Wednesday, March 12, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 12, 2014: "...This has tended to isolate and concentrate the kids thought most difficult to educate at the only schools in the city that must take them."

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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 12, 2014:
"...This has tended to isolate and concentrate the kids thought most difficult to educate at the only schools in the city that must take them."

Still think that CCSS was a teacher and state-led endeavor?
Follow the Money: How Bill Gates Bought the Common Core (in one Graphic Image)

"Peduto, who took office in January, said the health of the city is closely tied to that of its schools. Better schools mean families move into the city, which broadens the tax base, puts people in homes and reduces blight, he said."
Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto proposes $16M for schools to boost population
The Tribune-Review By Megan Harris and Bob Bauder Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 11:00 p.m.
Mayor Bill Peduto says his pledge to increase Pittsburgh's population by 20,000 in 10 years hinges on improving the city's schools, but other leaders fail to see how the city can help.
Councilwoman Darlene Harris said Pittsburgh lacks cash to throw at the problem, and Peduto doesn't have the authority to compel the embattled district to get better.
“The school district is a separate governmental body,” said Harris of Spring Hill, a former school board president. “I don't think the city has money to give to another governmental body.”
Pa. Democrats propose bond to fund pensions
GOP response to plan is uncertain
By Kate Giammarise / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau March 11, 2014 11:39 PM
HARRISBURG -- The state's Senate Democrats will introduce a plan today to refinance $9 billion in unfunded pension liability through a pension obligation bond, according to several sources familiar with the plan.  Democrats introducing such a proposal is a marked shift -- until now, party leaders had mainly advocated for the state to stick to pension overhauls passed in 2010 under Act 120 without making any additional changes.  Gov. Tom Corbett has consistently said the state's pension obligations are unsustainable and has made a major overhaul of the system a key legislative priority -- one he has so far failed to accomplish.  The state's unfunded liability for the retirement systems serving state and public school workers is estimated at more than $45 billion.

Mars Area School Board rejects drilling proposal
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review  By Bill Vidonic Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 7:42 p.m.
More than 150 Mars Area School District residents cheered loudly Tuesday night as the nine-member school board voted unanimously to reject Rex Energy's proposal to conduct horizontal drilling for oil and gas underneath district property along Route 228.  “This is not just for today, but forever,” said Amy Nassif of Adams. “The community has spoken. We do not want this type of industry near our children.”  The school board rejected an agreement that would have paid the district just over $1 million for a five-year lease. The pact promised the district about $4,000 an acre for drilling rights about a mile underneath nearly 175 acres of school property.
The $1 million payment included about $330,000 in advance royalties for the rights to drill from a site about 4,000 feet from district property. The district would have received 15 percent of royalties from the drilling.
"This year's rate of students at Jefferson who receive free or reduced-cost lunches is 32.7 percent, Seidenberger said.  To be eligible for Head Start, a family's income cannot exceed the federal poverty line. For a family of four that's $23,850.  Seidenberger said the only cost to the district would be about $15,000 to $18,000 for transporting the children. Community Services for Children would pay for certified staff and materials through a federal grant."
With rise in poor students, East Penn looks to open its first Head Start class
Move comes as district sees a rise in the number of students from low-income families.
By Margie Peterson, Special to The Morning Call 9:42 p.m. EDT, March 11, 2014
In a sign of its changing demographics, East Penn School District expects to get its first Head Start program for preschoolers at Jefferson Elementary School in the fall.
The school board is slated to vote at its next meeting on whether to allow the nonprofit Community Services for Children to start a Head Start program for 20 children at the school.
Federally funded Head Start is a preschool program for children from low-income families to ensure they are ready to learn when they get to kindergarten.
"Our demographics are changing in the district and I don't think it's a surprise to any of you that we have more families that meet federal free- and reduced-lunch standards, especially in the Lincoln [Elementary School] and Jefferson-sending areas," Superintendent Thomas Seidenberger told the school board Monday.
Saucon Valley School Board launches negotiations website
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times on March 11, 2014 at 7:33 PM
The Saucon Valley School Board has launched a website outlining its position in its ongoing teacher contract negotiations. The board voted last month to accept a contract settlement with the Saucon Valley Education Association that would have ended two years of contract talks. But the 186-member association had already rejected the deal.  The school board has notified teachers they have 30 days, until March 25, to reconsider their rejection of the new contract. At that point, the school board "will be free to reconsider its position completely," district solicitor and negotiator Jeffrey Sultanik wrote in a letter to the association's Pennsylvania State Education Association representative.

KCSD: Reform state education funding formula:
Lock Haven Express, March 11, 2014
The Keystone Central School Board would like to see a new, "fair and equitable" formula for basic education subsidies provided to Pennsylvania's public schools. School board members are sending a letter to that effect to state lawmakers and the governor at the request of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, and they encourage taxpayers to do the same.
Full story

East Penn School District wants funding formula:
Easton Express Times, March 10, 2014
Is it too much to ask to have a reliable funding formula so school districts would know how much money they can count on from the state each year? That's was the plea Monday night when the East Penn School Board unanimously approved a resolution asking for a fair and consistent funding formula to help districts compile their budgets and set their tax rates.
Full story

New Hope hearing focuses on charters, student performance
Judges questioned what the law requires of charter schools
York Daily Record By Angie Mason @angiemason1 on Twitter
UPDATED:   03/10/2014 07:35:24 PM EDT
An appeals court hearing on New Hope Academy Charter School's fate focused largely on whether charter schools are required to meet specific student performance marks in order to keep their charters, a discussion that led one judge to lament the "vague" nature of the charter school law.  Arguments in New Hope Academy's appeal were heard Monday before a three-judge panel in Commonwealth Court. The school is trying to remain open after the York City School District voted not to renew New Hope's charter in 2012, a decision that was upheld by the state Charter Appeal Board last fall.

"It was this dissatisfaction with neighborhood school options that drove, and continues to drive, the city's parents toward charters. Since the passage of Pennsylvania's charter law in 1997, charter growth has boomed. The city now boasts 86 charters that serve roughly 31 percent of the city's public school students.  In that same time, the district has continuously expanded its own boutique, non-neighborhood options.  These district expansions have included Science Leadership Academy, The Workshop School, Rush Arts, Hill-Freedman and more.
Both of these movements have, on average, siphoned the city's top performing students away from neighborhood schools. This has tended to isolate and concentrate the kids thought most difficult to educate at the only schools in the city that must take them."
For many Philly families choosing high schools, it's either magnet or charter
Chrislie Dor, a budding poet at age 14, stands like Frost's narrator at a fork in the road.
The paths diverge not in a yellow wood, but instead the concrete jungle that is Philadelphia public education. Looking down one bend as far as she can, Chrislie sees the school district's selective-admission magnet high schools. Looking down the other, she sees the city's charter schools.
Other options — such as Chrislie's district-run neighborhood high school — may be in the vicinity, but they don't figure on her map.

More Renaissance charter schools planned for the fall
by Dale Mezzacappa on Mar 11 2014 Posted in Latest news
The School District plans to designate two additional schools, likely K-6 or K-8 elementaries, for conversion to charter schools in September, Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn said Tuesday, making this the fifth straight year of the so-called Renaissance Charter Schools Initiative.  But the process will be significantly different this time. In the past, the District has chosen the schools to be converted and approved a set of providers, which made their pitches to school communities. Each School Advisory Council (SAC) then voted on which provider to accept.  For this round, the District will match a provider with a school, and the "school communities" will then vote whether to accept the choice or remain under District control. Athough the schools will have SACs, the goal is to have all parents at a designated school participate in the vote, Kihn said.

District to give more schools to charters

Philly School Files Blog by Kristen Graham POSTED: TUESDAY, MARCH 11, 2014, 12:34 PM
Philadelphia School District officials announced Tuesday that they will, for the fifth year in a row, give failing district schools to charter organizations for turnarounds.  Officials have said they aim to designate one or two "Renaissance schools" this year.  The district release a request for qualification for Renaissance providers, saying that instead of school communities selecting providers, as they have in the past, the district will match finalists with schools. In April, the school communities will vote on whether to become charters or remain a district-run school.

Strategies to Reduce High-Stakes Testing
Yinzercation Blog March 11, 2014
News flash: I am not against testing. Most parents, teachers, and even students agree that we ought to assess what students learn. Quality assessments help children learn and provide meaningful information to teachers to help them meet the needs of individual students. Tests ought to align with the curriculum (and ideally be designed by teachers) and give timely, informative results to parents and students. Yet the skyrocketing use of high-stakes-testing in our classrooms (such as the PSSAs, Keystones, GRADE, CDTs, CBAs, and many others) does not appear to meet these requirements.  Significantly, as we talked about in yesterday’s post, parents and educators are increasingly worried about the high-stakes for students attached to high-stakes testing. That piece has been getting a lot of attention: there are several thought provoking comments on the blog (and I encourage you to contribute your own), and the Washington Post just published the article. [Washington Post, 3-11-14]
So as we think about the growing negative consequences for students, what can we do together to address the over-use and misuse of high-stakes-testing? Here are some strategies:

"As the arts have been largely eliminated from U.S. public school, a process that began in the 1970s, so has the avenue to one of the arts’ irreplaceable gifts: the agency to withstand ambiguity and to discern for yourself whether to pursue a problem or to quit and reassess.  The external binaries of right and wrong don’t exist in art as they do in most subjects. In math, the answer to the problem is correct or incorrect. In history, a sequence of events is true or false. In art, only the student can decide what critique to listen to and what to ignore. Art is the arena of activity where we develop the skill most required to innovate — the ability to harness our own agency."
Scientists aren’t the only innovators! We really need artists
Too many people believe that innovation emerges only from a lab. They're wrong -- and here's why it matters by SARAH LEWIS March 10, 2014
“What’s your favorite subject in school?” I heard a mother ask her young son and daughter as we were in the elevator riding up in our building.  “Gym,” the girl said.  “Art,” the boy said.
I smiled and looked down at the elevator floor. Just before I averted my eyes, I had also noticed that my neighbor was most worried by her son’s response: “Art.” She looked at me, panic-stricken.  Don’t look at me, I thought. I know that, to many, pursuing the arts can seem like the height of impracticality. I remember how nervous my parents were when I came home from grade school and declared that I wanted to be a painter. And then, when I told them that after going to Harvard and Oxford, I wanted to be a curator.
We may be concerned when a child expresses a love for the arts because we worry that what President Obama has recently said (and as many have before) could be right — skilled mechanics might have a better chance of getting a high-paying job than those with degrees in art history, or those pursuing a career in the arts. Yet what are we most in need of? People who can think creatively and innovate.

Is your PA Congressman on the cosponsorship list?
More members of the House of Representatives join growing co-sponsor list for NSBA bill
NSBA School Board News Today by Staff March 11th, 2014
Fourteen lawmakers from the U.S. House of Representatives have joined the 24 existing co-sponsors on the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act (H.R. 1386), since Feb. 2014. The bi-partisan bill recognizes the benefits of local school district governance and ensures that maximum local flexibility and decision-making are not eroded through U.S. Department of Education (ED) actions.  The National School Boards Association (NSBA) attributes this wave of legislative support to the dedicated work of the hundreds of school board members and state school boards association leaders who attended NSBA’s new Advocacy Institute, held Feb. 2-4, 2014 in Washington. In addition to building year-round advocates for public education and local school governance, the institute arranged Capitol Hill visits for attendees to speak with their members of Congress about protecting local school district governance from unnecessary and counter-productive federal intrusion.  Thirty-eight Congressional co-sponsors have now signed on to the bill. Introduced by Rep. Aaron Schock (R-lll.) on March 21, 2013, this legislation had as original co-sponsors Reps. Schock, Rodney Davis (R-Iowa), Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), and David Valadao (R-Calif.).

How billionaire-funded ‘ed reform’ groups push charters, vouchers
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS March 11 at 2:10 pm
How powerful are organizations such as  Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst and other like-minded groups that support charter schools, voucher programs and the weakening of teachers unions.?
The Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organization that works to reveal abuses of power, corruption and betrayal of public trust by public and private institutions, takes a look at this issue in a new post on its Web site, ”Education groups battle teachers unions in state races.” It reveals the growing power of the purse of “education reform” organizations that are funded by wealthy philanthropists and that are spending big bucks to support mostly conservative candidates running for local and state offices around the country.
And get this: Federal tax rules allow them to operate without revealing from whom they get their money, meaning the public doesn’t know who is funding many candidates running for public office.

Testing Skeptics Aim to Build Support for Opt-Out Strategy
Education Week By Karla Scoon Reid Published Online: March 11, 2014
Riding what they see as a wave of anti-testing sentiment among parents, opponents of high-stakes assessments believe a strategy known as opt-out—having parents refuse to let their children take state-mandated tests—could force policymakers to take note of their cause.
Once considered a rarity, the opt-out push has prompted high-profile boycott efforts and meetings in large districts such as Chicago and led more parents nationwide to join forces with anti-testing advocates in arguing that the assessments are unnecessary, excessive, and, in some cases, even harmful to students.

Netflix CEO on Charter Schools goal: "Get rid of School Boards"
Published on Mar 9, 2014 youtube video runtime 2:37
Read more at Billionaire Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, provides the Charter School Roadmap: Replace elected school boards with large non-profits run by rich oligarch magnates. Hastings gave this speech at the March 4th, 2014 California Charter School Association conference in San Jose, CA

Live Chat with PA's Major Education Leadership Organizations on Twitter
PSBA website 3/11/2014
On Tuesday, March 25 at 8 p.m., Pennsylvania's major education leadership organizations will host a live chat on Twitter to share the opinions of school leaders from throughout the state and invite feedback.  Join the conversation using hashtag #PAEdFunding and lurk, learn or let us know what you think about the state of support for public schools.  If you've never tweeted before, join us. It's a simple, free and fast-paced way to communicate and share information. Here are directions and a few tips:

PILCOP Special Education Seminars 2014 Schedule
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia

Register Now! EPLC’s 2014 Education Issues Workshops for Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff, and Interested Voters
EPLC’s Education Issue Workshops Register Now! – Space is Limited!
A Non-Partisan One-Day Program for Pennsylvania Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff and Interested Voters
Wednesday, March 19, 2014 in Monroeville, PA
Thursday, March 27, 2014 in Philadelphia,PA

Auditor General DePasquale to Hold Public Meetings on Ways to Improve Charter Schools
Seeks to find ways to improve accountability, effectiveness, transparency
The the last of five public meetings will be held:
  • Philadelphia: 1 to 3 p.m., Friday, March 14, City Council Chambers, Room 400, City Hall
Time is limited to two hours for each meeting. Comments can be submitted in writing by Wednesday, Feb. 19, via email to Susan Woods at:

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.

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