Friday, December 20, 2013

PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 20, 2013: Is Teach for America Good for America?

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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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for December 20, 2013:
Is Teach for America Good for America?

SB1085: On Monday December 23rd 10-11 am, WHYY’s Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane will be featuring a conversation on SB1085, the charter school reform bill.  Scheduled guests are school choice advocate State Senator Anthony Williams and school board member/public education advocate Lawrence Feinberg.  Radio Times welcomes your phone calls during the morning live broadcast. Call 1-888-477-WHYY (1-888-477-9499)

“State officials project a $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion hole in the budget next year”
Pa. budget chief warns of little wiggle room to narrow gaping state deficit
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review By Melissa Daniels Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
State officials project a $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion hole in the budget next year, challenging Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and lawmakers to pull off the toughest balancing act of his administration.  Budget Secretary Charles Zogby held his midyear budget briefing on Wednesday, saying that though Pennsylvania is on pace to end the year in balance, it faces significant hurdles in 2014-15. The $1.4 billion figure factors in growth in the budget's 2,000 line items under law and without new spending.  “I think everybody knows it's going to be a tough year,” House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin said.
Corporate Tax Cuts Help Put State in the Red
Corporate Tax Revenue Declines for First Time in a Generation
Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center by Chris Lilienthal on December 18, 2013
A decade of corporate tax cuts are a major reason that Pennsylvania is expected to have far fewer resources than it needs to pay for education, health care and other essential services for years to come. Unless lawmakers reverse course and come up with additional revenue, our schools, communities and families will continue to bear the brunt and our economy will suffer.
The elimination of the capital stock and franchise tax (CSFT), without a replacement, and other corporate tax changes mean that overall corporate tax revenue will decline in an expanding economy for the first time in at least a quarter century. Robust growth in sales and personal income taxes will not be enough to overcome the loss of corporate tax revenue.

School Board Santa
Yinzercation Blog by Jessie Ramey December 19, 2013
It felt like Christmas came early last night for the education justice movement. The Pittsburgh school board, which includes four of nine newly elected members, presented students with two lovely gifts: instead of handing out turtledoves or partridges in pear trees (really impractical this time of year, if you think about it), the board voted to rescind a contract with Teach for America and to stop the process of closing Woolslair elementary.
The community had raised significant questions about the impact Teach for America (TFA) would have on students, teachers, and our schools. [See “Six Questions for Teach for America” and “Too Few Answers”] And the community also spoke out loud and clear about the damage caused by past school closures, with almost 1,000 people responding to a survey conducted by volunteers earlier this fall going door-to-door in neighborhoods all over the city. [See “What Pittsburghers are Really Saying About School Closures”]

Governor Corbett Lauds Pennsylvania’s $51.7 Million Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant Award
PDE Press Release December 19, 2013
Harrisburg – Governor Tom Corbett today announced that the U.S. Department of Education has awarded Pennsylvania $51.7 million through the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant program.  “High-quality early learning programs are known to improve student achievement and prepare students to enter kindergarten,” Corbett said.  “As a national leader, Pennsylvania offers early education opportunities to our youngest citizens and this investment will help us to further improve and expand our existing quality programs.”
Over the next four years, the grant will be used to support Governor Corbett’s vision for early childhood education in Pennsylvania, which includes closing the school readiness gap that exists between children with high needs and their peers as well as increasing the number of children who are able to read and do math at grade level by the end of third grade.
Major initiatives to be funded by the grant include:

“…Gov. Corbett said the money will be used over the next four years to level the educational playing field for high-risk children, as well as increase the number of students able to read and do math at grade level by the time they finish the third grade.  "High-quality early learning programs are known to improve student achievement and prepare students to enter kindergarten," said Corbett, adding that the grant "will help us to further improve and expand our existing quality programs."  State education officials said major initiatives that will be funded by the grant include establishing 50 early childhood education "innovation zones" to develop strategies to support and engage families in the lowest performing-elementary schools and launching four "Governor's Institutes" that will bring together nearly 3,000 pre-kindergarten to third-grade educators to share experiences and strategies.”
Pa., N.J. among states sharing $280 million in 'Race' funds
HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania and New Jersey are among a half dozen states chosen to receive millions of dollars in federal grants to bolster early childhood education and better prepare children for kindergarten.  U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced Thursday that the six states will get $280 million as part of the 2013 "Race to the Top" challenge, a contest created by the U.S. Department of Education to help states improve educational programs.  The six were among 16 that applied for the money.  The Corbett administration said Pennsylvania will receive $51.7 million, while New Jersey will receive $44.3 million. The other states that won funding for their plans to innovate their educational programs are Michigan, Georgia, Kentucky and Vermont.

Partial verdict in Dorothy June Brown charter-school fraud trial
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Thursday, December 19, 2013, 4:02 PM
After a five-week trial about phantom board members, fabricated documents, forged signatures and high student test scores, the federal jury in the Dorothy June Brown fraud trial returned a partial verdict Thursday afternoon.  The jury was undecided on the 76-year-old Brown, who is accused of defrauding $6.7 million from the four charter schools she founded and participating in a scheme to cover it up.  Her two codefendants, however, were acquitted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges in connection with an alleged coverup of the frauds.

Corbett signs bills to update Pa. child abuse laws
WHTM abc27 By Myles Snyder Updated: Dec 18, 2013 6:45 PM EST
Governor Tom Corbett has signed the first round of new laws drafted in response to the Jerry Sandusky and Roman Catholic clergy scandals.  Ten bills signed by the governor Wednesday make significant improvements to the state's child abuse prevention laws and are based on recommendations made by the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection.
Corbett signed two of the bills, Senate Bill 23 and House Bill 726, during a signing at the Pennsylvania Child Resource Center in Mechanicsburg.

“Charter schools are taxpayer-funded privately run, public schools. The Allentown School District has had $19.6 million diverted to charters and cyber schools but it cannot reject an application for financial reasons.  Charter applications can only be rejected for a lack of community support, curriculum issues, financial flaws, inadequate facilities and for not having an innovative learning experience.”
Allentown School Board rejects two proposed charter schools
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times  on December 19, 2013 at 10:55 PM
The Allentown School Board tonight rejected two charter school applications for a lack of community support.  A motion to approve the Arts Academy Elementary Charter School failed in a 5-4 vote with Directors Charles Thiel, Scott Armstrong, Michael Welsh and David Zimmerman supporting the school.  School Organizer Thomas Lubben declined comment after the vote.
A motion to reject Computer Aid Inc. Learning Academy Charter Schoolpassed in a 7 to 2 vote with Armstrong and Zimmerman supporting the K-8 school.  Board Vice President Debra Lamb said she's very concerned Computer Aid demonstrated no support from parents, students or prospective teachers. It only showed support from the business community, she said. A school isn't sustainable without those people on board, she said.

December issue of “Capitol Watch for Children” wraps up 2013 with a top 10 list highlighting the stories that had the greatest impact on Pennsylvania’s kids over the past year
Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children December 2013

“The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Danielle Montoya, regional communications director for Teach For America, said the new vote was the first time any school board had reversed itself on bringing in TFA corps members into a district.”
Pittsburgh school board drops $750,000 Teach For America contract
Washington Post The Answer Sheet BY VALERIE STRAUSS December 19 at 4:43 pm
Here’s some education news that you don’t hear every day: The Pittsburgh school board is rescinding a $750,000 contract with Teach For America, and keeping open an elementary school slated to be shuttered.  The board’s four new members, taking a new reform tact, drove the decision to drop the contract by a 6-2  vote with one abstention; in late November, before the new members were sworn in, the board approved the contract 6-3.

What's preposterous is the notion that well meaning ivy-league grads with just 5 weeks of training should be placed as teachers in our most challenging urban school districts.  In what other profession would we do this and label them "highly-qualified"?  Perhaps the PPG editorial board would like to hand over the paper to similar "fresh talent" interns.......
Preposterous: The new city school board is off to a bad start
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Editorial December 20, 2013 12:00 AM
Pittsburgh’s newly constituted school board, in its first acts, derailed two sound plans enacted by its predecessor and pushed the financially strapped district in a dangerous direction.  The disturbing moves will have long-term, negative effects, and they trigger worries that this panel won’t use the sound judgment necessary to keep the Pittsburgh Public Schools from going the way of failed urban districts.

Is Teach for America Good for America?
Harvard Magazine by Michael Zuckerman 12.18.13
TEACH FOR AMERICA (TFA), an AmeriCorps program that provides an accelerated path for elite college graduates to spend two years teaching in low-income community schools, is as prominent—and as controversial—as ever.  In recent years, nearly one in five Harvard seniors has applied to join the organization, which placed 6,000 first-year corps members this academic year. But it has also come under increasing attack, and a spate of articles has run in recent months alternately slamming and lionizing the organization. Just this past October 23, the Harvard Crimson’s editorial page featured a staff editorial supporting TFAdueling with an opinion column opposing it that was much-discussed on campus andbeyond.
As TFA scales up, it is becoming increasingly important to reflect on the role it plays in America’s complex education ecosystem. And with the organization producing more alums—there are 32,000 at last count—and the academy analyzing TFA’s effects more closely, a critical mass of guides is now emerging to help us think about how we should think about TFA. 

Buying public policy: Philadelphia School Partnership
From PCAPS, a wish for more transparency
by David Limm on Dec 18 2013 Posted in Latest news
Some education activists want the Philadelphia School Partnership to know that for this holiday season, transparency would be the best gift of all. 
Donning red winter hats, members of the activist group Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools attempted Wednesday afternoon to enter PSP's office near Fifth and Chestnut Streets. They were armed with a set of demands for the influential nonprofit organization, whose growing role as a major funder and private player in the city's public school system they see as more of a problem than a solution.
Building security denied the protesters entry, and the group set up a picket line outside.
On their wishlist, said parent Kia Hinton, a member of Action United, was a request for PSP to allow members of PCAPS to attend board meetings, which are not required to be open to the public. Another request was to place a public school parent or student on that board.

Pittsburgh Promise receives $1M gift from Ex-Mellon CEO
By Joe Smydo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 19, 2013 11:42 PM
The Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program today will announce the biggest individual gift in its seven-year history -- a $1 million contribution from former Mellon Financial Corp. chairman and CEO Marty McGuinn and his wife, Ann.  "They are setting a remarkable example of leadership, service and incredible generosity. And I am deeply grateful," Saleem Ghubril, the Promise's executive director, said in a statement.

“We don't have an education problem in America. We have a social disease. It is as though we are starving our children to death and trying to fix it by investing in more scales so we can weigh them constantly.  Charter schools, Common Core, voucher programs, online education, Teach for America... None of these initiatives, whether financially-motivated opportunism or sincere effort at reform, will make a dent in our educational malaise, because the assumptions are wrong.”
Education Isn't Broken, Our Country Is
Huffington Post by Steve Nelson, Head of the Calhoun School in Manhattan, 12/16/2013 2:06 pm
Here we go again. The recent reports on Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores, have unleashed a fresh torrent of educational angst. According to PISA, American kids are mired in mediocrity and the rest of the world is catapulting ahead of us. Singapore, Shanghai and South Korea are regularly cited as places that are having us for lunch.
But I don't write to quarrel with the scores, their importance or their reliability, although I hold little stock in any standardized assessments. The more significant problem is that we Americans have it exactly backwards.  Story after story, blog post after blog post, one op-ed after another cite the importance of an educated workforce in order to maintain or regain our rightful place atop the global economy. Politicians suggest that poverty would be eradicated if only our schools were more like those in Finland. If we don't fix education -- politicians and pundits proclaim -- we are in for big trouble. News flash: We're already in big trouble.

The 49 states of rising child poverty
Map shows the percentage-point change in poverty rates among children aged 5 to 17 from 2007 to 2012.
Washington Post GovBeat Blog BY NIRAJ CHOKSHI December 17 at 2:04 pm
Children in North Dakota were the only ones in the nation to have weathered the Great Recession generally unscathed. In every other state in the nation, at least one county saw poverty rise among school-aged children between 2007 and last year, according tonew Census Bureau data.  The Great Recession began and ended during those five years, although the subsequent recovery has been unusually weak in some ways. Just 17 of the nation’s more than 3,100 counties saw poverty decline in a statistically significant way among children ages 5 to 17. Poverty for that age group rose in 964 counties from 2007 to 2012.
The data also show high concentrations of child poverty. Poverty rates among school-age children were higher than 1 in 4 in more than a third of all the nation’s counties.

2013 in Review Part 1: Charter Schools: Public, Private, or Parasitic?
Education Week Living in Dialogue Blog By Anthony Cody on December 18, 2013 6:15 PM
The year 2013 was when corporate reform truly unraveled. From John Merrow's exposure of Michelle Rhee, to the revelations about Tony Bennett's school grade-fixing scandal, to Pearson's fine for illegal lobbying, a great many "conspiracy theories" were found to be true. I have been reviewing the past year of posts on this blog, and several themes emerge from the 176 posts I have published so far this year.  The biggest area of discussion continued to be corporate education reform, and the role of the Gates Foundation in advancing test-centered market-based reforms. A major emphasis was also the Common Core standards, which came into much sharper focus as a result of the tests that were rolled out in New York. I spent considerable time not only discussing the Common Core, but also looking at the problematic role our union leaders and professional organizations have been playing. The other major area of discussion was the challenge charter schools pose to the promise of public education, which is where I begin today:

2014 PA Gubernatorial Candidate Plans for Education and Arts/Culture in PA
Education Policy and Leadership Center
Below is an alphabetical list of the 2014 Gubernatorial Candidates and links to information about their plans, if elected, for education and arts/culture in Pennsylvania. This list will be updated, as more information becomes available.

The DCIU Google Symposium is an opportunity for teachers, administrators, technology directors, and other school stakeholders to come together and explore the power of Google Apps for Education.  The Symposium will be held at the Delaware County Intermediate Unit.  The Delaware County Intermediate Unit is one of Pennsylvania’s 29 regional educational agencies.  The day will consist of an opening keynote conducted by Rich Kiker followed by 4 concurrent sessions. 

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.

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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