Monday, March 17, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 17, 2014: “The intent of the charter school law really was to provide educational opportunities for students that did not exist in our traditional public schools ... to look for ways to do things better and save money. We seem to have lost sight of those goals.”

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Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 17, 2014:
“The intent of the charter school law really was to provide educational opportunities for students that did not exist in our traditional public schools ... to look for ways to do things better and save money. We seem to have lost sight of those goals.”

Charter schools in tense unions with financially pinched districts
TribLive By Megan Harris Published: Monday, March 17, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Pennsylvania's process for approving charter schools pits would-be school reformers against traditional school districts eager to protect their money and enrollments — a situation that isn't likely to change soon, advocates on both sides say.  State law directs districts to approve charter schools to which they must give up millions in per-pupil state funding. Educators and legislators agree the process is contentious and offers no incentive for budget-pinched districts to feed their competition.  “The intent of the charter school law really was to provide educational opportunities for students that did not exist in our traditional public schools ... to look for ways to do things better and save money,” said Linda Hippert, executive director of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, which represents 42 districts. “We seem to have lost sight of those goals.”
Did you catch our weekend postings?
PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 15, 2014: PA Auditor General concludes statewide series of charter school hearings in Philly
Saturday, March 15, 2014

Flawed charter funding more pressing
Beaver County Times LTE by Dan Castagna Published: Sunday, March 16, 2014 4:00 am
Daniel R. Castagna is Superintendent, West Mifflin Area School District
Rep. Jim Christiana needs to get his legislative priorities and facts straight. In his op-ed, Christiana makes a flimsy case for needless legislation prohibiting payroll deduction of union dues when instead; serious reforms are needed to fix the state’s flawed funding formula to charter/cyber-charter schools. He either doesn’t grasp the real issues facing public education or doesn’t have a real concern for taxpayers.  A greater concern to Christiana should be the $365 million overpayment to charter/cyber-charter schools made at the expense of taxpayers and local school districts across the Commonwealth. Taxpayers are being fleeced to the tune of over $1 million a day as a result with no action in Harrisburg.

Pittsburgh schools promoting rewards for attendance
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 16, 2014 11:23 PM
First-grader Luke Benedict of Beechview wants to get to school and get there on time, according to his mom.   After all, this school year Pittsburgh Beechwood PreK-5 is honoring those who are on time and have good attendance with pizza parties, visits by the lion mascot, "purr-fectly punctual" buttons and other incentives.  "We never really had a problem. It just makes it easier to get him there in the morning, to get him moving. He's really proud to get recognized," said his mom, Michelle Benedict.  School attendance is up this year at Beechwood, as it is at about 80 percent of the district's 51 regular schools.  "I am really excited by the fact that so many of our schools are seeing the positive impact of paying attention to good attendance," said Pete Lavorini, project manager for college and career readiness for Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Toomey bill would tighten teacher background checks
A similar measure has stalled in the state House
Wilkes-Barre TImes Leader By Mark Guydish  March 14. 2014 10:37PM
While a “pass the trash” bill designed to prevent teachers accused of sexual misconduct from quietly resigning and moving to another district has stalled in the state House, a bill with similar intentions is being pushed on the national level by U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley.  Toomey introduced Senate Bill 1596, the “Protecting Students From Sexual and Violent Predators Act” last October. It is intended to set uniform minimum background check requirements for all public schools nationwide, Toomey Press Secretary Steve Kelly said.  Kelly cited a Government Accounting Office report released in January on how federal agencies could support state efforts in preventing sexual child abuse by school personnel. “Five states don’t have any background check laws at all,” Kelly said.

Pension pitfall: The Senate Dems’ plan fails to curb future costs
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Editorial March 16, 2014 12:00 AM
Democratic lawmakers in Harrisburg have put together what they’re calling a “pension reform plan,” but the proposal doesn’t live up to its billing.  The plan would refinance some of the obligations to the pension funds of state and school district employees, but it won’t change the underlying elements that make the system unsustainable.

"At a recent hearing, one critic pointed out that the law Saccone is trying to change doesn't apply to the General Assembly. Caucus meetings would remain shrouded. But Saccone said that shouldn't sink his bill."
Bill to record private meetings in Pa. could crack down on agenda changes
WHYY Newsworks BY MARY WILSON MARCH 17, 2014
The Pennsylvania lawmaker who wants to require entities such as school boards and city councils to record their private meetings is also angling to make them give advance notice of agenda changes.  A bill by Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Allegheny, was the subject of a committee hearing but a vote hasn't been scheduled yet. Saccone said he wants to tweak the bill to require any agenda changes be made with some advance notice to the public. At this point, he's thinking 24 or 48 hours might work.

The Pulse: SATs don't always mark a successful path
I just experienced the thrill of being invited back to the campus of my alma mater to speak to undergraduate students. The invitation came a few months ago from Jack Lule, the chair of journalism and communication at Lehigh University, from which I graduated in 1984. That someone in Lule's position would think students could benefit from listening to me for an hour gave me a measure of achievement and acceptance.  And I get why I was invited: The combination of my professional activities since graduation, including writing for The Inquirer, hosting a daily radio program nationwide on SiriusXM, writing five books with a novel on the way, and now hosting a Saturday morning program on CNN.
There's just one problem: According to my SATs, I was never Lehigh material.

Rally for NJ Public Education Part l: It's the Poverty, Stupid!
Marie Corfield's Blog Sunday, March 16, 2014
This is a story about a hospital in an inner city neighborhood that serves a very high population of low-income people of color. Many don’t have the resources to properly care for themselves. Unemployment is high, and many still don’t have health insurance. A significant number live in poverty, and about one third don’t speak English as their first language. Many have seen their SNAP benefits cut so they can’t provide proper nutrition for themselves and their families. Some areas around the hospital are dangerous; gangs, gun violence, drug trade and crime have proliferated.  The hospital cannot turn anyone away who comes in for treatment. Some patients follow the prescribed course of treatment and get better, but others, because of any number of reasons outside the hospital’s control, don’t. There is only so much they can do once a patient leaves, especially if the patient is homeless.

“Just as importantly, they must understand that they have the power to wrest it back. We urge them to start by rejecting Common Core and PARCC. Massachusetts should return to its own proud and successful traditions — the civil disobedience embodied by Henry David Thoreau, and the independence in public education pioneered by Horace Mann. In so doing, we can set an example for every state.”
The Worcester Telegram commended parents who choose to opt out of state testing and reminded parents that they–not the federal government, not the GatesFoundation–are the ultimate controllers of their children’s education. The paper laments the fact that Massachusetts dropped its successful state standards to chase federal dollars.  After reviewing the genesis of Common Core,the newspaper concluded:  “Thus, the purity of the motives at play, and the content of Common Core and PARCC, are important issues, but not the first ones that must be addressed.  “That first issue is the unprecedented and illegal wresting of the core of public education from the hands of local players. Parents, teachers, and local school boards alike must first understand that what is happening is authorized by no law, and has no basis in the Constitution.

Parent to officials: ‘if you know it’s wrong but remain silent, you’re complicit in educational malpractice’
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS March 16 at 4:30 pm
Here’s a letter from Massachusetts parent Ricardo D. Rosa to the New Bedford School Committee and Superintendent Pia Durkin about high-stakes standardized testing. Rosa explains why he wants to opt his children out of this month’s Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) exams and  all upcoming high-stakes test,  including the Common Core-aligned tests being designed by a consortium of states called PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers).  Rosa is an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth who specializes in curriculum and instruction, language policies, Literacy and social studies education. In his letter, he refers to the 2013 Massachusetts Statement Against High-Stakes Testing, which was signed by more than 130 Massachusetts professors and researchers from some 20 schools —  including Harvard, Tufts, Boston and Brandeis universities —urging state officials to stop overusing high-stakes standardized tests to assess students, teachers and schools.

"There are two important takeaways from this story.  First, is that misinformation is part of a continuing strategy to paint a picture of American public schools as failures in order to sell the public the Common Core, charter schools and the corporate reform agenda.  The second takeaway is that fact-checking is too often ignored by the press.  The distortions are repeated even when, as in this case, common sense should call them into question.   It is the responsibility of the press, not the public, to get the story straight and make sure the truth is told."
Are American students grossly unprepared for college?
Washington Post Answer Sheet BY VALERIE STRAUSS March 17 at 4:00 am
It has become a common refrain from school reformers that a very large percentage of high school graduates must take remedial classes when they get to college. Are they right? Award-winning Prinicipal Carol Burris of South Side High School in New York  looks at this issue in the following post. She has been exposing the problems with New York’s botched school reform effort for a long time on this blog. (You can read some of her work hereherehere,  here, and here.)  Burris was named New York’s 2013 High School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and in 2010,  tapped as the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State. She is the co-author of the New York Principals letter of concern regarding the evaluation of teachers by student test scores. It has been signed by thousands of principals teachers, parents, professors, administrators and citizens. You can read the letter by clicking here. 

How Does PISA Put the World at Risk (Part 1): Romanticizing Misery
Yong Zhao's Blog 9 MARCH 2014 
PISA, the OECD’s triennial international assessment of 15 year olds in math, reading, and science, has become one of the most destructive forces in education today. It creates illusory models of excellence, romanticizes misery, glorifies educational authoritarianism, and most serious, directs the world’s attention to the past instead of pointing to the future. In the coming weeks, I will publish five blog posts detailing each of my “charges,” adapted from parts of my book Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon: Why China has the Best (and Worst) Education.

How Does PISA Put the World at Risk (Part 2): Glorifying Educational Authoritarianism
Yong Zhao's Blog 16 MARCH 2014
authoritarian: of, relating to, or favoring blind submission to authority (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
authoritarianism: principle of blind submission to authority, as opposed to individual freedom of thought and action (Encyclopedia Britannica)
PISA’s glorification of educational authoritarianism goes beyond its romanticization of the misery children suffer in authoritarian education systems as discussed in my last post. Because some authoritarian education systems seem to generate better PISA rankings, it has been concluded that educational authoritarianism, the systemic arrangements designed to enforce government-prescribed, uniform standards upon all children, should be emulated by the rest of the world. “High-performing school systems also share clear and ambitious standards across the board. Everyone knows what is required to get a given qualification,” writes Andreas Schleicher, the PISA chief. “This remains one of the most powerful system-level predictors in PISA.”

Does Teaching Kids To Get 'Gritty' Help Them Get Ahead?
NPR by TOVIA SMITH March 17, 2014 5:00 AM
It's become the new buzz phrase in education: "Got grit?"  Around the nation, schools are beginning to see grit as key to students' success — and just as important to teach as reading and math.  Experts define grit as persistence, determination and resilience; it's that je ne sais quoi that drives one kid to practice trumpet or study Spanish for hours — or years — on end, while another quits after the first setback.   "This quality of being able to sustain your passions, and also work really hard at them, over really disappointingly long periods of time, that's grit," says Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania who coined the term "grit" — and won a MacArthur "genius grant" for it.  "It's a very, I think, American idea in some ways, really pursuing something against all odds," she says.  Duckworth says that her research shows grit is actually a better predictor of success than IQ or other measures when it comes to achievements as varied as graduating West Point or winning the National Spelling Bee.

Education, health, and social welfare coalition urges Congress to boost K-12 education spending
NSBA School Board News Today March 14, 2014
The National School Boards Association (NSBA) joined more than 1,000 groups asking Congress to restore funds to the appropriations bill that includes education and related programs to the fiscal year (FY) 2010 level of $163.6 billion.  A letter signed by 1,065 groups representing the health, education, labor and social services sectors, based in Washington and in each state, was sent to Congressional leaders on March 13. The letter noted that despite the profound impact on the country’s health, education, and productivity, the budget for the federal programs and services remains below FY 2010 levels and the impacted groups are buckling under the weight of increased demand. Specifically, the FY 2014 allocation remains 3.6 percent below FY 2010 in nominal dollars, and almost 10 percent lower than FY 2010 when adjusted for inflation.

PA School Board Members interested in running for PSBA officer positions must file applications no Later than April 30th
PSBA's website Electing PSBA Officers
All persons seeking nomination for elected positions of the Association shall file with the Leadership Development Committee chair during the month of April, an Application for Nomination on a form to be provided by the Association expressing interest in the office sought. The Application for nomination shall be marked received at PSBA Headquarters or mailed first class and postmarked by April 30 to be considered and timely filed. If said date falls on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday, then the Application for Nomination shall be considered timely filed if marked received at PSBA headquarters or mailed and postmarked on the next business day." (PSBA Bylaws, Article IV, Section 5.E.).
Details and position descriptions:

Live Chat with PA's Major Education Leadership Organizations on Twitter Tuesday March 25th at 8:00 p.m.
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

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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