Thursday, March 13, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 13, 2014: Indiana is poised to officially junk Common Core academic standards

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Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 13, 2014:
Indiana is poised to officially junk Common Core academic standards

Netflix CEO on Charter Schools goal: "Get rid of School Boards"
Published on Mar 9, 2014 youtube video runtime 2:37

"A bill in the Pennsylvania House would limit the ways local government boards could call executive sessions, and would require the boards to make a recording, in case it was later necessary to prove the session was lawful. "
Pennsylvania local governments would need better reasons for going behind closed doors, under bill
By Jeff Frantz | on March 12, 2014 at 3:29 PM
A Pennsylvania House proposal would limit the reasons for school boards and local government to talk behind closed doors.  It would also make it easier for citizens to challenge what they believe are unlawful executive sessions.  The proposal received a lot of support Wednesday at a hearing of the House State Government Committee. The hearing came days before the beginning of Sunshine Week, designed to raise awareness about open government.

"The money really is astonishing. The new Keystone exams are costing us taxpayers $70 million to develop over a six-year period. [PA House Republican Caucus, 12-13-13] The new School Performance Profile system, largely based on student test scores, has already cost us $2.7 million to develop and it will cost an estimated $838,000 every year to maintain. [Post-Gazette, 10-5-13] Our legislators also signed a five-year, $201.1 million contract with Minnesota-based Data Recognition Corporation to administer high-stakes-tests to our students. [, 12-1-11] This doesn’t include the millions that local school districts are paying to develop their own tests and purchase new test-prep materials."

Millions Spent, No Results

Last night over 120 people came together to watch the new movie, “Standardized.” We had parents from the Northside to Hazelwood, Duquesne to Mt. Lebanon, and everywhere in between; teachers from Pittsburgh to Steel Valley; principals from Cannonsburg in Washington, County; at least four school board members; leaders of several community organizations; and many others. Following the film, we had a discussion that ran well over an hour, as we thought together about some of the issues it had raised: what tests are appropriate? how much testing is OK? what are the consequences of high-stakes testing that we are seeing in our schools and communities?  One of the clear themes of the movie that came out in our conversation could be summed up in four words: millions spent, no results.

Citing budget gap, Chester Upland schools cut staff
Kathy Boccella, Inquirer Staff Writer March 13, 2014
The Chester Upland School District is laying off nine administrative staff members as part of an effort to reduce a $20 million spending gap, officials said Wednesday.  "Given the deficit we face and mandates to rightsize the administrative staff, we have no choice but to reduce the staff size," said state-appointed receiver Joe Watkins, who has been charged with implementing a recovery plan for the ailing Delaware County district.  The cuts, which the district had first said would affect 10 employees, will save $1.4 million in next year's $125 million budget. The district, which has about 3,000 students, is also trying to sell three buildings it no longer uses and is asking the state for more money.

Philly Schools Offer Parents a Choice: Go Charter or Stay in Schools with No Resources
The Philadelphia public school district is being aggressively starved of resources by Governor Corbett and the Legislature, and its Broad-trained superintendent now proposes to shrink the district still farther to save money. He is offering parents a choice of converting to charter status or remaining in the district, where they cannot count on having a library, a school nurse, reasonable class sizes, the arts, basic supplies, or anything else. Thousands of teachers, school aides, nurses, social workers, and nurses have been laid off. This is reform-by-attrition. Last fall, a 12-year-old child died of an asthma attack in her public school in Philadelphia because there was no school nurse on duty that day, due to Corbett’s budget cuts.

Waiting for Philly charter school lotteries and hoping for a kindergarten slot
For many Philadelphia parents with kids about to enter kindergarten or first grade, March is a very stressful time.  Moms and dads ― hoping their children will be selected to attend charter schools ― worry about how this one month could hold the key to their kid's future.
Wanda Thomas is one of them.  It's around 9 a.m. at Thomas' house near Erie and Broad in North Philly. Her 5-year old daughter Madeline sits on her lap fidgeting. Thomas, a photographer, is waiting to find out whether her young daughter got into a charter school.

Phila. Superintendent Plans to Open Unconventional Schools
Education Week By Benjamin Herold Published Online: March 11, 2014
Six months after investing millions of dollars in expanding three of Philadelphia’s most innovative educational programs, Superintendent William R. Hite is doubling down on his bet to improve the troubled district by putting new models of teaching and learning in place.  Although he says the cash-strapped city school system will need $440 million in as-yet-uncommitted revenues just to provide a “bare minimum” level of service to its 131,000 students in the 2014-15 school year, Mr. Hite in February pushed for and won approval to open three unconventional high schools next school year. The price tag for the new schools remains unclear, but will easily run into the millions of dollars next year alone, prompting concerns from some public education advocates that more money will be diverted away from existing schools.

Innovative education model challenges teachers to adjust
by thenotebook on Mar 12 2014 Posted in Latest news
by Benjamin Herold for Education Week
Another first-period engineering class has just been derailed by a series of small frustrations: Students strolling in late. Questions met with blank stares. Smartphones used for text messages instead of research.  Karthik Subburam, a five-year veteran in his first year teaching in the "inquiry-driven, project-based, technology-infused" style of Philadelphia's nationally acclaimed Science Leadership Academy, runs his fingers through his hair. "Sometimes, it's like pulling teeth," he says.  Six months into the school year, a controversial gamble by Philadelphia Superintendent William R. Hite to expand innovative school models has yielded progress. Science Leadership Academy has established a second campus that mirrors the quirky, intimate atmosphere of the original. At the new SLA@Beeber, students skateboard through the hallways past a teacher draped in Christmas lights, and no one bats an eye.
But inside classrooms, efforts to re-create SLA's instructional model have been uneven, highlighting the challenges faced by the growing number of districts seeking to open and replicate nontraditional, technology-oriented schools.

Indiana Common Core bill passed; heads to Pence by Scott Elliott on March 12, 2014
If Gov. Mike Pence signs off, Indiana is poised to officially junk Common Core academic standards despite last minute drama when the bill’s author removed his name and voted no.
The Indiana Senate today voted 35-13 to concur with the House version of a bill that voids Common Core standards by July 1. Senate Bill 91 now only needs Pence’s signature to become law. Pence has expressed support for Indiana-created standards.

A Study Seeks to Determine What Makes Prekindergarten Successful
New York Times By KATE TAYLOR MARCH 12, 2014
The teacher held up a card with a number on it, then looked at the 4-year-olds waving their hands eagerly in front of her. “Anderson,” she said, calling on a small boy in a blue button-up shirt and a sweater vest.  “Five,” Anderson said, correctly.  “Good boy, Anderson,” the teacher said. Then she turned to the rest of the class. “Are you ready?” she said, and then, “Go!” At that, the children jumped up and down five times as they counted: “One! Two! Three! Four! Five!”  This exercise, which held a prekindergarten class in Brooklyn riveted one morning last week, was not an effort to introduce high-impact aerobics into preschool. It was part of an ambitious experiment involving 4,000 children, lasting more than six years and costing $25 million, and designed to answer a fundamental question: When it comes to preschool, what actually works?

Bipartisan Bill Proposes Curbing Federal Testing Mandates
Two Congressmen–a Democrat and a Republican–proposed legislation to cut back on federally mandated testing.  This is great news!  The legislation was immediately endorsed by the NEA.
“Today the National Education Association endorsed HR-4172, introduced last week by Reps. Chris Gibson (R-NY) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). The bill would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to change the number of federally mandated standardized tests state would be required to administer under the current law, eliminating annual testing and replacing it with grade-span testing (or testing once over a certain span of grades.)
“According to Rep. Gibson: “In the decade since No Child Left Behind was signed into law the focus in education has shifted from teaching to testing. But data shows the current testing regime established in No Child Left Behind has not led to higher standards. Teachers are spending more time preparing students to take tests and less time educating, while students are spending more time taking tests and less time learning.”

FairTest Reports Growing Movement Against Excessive Testing
Across the nation, parents and teachers are resisting the testing mania imposed by the U.S. Department of Education and Congress. It is a good time to remember that education is not mentioned in the Constitution, and that it is traditionally considered a state and local function. The federal government provides only 10% of the funding.  Here is FairTest’s roundup of the latest resistance to high-stakes testing:
Testing Resistance & Reform Spring is taking off across the nation. This week’s stories include articles about protests against standardized exam overkill in a dozen states plus several excellent commentaries. Be sure to post your events and take advantage of the resources available to support your work via the new, simpler URL: — as always, feel free to use or adapt the many useful fact sheets at

Say goodbye to public schools: Diane Ravitch warns Salon some cities will soon have none
"Why destroy public education so that a handful can boast they have a charter school in addition to their yacht?" by JOSH EIDELSON March 12, 2013
Once a George H.W. Bush education official and an advocate for greater testing-based accountability, Diane Ravitch has in recent years become the nation’s highest-profile opponent of Michelle Rhee’s style of charter-based education reform (one also espoused by Barack Obama).
In a wide-ranging conversation last week, Ravitch spoke with Salon about new data touted by charter school supporters, progressive divisions over Common Core, and Chris Christie’s ed agenda. “There are cities where there’s not going to be public education 10 years from now,” Ravitch warned. A condensed version of our conversation follows.

Choosing to Learn 
Increasing compliance to the state reduces accountability to parents. 
National Review By Joseph Bast , Lindsey M. Burke , Andrew J. Coulson , Robert Enlow , Kara Kerwin &Herbert J. Walberg MARCH 12, 2014 5:00 AM
Americans face a choice between two paths that will guide education in this nation for generations: self-government and central planning. Which we choose will depend in large measure on how well we understand accountability.   
To some, accountability means government-imposed standards and testing, like the Common Core State Standards, which advocates believe will ensure that every child receives at least a minimally acceptable education. Although well-intentioned, their faith is misplaced and their prescription is inimical to the most promising development in American education: parental choice.  True accountability comes not from top-down regulations but from parents financially empowered to exit schools that fail to meet their child’s needs. Parental choice, coupled with freedom for educators, creates the incentives and opportunities that spur quality. The compelled conformity fostered by centralized standards and tests stifles the very diversity that gives consumer choice its value.

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:

How the Business Community Can Lead on Early Education
Economy League of Greater Philadelphia
Join business and community leaders to learn about how you can help make sure every child arrives in kindergarten ready to succeed. On April 29th, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey will host a forum featuring business leaders from around the country talking about why they’re focused on early childhood education and how they have moved the needle on improving quality and access in their states.
Featured Speakers
  • Jack Brennan, Chairman Emeritus of The Vanguard Group
  • Phil Peterson, Partner, Aon Hewitt and Co-Chair of America’s Edge/Ready Nation
  • And more to be announced! 
  • Date & Time Tuesday, April 29, 2014 | 5-7 PM
Registration begins at 5 PM; program from 5:30 to 7:00 PM
  • Location Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia
10 North Independence Mall West Philadelphia, PA 19106

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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