Wednesday, March 26, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 26, 2014: NY Times & Philly Inquirer Editorials - Testing is not teaching; is it a runaway train?

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3250 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 26, 2014:
NY Times & Philly Inquirer Editorials - Testing is not teaching; is it a runaway train?


New York Times Editorial: The Trouble With Testing Mania
New York Times By THE EDITORIAL BOARD Published: July 13, 2013
Congress made a sensible decision a decade ago when it required the states to administer yearly tests to public school students in exchange for federal education aid. The theory behind the No Child Left Behind Act was that holding schools accountable for test scores would force them to improve instruction for groups of children whom they had historically shortchanged.
Testing did spur some progress in student performance. But it has become clear to us over time that testing was being overemphasized — and misused — in schools that were substituting test preparation for instruction. Even though test-driven reforms were helpful in the beginning, it is now clear that they will never bring this country’s schools up to par with those of the high-performing nations that have left us far behind in math, science and even literacy instruction.

Inquirer Editorial: Take emphasis off state tests
POSTED: Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 1:08 AM
Parents are right to protest the oversize emphasis placed on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams when so many schools are poorly funded.  Robin Roberts says her three children won't be taking the PSSAs with the rest of the students at Philadelphia's C.W. Henry Elementary School. "If it's so important for us to do well on these tests, why are they not setting us up to succeed?" asked Roberts.  It's a good question. You can't expect much success on standardized tests when students don't even have basic supplies. The Philadelphia School District is still operating with a deficit. A fund-raising drive was held just to provide pens, crayons, and paper to students.  The state allows students to opt out of the PSSAs for religious reasons. But if enough parents follow Roberts' example, maybe Gov. Corbett and the legislature will make it a higher priority to increase funding not just for Philadelphia, but for schools across the state.

Fed Ed's testing tyrants
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Opinion By Michelle Malkin  Sunday, March 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
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.
Now pile on the latest avalanche of federal pilot testing schemes tied to the Common Core racket. When they're not preoccupied with getting ready for existing tests, including the ACT, PSAT, revamped SAT, American kids will be busy testing new tests. And because Common Core mandates computerized administration and because the tests incorporate bandwidth-hogging videos and graphics, school districts across the country must spend gobs of time and money on test preparation.

Resistance to standardized testing growing nationwide
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS March 25 at 3:39 pm
Every week a nonprofit organization called the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, which is dedicated to ending the misuse and abuse of standardized testing (and is better known as FairTest) sends out an e-mail with a list of stories from around the country about resistance to high-stakes tests among teachers, students and parents. This week’s blast — which includes stories from New York, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Illinois, Alaska, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts –makes an important point, saying:
Anyone who still believes that the resistance to testing misuse and overuse is confined to a few big cities and “liberal” activists, should click through this week’s news clips. In fact, testing protests are spreading across “deep red” states” such as Alaska, Tennessee, Texas and Utah. And “conservative” commentators are speaking out against standardized exam overkill.

March 24-31 Call Congress and Demand Hearings on Abusive Testing #TESTHearingsNow
The Network for Public Education
On March 2, 2014, The Network for Public Education issued a call for congressional hearings into the overuse and abuse of tests in our schools.  Will Your Senator or Representative Join Us?
First, call your Representatives and Senators during the week of March 24, 2014 and ask them to hold formal Congressional Hearings into the overuse and abuse of tests in our schools! You can find the contact information for your Senators and Representatives here!!

Testing Resistance & Reform News: March 19 - 25, 2014
Fairtest - The National Center for Fair and Open Testing March 25, 2014
Anyone who still believes that the resistance to testing misuse and overuse is confined to a few big cities and "liberal" activists, should click through this week's news clips. In fact, testing protests are spreading across "deep red" states" such as Alaska, Tennessee, Texas and Utah. And "conservative" commentators are speaking out against standardized exam overkill.

"Let’s look at education from a parent’s perspective.  Imagine showing up the first day of school and hearing:  “this is your child’s teacher.  He or she isn’t very good, but we’re giving him or her another year to improve; the school thinks that’s best for the teacher.  We’re sorry, but you’ll just have to suck it up.”  I can’t believe anyone would find this acceptable for their children.  Why do we accept it for anyone’s child?"
Senator Mike Folmer: Putting Students and Parents First
Senate Education Committee Majority Chairman Mike Folmer March 25, 2014
I recently read an article that issued a “loud call for work on taxes; school funding.”  I hope this effort includes listening carefully to students and parents.  When I became chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Senator Dinniman (Democratic Chair from Chester County) and I held public hearings designed specifically to listen to students, and their wants, needs, and expectations for their education.  Our Chester County and Lebanon hearings were excellent.  Unfortunately, at our third hearing, held in Harrisburg, I believe someone decided to “educate” the students in advance as one was so familiar with school funding formulas she knew more than most Senators.  The same thing happens at my annual Senator for a Day Student Government Seminar.  Students are well versed on the Commonwealth’s education budget but some have little or no knowledge of our Constitutional republic or its history.  I suppose one could say these students were informed about current events, while cynics say they’re being indoctrinated by adults with a vested interest in the outcomes.  Either way, it’s both curious and troubling to think children could be used to advance a political agenda.

A closer look at the District's legal argument to the Pa. Supreme Court
the notebook by Paul Socolar on Mar 24 2014
School District lawyers, in their Monday petition to the state Supreme Court, argue that by law they do not have to negotiate with the teachers' union on such issues as hiring practices, layoffs, prep time, and contracting out.  The state takeover law exempts these "non-mandatory" areas from collective bargaining, the lawyers say. They ask the court to affirm that the District can unilaterally implement new rules and practices in those areas, even while continuing to bargain with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers on other contract issues.  The PFT plans to fight this argument in court.

Panel to monitor Coatesville schools
The Pa. Human Relations Commission says it will check the district after the texting scandal.
MICHAELLE BOND, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER POSTED: Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 1:08 AM
The state's civil rights commission will be monitoring the Coatesville Area School District to make sure it keeps its promises to be more transparent and equitable in the wake of the texting scandal that showed the district needs help being both, the commission said in a report Monday.
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, which has been in touch periodically with district administrators since September, recommended the district hold more cultural events for students and the community, use social media and other means to communicate with district residents, and hire someone solely to make sure the district treats everyone equally.

Spring-Ford gets update on Spring City hybrid learning initiative
By Frank Otto, The Mercury POSTED: 03/24/14, 5:54 PM EDT |
LIMERICK — Well into year two of Spring City Elementary School’s re-branding as a hybrid learning center, its principal and staff provided the Spring-Ford Area School Board with a glowing look into the efforts there.  “When we looked at the group in third grade, prior to the hybrid model, to now, with the hybrid model, we saw increases in both literacy and math,” in the last year, said Spring-Ford Director of Curriculum Keith Floyd. “Off the top of my head, we had a 23 percent growth in our students moving from either below basic, basic, or proficient into the advanced range in mathematics from that third and fourth grade year...so we are seeing increases across the achievement levels.”  Such growth seems to be typical at Spring City and three teachers as well as the school’s principal, Mitchel Edmunds, turned out to the board workshop meeting last week to express their satisfaction with the new education style.

Parkland School District looking at $7 million budget gap
Maximum tax hike allowed would come up short, district officials say.
By Margie Peterson, Special to The Morning Call 11:26 p.m. EDT, March 25, 2014
Parkland School District is locked into holding any property tax increase this year to 2.1 percent, but it is projecting expenses for 2014-15 to rise about 6.29 percent.  The district anticipates projected revenues of $145.4 million and expenditures of about $152.7 million. A lot can change between now and when the final spending plan is approved in June, district officials say.
The latest budget calculations call for using as much as $4.5 million of the district's $23 million fund balance to help plug the budget gap, according to John Vignone, director of business administration.
Easton Area School Board denies charter school application
School directors say Strong Foundation's curriculum was same as the district's.
By Jacqueline Palochko, Of The Morning Call 10:38 p.m. EDT, March 25, 2014
The Easton Area School Board denied an application for a charter school because its curriculum was not different than what the school district offers, school directors said.  The board rejected the Strong Foundation Charter School's application by a 7-0 vote Tuesday night because the district already offers students a STEAM curriculum — science, technology, engineering, arts and math — which is what the proposed school would have specialized in.  Board members said they felt the Strong Foundation Charter School coalition did not provide a detailed curriculum.  Only School Directors Michelle Price and William Rider spoke before the vote, both saying they didn't see a difference in the charter school's curriculum.
Saucon Valley eying sixth no-tax increase budget
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times March 25, 2014 at 10:06 PM
Saucon Valley School District Superintendent Sandra Fellin is recommending a zero tax increase budget for the sixth year in a row.  Tonight, Fellin updated the board on her efforts to bridge a $450,004 budget gap. Thanks to more accurate budget figures, the hole in the $41.6 million spending plan has been reduced to $144,931, she said.  Fellin told the board she wants to not replace two retiring teachers - one from the elementary and one from the middle school - and tap the district savings account to balance the budget.  "(That's) six years in a row without cutting programs and supporting the district as we always have," said Fellin, who plans to retire this summer.

Quakertown starting full-day kindergarten for at-risk kids
Bucks County Intelligencer By Amanda Cregan Correspondent March 25, 2014
Quakertown Community School District is launching full-day kindergarten as a pilot program.
The kindergarten registration period, from April 7 to April 10, is for district children who are 5 or who turn 5 on or before Aug. 31. The registration process begins by making an appointment either through the district’s website —http://www.qcsd.org/Page/292 — or by calling 215-529-2023.  While a parent or guardian is busy filling out paperwork, a group of elementary teachers will pre-screen the child for full-day kindergarten, designed to help those who need more than a half-day of instruction.  “We have numerous students who move on to first grade who aren’t ready for first grade,” interim Superintendent William Harner said, adding full-day kindergarten will be offered in communities showing the greatest need. The program is voluntary, and offered at no cost. Busing also is provided.  Because Quakertown Borough has the district’s largest population of low-income families, school officials predict that one full-day kindergarten class will be at Quakertown Elementary School while the second would be at a location yet to be determined and based on the pre-screening. School district officials say low-income children may be the most at risk of falling behind academically. Some may have poor vocabulary skills while others are learning English as a second language, officials said. And some families are led by a single parent or are struggling with severe financial or medical issues or other family-survival priorities, said Richland Elementary Principal Kathy Winters.

Cyber charter schools competing for students
Scranton TImes-Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL (STAFF WRITER) March 16, 2014
Each morning, Ricky Molner walks down the stairs of his Blakely home to his father's real estate office. The high school junior sits down in a quiet corner and opens his laptop.  It's time for school.  Ricky is one of a growing number of students leaving traditional school settings in search of flexibility. More than 2,800 students from Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties were enrolled in cyber charter schools in the 2012-13 school year, according to the latest state data.  The total number of area cyber charter school students is larger than the student population at more than half the districts in the region, including Valley View, where Ricky would attend if he was not enrolled in Commonwealth Connections Academy.

Can Lawyers Save Philly’s Schools? Bill Fedullo Thinks So.
Chancellor of the Philly Bar talks about equal education and why law firms need to sponsor public schools.
Philadelphia Magazine BY JOEL MATHIS  |  MARCH 25, 2014 AT 5:30 AM
Bill Fedullo isn’t necessarily anybody’s idea to be the savior of Philly schools. He’s an attorney, one of the city’s best-known and most-powerful — and in January,he was inaugurated as chancellor of the 13,0000-member Philadelphia Bar Association. But it’s from that perch that he’s made saving city schools a priority.  He talked with Philly Mag recently about why he has undertaken the crusade and what lawyers can do to support public schools.

Penn Alumni in the Fight for Philly's Schools
The Pennsylvania Gazette 27 Feb 2014
BY TREY POPP with additional reporting by Dave Zeitlin | Photography by Candace diCarlo
From the mayor’s desk to the principal’s office, from grassroots parent activists to teachers aiming to transform instruction and assessment, from the superintendent’s seat to a boldly reimagined vocational academy, here are the stories of Penn alumni trying to carry out the increasingly embattled mission of public education in Philadelphia.

PIAA boss Lombardi doesn't think charter schools belong in sports business
York Dispatch By KEITH GROLLER(Allentown) Morning Call 03/23/2014 05:15:25 PM EDT
….."We're going to address charter schools," he said. "We've been asked by the state's oversight committee to address charter schools at an upcoming meeting. We think they are a problem. And the problem is that the public schools have to fund them. Public schools have to fund their own athletic program and then another athletic program and sometimes they have to compete against the same school they're funding."  Lombardi believes that charter schools should not be in the sports business.  "Those kids should be playing at their public school of residence, the same as the home-schoolers and it's equal treatment," Lombardi said. "I don't know where it's going to go. The legislature's athletic oversight committee will have a hearing coming up and they've asked us to be a part of that. We welcome a seat at the table to have that discussion."

Indiana Drops Common Core
MARCH 24, 2014 STEPHANIE BANCHERO WALL STREET Journal (paywall)
Indiana’s governor on Monday signed legislation withdrawing the state from the Common Core, making it the first to officially dump math and reading standards that have been adopted by nearly all the states. The law directs the state board of education to create its own learning goals before July 1.  “Indiana has taken an important step forward in developing academic standards that are written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers, and are uncommonly high,” Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, said in a statement.

Open the floodgates? Indiana becomes first state to scrap Common Core
FoxNews.com Published March 25, 2014
Indiana has become the first of 45 states to opt out of the national education standard known as Common Core, and critics of the controversial K-12 program say the move could "open the floodgates" for others to follow.  Growing criticism over costs imposed by the program, as well as fears that by setting a national education standard, the program has already begun dictating curriculum, has made Common Core an increasingly polarizing issue. Although the program has both Republican and Democrat supporters, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence predicted his state will be the first of many to rethink participation.  "I believe when we reach the end of this process there are going to be many other states around the country that will take a hard look at the way Indiana has taken a step back, designed our own standards and done it in a way where we drew on educators, we drew on citizens, we drew on parents and developed standards that meet the needs of our people," Pence said.

“There’s kind of a belief in a town like Montclair that the more we test, the more we can be sure that our teachers are delivering a quality curriculum,” says Michelle Fine, a City University of New York psychology professor who is a member of the parent group Montclair Cares About Schools. “I think that’s magical thinking.”
More than a dozen states are trying out new tests meant to free school kids from the tyranny of multiple-choice exams
Aljazeera America by  @neildemause March 25, 2014 6:30AM ET
MONTCLAIR, N.J. — This upscale, racially diverse suburb isn’t the first place you’d expect to see a pitched battle break out over school reform. In recent years, Montclair has become a frequent landing site for middle-class families looking to recreate Manhattan’s Upper West Side on a lawn-bedecked hilltop. It is home to New Jersey’s first medical marijuana dispensary as well as a healthy slice of The New York Times’ editorial staff and is, as one resident puts it, the place you flee to “so you don’t have to fight school wars anymore.”  Yet the last few months have seen everything from shouting matches at school board meetings to subpoenas leveled at parents for allegedly leaking new standardized tests online. The tests were imposed, over parent and teacher protests, by a new district superintendent who declared them necessary to prepare Montclair schools for an even bigger change: the new multistate standardized tests being prepared by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

Trying to Close a Knowledge Gap, Word by Word
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH MARCH 25, 2014
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Amid a political push for government-funded preschool for 4-year-olds, a growing number of experts fear that such programs actually start too late for the children most at risk. That is why Deisy Ixcuna-González, the 16-month-old daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, is wearing a tiny recorder that captures every word she hears and utters inside her family’s cramped apartment one day a week.  Recent research shows that brain development is buoyed by continuous interaction with parents and caregivers from birth, and that even before age 2, the children of the wealthy know more words than do those of the poor. So the recorder acts as a tool for instructing Deisy’s parents on how to turn even a visit to the kitchen into a language lesson. It is part of an ambitious campaign, known as Providence Talks, that is aimed at the city’s poorest residents and intended to reduce the knowledge gap long before school starts. It is among a number of such efforts being undertaken throughout the country.

The new extremists in education debate
Washington Post Answer Sheet blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS March 25 at 7:00 am
A member of the Ohio House of Representatives, Republican Rep. Andrew Brenner, wrote a post on his blogunder this headline: “Public education in America is socialism, what is the solution?”  He wrote in part:  Parents send their children to public schools throughout the United States, to school districts funded by taxation. Most of the tax revenue comes through property and income taxes, which are funded through a combination of local tax levies, as well as state and federal tax dollars. Public school districts are governed by local school boards, state school boards, combined with various state and federal regulations. Socialism, defined on Wikipedia, “is a social and economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy.” That seems to summarize our primary education system. Public education in America is socialism. It is owned and cooperatively managed by the public.  The shocking thing isn’t that Brenner doesn’t understand democracy or socialism. It’s that there are plenty of other people too, as Jeff Bryant explains in this post, who won’t seem to believe in allowing public education to be democratically governed. 

Understanding the Propaganda Campaign Against Public Education
Moyers & Company March 25, 2014 by Diane Ravitch
This post first appeared on Diane Ravitch’s blogShe will be appearing on Moyers & Company this weekend.
A few years ago, when I was blogging at Education Week with Deborah Meier, a reader introduced the term FUD. I had never heard of it. It is a marketing technique used in business and politics to harm your competition. FUD stands for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. The reader said that those who were trying to create a market-based system to replace public education were using FUD to undermine public confidence in public education. They were selling the false narrative that our public schools are obsolete and failing.  This insight inspired me to write Reign of Error, to show that the “reform” narrative is a fraud. Test scores on NAEP are at their highest point in history for white, black, Hispanic and Asian students. Graduation rates are the highest in history for these groups. The dropout rate is at an historic low point.

NSBA President urges U.S. House of Representatives to invest in public education
NSBA School Board News Today by Alexis Rice March 25th, 2014
On Tuesday, March 25, 2014, National School Boards Association (NSBA) President David A. Pickler testified on education funding issues before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. Pickler was the only witness selected from the K-12 community to address specifically the funding needs of America’s public schools.  In his testimony, Pickler, a 16-year member of the Shelby County Board of Education in Memphis, Tenn., spoke on challenges confronting public schools, including the impact of federal budget sequestration on schools, issues concerning competitive grant programs, and the need for the federal government to fully fund Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).


The Pennsylvania PTA 105th annual statewide convention April 4-6, 2014, at the Radisson Valley Forge/King of Prussia.
Pennsylvania PTA Harrisburg, Pa. March 21, 2014
Delegates from local PTA units, councils, and regions throughout the state will gather to give direction to the State PTA on issues of resolutions, bylaws, and timely topics being addressed around education and child advocacy.  The convention format will include a Diversity Leadership Conference, a Town Hall Meeting on Suicide Awareness and Prevention, twenty (20) workshops on timely issues, networking time with other delegates, an exhibit hall, a Reflections Gallery showcasing student artwork, and the opportunity to hear keynote speakers and representatives from the National PTA and other statewide partnering organizations from Pennsylvania. Complete details for registration may be obtained at the Pennsylvania PTA website at www.papta.org.

Education Debate - Pittsburgh, April 8
by Yinzercation March 20, 2014
Please mark your calendars now and plan to be a part of this event:
Democratic candidates for Governor of Pennsylvania
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

PSBA nominations for offices now open!  Deadline April 30th
PSBA Leadership Development Committee seeks strong leaders for the association
Members interested in becoming the next leaders of PSBA are encouraged to complete an Application for Nomination no later than April 30. As a member-driven association, the Leadership Development Committee (LDC) is seeking nominees with strong skills in leadership and communication, and who have vision for PSBA.  Complete details on the nomination process, links to the Application for Nomination form, and scheduled dates for nominee interviews can be found online by clicking here.
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, 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.

Network for Public Education's Pennsylvania Friends and Allies:
@the chalkface                         http://atthechalkface.com
Angie Villa Art & Education        http://www.angievillaartwork.blogspot.com
Keystone State Education Coalition       http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.blogspot.com/
Parents United for Public Education       http://www.parentsunitedphila.com
Pennsylvania Alliance for Arts Education            http://www.kennedy-center.org/education/kcaaen/statealliance/home.cfm
Philly Teacherman                     http://phillyteacherman.blogspot.com/
Raging Chicken Press               http://www.ragingchickenpress.org/
SUDA                                       http://www.standupdemandaction.org

Yinzercation                              http://yinzercation.wordpress.com

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