Monday, March 24, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 24, 2014: "This is probably the only way they can protest against the state stamping 'failure' on the students, teachers, and schools who don't have adequate resources for their children to succeed."

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 24, 2014:
"This is probably the only way they can protest against the state stamping 'failure' on the students, teachers, and schools who don't have adequate resources for their children to succeed."

"State Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D., Chester), who has been publicly wary of the way standardized tests are used, is not surprised interest is growing in the opt-out issue.  "Every time the government ups the stakes of these exams, it puts parents in a position where they have no choice but to ask if this is the right thing," he said. "This is probably the only way they can protest against the state stamping 'failure' on the students, teachers, and schools who don't have adequate resources for their children to succeed."
Some parents having their children opt out of PSSA exams
Robin Roberts did the math, and she was astonished.
By Roberts' count, her third grader was going to spend six school days - at least 12 hours - taking state standardized tests beginning this month at C.W. Henry Elementary, a public school in Mount Airy. Her fifth grader would lose nine school days to the PSSAs, and her eighth grader 11 days.  That troubled her.  "If our schools are not getting the resources to offer a basic education, what is happening?" she asked. "If it's so important for us to do well on these tests, why are they not setting us up to succeed? The test doesn't say anything about what my children have learned, what they're able to achieve."  So Roberts opted her three children out of the exams, which the Philadelphia School District will begin administering Monday. She is part of a small but growing group of parents who are pushing back against the standardized tests that for the last decade-plus have been the most important metric by which schools are judged.

Fed Ed's testing tyrants
The Tribune-Review By Michelle Malkin  Sunday - March 23, 2014
Have you had enough of the testing tyranny? Join the club.
I'm not against all standardized academic tests. The problem is that there are too many of these top-down assessments, measuring who knows what, using our children as guinea pigs and cash cows.  College-bound students in Orange County, Fla., for example, now take 234 standardized diagnostic, benchmark and achievement tests from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Pennsylvania legislative battlefield looks good for GOP: The early view
By Charles Thompson |  on March 21, 2014 at 10:00 AM
By some political measuring sticks, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is considered the most vulnerable Republican incumbent governor in America.  But an emerging consensus from a variety of Pennsylvania political experts is that within the Keystone State, the gubernatorial election is now also the Democrats' most realistic chance to celebrate statewide on Election night.  A key, albeit quiet, portion of the 2014 legislative election cycle – candidate filings for ballot positions in state House and Senate races – ended March 11.  And, according to experts with ties to both major political parties, the way the battlefield looks now, chances for the Republicans to retain control of the Pennsylvania House and Senate look strong.

Pennsylvania posts race gap in school suspensions
Pennsylvania is among 12 states or jurisdictions reporting high disparities between the suspension rates of black students and white students in public schools.  That's according to a report released Friday by the Department of Education's civil rights division.  The report shows 22 percent of black male students were suspended from school at least once, compared to 5 percent for white male students, a disparity of 17 percentage points. Nationally, the black-white gap was 14 percentage points.  Among girls, 13 percent of black students were suspended, compared to 2 percent for white students. That 11-point disparity also was higher than the national gap, of 10 percentage points.  The report is for the 2011-12 school year and covers pre-K through 12th grade. It doesn't cite a reason for the disparities.

Government: Education system rife with inequities
Inquirer by KIMBERLY HEFLING, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS March 22, 2014, 2:03 AM
WASHINGTON (AP) - Sixty years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that black children have the right to the same education as their white peers.  But civil rights data released Friday by the Education Department reflect an education system rife with inequities for blacks and other minority students and those with disabilities.  Minority students are less likely to have access to advanced math and science classes and veteran teachers. Black students of any age, even the youngest preschoolers, are more likely to be suspended. And students with disabilities are more likely than other students to be tied down or placed alone in a room as a form of discipline.

A black dad reacts to racial school-discipline disparities
WHYY Newsworks Philadelphia Experiment Blog by Solomon Jones MARCH 24, 2014
As a black father, my concerns for my children are much the same as those of other parents. I want my children to be safe, to be brilliant, to be successful. Most of all, I want them to know they are loved.  But beyond those concerns are the underlying anxieties that come with knowing one’s children could face racial bias — even within the classroom.   When discipline problems arise at school, black parents don’t just have to deal with what happened. We also have to assess the reasons why.

Letter to the Editor: Charter school reform bills a work in progress
Delco Times LTE POSTED: 03/23/14, 9:02 PM EDT 
By JONATHAN CETEL, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Campaign for Achievement Now (PennCAN); ASHLEY DEMAURO, Pennsylvania State Director, StudentsFirst; ROBERT FAYFICH, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools
To the Times:
Pennsylvania’s Charter School Law must be updated to reflect what we have learned in the past 17 years about the intelligent and effective operation and oversight of charter schools. Two pieces of legislation currently under consideration in Harrisburg offer much-needed reforms, but sections of both bills are based more on political expediency than what is best for the children of Pennsylvania.  When legislation authorizing the creation of charter schools first passed the General Assembly in 1997, our law was considered among the most enlightened in the nation. But the fact that no significant changes have been made to the law in 17 years has pushed Pennsylvania to the bottom half of national charter law rankings. Today, more than 120,000 students attend Pennsylvania’s 174 charter schools, while 44,000 children are on waiting lists to get in. In Philadelphia alone, 67,000 students attend charter schools, an enrollment figure larger than any school district in Pennsylvania except Philadelphia itself. For many families, charter schools provide hope for the future of their children that they cannot get anywhere else, yet the legislation providing guidance on the operation and oversight of these schools lags far behind that reality.

District, Philadelphia teacher's union talks could go 'nuclear'
For the city's 11,000-member teachers' union, the clock is ticking.  Budget season is closing in, the struggling Philadelphia School District has a $14 million hole to fill this school year, and it needs $440 million in new funds for next year.  But most significantly, the district has signaled it is willing to use its "nuclear option" - invoking special powers bestowed by the state law that created the School Reform Commission - to get what it wants from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.  Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. has publicly said he must have work-rule changes in order to compete with charter schools.

“This is what I call a quiet, unfunded mandate,” Gray said. “All of a sudden, you realize you’re spending a small fortune to collect data, but you’re not sure why.”  … “We’re not saying they shouldn’t have data, just trying to show how this is growing exponentially and taking up so much of our staff time,” 
Haverford school board concerned with PIMS info system
By LOIS PUGLIONESI, Delco Times Correspondent POSTED: 03/19/14, 11:19 PM EDT
HAVERFORD — School officials at a recent meeting expressed concerns about increasing amounts of data the district is required to submit to Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Information Management System.  The longitudinal data system continuously collects information for about 1.8 million students, pre-K through college, and is used to support testing and accountability systems, Superintendent William Keilbaugh said. The data includes demographic records, courses, assessments, discipline, programs, services and more.  Keilbaugh noted that given the current number of fields, types of fields, and multiple annual submissions for students and staff, Haverford annually submits a whopping 15,023,713 fields of information to Information Management System.  Student templates total 7,841,600 fields, with 52 fields submitted 26 times throughout the year due to corrections and changes.

Western Pa. school districts to record sound on buses
By Joe Napsha  Published: Monday, March 24, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
School districts are flipping the switch on audio-recording equipment attached to the cameras on school buses to keep an eye — and an ear — on students and drivers.  Yough School District's transportation provider, Student Transportation of America Inc., was given the authority to turn on the audio-recording equipment beginning March 17. Recording sound on buses adds another layer of safety for the students, Superintendent Janet Sardon said.

New Lackawanna County CTC director has new vision for school
Scranton Times-Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL (STAFF WRITER) March 23, 2014
Thomas Baileys, Ed.D., first walked into the Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County in 1973 as a student in the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning program.  He is now the center's new administrative director.  His career path has included a job as an engineer, running a computer repair shop in Forest City and working for the Western Wayne School District. He spent the past seven years as the director of technology in the Colonial Intermediate Unit in Easton.

“When folks are running for office they tend to listen to what constituents want.   About 80 percent of people in Pennsylvania think investing in pre-K is a good idea,” she said today.  To get that message across, her organization has launched the “PreKforPA” web site and is pushing its #IamPreK social media compaign.
Area Early Education Advocates Send A Message — With A Face — To Harrisburg
CBS Philly By Hadas Kuznits March 21, 2014 2:30 PM
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Parents, educators, grandparents, and others who have a vested interest in getting more public funding for early childhood education in Pennsylvania were being encouraged today to get their message across to legislators by sending photos of themselves.
Each year, the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children holds a conference, but executive director Sharon Easterling says this is a particularly important year for the conference because of the Pennsylvania governor’s race. 

Upper St. Clair middle-schooler captures regional spelling bee
By Joe Smydo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 22, 2014 11:53 PM
After a finals competition of 20 rounds, 240 words and nearly 31/2 hours, it came down to this:
Unadulterated.  Suneel Banerjee spelled it without hesitation Saturday, winning the Western Pennsylvania Spelling Bee and the right to represent the region in a national competition in Washington, D.C., in May.  The 13-year-old's feat was stupendous -- to borrow a word from round eight -- considering he studied for the bee only one night.  "I wasn't really that confident," Suneel, an eighth-grader at Fort Couch Middle School in Upper St. Clair School District, said. "I felt as though I should have prepared more."  The 64th annual bee, sponsored by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and hosted by Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, drew about 110 elementary- and middle-grade students from schools as far away as Cambria County.

Closing in on proof of arts' value to kids
PETER DOBRIN, INQUIRER CLASSICAL MUSIC CRITIC LAST UPDATED: Sunday, March 23, 2014, 1:09 AM POSTED: Saturday, March 22, 2014, 11:52 PM
For four years, Ellie D. Brown has been trying to determine whether an early education in the arts enhances children's ability to learn overall, and again and again she has turned to an unlikely tool of inquiry: a small swab of sponge.  More than 24,000 times, the West Chester University associate professor of psychology and her colleagues have reached into the mouths of 500 children at Settlement Music School's Kaleidoscope Head Start program and a nearby control school to measure cortisol, the hormone associated with stress levels.  Brown has several more months to go on her research, but she believes she is onto something. Preliminary analyses "give us good reason to believe that arts classes are associated with decreases in cortisol for young children," she says.

Sen. Grassley seeking to defund Common Core in Congress
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS March 23 at 1:56 pm
Having tried unsuccessfully last year to persuade his colleagues in Congress to defund the Common Core program, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) is at it again.
Grassley is circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter asking legislators to sign on to a separate missive that will be sent early next month to Senate education budget appropriators, asking that they no more federal money be put into the 2015 budget that helps develop or promote the Core, a set of math and English language standards adopted by most of the states that has become increasingly controversial over the past year. Grassley is likely to meet resistance from Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a Core supporter who is chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on education.

Kindergarten teacher: My job is now about tests and data — not children. I quit.
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS March 23 at 11:30 am
Susan Sluyter is a veteran teacher of young children in the Cambridge Public Schools who has been connected to the district for nearly 20 years and teaching for more than 25 years. Last month she sent a resignation letter ( “with deep love and a broken heart”) explaining that she could no longer align her understanding of how young children learn best in safe, developmentally appropriate environments with the testing and data collection mandates imposed on teachers today.  She wrote in part:

How Does PISA Put the World at Risk (Part 3): Creating Illusory Models of Excellence
Yong Zhao's Blog 23 MARCH 2014
Few numbers command as much power as PISA scores, not even the number of Olympic medals or Nobel Prize winners in the world today. It is utterly shocking and embarrassing to see some otherwise rational and well-educated people (or at least they should be) in powerful positions believe that three test scores show the quality of their education systems, the effectiveness of their teachers, the ability of their students, and the future prosperity of their society.
PISA has become the star-maker in the education universe because of its bold claim to assess “the extent to which students near the end of compulsory education have acquired key knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in modern societies” [1, p. 15]. Moreover, PISA claims to find educational stars by identifying which education systems better prepare their children for “full participation in modern societies”—as measured by PISA scores. The goal is for educational systems to learn from “the highest-performing and most rapidly improving school systems” [1, p. 15].
The claims are as bold as they are illusory. In a June 2013 article in the Times Education Supplement (TES)magazine, William Stewart questioned if PISA is fundamentally flawed:

ALEC clears path for for-profit charter companies to cash in after school closures
NEA's Education Votes by Félix Pérez Posted March 23, 2014
Memphis, Tenn., is no stranger to school closures. The district closed four schools in 2012 and 2013 each. But the plan to shutter 13 schools this year has resulted in a wave of parent- and clergy-led protests and a petition that has already generated 6,000 signatures.  At a recent school board meeting, the Rev. Dwight Ray Montgomery said, “If Dr. King were here today, he’d be standing where I’m standing today, unafraid.”  In Newark, N.J., parents and educators are organized and speaking out against a proposal by the state-appointed superintendent to close or consolidate more than a dozen schools.  Last week, special education teacher Marie Blistan, testifying before the state Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Schools, called the plan “misguided, top-down and illegal.”  The proposal “poses a threat to the very notion of universal public education designed to serve every school-age child in New Jersey,” said Blistan, vice president of the New Jersey Education Association.
Whether in Memphis, Newark, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, or Chicago, communities hit by school closures bemoan the loss of a longstanding neighborhood asset. Residents say school board members and local elected officials give short shrift to displaced students, many of whom have to walk long distances through dangerous neighborhoods to reach their new schools, some of which have poor records on academics, discipline and safety.

Network for Public Education's Pennsylvania Friends and Allies:
@the chalkface               
Angie Villa Art & Education
Keystone State Education Coalition
Parents United for Public Education
Pennsylvania Alliance for Arts Education  
Philly Teacherman           
Raging Chicken Press     

Education Debate - Pittsburgh, April 8
by Yinzercation March 20, 2014
Please mark your calendars now and plan to be a part of this event:
Tuesday, April 8th  at Pittsburgh Obama 6-12 515 N. Highland Ave., Pittsburgh PA 15206

Sign up for weekly Testing Resistance & Reform News and Updates!
Fairtest - The National Center for Fair and Open Testing

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
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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