Friday, November 22, 2013

PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 22, 2013: PA's 11 cyber charters were among lowest performing schools on new School Performance Profiles. Do our students and taxpayers really need more of these?

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3050 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, 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 November 22, 2013:
PA's 11 cyber charters were among lowest performing schools on new School Performance Profiles.  Do our students and taxpayers really need more of these?

Keystone Exams/Common Core: High school graduation testing requirement coming to Pennsylvania
By Jan Murphy |  on November 21, 2013 at 8:13 PM
A controversial statewide graduation testing requirement that accompanies a new set of state-developed grade-level learning goals closely aligned to the Common Core standards has passed a final hurdle.  The Independent Regulatory Review Commission on Thursday vote 3-2 to approve these changes to state regulations.

“The three yes votes Thursday came from the commissioners appointed by the Corbett administration and House and Senate Republicans.
The commissioners appointed by House and Senate Democrats cast the opposing votes”.
Keystone Exams/Common Core: New Pa. education standards win approval
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau November 22, 2013 12:08 AM
HARRISBURG -- After a lengthy and sometimes heated review, new math and English standards for Pennsylvania public schools won approval Thursday from a state panel.
The Independent Regulatory Review Commission voted 3-2 to approve regulations containing the Pennsylvania Core Standards, drawn both from previous state standards and from the Common Core, a set of math and English expectations developed by nationwide associations of state officials.

 “But Joan Duval-Flynn, education chair for the state conference of the NAACP, said the impact of the regulation could be devastating.  "Students who are pushed out of school with no diploma are regulated to lives of adversity, and it's just so very sad that these men have used their power this way," she said.  In a pilot program for the Keystones last year, one-third of students failed algebra, 50 percent failed biology, and 25 percent language arts, according to education officials. With the state dropout rate already at 25 percent, "this is serious and far-reaching," said Duval-Flynn.
Critics said local school boards could end up spending as much as $300 million to implement the tests. Poor districts that cannot afford them will not even bother, said Dinniman, and affluent districts don't want to be bothered.
Take Conestoga High School in Berwyn, which had 65 students honored by the National Merit Scholarship program and has a 100 percent graduation rate. "They're saying, what more do you want us to do? What we're begging you to do is leave us alone," Dinniman said.”
Keystone Exams/Common Core: Split Pa. panel votes to require tests to graduate
HARRISBURG A controversial plan to require high school students to pass proficiency tests to graduate was approved Thursday by a divided state regulatory panel.
After hearing four hours of testimony, much of it against the Keystone Exams, the Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission voted, 3-2, along party lines to implement the proposal.
Opponents had argued that the tests represented an unfunded mandate that would cause financial hardship for school districts without any evidence that they would improve learning.
"It is unfair and wrong to evaluate a youngster in the city of Philadelphia and other areas when proper funding is not present," State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D., Chester), minority chair of the Education Committee and a former college professor, said after the vote.

Keystone Exams/Common Core: State panel OKs tougher Pa. graduation standards
Delco Times by AP POSTED: 11/21/13, 6:57 PM EST |
HARRISBURG (AP) — Regulations that will set tougher standards for Pennsylvania students in order to graduate from high school won a near-final vote of approval Thursday from a state panel that decides whether such rules are in the public’s interest.  The 3-2 vote by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission capped several hours of testimony by more than 30 people, many of whom expressed concern about the potential fiscal impact, said David Sumner, the commission’s executive director.  The panel approved what is called the Pennsylvania Core Standards and assessments associated with the standards, including the new state Keystone Exams for high school students.

Keystone Exams/Common Core: How much did the Gates Foundation spend funding public relations efforts promoting the Common Core in Pennsylvania?
US Program
US Program
US Program
US Program

Keystone Exams/Common Core: Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children email November 21, 2013
We’ve got great news to pass along: Pennsylvania’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission today approved the Pennsylvania Core Standards and assessments aligned to those standards, including Keystone Exams for high school students. The adoption of these standards and assessments is good news for students, parents and taxpayers, helping ensure our graduates are truly prepared for the challenges they will face beyond high school.
“Preparing Our Students for Success” is produced by A+ Schools, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, Mission: Readiness, PennCAN, the Pennsylvania Business Council, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, Philadelphia School Partnership, Pittsburgh Public Schools, Students First and Team PA. For more information, visit:

 “During Thursday's briefing, Adam Schott said Research for Action analyzed the state's new School Performance Profile scores completed for 11 state cybers. They were among the lowest-performing schools in the state.  None met the statewide average for all publicly funded schools: The average cyber scored 44.7, compared to 67.3 for regular charters and 77.8 for public schools.  Researchers also found the average cyber had an alarming rate of annual student turnover: 27 percent withdrew in 2011-12.”
Nonprofits call for moratorium on cyber charters
The Education Law Center on Thursday urged the Pennsylvania Department of Education to deny applications for six new cyber charter schools, saying they don't work.
Citing poor academic performance, high student turnover, fraud charges involving former officials at two cybers, and a $366.6 million cost of the 15 cyber charters already operating in the state, the Philadelphia-headquartered nonprofit called for a one-year moratorium on new ones. Cyber charters enroll 35,000 students statewide.  "We have no idea as to whether they [the six applicants] are going to be approved," David Lapp, a staff attorney, told reporters Thursday in a joint phone briefing along with representatives from Research for Action, an independent education-research organization based in Philadelphia.

SB1085: Alloway charter school bill: Bad time for terrible idea (Essay)
Chambersburg Public Opinion Online By Susan Spicka November 21, 2013
Our own state Sen. Richard Alloway is poised to vote for a bill that would weaken our local public schools and gut taxpayer over control of how our school tax dollars are spent.
Senator Alloway has co-sponsored SB 1085, a bill that would allow for the unfettered expansion of charter schools into our communities without the approval of local taxpayers or school boards.
The Alloway bill proposes to let an institution of higher education authorize charter schools. If this bill becomes law, charter schools will set up shop in our communities and send Franklin County school districts tuition bills ranging from $7,542-$16,961 for each student who attends the charter schools each year.
A single charter school with 400 seats would cost Franklin County taxpayers more than $4,000,000 per year. Taxpayers would have to pay the new charter school tuition bills in addition to all of the costs of our traditional school districts and the more than $5,300,000 that we already pay in cyber charter school tuition.

Charter school funding leaves Allentown School District 'bleeding,' board member says
By Colin McEvoy | The Express-Times  November 21, 2013 at 9:30 PM
Facing the loss of thousands of students and millions of tuition dollars to charter schools, the Allentown School District is asking the state to give it a break.  The Allentown School Board unanimously approved a resolution tonight urging the state Legislature to reform the funding formula for charter and cyber schools.  The state once offered at least partial reimbursement of charter costs for public school districts, but for the past three years, the cost has fallen completely on the districts and their taxpayers, school board members said.
"We're bleeding," board member Scott Armstrong said. "I'm for charter schools. I'm pro-choice for charter schools. But you can't bleed the public system in order to facilitate charter schools."
The district remains financially responsible for a student's tuition when he or she goes to a cyber or charter school.  District officials last month said 2,166 students are enrolled in 19 cyber and charter schools, resulting in $19.6 million in tuition being diverted from the school district.

SRC doesn't renew 2 charters founded by Dorothy June Brown
Two schools founded by Dorothy June Brown failed to have their charters renewed Thursday, as Philadelphia School District officials voiced concerns about both.
A resolution to renew the charter of Laboratory Charter School with stipulations was on the School Reform Commission agenda Thursday night, but Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. withdrew it, citing new information the district had received.
Both Lab, with campuses in Northern Liberties, Overbrook, and Wynnefield, and Planet Abacus have been operating without charters for more than a year, and parents and staff say they fear for the future of the schools without them. The schools perform well academically, but district officials have had concerns about finances and administration.
Brown, the founder of both, is on trial in federal court on fraud charges.
Lab parent Richard Weiss, who has been part of a group working to clean up the school, suggested that a "rogue" member of the charter's board was trying to sabotage the process.
The majority of Lab staff and parents have been working to combat "cronyism and wasteful spending," Weiss said.  The school, Weiss and others reminded the SRC, is the only Philadelphia recipient of a 2013 National Blue Ribbon, given by the U.S. Department of Education.

"What the charter and choice movement has done is sell the line, 'All you have to do is look out for your own child'. So escape if you can and leave everyone else behind. Public education is a civic obligation," 
Charter Schools In Philadelphia: Educating Without A Blueprint
NPR Morning Edition by ERIC WESTERVELT November 22, 2013 2:58 AM
Listen to the Story runtime: 4 min 24 sec
This is final story in a three-part report on Philadelphia schools in crisis.
Shayna Terrell is in a good mood: It's report card night at the Simon Gratz Mastery Charter high school in North Philadelphia, and parents are showing up in good numbers.
Terrell, Mastery's outreach coordinator, welcomes parents. Her goal on this night is to get 40 percent of Gratz parents to come to the school, meet teachers face-to-face and get their child's report card. It's part of the effort to make Gratz a positive hub for a community long challenged by high rates of poverty and crime.  A few short years ago Simon Gratz was one of Philadelphia's most troubled, violent and academically underachieving high schools. Today, Gratz is very much on the rebound.

Chester County gets good grades in PCCY education report
By Kendal Gapinski, Daily Local News POSTED: 11/20/13, 5:59 PM EST |
Chester County is a leader in the region’s public education sector, but a lack of state investment and a rising number of low-income students could threaten future performance, according to a new report by Public Citizens for Children and Youth, or PCCY.
The report, “The Bottom Line is Children: Public Education in Chester County,” looks at the county in terms of public education and focuses on low-income students, graduation rates and funding available for the county’s educational system.  It finds that while the county is the wealthiest in the state, the number of low-income students is increasing.
According to the report, approximately 15,400 students in the county qualified for the free or reduced lunch program in 2012, a 33 percent increase in four years.
Even wealthier districts saw an increase of low-income students. Both Great Valley and Tredyffrin/Easttown saw the number of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch increase. Great Valley saw its number of students eligible for the program double between 2008 and 2012, while Tredyffrin/Easttown’s number rose by 58 percent.

Editorial: Unlevel playing field for many Delco students
Delco Times Editorial POSTED: 11/20/13, 10:37 PM EST |
Put away the calculators, class.
You won’t need a slide rule for this lesson. Today’s math class is a bit more obvious than that.
Delaware County, more so than most other areas of the state, is shortchanging children when it comes to education funding.  It’s called an uneven playing field. And Delco kids are the ones who are constantly running uphill.  That much was made obvious by a new study released this week by the child advocacy group Public Citizens for Children and Youth, which came to the conclusion that Delaware County schools are underfunded to the tune of $45.3 million.
The miracle here is not that Delaware County still manages to educate 70,000 students despite a serious funding shortfall, but how many of those students continue to excel.

“The number of students eligible for free or reduced price lunches, for example, rose by 42 percent over the last four years, and access to full-day kindergarten, often cited as a way to boost early-stage learning, is only accessible to 26 percent of Bucks students.”
Bucks schools score high on group's report card by Chris Palmer Wednesday, November 20, 2013, 2:01 AM
DOYLESTOWN The news is mostly good for Bucks County public schools, according to a report released Tuesday by an education advocacy group.  Twelve of 13 districts in Bucks boast above-average graduation rates, the report said. Standardized test scores are similarly high, and several districts have had success closing performance gaps among students from different economic backgrounds.  The Bucks publication is one of four county-centric reports that Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) is releasing this month focusing on the Philadelphia suburbs. PCCY is a Philadelphia-based youth advocacy organization.

PCCY’s Public Education County Reports
Public Citizens for Children and Youth November 2013

Who's to blame for the Philadelphia school crisis? Critics say it's Gov. Corbett: John L. Micek
By John L. Micek |  on November 21, 2013 at 9:30 AM,
In the first installment of a three-part series, reporter Claudio Sanchez tries to get to the bottom of what's causing the problems in Pennsylvania's largest public school system. And, as you might expect, there are no satisfactory answers:
"But has there really been a lack of investment in Philadelphia's public schools? Private foundations, after all, have poured millions of dollars into schools here; much of that money has gone to the city's 86 privately run charter schools. But in terms of public funds, the district says it's broke."  "Is it the state's struggling economy? Poor management and waste? Or, as some critics allege, is it the fault of the politicians who control the district's funding, starting with Republican Gov. Tom Corbett?"

What about our investment in public education?
"This week the General Assembly made a dramatic choice that concluded with deliberations tonight to invest in Pennsylvania," Corbett said. "These investments create a road map of progress across the state."
House passes $2.4 billion transportation bill
Measure boosts transportation funding by $2.4 billion via higher fuel taxes and fees.
By Steve Esack, Dan Hartzell and Samantha Marcus, Call Harrisburg Bureau 10:45 p.m. EST, November 21, 2013
HARRISBURG — After years of debate, Pennsylvania has approved a $2.4 billion transportation funding package that will be fueled by higher gasoline taxes and fees on consumers.
House lawmakers voting 113-85 gave the final OK Thursday evening, capping a whirlwind of legislative activity and debate over four days. Gov. Tom Corbett is expected to sign the bill next week, and when he does it'll be one of his biggest policy victories.
Shortly after the 6:17 p.m. vote, Corbett publicly thanked Republican and Democratic lawmakers, business and labor groups and his predecessors who backed him in pushing through the first major transportation funding increase in 16 years. Their unified strength, Corbett said, shows that Pennsylvania knows how to govern better than Washington, D.C., where partisan politics grinds negotiation to a halt.
PA Senate Session Now Available on Any Mobile Device
HARRISBURG – Senate sessions can now be watched live on nearly every type of web browser and mobile device, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-9) and Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-43) announced today. Previously, the streaming video required users to have a WMV-compatible video player.
“Enabling users of iPhones, iPads and Android devices to watch the Senate in real time is another significant step forward as we continue improving the General Assembly’s new website,” Senator Pileggi said. “It’s important to make our work as accessible as possible to the public.”
“Many of the issues we address in the General Assembly, while specific to Pennsylvania,  are being followed by people all over the country,” Senator Costa said.  “Taking these steps to provide real-time access to view Senate sessions is an innovative approach to reaching everyone whether across the state border or half way around the world.”
Senate session can be viewed on the Senate’s website at by clicking on “Watch Session Live.” Direct links to the streaming video are:
Senators Pileggi and Costa encouraged the public to continue commenting on the General Assembly’s new website using the Twitter hashtag #PAGAwebsite.

“As more students opt out, the main school district becomes more distressed, hollowing out a core public institution so a certain percentage of students can come and go as they please.”
Philadelphia's School System is Crumbling and It's an Early Warning Sign For America
PolicyMic By Jonathan Karp  November 19, 2013
"Without the funds to restore crucial staff members, we cannot open functional schools, run them responsibly or provide a quality education to students."
These words were spoken in August by Superintendent William Hite, Jr. of the School District of Philadelphia, the man tasked with opening schools for the fall after a budget shortfall led the district to layoff more than 3,700 workers in June. The schools opened anyway, but with funding tied up on the state level and in labor costs, Hite was successful in bringing a mere 1,400 of these workers back, most on emergency funding

Downingtown high-schoolers to launch science experiment into space
A science experiment designed by high school students in Downingtown, Pa., is heading to the International Space Station next month.  The experiment, housed in a glow stick-esque tube of simulated stomach acid, is to determine whether common medications dissolve the same way in space as they do on earth. Microgravity impacts bodily systems, too.
"NASA has certainly done a lot of studies with bone mass and with how the human body reacts," said Justin Staub, one of two teachers at Downingtown STEM Academy who helped lead the project. "But students were really curious about what happens if you get a cold? What happens if you get the flu?"
The voyage to the International Space Station isn't the work of NASA, however.
The experiment from Downingtown is one of 23 student projects hitching a ride on a commercial resupply mission scheduled for Dec. 15. The nationwide initiative to launch science projects into space is the work of a Maryland-based nonprofit.  "This is the era of commercial human spaceflight — and all these students recognize they are part of history," said Jeff Goldstein, center director at theNational Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE).
Downingtown STEM Academy and a high school near Erie, Pa., are the first Pennsylvania schools to participate in the 3-year-old program.

1963 On the same day President Kennedy died in Dallas, Aldous Huxley died in Los Angeles & C. S. Lewis died in London

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

The Last Waltz Philly benefit for Philadelphia School Children at the Trocadero on Saturday, November 30th
WXPN The Key November 5, 2013 | 12:25 PM | By Bruce Warren
On Saturday, November 30th the Trocadero Theatre hosts The Last Waltz Philly, a benefit for Philadelphia school children. Producers of the event Fergus Carey (owner of Fergie’s, Monk’s Cafe, Belgian Cafe and Grace Tavern), Bryan Dilworth (of Bonfire Booking), singer-songwriter Andrew Lipke, and musician and producer Kevin Hanson. The Last Waltz, a concert by rock group The Band and featuring numerous guest musicians including Neil Young, Muddy Waters, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Dr. John, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond and others, was held on Thanksgiving in 1976. The Last Waltz Philly will celebrate the music of The Band’s farewell show all for an excellent cause.

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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