Tuesday, March 18, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 18, 2014: Gates and Ravitch on Common Core

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3150 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 March 18, 2014:
Gates and Ravitch on Common Core

Please join the national call for Congressional hearings on test abuse in the schools:

Pa. School Employees' Retirement System names James Grossman as its chief investment officer
By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  on March 17, 2014 at 5:50 PM
Following a yearlong national search, the Public School Employees’ Retirement System has found its next chief investment officer within its own offices.  James Grossman Jr., 47, has been named to this $293,537-a-year post. He had been serving in the position in an acting capacity since the June retirement of longtime CIO Alan Van Noord, who Grossman regarded as his mentor.  In this position, he will lead the system’s $50.4 billion investment operation which provides or promises retirement benefits to more than 476,000 school retirees or employees.

Accepting cash from lobbyists: Legal in Pa
It seems clear that the four Pennsylvania lawmakers who apparently accepted thousands of dollars from a lobbyist as part of the strange sting operation shut down by State Attorney General Kathleen Kane won't face prosecution.  And that little fact reminds me of another way that Philadelphia, long regarded by many in the state as a filthy nest of political corruption, is in some respects ahead of the state in ethics and transparency.  The truth is that it is perfectly legal for a state lawmaker to accept gifts, including cash in any amount, even from a lobbyist or business owner with interests in state business, as long as it's not in return for official action and as long as the lawmaker reports the gift on his or her annual statement of financial interests (which these four didn't).

A primary for LG that actually matters: G. Terry Madonna and Michael L. Young
PennLive Op-Ed By G. Terry Madonna and Michael L. Young on March 17, 2014 at 1:07 PM
Normally, primary contests for lieutenant governor are quiet affairs, given little thought by voters and not much more by party leaders. It’s not that candidates don’t lust after the nomination. Currently, six have filed petitions for the Democratic May 20 primary.
But the office itself comes with few official demands, little or no power, and no independent political base. It does pay pretty well. The lieutenant governor receives almost $160, 000 annually, and housing is first class.

“Investing in these programs now will have a greater return later as our children grow into successful adults,” said Steven Wray, Executive Director of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, one of the coalition member organizations. The League is a research and policy action organization focused on regionwide economic development issues."
Coalition Calls for More State Investment in High Quality Pre-K Programs
Cheltenham Citizens Call Posted on March 14, 2014
There are nearly 70,000 three and four-year-old children in SE PA who cannot enroll in high-quality pre-kindergarten (Pre-K), according to information released this week by the “Pre-K for PA” campaign. Despite the known benefits of Pre-K, public funds provide access to only about one in six eligible children in Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Philadelphia counties, said the group.  “Every family in PA should have the option of enrolling their child in a high-quality Pre-K program,” said Donna Cooper, Executive Director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), one of the founding partners of the campaign in a press statement. “Investing in these tried and true programs will make sure more of our children are ready for school.”

Jenkintown sees big plus in its tiny school district
JENKINTOWN In the tiny Montgomery County borough of Jenkintown, parents and teachers jokingly call it "the C word."  Allison Giffords, president of the Home and School Association in the Jenkintown School District, heard it again recently, albeit indirectly. A resident attending a basketball game encountered someone from a neighboring district who "heard we were going to be consolidated," she recalled.  "I said, 'Really?' "  In Jenkintown, one of the state's smallest districts with just more than 600 students and a mere two schools, talk of joining forces with a larger neighbor is a tradition that dates at least to the 1950s.
Read more at 

Phila. school principals' union agrees to pay cuts
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, March 18, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Monday, March 17, 2014, 1:42 PM
PHILADELPHIA By an overwhelming margin, Philadelphia's school principals agreed Monday to steep pay cuts and other concessions, concluding that they had no choice but to save the Philadelphia School District $20 million.   "There's not a cavalry coming," union president Robert McGrogan said. "With a new fiscal year on our doorstep, we needed to do something to help right the district. We've ratified a contract, but we're hardly celebrating."  The three-year contract, which the 500 members of the Commonwealth Association of School Administrators ratified by 83 percent to 17 percent, will cut their pay considerably - by more than $20,000 annually. They will also work a shorter school year.

Principals ratify contract that includes big salary and health-care concessions
by thenotebook on Mar 17 2014 Posted in Latest news
By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks
Members of the union representing Philadelphia School District principals have ratified a new three-year contract that includes significant salary and health-care concessions.  The deal will save the District $20 million over the life of the agreement.  Of members who cast ballots, 83 percent voted to ratify.  The new contract will take most District administrators from a 12-month schedule to a 10-month schedule, cutting their base salaries by about 16 percent.  Philadelphia principals have been earning between $124,900 and $149,900; that will change to $97,000 to $124,900.  Assistant principals have been paid between $106,000 and $133,000. Now it will range from $88,500 to $110,000.

Principals ratify pact with 16 percent pay cut
WITH ANOTHER financial crisis looming, the Philadelphia School District got some welcome news yesterday when its principals, assistant principals and other administrators ratified a three-year pact with major concessions estimated to save the district $20 million.
Members of Commonwealth Association of School Administrators Local 502 approved the deal in a mail-in vote, with 83 percent voting in favor. Under the agreement, retroactive to Sept. 1, each administrator will revert from a 12-month employee to a 10-month employee, resulting in pay cuts between 15 and 17 percent, and also will contribute to health-care premiums for the first time.
"That's a significant number [of favorable votes], but it's really not a cause for celebration," said union president Robert McGrogan, who was unsure what percentage of members voted. "That doesn't mean that 83 percent [liked the deal]. It was driven by concern over the present circumstances on a wide range of levels."

Erie schools take stance against charters
BY ERICA ERWIN, Erie Times-News PUBLISHED: MARCH 16, 2014 12:01 AM EST
Members of the Erie School Board answered one by one, each giving the same response Superintendent Jay Badams wanted to hear: no.  In voting against granting a charter to the proposed Huxley Charter School for the Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School Board blocked, at least for now, the latest attempt by a group or business to create a charter within the district.
The vote came after a sometimes contentious public hearing, split over two days, during which the district called several administrators to testify about the shortcomings of the Huxley charter application.  The total cost of staff and attorney hours spent analyzing the application and preparing for the hearing topped $30,000, Badams said -- a figure that represents the district's new, more aggressive and defensive approach to evaluating all charter applications.
"In our roles as stewards of taxpayers' dollars, we have to subject these applications to as much scrutiny as possible," Badams said.  The district expects to spend more than $17 million on tuition for charter school students in 2014-15.

"The idea that emerged — of making the school the centerpiece of a major redevelopment project — is a grand urban experiment. Operated by Johns Hopkins University in collaboration with Morgan State University, the school, which opened in January, belongs to a $1.8 billion plan that also includes new science and technology buildings, a park, retail development and mixed-income housing. While gentrification might threaten to displace the poor, the school is to be the glue that helps bind the district together.  Like any kindergartner, the concept is full of promise. Can it work?
Reading, Writing and Renewal (the Urban Kind)
New York Times Critic’s Notebook By MICHAEL KIMMELMAN MARCH 18, 2014
BALTIMORE — In many ways, public schools are gated communities, dead zones. They’re shuttered after dark and during the summer, open to parents and students while in session but not to the larger community.  A new public school in one of the poorest neighborhoods in East Baltimore wants to challenge the blueprint. Designed by Rob Rogers, of Rogers Partners in New York, Henderson-Hopkins, as it’s called, aspires to be a campus for the whole area — with a community center, library, auditorium and gym — as well as a hub for economic renewal.
This is the neighborhood where parts of the “The Wire” were filmed. In 2000, when the city’s mayor convened local business leaders, the vacancy rate was 70 percent. Poverty was twice the city average. Crime, infant mortality and unemployment were all through the roof.

50 terrible ideas for improving schools
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS  March 18 at 4:00 am
A valuable new book called “50 Myths &  Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools”  takes a stark look at some of the worst ideas being promoted by school reformers around the country as ways to improve the public education.   The book — from which I am going to run a series of excerpts — looks at international tests, teachers, school funding, charter schools and a lot more, including sections on:
* International tests show that the United States has a second-rate education system.
* Teachers are the most important influence in a child’s life.
* Merit pay is a good way to increase the performance of teachers.
* Subject matter knowledge is the most important asset a teacher can possess.
* American K-12 education is being dumbed down.
* The money available to school districts is spread equally across their schools.
* Group projects waste children’s time and punish the most talented.
* School uniforms improve achievement and attendance.
* Schools can teach all students to the point of mastery.
* Education will lift the poor out of poverty and materially enrich our entire nation.

Bill Gates calls on teachers to defend Common Core
Washington Post By Lyndsey Layton, Published: March 14
Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder who is spending part of his considerable fortune trying to improve U.S. public education, called on teachers Friday to help parents understand the new Common Core academic standards in an effort to beat back “false claims” lobbed by critics of the standards.  “There are many voices in this debate but none are more important or trusted than yours,” Gates told several thousand educators gathered in the District for the inaugural conference of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, a nonprofit organization that runs a voluntary system to certify teachers. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was a sponsor of the conference; it has awarded about $5 million to the board since 2010.
The Gates Foundation has spent more than $170 million to develop and promote theCommon Core standards, and is their biggest nongovernmental backer. 

Everything you need to know about Common Core — Ravitch
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS January 18 at 8:45 am
Diane Ravitch, the education historian who has become the leader of the movement against corporate-influenced school reform, gave this speech to the Modern Language Association on Jan. 11 about the past, present and future of the Common Core State Standards.
Here’s her speech:
As an organization of teachers and scholars devoted to the study of language and literature, MLA should be deeply involved in the debate about the Common Core standards.  The Common Core standards were developed in 2009 and released in 2010. Within a matter of months, they had been endorsed by 45 states and the District of Columbia. At present, publishers are aligning their materials with the Common Core, technology companies are creating software and curriculum aligned with the Common Core, and two federally-funded consortia have created online tests of the Common Core.  What are the Common Core standards? Who produced them? Why are they controversial? How did their adoption happen so quickly?

Gates Dined on March 13, 2014, with 80 Senators
deutsch29 blog by Mercedes Schneider March 17, 2014
Bill Gates has too much power.
The following announcement, dated March 13, 2014, is from Politico:
DINNER WITH GATES – About 80 senators are expected to attend a dinner discussion at the Capitol tonight with Microsoft founder Bill Gates and the NYT’s David Brooks. The 6:45 p.m. dinner, according to an invitation obtained by Huddle, is sponsored by the No Labels Foundation, and one of that group’s honorary co-chairs, Sen. Joe Manchin, will make opening remarks. So what’s the No Labels-Microsoft connection? No Labels co-founder Nancy Jacobson is married to longtime pollster Mark Penn, executive vice president and chief strategy officer at Microsoft, said a source who will be attending the event. [Emphasis added.]
I find Gates’ access to 80 senators very disturbing.  There’s more.

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: https://www.psba.org/elections/index.asp

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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