrary” cuts proposed within Senate Bill 1085 appear to stem from backlash over the scandal plaguing the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School founded in Beaver County.

StudentsFirst: Senate Bill 1085 Improves Educational Opportunities for Children
Broad Coalition Releases Position Paper Urging Passage of Charter Reform
StudentsFirst Press Release NOV 14, 2013
Harrisburg, PA - A coalition of education reform groups including Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, PennCAN, Philadelphia’s Black Alliance for Educational Options, Philadelphia Charters for Excellence, StudentsFirst, and Students First PA, today released a position paper urging the legislature to move forward with crucial changes to the Commonwealth’s charter school law. 

Bloomberg Issues Final Letter Grades for New York Schools
New York Times By JAVIER C. HERNÁNDEZ November 13, 2013 72 Comments
Nothing came to epitomize the era of education reform under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg like the A-through-F letter grades he gave New York’s schools.
Educators obsessed over them, hoping their schools would avoid being marked for closing. Principals pored over them, knowing that fluctuations in test scores could determine end-of-the-year bonuses. Parents in some neighborhoods proudly ignored them, arguing that a single letter could not sum up the quality of a school.  On Wednesday, the Bloomberg administration released its last batch of grades for more than 1,600 public schools. Across the city, 63 percent of schools received A’s and B’s, and there were signs that schools were better preparing students for college.  But the announcement came with a sense of acquiescence, as Mr. Bloomberg, who staked his legacy on taking control of education in the city, prepares to hand over the school system to Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, an ardent critic of the mayor’s policies who has pledged to do away with the letter grades.

When Parents Yank Their Kids Out of Standardized Tests
A small but influential group is protesting the role of testing in education today by refusing to let their children participate.
The Atlantic by ALEXANDER RUSSO NOV 14 2013, 8:58 AM ET
Teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School voted unanimously earlier this year not to give the district’s required reading and math test. They encountered predictable resistance from district officials and harsh criticism from outside observers. Many students and parents, however, sided with the teachers.  The PTA and student government leaders voted in support of the teachers, and many parents sent in “opt-out” letters to exempt their children from testing that they viewed as an inappropriate measure of teachers’ effectiveness. And so when administrators came to class with lists of kids who needed to take the tests during the spring testing period, many students were exempted and others students simply refused to go with the administrators.
There was “the most incredible sense of solidarity in the building,” recalls Garfield history teacher Jesse Hagopian.

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! .

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

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 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:

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.

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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