Tuesday, December 3, 2013

PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 3, 2013: SB1085 on PA Senate Calendar for today, Tuesday December 3rd, 2013

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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for December 3, 2013:
SB1085 on PA Senate Calendar for today, Tuesday December 3rd, 2013

Blogger Commentary December 3, 2013:
At school board meetings this week recently elected school directors will take the oath of office including a pledge to support, obey and defend the constitutions of both the United States and the State of Pennsylvania.  They have been elected by their neighbors and are authorized by the State Legislature to set local education policy.  That includes determining school district budgets and levying taxes on their neighbors to support those budgets.  They are accountable to their neighbors for those taxing and spending decisions, both in daily face-to-face encounters and via the ballot every four years.
This week the State Legislature may also be considering charter school reform legislation that includes provisions that would permit colleges and universities to authorize new charter schools.  Charter school operators, charter school boards, college and university officers and boards are not elected officials and take no such oath of office.  Neither are they accountable to any taxpayers for the “shrink-wrapped” funds that they receive via a funding formula.

SB1085 Summary from the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania
Senate Bill 1085 is scheduled to come to the Senate floor on December 5.  Although it contains some much-needed reforms for charter and cyber charter schools, many of the provisions will diminish local control of charters, negatively impact district finances, and change the original purposes of charter schools.
Specifically, the bill will:
  • Eliminate the wording that charters exist to provide innovative educational models to be shared with other public schools
  • Allow 10-year authorizations of charters
  • Allow universities to become authorizers (bypassing local school districts)
  • Provide payment to charters directly from the Department of Education by subtracting from the district’s basic subsidy (again bypassing local school districts)
  • Remove the right of districts to negotiate caps on charter enrollment (taking control away from local school districts and potentially costing the district much more)
  • Allow multiple charter school organizations to apply to the Department of Education for authorization (again bypassing the local school districts)

SB1085 “Charter School Reform” is listed on the PA Senate Calendar for Tuesday December 3rd under “Bills on Second Consideration”
SB1085 provisions as described by the Education Policy and Leadership Center’s November 26th EPLC Education Notebook:

State Senate should reject misnamed "charter school reform" bill: James Hanak
Patriot-News Op-Ed  By James Hanak on December 03, 2013 at 5:15 AM
James Hanak is the CEO of the PA Leadership Charter School, an online cyber-charter school with offices in West Chester, Pa.
Legislation now before the state Senate -- inaccurately referred to as the "Charter School Reform Bill"  -- would not only affect charter school students but also all 1.8 million kindergarten through 12th grade students in Pennsylvania.  In all my years of involvement in Pennsylvania politics I have never seen a bill with so much strong, intelligent, and consistent opposition go so far in the legislative process.

Nunery testifies in $6.7 million charter fraud trial
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER  Monday, December 2, 2013, 10:00 PM
PHILADELPHIA Leroy D. Nunery 2d, a former top Philadelphia School District administrator, told federal jurors Monday that Dorothy June Brown hired him as a consultant in 2008 to try to solve problems at one of the four charter schools she had founded.
Nunery said his PlusUltre L.L.C. educational consulting business worked for Brown's Cynwyd Group L.L.C. for four months, more than a year before he joined the Philadelphia district. The goal, he said, was to improve communications between Agora Cyber Charter School and a Cynwyd subcontractor, K12 Inc. of Herndon, Va., which provided Agora's technology and was responsible for its day-to-day operations.  His testimony came as the defense began presenting its case during the fourth week of the $6.7 million fraud trial of Brown. Other defense witnesses Monday testified about the curriculum and educational programs she developed for the schools.

Introducing the First Book Gift Catalog!
This holiday season, choose a gift to honor a loved one
A nonprofit social enterprise, First Book powers knowledge by providing educators in low-income communities with ongoing access to new, quality books and resources for the children they serve. Through breakthrough business models and strategic partnerships with publishers, corporations and other nonprofit organizations, First Book has provided more than 100 million new books to children from low-income families.  First Book currently serves over 75,000 schools and community programs. Thousands more join the First Book network each month. To receive books, organizations must serve a student population in which 70 percent or more come from low-income families. 

Reach Out and Read
From New York Times Nicholas Kristof’s November 30th, 20123 column “Gifts That Reflect the Spirit of the Holiday Season”
Reach Out and Read, a literacy program for the disadvantaged that uses doctors to encourage moms and dads to read to their children. During checkups, the doctors hand out free books and leaflets promoting bedtime stories — and, in effect, “prescribe” reading to the child.
It’s a simple intervention but has far-reaching effects. Randomized controlled trials, the gold standard of evaluation, find that families in the program are more likely to describe reading as a child’s favorite activity, and reading aloud is more likely to be p
art of family life. Because books are donated by publishers like Scholastic, $50 covers a child’s costs for five years. Information is at ReachOutandRead.org.

"sailed off through night and day/ and in and out of weeks/ and almost over a year/to where the wild things are."
Children's Corner: How 'Where the Wild Things Are' changed children's literature
By Karen MacPherson / Scripps Howard News Service December 2, 2013 8:16 PM
In February 1963, author/illustrator Maurice Sendak told his editor, Ursula Nordstrom, he was working on a new picture book.  Nordstrom, the legendary children's book editor of Harper & Row (now HarperCollins), wrote in a letter several days later to Sendak it was "wonderful" that "you're hoping to write and illustrate your own beautiful picture book next -- instead of doing a lot of illustrating for other people."  But in the letter, dated Feb. 19, 1963, and published in "Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom" (a volume edited by children's book historian Leonard Marcus), Nordstrom was a bit fuzzy on the specifics of the story Sendak wanted to tell in the picture book.

Wake up, now! Snooze button no longer works for PA schools facing pension crisis
Watchdog.org Posted By Eric Boehm PA Independent November 28, 2013 @ 4:00 am
School districts across Pennsylvania are getting news that’s unpleasant yet not unexpected.
The Public School Employees Retirement System, or PSERS, this week began sending notices to school districts that their pension costs will climb to 21.4 percent of payroll in the 2014-15 school year.
Even though that total could change a bit before it becomes official at an end-of-year meeting of the PSERS board, it gives a pretty good indication of what school districts are facing.
For historical context, the 21.4 percent figure is the highest rate since at least the 1950s — and it’s quite a jump from the 16.9 percent districts paid this year.
The actual cost will vary greatly from district to district depending on the size of payroll, but statewide the PSERS pension obligation for next year will ring in around $1.4 billion – with roughly half that cost covered by school districts and the rest left to the state. Another $537 million will be needed to fund the State Employees Retirement System, or SERS, next year.
State Rep. Glen Grell, R-Cumberland, believes it’s time for the General Assembly to do something about Pennsylvania’s mounting pension costs. He said this week that it should be the next major priority of the state government, now that a $2.4 billion transportation infrastructure bill was signed into law.

“A Public Policy Poll released last week showed Republican Gov. Tom Corbett trailing a list of likely Democratic contenders that includes U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, Treasurer Rob McCord and former DEP Secretary Kathleen McGinty, by double digits.”
Democratic race for Guv is wide open in 2014: Monday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com  on December 02, 2013 at 7:46 AM,
Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
If this were any other year, we'd tell you that this year's Pennsylvania Society gala in New York City (which gets underway in a mere two weeks' time) marks the unofficial start of campaign season in Pennsylvania.  But this isn't any other year. The 2014 race for governor started, depending on the way you count it, the moment former Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger hung out his shingle in late 2012. And things got really heated over the summer as the race filled up quicker than a downtown commuter train.  Yet, for all the jockeying and fund-raising and early maneuvering, the race for the Democratic nomination is still wide open -- according to both polls and political consultants.

“Green was influenced by M. Night Shyamalan’s book, “I Got Schooled.” The movie director looked at data and concluded that schools were successful not because they were charters, but because they shared certain characteristics. Shyamalan concluded that five things were key: having effective teachers (and the ability to remove ineffective ones), enough time (as in longer days and years), a principal able to concentrate on improving teaching methods and building a positive school culture, constant feedback for teachers and principals, and smaller size in terms of enrollment. Shyamalan says that schools must do all these things -- they can't try two or three and expect to do better.”
What would Bill Green do as chair of School Reform Commission?
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 02 2013 Posted in Latest news
City Councilman Bill Green has long taken a special interest in the School District of Philadelphia, and a few years ago he laid out a detailed education agenda that, in essence, favored the abolition of the School Reform Commission, expansion of charters, and more parental choice.   Sources confirm that the councilman now would like to head the SRC and has spoken to members of Gov. Corbett's administration. One Harrisburg source said that Green is "definitely in the mix" as Corbett looks to fill the vacancy left by Pedro Ramos, who resigned for personal reasons. A second vacancy is expected when Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky's term expires in January. Dworetzky is a holdover appointment of former Gov. Ed Rendell.
In an interview, Green would not comment on whether he is interested in the SRC post or had talked to Corbett's team about it. However, he was willing to discuss education policy generally and clarify how his thinking has evolved since he released the policy papers on the School District in 2010 and 2011.

Sumpter elected president of Pittsburgh school board

By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
On the third ballot, the board of Pittsburgh Public Schools elected Thomas Sumpter, a Schenley Heights resident who has served for eight years, as board president on a 5-3 vote, with one abstention.  The change in leadership Monday followed the swearing in of Mr. Sumpter, who is starting a new term, and four new board members, marking the biggest change in board membership in more than 20 years.

Master's degrees for teachers a matter of debate
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times  on December 02, 2013 at 7:40 AM
Is a teacher with a master's degree a better educator than one without?
The teachers' contract dispute in the Saucon Valley School District is echoing a national dialogue about whether teachers should be paid more for earning master's degrees.
After nearly two years of talks -- and 18 months after the last contract expired -- the district and teachers' union still have no deal. The teachers have twice rejected a neutral fact-finder’s recommendations that the school board accepted.
The Saucon Valley Education Association has so far refused to explain its rejection of the fact-finder's report. But school board members say talks are hung up on public pay for graduate coursework and retirement incentives.

Childhood poverty up 55 percent in Chester County
Delco Times By KENDAL GAPINSKI,  12/02/13, 10:57 PM EST |
Childhood poverty in Chester County has dramatically increased from 2008 to 2012, according to a new report released by the Public Citizens for Children and Youth.
The report, which was released on Monday, says that child poverty has increased in the county by 55 percent since the start of the recession, the highest in the region.
According to PCCY, Bucks County had an 18 percent increase in the number of children living in poverty from 2008 to 2012, while Delaware County saw an increase of 30 percent.
“Child poverty rose more dramatically in Chester County than anywhere else in southeastern Pennsylvania,” said Kathy Fisher, family economic security director for PCCY. “With a rapidly changing economic landscape, elected leaders, schools and parents need to do everything they can to make sure their children are fed.”

Grading PA State Legislative Leaders: Social Media
PoliticsPA by Nick Field, Contributing Writer December 2, 2013
Last month, we took a look at the social media presence of the gubernatorial candidates. This month, we thought we’d examine the records of the state’s legislative leaders.
As in the case of our gubernatorial review, our grades reflect the size and depth of a member’s following as well as the quality of their social media output.

Community Groups to Senators: Move Forward on ESEA Reauthorization
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Alyson Klein on December 2, 2013 3:27 PM
A coalition of nearly 50 advocacy groups—ranging from the Coalition for Community Schools to the National PTA to the Rural School and Community Trust—are asking Congress to pretty, pretty please reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act sooner rather than later.
The groups, 47 in all, sent a letter to Senate leaders asking them to get moving already on ESEA reauthorization. (Well, OK, they put it a little nicer than that.) The waivers, which the Obama administration has granted to nearly every state, are no substitute for an honest-to-goodness reauthorization, they say.

Map: Property Taxes in Your County
Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center November 26, 2013
How much does the average household in your county pay in property taxes, and how does your county stack up to the rest of the nation? Use our interactive map to explore property tax rates and home values at the county level nationwide. Click a county to zoom in, and click it again to zoom out. Darker colors indicate higher values; grey shading indicates unavailable data.

(Florida)…is applying public records laws more aggressively to charter schools, which receive millions in public funds statewide. Charter school administrators are now required to post the school’s annual budget and fiscal audit, the state grade and names of governing board members on their websites.
Information hard to obtain from some Volusia, Flagler charter schools
Daytona Beach News Journal By Annie Martin November 30, 2013 at 8:41 p.m.
Catie Cooper never got the same answer twice.
The lack of transparency at Palm Harbor Academy frustrated the Palm Coast mom during the two years her eldest son attended the school.  “I could never quite get answers about what previous years’ test scores had been, or who was even on the board,” Cooper said.  She withdrew her children from the charter school at the end of the last school year, but a new Florida law should help keep parents in the loop about what’s happening at their children’s schools.

National Governors Association Pushes for Third-Grade Reading Proficiency
Eye on early education blog November 25, 2013 by Alyssa Haywoode
“The time is now to redesign this country’s approach to language and literacy instruction, and governors who choose to can lead the charge,” according to the National Governors Association (NGA) report, “A Governor’s Guide to Early Literacy: Getting all Students Reading by Third Grade.”  Acknowledging the fact that only one-third of America’s fourth graders are reading proficiently, the report points out that America’s governors can help address this challenge. They can build a bridge between knowledge and action, connecting what researchers know to what policymakers do.

American 15-Year-Olds Lag, Mainly in Math, on International Standardized Tests
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH Published: December 3, 2013
Fifteen-year-olds in the United States score in the middle of the developed world in reading and science while lagging in math, according to international standardized test results being released on Tuesday.  While the performance of American students who took the exams last year differed little from the performance of those tested in 2009, the last time the exams were administered, several comparable countries — including Ireland and Poland — pulled ahead this time.
As in previous years, the scores of students in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and South Korea put those school systems at the top of the rankings for math, science and reading. Finland, a darling of educators, slid in all subjects but continued to outperform the averages, and the United States.

Key PISA test results for U.S. students
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS December 3 at 5:15 am
Here are highlights of the newly released 2012 scores from the Program of International Student Assessment, an exam given every three years to 15 year olds around the world in reading, math and science. In this administration of PISA, 65 countries and education systems participated. Connecticut, Florida, and Massachusetts each participated for the first time as international benchmarking systems and received separate scores.
These results are part of a release on the PISA results from the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics.


Taught by Finland Blog by Tim Walker 11/30/2013
Yesterday, I made a late-night run to a Helsinki convenience store. Before entering, I was greeted by the headlines of a Finnish newspaper, which had been posted on the front door: Finnish Education is Crumbling Down.
Breaking News
I knew just what these headlines were about. Throughout the fall, Finland has been forecasted to slip in international rankings based on the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).   PISA is a triennial international survey which seeks to assess education systems worldwide by evaluating skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students. Over 500,000 students from 65 economies participated in PISA 2012.
Just this morning, Pasi Sahlberg (author of Finnish Lessons) reported that Finland dropped from the Top 10 in PISA 2012, noting that Estonia’s 15-year-olds outperformed Finland’s. This news was also cited in one of Finland's most respected newspapers: Helsingin Sanomat

Reading the PISA Tea Leaves: Who Is Responsible for Finland’s Decline and the Asian Magic
Yong Zhao’s Blog 2 DECEMBER 2013 317
“Finland Fell from the Tip of PISA,” says the headline of a story in the largest subscription newspaperHelsingin Sanomat in Finland, according to Google Translate (I think it should Finland Falls from the Top of PISA). I don’t know Finnish but thanks to Google Translate, I was able to understand most of the story. The gist is that Finland has fallen from the top in the current round of PISA.
This is big news, with significant implications not only for the Finns but also for the rest of the world that has been looking at Finland as the model education system since 2001 when Finland was number one in the first round of PISA. Although results of the 2012 PISA won’t be officially unveiled until 10am GMT, December 3rd.the leaked story, published on November 30th, has already sent the Finns and others to speculate the causes of Finland’s decline. “The reasons are seen in the teachers’ continuing education in poor and outdated teaching methods and technology,” writes the Helsingin Sanomat story (courtesy of Google Translate).
While the Finns are right to be concerned about their education, it would be a huge mistake to believe that their education has gotten worse. 

“The hukou system prevents children of migrants–numbering at least 500,000 by the government’s own count and probably many more than that–from attending Shanghai’s high schools. “
Tom Loveless: Why Shanghai Leads the World on International Tests Like PISA
Diane Ravitch’s blog By dianeravitch December 2, 2013 //
Tom Loveless, a scholar at the Brookings Institution, has spent many years analyzing testing data. He is active in the study of international testing.
For one thing, China as a whole does not take the PISA test. Shanghai is a city, not the nation. It is a huge city, to be sure, but it is not typical of the nation. Other provinces take PISA, but China has an unusual arrangement with the OECD (which administers the tests) by which the Chinese government is allowed to review the test scores and decide which provinces will release their scores.

PISA 2012 Results
OECD/PISA website December 3, 2013
PISA 2012 Vol I (what students know and can do)PISA 2012 is the programme’s 5th survey. It assessed the competencies of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science (with a focus on mathematics) in 65 countries and economies.
Around 510 000 students between the ages of 15 years 3 months and 16 years 2 months participated in the assessment, representing about 28 million 15-year-olds globally.
The students took a paper-based test that lasted 2 hours. The tests were a mixture of open-ended and multiple-choice questions that were organised in groups based on a passage setting out a real-life situation. A total of about 390 minutes of test items were covered.  Students took different combinations of different tests. They and their school principals also answered questionnaires to provide information about the students' backgrounds, schools and learning experiences and about the broader school system and learning environment.

“Maintenance of Effort”: Michigan superintendents joining chorus opposing changes to federal special education funding requirements
MLive All Michigan By Brian Smith | bsmith11@mlive.com  December 02, 2013
LANSING -- A proposal preventing school districts from cutting special education programs is meeting with growing opposition from superintendents across Michigan.
The U.S. Department of Education's proposed regulations would prevent a local district receiving federal funds for special education students from reducing its local or state funding below the amount spent the previous year. The rule is intended to prevent districts from using federal funds to take over a larger share of special education costs.
Districts that fail to "maintain effort" by reducing local contributions to special education funding would be subject to penalties including loss of federal funds. The provision has drawn objections from school district officials across the country during an open comment period.

NSBA commends bill to offer schools flexibility on school nutrition programs
NSBA School Board News Today by Joetta Sack-Min December 2, 2013
The National School Boards Association (NSBA) commends and supports new legislation that offers public schools added flexibility in meeting the mandates of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.  The Reducing Federal Mandates on School Lunch Act, sponsored by Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), to be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this week, offers relief to school districts on some of the federal mandates that have created soaring operational costs along with other unintended consequences, such as school lunches that leave students hungry in cases where serving sizes are inadequate or students do not like the food mandated and are refusing to eat it.

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.

Public Meeting, 12/11/2013, 10:00 AM  Hearing Room 1, North Office Building
Public hearing to consider final recommendations and release final report)

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 robinson@eplc.org.

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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