Friday, March 21, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 21, 2014: Should we "embrace charter schools" via SB1085?

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 21, 2014:
Should we "embrace charter schools" via SB1085?

Congressional hearings on testing needed now! Please RT to your Senators and Congressmen.  #testhearingsnow

Member of Congress joins with The Network for Public Education and calls for public hearings on the misuse and abuse of standardized tests.
Massive social networking campaign to be waged in coming days.
Netwwork for Public Education Press Release March 19, 2014
On March 2, 2014, following their highly successful National Conference, The Network for Public Education (NPE) sent out a call for members of Congress to hold public hearings on standardized testing. This call came in response to the onerous testing regime that has enveloped schools across the country and threatens to create a generation of students who possess less creativity and problem solving skills than previous generations.
Answering NPE’s call, Arizona Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ-3), a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, responded with a sentiment that has been echoed by parents and educators throughout the United States. The six-term Representative said, “The need for an impartial and transparent hearing on mandatory testing and privatization efforts directed at public education, is critical.  We need to have an open discussion about the dismantling of public education. I hope the leadership of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives will hold hearings that allow our public schools and the families they serve the opportunity to have an open and honest hearing.”

"In researching the story, I compiled a table based on most-up-to-date state data to illustrate how student demographics differ at the city's public high school offerings – both district and charter-run.  Here I wanted to explore that data in further detail, first by comparing the differences among the city's highest and lowest achieving public high schools."
Data dive: How do demographics affect performance at Philadelphia public high schools?
Last week I wrote a story about Chrislie Dor, a Philadelphia School District student who applied to two district-run magnet high schools.  If accepted, she said she'd attend one of those schools. If not, she said she'd enroll in a high school run by a charter organization.  Comprehensive neighborhood high schools did not seem like a good option to her and her family.  This week, Chrislie learned she was accepted to the Creative and Performing Arts High School (CAPA), the district-run magnet that she had dreamed of attending.

SRC approves building sales, ratifies principals' contract
the notebook by Dale Mezzacappa on Mar 20 2014 Posted in Latest news
The School Reform Commission Thursday night approved the sale of six vacant properties, most of them schools that were closed within the last two years.  It also ratified a contract with the Commonwealth Association of School Administrators, which represents principals and assistant principals, who will reduce their work year and see lower salaries.  The properties will be sold for a total of $37 million under the current agreements, but the District will net $25.8 million after closing and other costs are taken out, said Fran Burns, the District's operations manager.

Pa. bill gives school districts flexibility with snow days
Senate measure would change calculation, allow class on some Saturdays
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 20, 2014 11:27 PM
In yet another indication of how hard winter weather hit this year, the state Senate has approved legislation that would allow school districts to measure instructional time by hours rather than days and to use Saturdays for make-up sessions for days missed due to snow and extreme cold.
The goal of the bill is to eliminate the need for districts to extend the school year into late June to make up days missed because of weather. It applies only to the current school year and is essentially a rewrite of legislation approved in 1996 after severe flooding in northwestern Pennsylvania forced the closing of schools.  The Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to send Senate Bill 1281, sponsored by state Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, to the House in the hopes that it will get quick approval and provide districts with options for making up days missed this year because of snow and severe weather.

Embrace charter schools
Lancaster Online Opinion by Jonathan Cetel, Executive Director, PennCAN March 20, 2014 9:15 am
In his March 9 op-ed, “Charter school bill gets an F,” David Lapp correctly identifies the problem, but unfortunately, he proposes the wrong solution.  He is correct that some charter schools are not serving vulnerable populations and others are underperforming when compared to their public school district counterparts. However, the solution to this problem is not to double-down on failing neighborhood schools and ignore the 40,000 families on charter school waiting lists.  Instead, the solution is to enact policies to ensure that charter schools are held to high standards of academic performance and to drastically improve charter school authorizing.

Charter school bill gets an ‘F’
Lancaster Online Opinion BY DAVID LAPP Special to the Sunday News March 9, 2014 6:00 am
Significant problems exist with Pennsylvania’s current charter school policy, and we agree with state Sen. Lloyd Smucker that charter school reform is needed in the commonwealth.  We recognize the significant effort that has gone into both SB 1085, which the Senator is sponsoring, and HB 618. But neither bill addresses the fundamental problems with Pennsylvania’s current charter school law and both would do more harm than good. Specifically, the bills would spread already inadequate state funding even thinner and further damage neighborhood schools, the very choice depended on by most families in the state.  Charters schools, quite simply, have not been the panacea that many predicted. Some charters are excellent, just like some traditional public schools are excellent. But the charter sector taken as a whole is doing no better, and by many measures is doing worse, than school districts.

"Currently, 12 states permit higher education authorizers, with the number of active authorizers ranging from one to 11 institutions. If Pennsylvania lawmakers adopt Senate Bill 1085 as currently drafted, the Commonwealth could have as many as 100 higher education authorizers. Research provides no evidence that this change will result in stronger student outcomes."
RFA Releases Brief on Higher Eds as Charter Authorizers
Research for Action Posted by Alison Murawski on Jan 28, 2014 in Blog
Debates on charter school reform are annual occurrences in Harrisburg. This year, amid a number of proposed changes in charter school regulation and oversight, Senate Bill 1085 adds a new element with especially far-reaching implications: allowing higher education institutions to authorize new charter schools.  In its latest Policy Note, Research for Action examines how this provision of Senate Bill 1085 compares with policy and practice in other states. Currently, 12 states permit higher education authorizers, with the number of active authorizers ranging from one to 11 institutions. If Pennsylvania lawmakers adopt Senate Bill 1085 as currently drafted, the Commonwealth could have as many as 100 higher education authorizers. Research provides no evidence that this change will result in stronger student outcomes.  The attached brief provides a review of existing research, an overview of higher education charter authorizers nationwide and in neighboring states, and answers to frequently-asked-questions.

"There's certainly room for debate over the effectiveness and quality of cyber and brick-and-mortar charter schools – though current data show terrible student outcomes for most of Pennsylvania's cyber charters and decidedly mixed results for its brick-and-mortar charters.  Still, there should be no debate over where the decision to authorize a new charter school should be made: Right here in our community -- not in Harrisburg, not in a university board room."
The state Senate should reject flawed charter school bill: Susan Spicka
By Patriot-News Op-Ed  By Susan Spicka on November 25, 2013 at 2:23 PM
Susan Spicka, of Shippensburg, heads Education Matters for the Cumberland Valley, an education activist group.
The Pennsylvania Senate is poised to vote on a bill that would weaken our local public schools and gut taxpayer control over how our school tax dollars are spent.  The bill sponsored by Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, would allow for the unfettered expansion of charter schools into our communities without the approval of local taxpayers or school boards. This bill proposes to let an institution of higher education authorize charter schools and send our school districts the bill.
In addition, Smucker's bill eliminates a school district’s ability to set reasonable enrollment limits at charter schools in their area. These limits are essential to the well-being of our school districts because they allow communities to plan and to determine how tax dollars will be used and how best to meet their community's educational needs.
If you are concerned about how this legislation will impact taxpayers and children in your community, please ... call your senator today.

"What is the purpose of charter reform and who should it benefit? School boards are publicly accountable to taxpayers within the communities they serve. Charter schools, which receive the same public dollars, should operate with the same level of accountability and transparency. Senate Bill 1085 fails to address this critical issue, and instead, exacerbates the problem by adding private, unaccountable university authorizers and removing checks on existing charters to expand at will, regardless of their quality."
Letters: Charter school bill: A disaster for education in Pennsylvania
Delco Times Opinion By LAWRENCE A. FEINBERG Times Guest Columnist POSTED: 12/06/13, 11:51 PM EST |
Lawrence Feinberg is a 14 year school director in the School District of Haverford Township. He is also the founder and co-chair of the Keystone State Education Coalition, a statewide, grassroots, non-partisan public education advocacy group.
Pennsylvania’s 20-year experiment with charter schools has had mixed academic results at best for our kids but has been a veritable bonanza for some adults and politicians.  Senate Bill 1085, the latest attempt at “charter school reform,” includes multiple provisions that would strip local control over tax dollars from school boards elected by their taxpaying neighbors, and permit colleges, universities and the state to spend local tax dollars with no authorization or oversight by local officials. SB 1085 also strips language from the law requiring charter schools to be models of innovation for public schools. That begs the question: What, then, is the purpose of charter schools?

Has your school board considered a board resolution in opposition to SB1085?  Here are a couple sample resolutions passed by North Hills and Lower Merion School Boards:
SB1085: North Hills School Board Approves Resolution in Opposition to Senate Bill Relating to Cyber Charter Funding and Approval Processes
North Hills School District Board of Education members recently approved a resolution in opposition of Senate Bill 1085 citing the proposed bill’s potential negative impact on the district as it relates to charter and cyber charter school funding and approval processes.
Here's the full text of the board resolution:

This posting on Lower Merion's webiste includes the full text of their resolution:
LMSD Board approves resolution in opposition to Senate Bill 1085
LMSD Announcements Posted: January 13, 2014
The Lower Merion School District Board of School Directors unanimously approved a resolution to oppose Senate Bill 1085, a charter school reform bill that will create new and substantial costs for taxpayers, take control of public schools away from local communities, and limit the ability of school districts to effectively plan for student enrollment changes and staffing needs. The resolution, initially discussed in the Board’s legislative committee, was presented and approved at the start of the Board’s education meeting on Monday, January 13.

Teachers Lead Philly March Newsletter

What the bill would do: House Bill 2263/Senate Bill 2047 would prevent the State Board of Education from adopting or promulgating any rule, regulation or policy that grants, renews, advances or restricts a teacher’s license on the basis of standardized test scores of students.
Push to reverse teacher licensure policy picks up steam in Tennessee statehouse
The Tennessean by  Joey Garrison Mar. 17, 2014
A proposal to prohibit students’ standardized test scores from influencing Tennessee teacher-licensing decisions has gained momentum as state lawmakers look to upend a controversial education policy of Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration.  A bill proponents have dubbed the “Educator Respect and Accountability Act” has garnered striking bipartisan support, clearing the Senate Education Committee by a 7-2 vote last week, one day after the House Education subcommittee voted 8-1 to pass its companion bill.  Its arrival came as a response to the State Board of Education adopting a new policy last summer — at Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman’s recommendation — that would link license renewal and advancement to a teacher’s composite evaluation score and student learning gains, both calculated from student test results.

NY Charter school group spends $3.6m on TV ads attacking de Blasio
For the last three weeks, Families for Excellent Schools has run ads to blast Mayor de Blasio over his decision to stop three Success schools from using space inside public school buildings.
Mayor de Blasio stopped three Success schools from using space inside public school buildings. As a result, a pro-charter school group has spent $3.6 million on TV ads to criticize de Blasio.
A pro-charter school group has spent $3.6 million over the past three weeks on TV ads attacking Mayor de Blasio, an insider revealed Wednesday.  Families for Excellent Schools — founded by a deep-pocketed group of financiers — has run a series of ads, including a spot blaming de Blasio for taking away the “hopes and dreams” of 194 students by blocking Success Academy Harlem Central.  De Blasio stopped three Success schools from co-locating in public school buildings while allowing five others to go ahead. His allies call the ad campaign hypocritical.
“They have parents believing there’s no way they’re going to find space for these 194 students,” said Zakiyah Ansari of the labor-backed lobbying group Alliance for Quality Education. “Do they tell them they’re spending $3.6 million on these ads in less than a month? Put that into the building that you say you can’t find.”

Weighted Admissions Lotteries: Will They Reshape Charter Demographics?
Education Week By Katie Ash Published Online: March 20, 2014
New federal regulatory guidance that now allows charter schools to hold weighted admission lotteries in favor of disadvantaged students may affect a small number of charters now, but could have a greater impact in the future, experts say.  Already the guidance has spurred conversations about the use of weighted lotteries and brought greater attention to the demographic makeup of charters around the country.

"So, at best, charter schools are a mild corrective to inequity—even if the procedure of a lottery removes privilege from the process at one school, it can’t eliminate it from the broader charter sector and does nothing to address its effects after the fact. In the absence of a school system that provides access to an excellent education for all students, it’s understandable that a charter system would be morally appealing. But we shouldn’t confuse a Band-Aid for a solution."
What Applying to Charter Schools Showed Me About Inequality
Charters are not a comprehensive solution to public education's problems.
The Atlantic by CONOR WILLIAMS MAR 20 2014, 11:18 AM ET
By the time we arrived—five minutes late—the school’s basement was packed. As I turned my eyes to the lectern, I wondered at the speed of childhood. My son turns three this summer, and yet, here we were, jammed into this basement to hear one of D.C.’s best charter schools explain why we ought to send him to them next year. On a Saturday, no less!  Even though it was a chilly February day, the room was hot; my one-year-old daughter squirmed in my arms and pulled off her hat. The room’s temperature brought everyone to fidgeting with our scarves and sweaters—young, old, black, brown, white, parents, kids, male, and female. As we all peeled off layers, the room’s impressive diversity came into focus. In a town as racially, residentially, socially, culturally, and economically segregated as D.C., it was an encouraging sight. I want my kids to attend a school that looks like this, I thought.

Nation Falls Far Short on Educational Equity, Data Show
Education Week By Michele McNeil and Evie Blad Published Online: March 21, 2014
New federal civil rights data show persistent and widespread disparities among disadvantaged students from prekindergarten through high school on key indicators—calling into question whether the national push for educational equity and college and career readiness for all students is working.  Minorities and students with limited English proficiency are more likely to be taught by inexperienced teachers, attend a high school with limited math and science offerings, and be disciplined at higher rates than their white peers, according to information from the 2011-12 school year released Friday by the U.S. Department of Education.

School Data Finds Pattern of Inequality Along Racial Lines
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH MARCH 21, 2014
Racial minorities are more likely than white students to be suspended from school, to have less access to rigorous math and science classes, and to be taught by lower-paid teachers with less experience, according to comprehensive data released Friday by the data released Friday by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil RightsDepartment of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
In the first analysis in nearly 15 years of information from all of the country’s 97,000 public schools, the Education Department found a pattern of inequality on a number of fronts, with race as the dividing factor.

So how overblown were No. 1 Shanghai’s PISA results?
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS March 20 at 9:50 am
In December, I wrote a post questioning the No. 1 ranking of Shanghai in the most recent Program for International Student Assessment, known as PISA. Shanghai came out with the No. 1 international ranking in the 2012 administration of PISA in math, reading and science, while 15 year olds in the United States performed no better than average of 65 countries and education systems (like usual).  When the 2012 scores were released late last year, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which sponsors PISA, said that the schools that were used in the Shanghai sample represent the city’s 15-year-old population. Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution and some China experts said that migrant children are still routinely excluded from schools in Shanghai, which is wealthier than the rest of China, but OECD stood by the results. Earlier this month, however, Andreas Schleicher, OECD deputy director of Education and Skills, told the British Commons Education Select Committee that PISA represented 73 percent of Shanghai’s 15 year olds, which is lower than the 79 percent he had said in December, according to TES Connect, a popular British education Web site. The U.S. sample, on the other hand, covered 89 percent of 15-year-old students.
In this post, Leslie Rutkowski and David Rutkowski, both faculty members at the Indiana University School of Education, look at just how overblown the Shanghai results might have been.

Pre-K and Early Education in Pennsylvania - EPLC "Focus on Education" TV Program on PCN - March 23 at 3:00 p.m. 
The next EPLC "Focus on Education" show will air this coming Sunday, March 23 at 3:00 p.m.on PCN television.  This March 23 panel will discuss the issues of quality and access to early education in Pennsylvania, what research says about the value of early education, state funding for early education, how Pennsylvania compares to other states, and other related topics.
The panel will include: 
  • Ron Cowell, President of The Education Policy and Leadership Center and Host of the "Focus on Education" programs;  
  • Tracey Campanini, Director, Bureau of Early Learning Services, Office of Child Development & Early Learning, Pennsylvania Department of Education;
  • Michelle Figlar, Executive Director, Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children; 
  • Blair Hyatt, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Head Start Association; and   
  • Philip A. Peterson, FSA, Partner at Aon Hewitt and co-creator of the Aon/United Way of Southeastern PA Hand-in-Hand Award for quality child care in the business community, and former co-chair of the Early Learning Investment Commission

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 send applications to the attention of the chair of the Leadership Development Committee 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
Tuesday, March 25th, 12-4 p.m.
Tuesday, April 29th, 12-4 p.m.
Wednesday, May 14th, 1-5 p.m. and 6-8 p.m.

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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