Monday, November 25, 2013

PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 25, 2013: Before PA expands cyber-charters, take a look at the data: All 11 cybers scored among the lowest schools in the state

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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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,"

Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for November 25, 2013:
Before PA expands cyber-charters, take a look at the data: All 11 cybers scored among the lowest schools in the state

“All 11 cybers scored among the lowest schools in the state. Not one of these cyber schools met or exceeded the average performance of Pennsylvania’s public and charter schools.   In fact, according to the state’s data, the average performance of cyber charters was more than 33 points behind that of traditional public schools, and nearly 23 points behind brick-and-mortar charter schools. Put another way, cyber charters—despite recent expansion—represent less than one half of one percent of the state’s schools, yet account for more than one-third of the state’s lowest-scoring based on that data.”
Before state officials expand cyber-charters, take a look at the data: As I See It
Adam Schott is Director of Policy Research at Research for Action and a former Executive Director of the State Board of Education. James Jack is a Senior Research Associate at RFA.
Patriot-News Op-Ed  By Adam Schott and James Jack November 24, 2013 at 10:15 AM,
If it was viewed as a single school district, Pennsylvania’s expansive cyber charter sector would represent Pennsylvania's second-largest district, with more than 35,000 students attending 16 schools statewide. Cyber charters received approximately $366 million in taxpayer funds in 2012-13—drawing payments from 498 of the state’s 500 school districts.  The sector’s presence may grow further still: in addition to the 16 cyber schools authorized by the state Department of Education, six more have been proposed, with applications currently pending before the agency.

Issue Brief: An Analysis of Pennsylvania’s Cyber Charter Schools
Research for Action by James Jack, John Sludden and Adam Schott, November 2013

“RFA compared School Performance Profile scores among traditional public schools, bricks-and-mortar charters and cyber charters. Traditional schools scored an average of 77.8, charter schools scored 67.3 and cyber charters, 44.7.  That's not good news for the 35,000 students enrolled in virtual schools around the state - or for the taxpayers who shelled out $366 million for such schools.”
Philly Daily News Editorial: CY-BURIED EDUCATION
POSTED: Monday, November 25, 2013, 3:01 AM
WITHIN the herd of public-education options, cyber charter schools are clearly the black sheep. From the time they first appeared on the scene soon after Pennsylvania legalized charters in 1997, cyber charters have been subject to lawsuits, pushback from districts that have refused to pay for cyber students and, more recently, federal probes and grand-jury indictments of some cyber operators.  Last week, the Education Law Center, a nonprofit group, called on the state to issue a one-year moratorium on authorizing any more cyber schools. They make a convincing case, with findings from a study by Research For Action, an educational research center. That research shows the state's 16 cyber charters to be on the bottom rung of academic achievement.

TFA: Novice teachers are not the solution
Cash-challenged schools like Pittsburgh’s need experienced teachers
Post-Gazette Opinion By Helen F. Ladd November 24, 2013 12:00 AM
Helen F. Ladd is a professor of public policy and economics at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and a member of the Scholars Strategy Network (
In an effort to keep educational costs in check, America’s cash-strapped states, local school districts and charter schools are hiring less costly novice teachers. I understand that Pittsburgh Public Schools may soon be among them. Superintendent Linda Lane has said she hopes to find new college grads in the two-year Teach for America program to help fill 15 to 30 teaching vacancies next fall.
In the late 1980s, most of the nation’s teachers had considerable experience — only 17 percent had taught for five or fewer years. By 2008, however, about 28 percent — or more than one in four of America’s teachers — had less than five years of experience. The proportions of novices in the classroom are particularly high in schools in underprivileged areas.
Some observers applaud the rapid “greening” of the teaching force because they think that experienced teachers are not needed. But this view is short-sighted. Although a constant flow of new recruits is healthy, research shows that teacher experience matters in important ways:

TFA: Too Few Answers
Yinzercation Blog November 22, 2013
Right now in the debate over whether Pittsburgh ought to sign a contract with Teach for America, “TFA” stands for Too Few Answers. Two weeks ago I posted six questions that our school board ought to be asking before it agrees to any deal with the organization. [See “Six Questions for Teach for America”] That piece generated considerable discussion and just got picked up nationally. [, 11-21-13]
The Great Public Schools (GPS) Pittsburgh coalition also launched a petition asking the school board to delay a vote on the Teach for America contract (and two other issues), until the four new board members are seated in three weeks. As that petition states, “This newly elected board represents the largest board turnover in over two decades, and the new board, duly elected by Pittsburgh voters, should have its say in these important issues.” Over 1,000 people have now signed the petition on-line and in hard-copy formats. (Please sign here and spread the word through your networks.) That is over one thousand Pittsburghers who are paying attention to this issue and have spoken up about a school board matter – that’s not something that happens everyday in this city.
Since I posted the original TFA piece two weeks ago, I have also heard from numerous teachers, teacher-educators, teachers in training, former TFA members, TFA employees, concerned parents, and more. I met with Nicole Brisbane, TFA’s New York-based managing director for new site development, who helped answer a number of my questions. But for every answer, I have heard many new questions, which I have tried to organize into themes below.

“Churchill calls the requirement "a tragedy" that will only widen the equity gaps among the state's students. Pennsylvania's wealthier districts invest as much as $250,000 more per student over 12 years of education than districts in poorer areas.  "All students, if they're going to be held to the same standards, deserve the same resources," Churchill said. "I think there are many people who are utterly callous on what the impact [of the new graduation requirements] will be on students."
Keystone Exams: Pa. state graduation test draws fire as unfair to kids in poorly funded schools
Beginning with the class of 2017, students in Pennsylvania will have to pass a state standardized test to earn a high school diploma.  The Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission approved the Keystone graduation test requirement Thursday in a 3-2 vote that broke down along Republican-Democrat party lines.  In the wake of the decision, some education advocates are calling the requirement an "unfunded mandate."

Testimony of Michael Churchill on behalf of The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia to Philadelphia City Council, November 20, 2013
Pennsylvania currently appropriates to school districts for the education of  students in the Commonwealth the amount of funds legislators and the governor find it convenient to budget in that year. There is no policy of determining what schools need in order for their students to meet state standards.  Neither the Department of Education, the State Board of Education, nor the legislature asks districts what they need.  No surveys are conducted.  There is no independent assessment of need.  Instead the governor and legislature budget what they think they can conveniently afford, without any consideration or analysis of how this affects  districts’ ability to meet state proficiency standards or  provide an education which will allow students to successfully engage in the labor market as productive adults  and be happy citizens.
Determining what school districts need to educate their students and setting a fair division between state and local sources, that is what is meant by a funding formula.  Pennsylvania is one of only three states that does not do that—instead last year it arbitrarily decided that it could afford $90 million additional dollars to be distributed to all 500 districts and that it could afford $30 million to go to 21 districts which were essentially indistinguishable from many other districts in terms of need, but were distinguishable in terms of being represented by republican legislators in leadership positions.  This $120 million might sound substantial unless you knew that funding to districts was cut by nearly $1 billion in 2010 because of the lack of state revenues. At this rate it will be 2020 until the state restores all of the cuts.

“Parkland and Salisbury officials say because the state doesn't reimburse 100 percent of what it costs them to transport charter and private school students, they have to find the money elsewhere in their budgets.
Charter schools are funded on a per-pupil basis using local and state taxes. After the 2011-2012 school year, Gov. Tom Corbett ended a partial reimbursement the state had been paying to school districts that lose students to charters.
Salisbury and Parkland officials say the state capped the reimbursement they receive for transportation, so as costs rise, the burden increasingly falls on local taxpayers.
"I am not against choice but I will tell you that choice costs," Salisbury Superintendent Michael Roth said. "People seem to believe that we can put this choice into place and it's not going to have an effect. But it is having an effect because the money needs to come from somewhere."
Busing to other schools burdens districts
By Margie Peterson, Special to The Morning Call December 1, 2013
Salisbury Township School District consists of two elementary schools, a middle school and a high school. But it buses students to 46 schools.
Parkland School District has 11 schools of its own and transports children to 56 schools. That number has grown by 11 schools in the last 18 months.
By Pennsylvania law, public school districts that bus their own students are required to transport students to charter and private schools that are up to 10 miles outside of a district's borders.
Wilkinsburg schools spent $500,000 on consultants over 3 years
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette November 23, 2013 10:18 PM
Since the 2010-11 school year, the Wilkinsburg School District has spent nearly a half a million dollars on two educational consultants, flying them from Louisiana for one week a month and paying for hotels and meals while they were in town to provide professional development or plan retreats.  The consulting firm, Bel-Mor Associates, gained public attention by attending a two-day retreat of district administrators in August in Nemacolin Woodlands resort, which cost the district $15,665.50.  The spending on Bel-Mor has continued into this school year -- with a contract calling for a "minimum" of $110,000 -- even though Wilkinsburg, a district of 930 students, is in such financial straits that it borrowed $3 million in the spring to pay its bills and was placed on a financial watch list by the state Department of Education.

Pay-to-play athletics fees gain popularity in Pennsylvania
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times  on November 25, 2013 at 6:00 AM,
Pennsylvania school districts are increasingly trying to bridge budget gaps by charging student athletic and activity participation fees.  But it doesn't seem like the trend will fly in the Lehigh Valley, a slice of the Keystone State that is just crazy for high school sports.
A survey of 500 Pennsylvania school districts found that 38 percent charged some sort of sports participation fee in 2012, up from 13 percent in 2010, according to a joint survey by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the Pennsylvania State Athletic Directors Association. The survey had a 37 percent response rate.

Tom Corbett for Governor: Investing in Education

Grassroots Advocates Gym, Poyourow, Ramey, Spicka:
What Democratic Candidates for PA Governor Should be Saying about Public Education
Keystone Politics Posted on November 20, 2013 by Jon Geeting #
(This guest post comes to us from Helen Gym, Rebecca Poyourow, Jessie B. Ramey, and Susan Spicka – four public education advocates we respect immensely for their vigilance on behalf of high quality public schools in the Commonwealth. The following represents their ideal public education platform for the Democratic candidates for Pennsylvania Governor.)

“All five were asked to speak on topics ranging from education to health care to retirement security. They repeated many of the same pledges: Medicaid will be expanded; public schools and pensions will be funded - some with more gusto than others.”
Would-be Democratic Pa. governors lace into Corbett
JEREMY ROEBUCK, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER  Sunday, November 24, 2013, 12:08 AM
PHILADELPHIA Five of the eight Democrats seeking to unseat Gov. Corbett next year lobbied for the limelight and lit into the incumbent Saturday at a candidate forum that exposed few gaps between them on policy and yawning chasms separating their styles.
Some had the raucous crowd of union members and community activists fired into a frenzy, while others left the auditorium at Temple University's Performing Arts Center lukewarm.

Allyson Schwartz for Governor” One Pennsylvania: Quality Education for Every Pennsylvania Student - Allyson Schwartz’s Plan to Restore Our Commitment to Public Education

Tom Wolf for Governor: Making Pennsylvania's Charter Schools Work for Students and Taxpayers
Fighting for Public Education

John Hanger for Governor: Top education policy goal - stop the war on public education
Hanger for Governor website Posted On November 20, 2013

Katie McGinty for Governor: Education
Katie McGinty released her K-12 education plan --- "Strong Schools. Bright Futures." --- that reverses Governor Tom Corbett's $1 billion in education cuts, overhauls the school funding formula, provides expanded access to pre-K and full-time kindergarten, reduces class size, restores support for gifted students, and provides teachers with additional training.
Katie’s plan calls for:

Schmotzer's hiring by Baldwin-Whitehall 'apparently an illegal appointment,' Dept. of Education spokesman says
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review By Melissa Daniels  Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
The appointment of former board member Martin Michael Schmotzer to a $120,000-a-year administrative position with Baldwin-Whitehall School District may violate Pennsylvania law, but the state Department of Education said Friday that it has no authority to do anything about it.
“It appears to be an illegal appointment of an individual,” department spokesman Tim Eller told the Tribune-Review.  The Public School Code says school board directors cannot be employed by their district “during the term for which he was elected or appointed.” The state interprets “during the term” to apply to all four years, even if directors have resigned, Eller said, meaning they can be hired only after their term has expired.
In Philadelphia schools, is the ‘right to know’ the new ‘pay for play’?
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS November 23 at 4:00 am
In this post, Helen Gym, a Philadelphia public school parent, writes about parents’ efforts to try to get the Philadelphia school district to release to the public basic information about how schools were selected for closure this year. Gym is founder of Parents United for Public Education, a citywide parent group focused on school budgets and funding to improve achievement and accountability in the public schools. She is a former editor of The Notebook, an independent Web site about Philadelphia public schools. She is also a board member at Asian Americans United, a Chinatown-based community organization active in education, youth leadership, immigrant rights, and community development. Gym was named the Philadelphia Inquirer’s “Citizen of the Year” in 2007 for her work in education, immigration and community activism.  This appeared on the website of Parents United for Public Education in Philadelphia.

Common Core Unrest Obvious in 17 States
Deutsch29 Mercedes Schneider’s Blog November 23, 2013
Proponents of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are fond of saying that CCSS “has been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.” However, it seems that they refuse to mention the CCSS resistance that has found its way into state offices–often resulting in formal hearings.  Below I offer the latest in CCSS unrest from 17 states, compliments of my esteemed fellow teacher, Vicky Johnston. Each of the following CCSS, “state of the states” articles is from September-November 2013, thereby representing fresh unrest.
For each state, I include an excerpt from the linked article. Follow the link for additional details.
Over one-third of the states whose governors and state superintendents signed the CCSS Memorandum of Understanding as part of US Department of Education Race to the Top (RTTT) funding are now percolating with CCSS misgivings.
That is what happens with top-down reform.  The “bottom”– those directly affected by the “top’s” decisions– eventually seethe.
Consider the excerpts below as a “catalogue of seething.”

“But The Cardinal Newman Society has discovered 13 grants from the Gates Foundation amounting to more than $10.5 million to develop Common Core curricula, some even apparently made before the nationalized standards were released.    "The claim that Common Core was all about standards but not curricula was never believable, because standards can only impact education when they influence teaching methods and curricula,” said Patrick J. Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society.  “And for the Gates Foundation to effectively nationalize education, it can’t stop at broad standards and testing. These grants prove this, and anyone who claims Common Core is simply a standards initiative should be challenged with the facts."
Common Core Is Curriculum, Contrary to Advocates’ Claims
Catholic Education Daily November 19, 2013 By Joe GigantiMatthew Archbold  | 
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has made grants totaling more than $10.5 million to develop Common Core-compliant curricula—including by the non-profit group Common Core, Inc.—demonstrating the foundation’s intent to reach far beyond broad educational standards with its Common Core initiative to remake America’s schools.
Responding to parents and educators who have expressed concerns about the academic quality and experimental aspects of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Common Core advocates have often claimed that the initiative seeks only to nationalize school standards, allowing total freedom over curriculum.
At the same time that the Gates Foundation was funding curriculum development, Bill Gates himself was publicly speaking as though no curriculum needed to be intentionally developed. “When the [standardized] tests are aligned to the common [core] standards, the curriculum will line up as well,” Gates said in a talk at the 2009 National Conference of State Legislators.

More states delay Common Core testing as concerns grow
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS November 24 at 2:12 pm
Massachusetts and Louisiana, both seen as important in the world of school reform, have decided to delay the implementation of high-stakes standardized tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards in the face of  growing concern about the initiative. The two states follow nearly 10 others — including Florida, the pioneer of corporate-influenced school reform — to slow or rethink Core implementation, actions coming amid a growing movement led by educators and parents who have become skeptical of the standards and the new related standardized tests.

Following Common Core money: Where are millions of dollars going?
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS  November 24 at 10:00 am
In this post, award-winning Principal Carol Burris of South Side High School in New York raises some new questions about the Common Core State Standards and curriculum being developed around them.  Burris has for more than a year chronicled on this blog the many problems with the test-driven reform in New York (here, and here and here and here, for example). She was named New York’s 2013 High School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and in 2010,  tapped as the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State. She is the co-author of the New York Principals letter of concern regarding the evaluation of teachers by student test scores. It has been signed by more than 1,535 New York principals and more than 6,500 teachers, parents, professors, administrators and citizens. You can read the letter by clicking here.  And she is a co-author of a new open letter  to parents from superintendents concerned with Common Core testing, which you can read about here.

Texas Education Board Flags Biology Textbook Over Evolution Concerns
By MOTOKO RICH Published: November 22, 2013
The Texas Board of Education on Friday delayed final approval of a widely used biology textbook because of concerns raised by one reviewer that it presents evolution as fact rather than theory.
The monthslong textbook review process in Texas has been controversial because a number of people selected this year to evaluate publishers’ submissions do not accept evolution or climate change as scientific truth.

Louisiana: Judge Acts on Voucher Program in Schools
New York Times By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: November 22, 2013
A federal judge has given state and federal lawyers 60 days to come up with possible modifications to a longstanding court order in a 1970s civil rights case to make sure that the state’s private school voucher program does not lead to segregation of schools. The judge, Ivan L. R. Lemelle of Federal District Court in New Orleans, gave his order on Friday in a case involving Louisiana’s distribution of taxpayer-funded vouchers to some students attending private schools. The state contends that the vouchers have no effect on desegregation efforts and that no federal oversight by the Justice Department is needed. The Justice Department is seeking to review the state’s assignments of student vouchers to make sure they do not promote segregation in violation of an order from the 1971 case of Brumfield v. Dodd.

NPE National Conference 2014

The Network for Public Education November 24, 2013
The Network for Public Education is pleased to announce our first National Conference. The event will take place on March 1 & 2, 2014 (the weekend prior to the world-famous South by Southwest Festival) at The University of Texas at Austin.  At the NPE National Conference 2014, there will be panel discussions, workshops, and a keynote address by Diane Ravitch. NPE Board members – including Anthony Cody, Leonie Haimson, and Julian Vasquez Heilig – will lead discussions along with some of the important voices of our movement.
In the coming weeks, we will release more details. In the meantime, make your travel plans and click this link and submit your email address to receive updates about the NPE National Conference 2014.

PCCY’s Public Education County Reports
Public Citizens for Children and Youth November 2013
·                            Bucks County
·                            Delaware County
·                            Chester County
·                            Montgomery County (updated 11/14/13)

Congratulations! Getting elected to the school board was the easy part…..
PSBA New Board Member Training: Great Governance, Great Schools!
November 2013-April 2014 Register Online » Print Form »
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.
·                             Register now! – Register for both the conference and housing using our online system.
·                            Conference Information– Visit the NSBA conference website for up-to-date information
·                             Hotel List and Map - Official NSBA Housing Block
·                             Exposition Campus – View new products and services and interactive trade show floor
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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