Thursday, November 7, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for November 6, 2013: “Parents and taxpayers who used to rely on having public schools as anchor institutions in their communities…are being told that the education of children is now subject to the whims of “the market.”

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3000 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 6, 2013:
“Parents and taxpayers who used to rely on having public schools as anchor institutions in their communities…are being told that the education of children is now subject to the whims of “the market.”

“In Philadelphia alone, nearly 118,000 kids have never owned their own book, and with funding harder to come by, many after school programs are struggling to buy new books for their students,” said Carolyn Ashburn, Chair of First Book-Philadelphia’s Advisory Board. “We’re in the middle of an illiteracy crisis and the first step to ending it is to put books in these kids’ hands.”
Savvy Celeb readers combat illiteracy by reading rapidly at First Book-Philadelphia's speed read
Delco Times POSTED: 11/06/13, 9:35 AM EST |
To learn more, visit
PHILADELPHIA — First Book-Philadelphia today announced it will host its third annual Speed Read celebration on Thursday, November 7, 2013 at the Union League in Philadelphia from 6pm until 8:30pm. During the event, local celebrities will compete to read Dr. Seuss books tongue-trippingly fast to raise literacy awareness and funds for First Book-Philadelphia. First Book-Philadelphia is a non-profit literacy organization that raises money to buy children in need their “first book,” helping those who have never owned a book embark on a lifelong journey of literacy.

Pennsylvania is well represented on the list of signatories to this letter….
120 business leaders urge Congress to increase pre-K funding
Washington Post Answer Sheet blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS November 6 at 12:49 pm
A group of 120 business leaders from across the country have sent a nonpartisan letter to Republican and Democratic congressional budget leaders urging them to boost funding for early childhood education.  Earlier this year President Obama called on Congress to greatly expand quality early childhood education preschool programs around the country.  The letter was organized by a group of national early childhood organizations, including the First Five Years Fund, ReadyNation and America’s Edge, to show widespread support for significant pre-K funding.  It says in part:

Should Pa. look to N.J. for a fair education formula to support public schools? 
Audio runtime 14:09
As executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Education Law Center, David Sciarra advocates for an equal and adequate education for all New Jersey students.
A practicing civil rights lawyer since 1978, David Sciarra has focused specifically on education issues for the past 17 years, litigating to enforce greater educational access specifically for low-income and minority students.  Listen here as Sciarra discusses education-funding priorities in an extended interview with WHYY education reporter Kevin McCorry.  Sciarra specifically outlines what he thinks New Jersey can teach Pennsylvania when it comes to implementing a "fair funding formula" that he says would best meet the needs of students across the state.

States Continue to Deny Fair Funding to Nation's Public Schools
Education Law Center NEWARK, June 19, 2012
The Second Edition of the National Report Card on public school funding, Is School Funding Fair?, shows that far too many states continue to deny public schools the essential resources they need to meet the needs of the nation’s 53 million students and to boost academic achievement.
The report released today answers the question, “What is the most important element for ensuring that efforts to improve the nation’s schools are successful and sustainable?” Clearly, no school improvement strategy can be successful unless built on a foundation of sufficient funding that is fairly distributed to school districts to address issues associated with concentrated poverty, the report argues.
The National Report Card, first issued in 2010, is built upon the principle that predictable, stable and equitable state systems of school finance are the essential precondition for the delivery of a high-quality education and are of critical importance to the success of efforts to close persistent achievement gaps among the nation’s low income students, English language learners and students with disabilities.

"If you're looking for a politician who takes the path of least resistance ... I'm not your candidate," he said.
Corbett solicits for second term
Governor promotes 'promises kept' as he embarks on re-election tour
By Timothy McNulty / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette November 6, 2013 11:19 PM
Gov. Tom Corbett took the first official step on what looms as a steep uphill climb Wednesday as he launched his re-election campaign with a rally at the Heinz History Center.  Declaring that "leadership and government is about doing what's right, not what's easy," the former prosecutor confronted his critics and, implicitly, his lagging poll numbers, as he defended his record and boasted of cutting taxes and improving the state's business climate.

Democrats assail Corbett as he steps into the 2014 campaign ring
By Robert J. Vickers |  on November 06, 2013 at 3:29 PM,
Though plenty of Democrats have berated Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's job performance, aspiring challengers have largely been laying in wait until the day the incumbent formally entered the 2014 gubernatorial election.  Corbett took that step into the race Wednesday, prompting the assemblage ofeight Democrats seeking to take his job to launch into stinging criticisms of the governor even as he was still touring the state with a campaign message of “Promises Kept.”

In Susquehanna Twp. schools -- challenges, but a chance to clean the slate: Editorial
By Patriot-News Editorial Board  on November 06, 2013 at 1:40 PM
Aggrieved voters in Susquehanna Township sent a clear message Tuesday night, electing (according to unofficial tallies) a slate of three school board candidates who have vowed to restore the public’s trust in the township’s embattled school district.  Carol Karl, a self-described “outspoken critic” of the district’s administration and its policies, along with her running mate Clifton Edwards and re-elected incumbent board member Jesse Rawls, have their work cut out for them.  The public’s furor over the district’s performance -- declining test scores, an exodus of qualified teachers, an administration viewed as arrogant, and the district’s botched handling of the probe leading to the eventual arrest of an assistant principal on charges he had sexual relations with a student -- will not be easily tamped down.

“There are good charters that provide a solid alternative to district schools. But there are troubled charters that have taken advantage of the lack of hard financial scrutiny, many of whom have been targets of federal indictments - five in Philadelphia in the past five years alone. Even one would be troubling but that number cries out for much more serious oversight into how these education dollars are accounted for.  This oversight issue is not part of the current bill, nor has it seriously been addressed in previous bills.  The growth of charters in the state - and especially in Philadelphia -may have gotten ahead of attempts to manage that growth smartly.
But Smucker's bill doesn't do that; in fact, it will create more problems than it fixes.”
SB1085: DN Editorial: Chartered bust
Philly Daily News Editorial November 7, 2013
WHEN authorized by the state Legislature in 1997, charter schools were seen to be high-performing alternatives within the public-education system that would operate with public money but without the bureaucracy of the larger systems. Charters were intended to be a booster shot of megavitamins to bolster the existing public school system, to strengthen the education alternatives and reward innovation.  But new proposed legislation that could be voted on as early as next week could allow that booster shot to metastasize into something more destructive - and further imperil struggling districts throughout the state . . . to say nothing of families trying to provide their kids with a quality education.

What DeBlasio’s win in New York City means for school reform
Washington Post Answer Sheet blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS November 6 at 3:24 pm
If the man New  York City residents just elected as their new mayor does what he promised to do about reforming public schools, the country’s largest school system could take on a far different look than it has had for the last dozen years under Mayor Michael Bloomberg — and that could have an important effect on reform nationwide.  De Blasio can thank Bloomberg for the power to shape a school reform agenda; Bloomberg won mayoral control of the school system in 2002 from the City Council. But where Bloomberg embraced the national corporate-influenced reform agenda by closing public schools deemed to be failing, expanding the number of charter schools, cutting back on teacher tenure and promoting standardized test-based accountability for students, teachers and schools, de Blasio promises a very different approach.
For starters, he campaigned on a pledge to raise funds for universal pre-K and after-school programs for middle-schoolers by raising taxes on people who earn more than $500,000 a year. This is easier said than done; the city’s mayor can’t alone raise taxes, but the proposal goes a long way to explain how he is thinking about  helping students do better in school.

Where is Philadelphia's Bill de Blasio?
Philly Daily News Attytood Blog by Will Bunch Novermber 6, 2013
There's a lot to process from yesterday's election -- most of it not good. When the "best" news is that the sleazeball Democrat beat the nutjob Republican in Virginia, there's not much to truly celebrate. Corrupt one-party rule lives on in Philly... and in Delaware County. Across the river, Democrat Barbara Buono wonders why Democratic party bosses abandoned her (especially when there was so much dirt on Gov. Christie) and it's hard not to agree. The winners all lost the spotlight to the mayor of Toronto, anyway.
And the most depressing election news of all...was about 2015.
The field of candidates for mayor of Philadelphia two years from now is taking shape.
And it's bleak, people.

Palisades lauded for cyber school efforts
Bucks County Intelligencer By Amanda Cregan Correspondent November 6, 2013 10:24 pm
Three years after launching its own cyber school, Palisades School District has made major strides.  Area school districts, like Palisades, Pennridge and Quakertown, have seen a high rate of students leaving their classrooms for independent online schools over the past several years.
Though cybercharter schools continue to grow in popularity, Palisades has been bringing its students back into the fold.  At a Palisades school board meeting Wednesday night, Superintendent Bridget O’Connell was presented with the Blended Schools Network Leadership Award.  Out of more than 200 schools nationwide, Palisades was selected for the award not only for its success in implementing an in-house cyber school but also in helping other districts roll out their own online educational offerings.

Antietam, Exeter school districts to consider financial impact of full merger
Reading Eagle by Becca Y. Gregg November 5, 2013
Administrators in the Antietam and Exeter school districts will spend the next few months crunching numbers to determine just what the financial impact would be if the two districts were to fully merge.  Dr. Beverly A. Martin, Exeter superintendent, and Dr. Larry W. Mayes, Antietam's, were tasked Monday with drawing up the projected budgets based on the model of a single four-year high school.   The direction was the latest from a steering committee of Antietam and Exeter school board members, who spent the better part of Monday evening in the auditorium of Antietam's Mount Penn Primary Center, discussing the next steps in the merger talks between the two districts.

Department of Education Reminds Pennsylvanians of Changes to GED Test Beginning in January 2014
PDE Press Release November 05, 2013
Harrisburg – The state Department of Education reminds Pennsylvanians that the current version of the GED exam will expire on Dec. 31, 2013.  It will be replaced with the new 2014 Series GED test beginning Jan. 2, 2014.  Those who have begun the 2002 Series GED test but have not completed the five modules have until Dec. 31, 2013, to successfully pass each section.   Those who do not successfully complete all five parts by Dec. 31 will be required to restart in 2014 with the new GED test in order to receive their high school credential. 

Laboratory Charter parents seek to stem legal fees
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER  Wednesday, November 6, 2013, 2:01 AM
Frustrated by the amount of money being spent on legal fees for a charter-school administrator facing federal fraud charges, parents have appealed to an unexpected source for help: federal prosecutors.  Several parents from Philadelphia's Laboratory Charter School have asked the U.S. Attorney's Office to investigate the school's board and seek an injunction to halt the flow of taxpayer money being used to defend Michael A. Slade Jr., the school's suspended chief executive.  Jamie Bracey, a mother who signed the letter, said parents do not want the school to spend "any more of our children's education money on legal defense related to this trial."
It's the latest fallout from the $6.7 million fraud trial of charter-school founder Dorothy June Brown and other administrators, which is scheduled to begin Wednesday.

What Do Tuesday's State and Local Elections Mean for K-12?
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Michele McNeil on November 6, 2013 9:21 AM
Colleague Andrew Ujifusa kept you up to date over at State EdWatch on the key state and local elections that were decided last night. And over at District Dossier, colleague Lesli Maxwell tracked the Boston and New York City mayoral elections. What does all this mean for K-12?

Shining a Light on What's Working in Public Education
Education Writers Association – The Educated Reporter by Emily Richmond WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2013
I recently shared a guest post about "solutions journalism," which is defined by its proponents as "critical and clear-eyed reporting that investigates and explains credible responses to social problems." A superb example of this has since come to my attention, and I wanted to put it on your radar, as well.  The Seattle Times, in partnership with the nonprofit Solutions Journalism Network, has launched Education Lab: a yearlong project examining effective problem solving in education, from preschool all the way through college. A story published last week focused on an elementary school that's made startling gains in student performance by focusing on one critical area - improving classroom instruction.

“Abruptly opening and closing schools – leaving school children, parents and communities in the lurch and taxpayers holding the bag – is not a matter of happenstance. It’s by design.  The design in mind, of course, is being called a “market.” Parents and taxpayers who used to rely on having public schools as anchor institutions in their communities – much like they rely on fire and police stations, parks and rec centers, and the town hall – are being told that the education of children is now subject to the whims of “the market.””
The charter-school lie: Market-based education gambles with our children
New proof that vouchers and charter schools don't reform education, just subject it to the whims of businessmen by JEFF BRYANT MONDAY, NOV 4, 2013 07:45 AM EST
Just 10 days into a new academic year, classes were abruptly over at one North Carolina charter school this year.  In September, parents who had enrolled their children in Kinston Charter Academy received a letter from the principal directing them to take their children someplace else.
According to a local news report, a mere two days prior to those letters being received, the local board met in an emergency session to close the school after “low performance and disciplinary challenges made the enrollment numbers dwindle.”
Said one dismayed parent, “I feel like we should have got more notice. If they was going to close the school, they should’ve gone ahead and let us know that before we enrolled the kids.”
Meanwhile, folks at the North Carolina Justice Center are wondering what the school did with the $666,818 in state education funding it received in July that was supposed to last through October. The school had actually been overfunded for 366 students, but only 230 students enrolled.
Hundreds of miles away in Philadelphia, parents received a similar notice, this time not by a letter from the principal but from a notice on a website. Due to “safety concerns and financial instability,” Solomon Charter School was abruptly closed to its 330 students.

Failure is in the Eye of the Political Hack: Thoughts & Data on NJ Failure Factories & NOLA Miracles
School Finance 101 by Bruce Baker Posted on November 5, 2013
We all know… by the persistent blather emanating from reformy-land that some common truths exist in education policy.  Among those truths are that New Jersey’s urban public school districts are absolute, undeniable Failure Factories, while New Orleans’ Post-Katrina charter invasion is the future of greatness in public (well, not really public) education – the ultimate example of how reformyness taken to its logical extreme saves children from failure factories.
Thus, we must take New Jersey down that New Orleans path toward greatness. It’s really that simple. Dump this union-protectionist favor-my-failure-factory mindset… throw all caution (and public tax dollars) to the wind – jump on that sector agnostic train and relinquish all adult self interest.  But like most reformy truths, this one is a bit fact challenged, even when mining reformy preferred data sources.

When the IRRC considered the Keystone Exams in 2009, school districts all over PA passed resolutions in opposition; was your district one of them?
School Board Resolutions Opposing Keystone Exams Submitted to IRRC - 2009

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:

Mark B. Miller to speak at Nov. 12th conference on school violence
Congratulations to PSBA First Vice President Mark B. Miller for presenting at an upcoming conference related to school violence. Miller will offer a presentation titled “Breaking the Circle of Violence: Bullying, Duty of Care, and Deliberate Indifference” in Linthicum Heights, MD on Nov. 12. For more details, click here

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.

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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