Thursday, December 5, 2013

PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 5, 2013: U.S. Schools: They face a crisis. (Look at the date for that headline.)

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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Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for December 5, 2013:
U.S. Schools: They face a crisis. (Look at the date for that headline.)

Tweet from Lori Crouch ‏@lkcrouch at Education Writers Association
U.S. Schools: They face a crisis. Look at the date for that headline.

Defense continues in charter fraud case
PHILADELPHIA The former board president of Dorothy June Brown's flagship charter school said in federal court Wednesday that the board was not a rubber stamp for Brown and took its responsibility seriously.  Karolyn Mena told defense lawyer Andrew Bellwoar that during her 21/2 years on the board of the Laboratory Charter School, it was not controlled by Brown.
But Mena acknowledged during cross-examination that the board did not take any action against Michael Slade, the charter's chief executive, after the Philadelphia School District raised concerns that he had fabricated his background clearance to cover up a criminal record.

Corbett Administration Moving Too Fast on Keystone Exams, Stack Tells Senate
Senator Stacks’s website on DECEMBER 4, 2013
HARRISBURG, Dec. 4, 2013 — On the floor of the state Senate today, Sen. Mike Stack criticized the Corbett administration for ignoring education and community leaders who believe implementation of the controversial Keystone Exams will financially hurt school districts and unfairly affect students who do not pass the pressure-packed graduation requirement.
“The Keystone Exams have been the source of a lot of debate and angst over the past six months. It peaked with a split, 3-2, IRRC vote to approve the Keystone Exams on Thursday, Nov. 21. Last week, Senator Dinniman and I hosted a town hall hearing on the Keystone Exams to get feedback from education experts, advocates, and key stakeholders.  “We heard a lot of interesting reaction and I wanted to highlight some of the issues and themes we heard:

Nearby districts (suburban Philly) struggle to make up for shortfalls
Economically depressed communities and urban hubs like Chester and Upper Darby have been hard hit by school budget cuts.
The notebook by Connie Langland December 2013 print edition
When his counterparts describe handing out iPads to students, Joseph Otto just tunes out the conversation.  Otto is chief operations officer of the William Penn School District in Delaware County, just across Cobbs Creek from Southwest Philadelphia. His district limps along from year to year by paring back services and staff and putting off investments in books, technology, and other classroom needs. The local school board is loath to raise taxes any higher because the district’s  residents already shoulder some of the highest tax burdens in the region.
“IPads are not even an option for us,” said Otto.  “We do nothing extra. We’re just trying to survive.”
Like the School District of Philadelphia, numerous districts in the region and across the state are struggling to make up for shortfalls in state funding, anemic local revenues, and hefty payouts to charter schools.

“Like many new Philadelphia parents, Olesh says, she and her husband support public education but  couldn't ignore all the negative things they'd heard about Philadelphia public schools: "'They're bad, they're inadequate, they're unsafe.'" But their solution was not to call a Realtor; it was to visit their local school.  They found Chester Arthur school to be just fine.  As Olesh put it, the school "has good bones," with good teachers, well-behaved students, walls with artwork and a nice engaged in learning.”
Some of Philly's young professionals study how to help the schools
Once your kids hit the age of 5, it's time to move to the suburbs. Or at least that's how it has gone for generations of middle- and upper-class parents in Philadelphia.
Most of the news out of Philadelphia schools lately has been the kind to lead city parents who have the option to start lining up a moving van: deficits, school closings, teacher layoffs, cheating scandals.  But these days some Philadelphians are taking a different approach.  In neighborhoods from Graduate Hospital to East Falls to Fishtown, they're vowing to stay put, pitching in to help their neighborhood school improve. And they're doing this well before their children are ready for kindergarten, or even before they're born.

Expanded Learning Time: Big reading gains and no learning loss for Springboard students
thenotebook by Connie Langland on Dec 04 2013
Last spring, Springboard Collaborative won a contract with the District by promising to replace learning loss over the summer with reading gains for some of its lowest-performing students.
The program included five weeks of instruction for struggling readers in grades K-3 in four District schools and workshops to train parents to teach reading at home.  The effort apparently paid off. Overall, 642 students in eight schools (four charter schools also participated) gained 3.3 months in reading skills, according to Alejandro Gac-Artigas, Springboard’s CEO. He cited research showing that low-income students experience a three-month learning loss over the summer months, not progress.

“DCCC recently unveiled its High School Dual Enrollment Pilot Program, in which high school students can jump-start their college education – while still in high school.
Students attend classes at DCCC’s Marple campus and earn college credits, for a fraction of what it might cost them normally. For instance, students at DCCC usually pay $146 a credit, along with fees, so long as they are from a sponsoring school district. That compares to the $40 students in the pilot program have to cough up. For those from non-sponsoring districts (and this might be a clarion call for parents in Chichester , Marple-Newtown and Penn-Delco to urge their districts to participate) the cost is a bit higher, $80 per credit instead of the normal $254 per credit with fees.”
Editorial: DCCC plan saves money, accelerates education
Delco Times Editorial POSTED: 12/04/13, 10:16 PM EST | UPDATED: 1 HR AGO
A couple of weeks ago the good folks at the child advocacy group Public Citizens for Children and Youth rolled out a study that explained the way Delaware County children are being shortchanged when it comes to education funding.  It’s called an uneven playing field. Students in less well-to-do districts will always be at a disadvantage when compared to their counterparts in more affluent districts.  Here’s something they didn’t tell you.  It doesn’t stop when children graduate from high school.
If anything, it becomes even more challenging.

Give Corbett an “F”
Yinzercation Blog December 4, 2013
Well, the man’s got nerve, I’ll give you that. Since kicking off his re-election bid here in Pittsburgh last month (see “A Week of Action”), Governor Corbett has been touring the state boldly campaigning on his record of – wait for it – education. Yes, the man who has slashed $2.4 billion and counting from public schools in the Commonwealth now thinks that voters will buy the idea that he actually supports public education. Incredibly, Gov. Corbett has been claiming in radio ads that he increased funding for our schools. [Politics PA, 11-17-13]
Tell that to students here who are missing $26.8 million from their annual budget. Just today, the Pittsburgh Public School district announced plans to address a resulting projected $46 million budget gap, including closing 5-10 more schools, decreasing the number of periods in high schools, combining grades in a single classroom, eliminating some sports, reducing yellow bus service, and much more. [PPS Whole Child report, 12-4-13] The Governor’s de-funding of Pittsburgh schools accounts for well over half (58%) of the district’s budget woes. His education cuts are not only hurting our kids, they are about to rip holes in our neighborhoods as we are forced to close more schools.

Congrats to Shauna D’Alessandro (who is also a Co-Chair for the Keystone State Education Coalition) and thanks for your ongoing service to PA kids and taxpayers.  FYI, ALL of the positions noted are unpaid volunteer positions…
West Jefferson Hills school director named to head AIU board
TribLive By Tim Karan  December 4, 2013
West Jefferson Hills school board vice president Shauna D'Alessandro was elected president of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit joint board of directors last week, Superintendent Michael Panza said at a meeting on Tuesday evening.  “For those who don't know, the AIU represents 42 public schools throughout Allegheny County,” Panza said. “This is a great honor.”
D'Alessandro, a certified public accountant, joined West Jefferson Hills school board in 2003 and has served as president and vice president.  She is one of only a few school directors in the state to have earned Master School Board Member certification, and is a board member of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
Pittsburgh schools chief pushes cuts, revisions
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 4, 2013 11:53 PM
While the city has lost nearly a third of its school-age population since 2000 and the school district faces bankruptcy in 2016 unless it changes course, Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Linda Lane believes doom-and-gloom isn't a great motivator.
Her recommendations to address financial and academic challenges -- made Wednesday at Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12 in a state-of-the-district address -- highlighted both cost-cutting and new initiatives.  The cost-cutting includes closing, consolidating or reconfiguring five to 10 schools in fall 2015 as well as decreases in transportation, larger class sizes in 6-12 and 9-12 schools, reduced custodial services, return of some special education students from regional classrooms to feeder schools, and other reductions.

Commonwealth Foundation I: Charter schools 'save school districts' (Letter)
Chambersburg Public Opinion LTE by Nathan A. Benefield, policy analysis director, Commonwealth Foundation
Susan Spicka's recent essay attacking Sen. Rich Alloway and charter schools repeats many of the myths perpetrated by supporters of the status quo in education.
Charters schools don't drain money, they save school districts. Charter schools only receive about 80 percent of the funding that school districts spend per student (this would actually be reduced in SB 1085). Districts keep 20 percent for children they no longer educate -- allowing them to spend more per student.

Commonwealth Foundation II: John R. Bouder: Treat cyber schools fairly in Pennsylvania (Letter)
Post-Gazette LTE by by John R. Bouder December 4, 2013 3:33 AM
John R. Bouder is a policy analyst and communications officer for the Commonwealth Foundation, a free-market think tank based in Harrisburg
Alyssa Weaver is a poster child for the benefits of choice in public education. A Mifflintown resident, Alyssa was diagnosed with a crippling case of scoliosis at the age of 12. In decades past, this might have brought her education and career aspirations to a screeching halt. But, thanks to the marriage of online education and public charter school, Alyssa had a life-changing option — cyber schooling.  Cyber school allowed Alyssa to learn at home when multiple corrective surgeries and long recovery periods left her in intense pain and unable to attend classes at a traditional brick-and-mortar school.

Charter school 'reform': More taxes, less taxpayer control (Letter)
Chambersburg Public Opinion LTE by Peter Rueter
State Sen. Rich Alloway is a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 1085, the charter school reform bill that proposes to allow private entities to authorize charter schools in our communities without the approval of local taxpayers or school boards -- and then send us the bill.
If SB 1085 passes, home and business owners can expect to see their property tax bills increase, as the state will mandate that we fund privately-operated schools in our area in addition to all of our public schools.
In an online response to an op-ed in the Public Opinion, Sen. Alloway commented that he supports SB 1085 because, "Apparently, PSEA, school boards assn., superintendents are against it AND so are the charter schools. In my short tenure in the Senate I have found that usually if all the interest groups are a little disgruntled, you are probably in a good spot."
It is alarming to learn that our own state senator decides to support legislation based on what he finds out after he checks with special interest groups in Harrisburg.

EPLC - 2014 Gubernatorial Candidate Plans for Education and Arts/Culture in PA
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 PennsylvaniaThis list will be updated, as more information becomes available.
John Hanger, Former Secretary of Environmental Protection – Statements on education can be found here and here(Education, Hard Work – The American Dream). His plan, “Public Education SOS: Save Our Schools from Privatization“, can be found here.
Rob McCord, State Treasurer – Statement on education is available here (third paragraph from the bottom of the page).
Katie McGinty, Former Secretary of Environmental Protection – Her plan for education – “Strong Schools. Bright Futures. Katie McGinty’s K-12 Plan for the 21st Century” – is posted here.  On page two of the document, Secretary McGinty includes this proposal related to arts and culture: “Reestablishing the Governor’s Academies for Gifted and Talented Students, starting with the schools for Science, Math, Technology, Engineering and the Arts”. Historically, Pennsylvania proved (provided) summer academies for gifted and talented students who then would attend enrichment programs on college campuses across the Commonwealth. Katie would restore this”.
Max Myers, Mechanicsburg Pastor – Statement on education is part of the Vision page of his gubernatorial web site,here (fourth section from the top).
Ed Pawlowski, Mayor of Allentown – His plan for education is posted here.
Allyson Schwartz, U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District – Her plan for education – “One Pennsylvania: Quality Education for Every Pennsylvania Student” – is posted here. In her plan, Congresswoman Schwartz quotes the PASA / PASBO survey, including information on school plans to cut arts programming because of budget constraints.
Tom Wolf, Former Secretary of Revenue – His plan for education – “Fighting for Public Education” – is posted here.

Making the Case for Birth to Eight
Eye on Early Education Blog December 4, 2013 by Alyssa Haywoode
The drumbeat is getting louder: public investments should focus on birth to eight – those crucial years when children undergo emotional, social, academic and neurological development that can prepare them for lifelong success.  Last month, the Annie E. Casey Foundation weighed in on the birth to eight landscape in a KIDS COUNT policy paper, “The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success.”

Here’s the WSJ opinion/spin on the PISA results. 
Blogger’s comments: the US has never excelled on international standardized tests.  Not in 50 years.  Are students knocking down doors to attend colleges in Hungary, Lithuania, Vietnam, Russia, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea?  How many patents do those countries generate?
WSJ conveniently overlooked the fact that Shanghai does not permit 500,000 poor migrant kids to attend public schools…..
PISA: The Human Wealth of Nations
The latest Program for International Student Assessment global education scores are a warning to both parties.
Wall Street Journal Dec. 3, 2013 7:03 p.m. ET
Are the schools that serve the world's leading economy really only as good as those in Hungary, Lithuania, Vietnam and Russia? That's the conundrum posed by Tuesday's news of one more mediocre U.S. showing on international educational progress. If the findings land amid exaggerated angst about national decline, they still suggest that both Washington and the 50 states ought to be less complacent about prosperity and human capital.
Since 1998, the Program for International Student Assessment, or Pisa, has ranked 15-year-old kids around the world on common reading, math and science tests. The U.S. brings up the middle—again—among 65 education systems that make up fourth-fifths of the global economy. The triennial Pisa report also shows—again—that East Asian countries like Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea produce the best outcomes.

"This should not be considered a pride for us, because overall it still measures one's test-taking ability. You can have the best answer for a theoretical model, but can you build a factory on a test paper?" asked Xiong Binqi, a Shanghai-based scholar on education.  "The biggest criticism is that China's education has sacrificed everything else for test scores, such as life skills, character building, mental health, and physical health," Xiong said.”
PISA: Driven by fierce competition and aided by tutorials, Asian students dominate global test
Fox News Published December 04, 2013 Associated Press
BEIJING –  As a ninth-grader, Shanghai's Li Sixin spent more than three hours on homework a night and took tutorials in math, physics and chemistry on the weekends. When she was tapped to take an exam last year given to half a million students around the world, Li breezed through it.
"I felt the test was just easy," said Li, who was a student at Shanghai Wenlai Middle School at the time and now attends high school. "The science part was harder... but I can handle that."
Those long hours focused on schoolwork — and a heavy emphasis on test-taking skills — help explain why young students like Li in China's financial hub once again dominated an international test to 15-year-olds called the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, coordinated by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD.

PISA 2012 Results
National Center for Education Statistics – includes links to downloadable XL tables

 “The average school counselor in the United States has a caseload of 471 students.”  ….”It’s revealing that three out of four private high schools, where parents expect to get their children into good colleges, have counselors who specialize in advising students about their higher educations, Radford says. And counselors in private schools have a median caseload of only 106.
School counselors increasingly are missing link in getting kids to college
Hechinger Report By Timothy Pratt DECEMBER 3, 2013
SMYRMA, Georgia — Campbell High School counselor Jamie Ryder’s determined cheer interrupts the half-asleep, early morning silence of a dozen ninth-graders crammed into a small classroom as she launches into a 90-minute talk about the future, with a focus on careers and college.
The challenges facing Ryder soon become clear. When she asks about her students’ goals, one hand goes up. Then a low voice in the back of the room wisecracks, “Be a drug dealer.” A while later, when the students are told to sit at computers and go through a questionnaire to help determine what courses of studies and careers would be good fits for them, several struggle with the words on the screen, English still foreign to them.
In spite of all these warning signs, Ryder’s caseload and those of her colleagues are so big that this may be the only time for at least a year that many of these students will ever see her or any other counselor. The best she can do is reach out each fall to Campbell’s 800 first-year students in groups like these, to try to give them an idea of what life might be like beyond their early teens.

Teach for America alumni take four seats on Atlanta School Board
“The board will include four members who participated in the Teach for America program, which recruits recent college graduates to teach in low-income communities, often in charter schools. Their TFA experience increases the number of school board members who have taught in classrooms, but it also calls attention to how they’ll vote on issues concerning charter schools.”
Atlanta school board elections bring heavy turnover
By Mark Niesse The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Posted: 9:50 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013
Two-thirds of Atlanta’s school board will be filled with new representatives following a runoff election Tuesday that ousted the board’s chairman.

ALEC Ed. Agenda for 2014: Course Choice, Student Data 'Backpack Act'
Education Week State Ed Watch Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on December 3, 2013 12:07 PM
My colleague Benjamin Herold has a must-read story online today about model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council that aims to protect the privacy of student data. The template being provided to state legislators includes the creation of a "chief privacy officer" and the publishing of an inventory of all student-level data collected by the state. 
That model bill is sure to draw attention in statehouses around the country, and in fact it's similar to data-privacy legislation that passed recently in Oklahoma. However, ALEC has other legislation in the hopper for states to consider as lawmakers prepare for their respective 2014 sessions. The group, which has both state legislators and representatives of the private sector as members, promotes school choice and other market-oriented solutions in schools, but has drawn flak from those suspicious of its ties to corporations and its influence with conservative lawmakers. 

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

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.

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 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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