Thursday, December 26, 2013

PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 26, 2013: 74% of students who fail to read proficiently by the end of third grade falter in later grades.

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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for December 26, 2013:
74 percent of students who fail to read proficiently by the end of third grade falter in later grades.

“The results? The analysis shows that, while there are enough exceptions to prevent iron clad conclusions, how a school fared under the old system is good indicator of how it fares under the new, at least in Luzerne County.”
Brand new system, same old results?
School rankings not much different under state’s new ‘School Performance Profile’
Scranton Times-Leader By Mark Guydish  December 25. 2013 11:58PM
Pennsylvania trumpeted it’s new “School Performance Profile” system as a great leap forward.
“We now have a better way of guiding improvement efforts in schools,” Gov. Tom Corbett boasted in an August announcement that the program had won federal approval.   “This new system brings together multiple academic indicators that are proven to provide a full overview of academic growth and achievement in our public schools,” Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq promised when the state unveiled the first SPPs in October.
The new system replaced the decade-old “Adequate Yearly Progress” gauge, which amounted to a pass/fail mark for schools, based heavily on state math and reading tests for grades three through eight and 11.  SPP looks at more tests — science, writing, SAT, ACT, tests of trade skills at career and technology centers and others — as well as at “academic growth” (student improvement) and closing of the “achievement gap” between those who statistically do well in standardized tests and those who don’t (low income and English Language Learners, for example).

Advocates hitch Philly schools to national literacy push
WHYY Newsworks by Kevin McCorry DECEMBER 24, 2013
Is it possible for all the city's third graders to read on grade level by the year 2020?
That's the goal of the new initiative led by Public Citizens for Children and Youth and the Urban Affairs Coalition.  Over the next six months, at the direction of PCCY and UAC, city agencies and community groups will create a multi-year strategy to improve early childhood literacy as part of the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.  Advocates point to research that says that 74 percent of students who fail to read proficiently by the end of third grade falter in later grades. They also often drop out before finishing high school.

Did you miss our XMAS eve posting?
PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 24, 2013: Let it burn? SB1085 could take another $150 million from strapped Philly schools

The school board has now made the right call on teacher program
Post-Gazette Letter to the Editor by John Tarka December 26, 2013 12:00 AM
John Tarka is a former president of Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers
Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Public school board members who voted to support the hiring of qualified and certified teachers for city schools. Those members wisely and responsibly voted to rescind a contract with Teach for America.  Teach for America contends that recent college graduates who complete a five-week training course are equipped to teach in America’s urban schools. TFA teachers agree to work in their assigned schools for two years. A Post-Gazette editorial (Dec. 20) argued that a contract with TFA would “have brought fresh talent to the district’s most challenging buildings.” It wrongly described the board members’ vote not to hire TFA as “preposterous.”
The only thing that is preposterous is the idea that five weeks of training would prepare anyone to address the many needs of today’s students. Successful teachers have deep knowledge of their subject matter and specific skills that help students learn. They have regular practice under the mentorship of experienced teachers, guidance especially in their early years, and opportunities to refine their skills as they mature. It’s educational nonsense and incredibly unfair to students to assume that someone with little more than one month’s training can be adequately prepared to teach effectively.

Low-scoring Pa. district has shortage of teachers
Education Week Published Online: December 26, 2013
WILKINSBURG, Pa. (AP) — One of the lowest-scoring schools in the state has a reason for some of its problems: a lack of certified teachers in some subjects.
An art teacher conducts chemistry classes at Wilkinsburg High School, while a health and physical education teacher is handling French classes, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Thursday ( ).
The school scored 36.3 out of 100 in a new ratings system meant to measure which Pennsylvania schools are on path to success. Schools scoring 70 or above are considered to be on that path. The state Department of Education released performance scores this month for all 3,200 traditional, charter, cyber and technical schools.
Wilkinsburg High School's score was the lowest in Allegheny County and the 17th-lowest out of public schools in 500 districts in the state.

Pennsylvania state lawmaker proposes letting school boards decide on arming teachers
By JENNIFER LAWSON, 12/26/13, 11:37 AM EST |
A little more than a year after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. that killed 20 children and six adults, a state lawmaker is proposing a piece of legislation that would let school boards decide if school employees should be armed on the job.
However, officials with North Penn and Souderton schools have said they’re not looking at arming teachers and staff at this time, instead focusing on enhancing school building safety through technology and training them on what to do during an active shooter scenario.
In other areas of the state, including the district of state Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, which is about 60 miles east of Pittsburgh, there is much more support for arming school employees.
White said the shootings at schools over the last year as well as feedback from educators in his area promoted him to introduce Pa. Senate Bill 1193.  The measure would allow school boards decide whether or not administrators, teachers and staff can carry guns on school property. They would be required to meet training requirements and obtain concealed firearms licenses.

In Chester, Harrah's losing its tax break
Since opening nearly seven years ago, Harrah's Philadelphia Casino in Chester has had a financial leg up on other gambling halls in the state.  Harrah's was built in a Keystone Opportunity Zone, which means it hasn't had to pay most state and local taxes. The goal of the tax-relief program is to spur development in blighted areas.  But those lucrative benefits end Dec. 31.
So how much additional money will Harrah's - it already turns over more than $10 million of its annual winnings to Chester City under state law - start kicking in to help the city and the financially beleaguered Chester-Upland School District?

Phila. district joins field with own cyber school
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Thursday, December 26, 2013, 2:01 AM POSTED: Wednesday, December 25, 2013, 10:05 PM
For six years, Alessandra Mullin excelled at Masterman, one of the top schools in the state. But when she heard about a new cyber venture of the Philadelphia School District, she was intrigued.
Mullin dances with the Pennsylvania Ballet, and switching to online education would allow her to pursue her dream of dancing full time, she reasoned.  The Philadelphia Virtual Academy wasn't an easy sell, though - her parents were loath to allow Mullin to surrender her seat in such a good school, especially in her last year of high school.

Monday and Friday are stargazing nights at Widener observatory
JULIE ZAUZMER, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Thursday, December 26, 2013, 2:01 AM
Through the wide opening in a rooftop dome on the engineering building at Widener University, the most prominent feature of the view is a brilliantly lit Days Inn billboard. Focus a bit more, and you'll notice a cellphone tower, a patchwork of illuminated city buildings, and an airplane blinking across a grayish night sky.  Harry Augensen has made it his mission to show residents of Chester that there are stars there, too. On many Monday and Friday evenings, he invites community members of all ages to the roof of Kirkbride Hall, where he runs Widener's observatory. He and his helpers open the dome, focus their high-powered telescope, and show the attendees a night sky they have never seen over Chester before.

Islamic cleric linked to U.S. charter schools involved in Turkey’s political drama
A Muslim cleric who lives in seclusion in Pennsylvania and has been linked to a network of more than 135 public charter schools in the United States is believed to be deeply involved in the political drama that is unfolding in his home country of Turkey.
The reclusive cleric is Fethullah Gulen, who has been linked to charter schools in some 25 states and to other schools in dozens of countries around the world. Gulen, who has denounced terrorism and is said to believe in a moderate form of Islam, has lived in Pennsylvania for years. Gulen was until recently a close ally of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose government has been deeply shaken by a corruption investigation.  The prime minister just replaced three of his key ministers after they were forced to resign in the scandal.

“The investigation has been linked to the followers of Fethullah Gulen, a reclusive Muslim preacher who lives in Pennsylvania and leads one of the most influential Islamic movements in the world. He has millions of followers and an expansive network of business, media outlets and schools, as well as sympathizers who are believed to have a strong influence over Turkey’s police and judiciary.”
Three Turkish Ministers Step Down Amid Graft Inquiry
New York Times By DAN BILEFSKY Published: December 25, 2013
Three Turkish cabinet ministers resigned Wednesday in an intensifying corruption scandal that has challenged the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and polarized the country.  Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan and Interior Minister Muammer Guler, both of whose sons have been arrested in the anticorruption investigation, stepped down. Their sons are among 24 people who have been arrested on bribery charges in a corruption investigation that has engulfed Mr. Erdogan and his close associates.

Monroe County cleric embroiled in Turkish crisis
Fethullah Gulen is accused of promoting 'dirty operation' to weaken country's ruler.
Morning Call Staff and wire reports 11:38 p.m. EST, December 23, 2013
A reclusive Muslim cleric living in exile on a Monroe County farm denied claims by Turkey's prime minister that his progressive religious movement is behind a corruption probe designed to undermine the Asian nation's government.  Fethullah Gulen, who has lived near Saylorsburg since 1999, condemned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for characterizing the corruption probe as a Western plot to destabilize the nation.
Gulen, 72, who lives on the grounds of the Golden Generation Worship Center in Ross Township, is seen by followers as a tolerant and moderating voice in global Islam.
He has made his life's work spreading the influence of Turkey, a moderate Muslim country on the boundary between Europe and Asia, through an international network of schools, including about 130 public charter schools in the United States, three of which are in Pennsylvania.
CPS says no to charter schools, but Michael Madigan says yes
Chicago Sun Times By DAN MIHALOPOULOS Staff Reporter December 23, 2013 12:08AM
When Concept Schools Inc. wanted to open two charter schools in Chicago last year, it sought permission from Chicago Public Schools officials.  The answer was no.
CPS officials have allowed the rapid expansion of charters. But they turned down Concept. They said the charter operator, headquartered in Des Plaines, didn’t merit being allowed to expand based on test scores at its one city school, the Chicago Math and Science Academy in Rogers Park.Concept Schools appealed to a higher authority: the little-known Illinois State Charter School Commission. The state agency was created in 2011 by lawmakers including House Speaker Michael Madigan, the South Side Democrat who’s a powerful advocate of Concept and the faith-based Gulen movement to which the schools are connected.
This time, the answer was yes.

FBI Raids Louisiana Charter School With Ties To Gulen Movement
AdvanceIndiana Blog Sunday, December 15, 2013
The FBI raided the offices of the Kenilworth Science & Technology charter school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana this past week according to the The Times Picayune. Like the Indiana Math & Science Academy charter schools in Indianapolis, the charter school in Kenilworth has ties to the controversial education movement inspired by Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish exile once accused of trying to overthrow the Turkish government who now resides in Pennsylvania under a grant of asylum. Gulen has amassed a multi-billion dollar fortune from explained sources while living in virtual seclusion in a rural Pennsylvania community, rarely appearing in public and primarily communicating to his followers through recorded video messages.
The FBI and school are not talking about the cause for this past week's raid, but a Philadelphia Inquirer report in 2011 indicated that the FBI was investigating whether teachers employed by schools associated with the Gulen movement are required to kick back part of their taxpayer-supported salaries to Hizmet, a Turkish Muslim movement.

The 13 most important charts of 2013
Washington Post The Answer Sheet BY VALERIE STRAUSS December 24 at 12:24 pm
If you continually listen to school reformers in the “accountability” movement — those who believe that standardized test scores are the most important measure of success — then you could be forgiven for really believing that the U.S. economy and the country’s national security are dependent on getting those scores ever higher (because, in this skewed world view, the very flawed tests are seen as a real measure of achievement). You might also think that all of America’s public schools are nothing short of a mess.
The problems with this thinking have been a common theme on this blog, mostly by looking at why it is wrong to imbue standardized tests with more validity than they deserve and to use test scores to make high-stakes decisions about students, teachers and schools. Here is a different way of looking at what is really going on in the economy — and why it’s time to stop blaming the public schools. Here are 13 telling charts about the economy from the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute, which has a mission of broadening the discussion about economic policy to include the interests of low- and middle-income workers.

The 10 Most-Viewed EdWeek Stories of 2013
Education Week By The Editors December 26, 2013
To provide a sense of what was high on our readers’ priority lists in 2013, the editors at Education Week compiled a list of our ten most-viewed articles. Below, those stories are ordered by the number of online page views they generated. Take a look at what other readers saw as the most interesting pieces of the year, and catch up on news you may have missed in 2013. 

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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