Tuesday, March 4, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 4, 2014: Network For Public Education Calls For Congressional Hearings On Testing

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3100 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 4, 2014:
Network For Public Education Calls For Congressional Hearings On Testing


Morning Folks – apologies for not posting yesterday but I got stuck in Orlando on my way home from the NPE Conference in Austin.  I had the opportunity to meet strong public ed advocates from all over the country and presented on two panels.

On the Investigative Journalism panel I highlighted Pennsylvania’s “House of Charters”, including the Philly charters under federal investigation, the Trombetta indictment, K12, Inc’s Agora Cyber’s 19,028 local TV commercials, K12’s CEO compensation of $13 million over the past few years and Vahan Gureghian’s Charter School Management Company

On the Testing to the Limit panel I detailed how my district’s school calendar anticipates being  impacted on 106 instructional days this school year for training, testing and retesting.  That does NOT include time spent on diagnostic/practice testing.

Thanks to the Board of Directors at Network for Public Education, including Pennsylvania’s Mark Miller, for putting together a great conference.


Network For Public Education Calls For Congressional Hearings On Testing
Tucson Weekly BY DAVID SAFIER ON MON, MAR 3, 2014 AT 10:00 AM
As participants left the final workshops at the Network For Public Education Conference at University of Texas, Austin, we walked into a press conference in the building's entry room organized by NPE leaders Diane Ravitch, Robin Hiller and Anthony Cody calling for "Congressional hearings to investigate the over-emphasis, misapplication, costs, and poor implementation of high-stakes standardized testing in the nation’s K-12 public schools."
It's a valid suggestion. Members of Congress need to learn more about high stakes testing which determines school curriculum, takes up an inordinate amount of classroom time and is of questionable educational value. Bring a few cameras and some news coverage into the hearings, and the nation can begin a much needed conversation about the growing emphasis on testing in our schools.  Here's the NPE Media Release.

NPE Calls for Congressional Hearings – Full Text
Network for Public Education March 2, 2014 NPE News
We are writing to request that the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee hold hearings to investigate the over-emphasis, misapplication, costs, and poor implementation of high-stakes standardized testing in the nation’s K-12 public schools.
Starting with No Child Left Behind legislation in 2001, which mandated standardized testing of every student in grades three through eight, many states have since rolled out testing in additional grades. This emphasis on testing has increased under policies of the Obama administration, such as Race to the Top and the NCLB waivers, that tie test scores to teacher and principal evaluations and school “turnarounds” and closures. There is a danger that tests now seem to have become the purpose of education, rather than a measure of education.
The tests were initiated to measure whether schools were delivering an education of high quality to every child. It makes sense to determine whether all students are achieving at a minimum level of proficiency in English and math, and standardized tests can help discern whether they are.
Our concern is that high-stakes testing in public schools has led to multiple unintended consequences that warrant federal scrutiny, including the following questions, among others.

WSJ: States Look to Curb Standardized Testing
Opposition Forces Gain Ground as Officials Look to Limit Time Devoted to Exams
Wall Street Journal By  STEPHANIE BANCHERO Feb. 28, 2014 7:09 p.m. ET
A long-simmering movement to scale back the use of standardized tests in K-12 education is beginning to see results, with policy makers and politicians in several states limiting—or trying to limit—the time used for assessments, or delaying the consequences tied to them.  In recent months, officials in Missouri have cut back on allocated testing time while New York capped it. Connecticut agreed to let districts delay, for a year, linking teacher evaluations to state test scores. Tennessee officials rescinded a plan to deny teacher licenses based, in part, on their students' growth on state tests.  Meanwhile, 179 bills related to K-12 testing—a number of them seeking to curb it—have been introduced in statehouses nationwide this legislative session, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which hadn't tracked such bills so comprehensively until this year.

Opting Out of Testing: A Rising Tide for States and Districts?
Education Week Curriculum Matters Blog By Catherine Gewertz on March 3, 2014 9:28 AM
As states grapple with the huge task of building new testing regimens to reflect the common core, they are having to turn some of their attention to fending off a growing number of parents who want their children to skip the tests.  The latest bit of evidence suggesting this showed up yesterday in Massachusetts. The WorcesterTelegram & Gazette reports that some parents want their children to sit out the PARCC field tests, which are scheduled to begin next month. Some members of the local school committee think district policy permits such "opt outs," but district leaders—and state officials—argue that it's a no-choicer.

Michelle Gunderson: Administrator's Pledge on Ethical Treatment of Students Who Opt Out
Education Week Living In Dialogue Blog By Anthony Cody on March 3, 2014 8:16 AM
On Saturday I shared a report from Chicago teacher Michelle Gunderson about the decision by the faculty at two Chicago elementary schools to risk their jobs by boycotting the ISAT test. Today she provides us with an important new statement, regarding the ethical stance administrators should take when responding to students who opt out. 
Guest post by Michelle Gunderson.
Imagine you are 8 years old. Your parents respectfully requested that you not participate in standardized testing. Yet, your school system insists on putting the test in front of you, reading the directions, and making you sit quietly for the duration of the test.  Now that over a thousand students have opted out of testing in Chicago this is the scenario facing many children whose schools follow the protocol required by the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT).
It is time for administrators to take an ethical stance and make a firm commitment to the fair and kind treatment of children whose parents have opted them out of testing.

No free lunches? There are in Pa. schools - and they're on the rise: The Sunday Brunch
By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com  on March 02, 2014 at 8:56 AM
Good Sunday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
The numbers are startling and they are, pardon the pun, food for thought: 
Kindergarten through 12th grade enrollment in Pennsylvania's public schools dropped by 73,249 to 1.78 million students between 2005 and 2013. But the number of students qualifying for free lunches increased by 149,195 to a total of 666,393.  And even though the number of students receiving reduced-price lunches dropped by 29,534 to 100,199 over that time, that still left 119,652 more children receiving free or reduced-price lunch in 2013 than in 2005, The Post-Gazette reports  this morning in a story that should give everyone pause.  The numbers reflect national trends, where the poor economy is pushing more students onto the free- and reduced-price rolls, the newspaper reported.

Pa. free lunches on the rise in poor economy
Enrollment down, but economy, outreach bring more subsidized meals
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 1, 2014 11:26 PM
In the Gateway School District, it's no secret that poverty is on the increase.  From October 2005 to October 2013, state statistics show enrollment dropped by 663, but the number of students qualifying for free lunches rose by 418 and the percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches rose from 25.9 to 41.2.  Gateway superintendent Nina Zetty isn't sure what is causing the increase, though she suspects the region's economy is to blame.
What she is sure about is that hungry children can't learn.

It's never too late for early childhood education: Kevin Muirhead
PennLive Op-Ed  By Kevin Muirhead on March 03, 2014 at 10:00 AM
Kevin Muirhead is the head of Harrisburg Academy’s Early Childhood and Lower School divisions. 
As an educator with more than 30 years of experience, I sincerely believe early-childhood education benefits children, their families, and their communities. From improved academic outcomes to the economic savings to schools and states, the benefits of high-quality early childhood education are irrefutable.  The National Education Association, which is committed to advancing the cause of public education, states: “Research shows that providing a high-quality education for children before they turn five yields significant long-term benefits.  One well-known study, the HighScope Perry Preschool Study, found that individuals who were enrolled in a quality preschool program ultimately earned up to $2,000 more per month than those who were not. 

Gov. Tom Corbett, Cawley and other officials in the Corbett administration are visiting high-performing schools across Pennsylvania to present them with Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Academics. Statewide, 428 school buildings attained a score of 90 or higher.”
Nazareth Area schools honored for academic performance by lieutenant governor
Lehigh Valley Live By Express-Times staff  on March 03, 2014 at 7:15 PM
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley today visited the Nazareth Area School District to present the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Academics to two district schools.  Nazareth Area Middle School and Bushkill Elementary School each received a banner for academic performance on the state's 2012-13 School Performance Profile.  The middle school scored 95.4, the highest in the district and the second-highest of all 63 public schools in Northampton County, according to Cawley's office; the county's highest score was 96.4, at Hanover Elementary School. Bushkill Elementary School scored 90.4.

Philadelphia Leader Makes the Case for Arts Education
Education Week By Caralee J. Adams Published Online: March 3, 2014
For Dennis W. Creedon, teaching children about art is as important as teaching them math or reading.  "People see it as a frill, but it's not a frill. It's actually the center of the core," said the 59-year-old assistant superintendent in thePhiladelphia school district. "If you cut these out of schools, you are really cutting the heart out of our children and their future."  A big part of Mr. Creedon's leadership has involved championing the arts, connecting community resources with schools, and using research and findings on brain development to make his case. He reminds arts groups that young artists are future ticket holders and cites the artistic and scientific outputs of Sir Isaac Newton, Galileo, and Leonardo da Vinci to argue to educators that "science and creativity go hand in hand."

DN Letters: Kindergarten must be made mandatory
Philly Daily News LTE by STATE REP. BRENDAN F. BOYLE Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 3:01 AM
OVER THE past several years families across Pennsylvania have had to struggle in the face of drastic education cuts; and despite Gov. Corbett's recent attempts to make up for them, the negative side effects and harm that they have brought upon our students' education remains.
In the coming months, as Harrisburg moves to debate the budget, we should truly consider how we can transform our state for the better and establish a legacy that will last for decades. Pennsylvania is at a crucial time. Like hot steel it is ready to be molded, and we must strike.
The best way to do this is by fostering and investing in a widely available but often overlooked resource: our young children.  With this in mind, I will introduce legislation that creates universal pre-K programs and mandatory kindergarten in Pennsylvania.

Philly principals to vote on contract deal with significant concessions
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY MARCH 3, 2014
The president of the union representing Philadelphia School District principals has reached a tentative agreement with the district on the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement that includes significant concessions that "clearly will save the district money."  Commonwealth Association of School Administrators president Robert McGrogan will present the proposed deal to union members at a private meeting Thursday evening.  "Prior to this past week, I didn't have a proposal that was worthy of bringing it to the membership," said McGrogan. "Compromise from both parties on key issues is what put us in this position."

Phila. district has covered $1.1M in 12 charters' pension payments
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Monday, March 3, 2014, 1:07 AM
When city charter schools don't pay the state teachers' pension system, the Philadelphia School District temporarily picks up the tab.  Even as the district struggles with its own financial crisis, as of Saturday, it has covered $1.1 million from 12 charters that were delinquent on pension contributions.  The district gets the money back when it deducts the amount from charters' monthly payments. But under the process outlined in state law, the district winds up giving charters interest-free loans at a time there is no money to spare.  The other 74 charter schools in the city made contributions on time.

New All-Digital Curriculums Hope to Ride High-Tech Push in Schoolrooms
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH MARCH 3, 2014
English language curriculums built entirely on a digital platform — replacing written textbooks, worksheets or printed study guides — are about to enter the market from several companies, with promises that they will change the nature of classroom learning across the country.  The Obama administration has pledged to provide high-speed Internet connections to 15,000 schools over the next two years, districts are purchasing tablets and laptops for students, and on Friday, President Obama announced $400 million in corporate commitments from the software companies Adobe and Prezi, which will donate software to teachers. Meanwhile, other companies are rushing in.
On Monday at an education conference in Austin, Tex., Joel Klein, the former chancellor of New York City public schools and the current chief executive of Amplify, the education unit of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, will introduce a digital English language arts curriculum for middle school.

Mercedes Schneider Rips CCSS in Five Minutes
Curmuducation Blog Monday, March 3, 2014 (video runtime 5:19)
I don't reblog a lot of other people's stuff here, mostly because I am a small, low rung on the edublog ladder, and if you're reading me, you've probably read most of what I have. But if I can add just five more views to this video, I've served a useful purpose today.  Mercedes Schneider is one of my teacher heroines. We've never met, but she's taught me a ton about what is really going on, and she's taught me a lot about how to be an activist-writer while still serving your students in a classroom.  At last weekend's Network for Public Education conference, she sat on a panel about CCSS and used her five minutes to hit many of the same fatal flaws that I hate in CCSS. Most of all, the intent to completely cut my professional classroom teacher I'm-actually-standing-in-front-of-these-live-human-students judgment out of the educational loop. I also recognize the notion that a classroom teacher's role now includes serving as a buffer between students and what the Powers That Be want to inflict on them.
So take five minutes and listen to what a passionate fan of public education and teaching the way it was meant to be has to say.

Why school isn’t for children anymore — teacher
The Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS March 3 at 4:00 am
Dawn Neely-Randall, a 24-year veteran teacher in Ohio,  has watched with alarm the rising influence of standardized testing on public education in recent years. In an e-mail, she said she is “weary” of the “testing abuse inflicted” on her students and profession. Neely-Randall wrote the following piece a few days ago about what she sees happening in education, and she hopes other teachers will stand up and tell their own stories.

Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2014: Politics, Performance, Policy, and Research Evidence
National Education Policy Center Report by Alex MolnarJennifer King RiceLuis HuertaMichael K. BarbourGary MironSheryl Rankin ShaferCharisse GulosinoBrian Horvitz March 4, 2014
This second annual report in a series on virtual education is organized in three major sections. Section I examines the policy and political landscape associated with virtual schooling and describes the current state of affairs related to finance and governance, instructional program quality, and teacher quality. The authors analyze to what extent, if any, policy in the past year has moved toward or away from the 2013 recommendations.   Section II reviews the research relevant to virtual schools. It finds that despite considerable enthusiasm for virtual education in some quarters, there is little credible research to support virtual schools’ practices or to justify ongoing calls for ever-greater expansion.   Section III provides a descriptive overview of full-time virtual schools and their expansion based on data gathered from state, corporate, and organizational sources. Details on enrollment include the student characteristics of race/ethnicity, sex, free and reduced- price lunch eligibility, special education designation, ELL status, and grade level. Other information includes student-teacher ratios. In addition, details on student achievement include Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) ratings, state ratings, and graduation rates.

Obama to Propose Race to the Top for Educational Equity
Education Week Campaign K-12 Blog By Alyson Klein on March 3, 2014 7:25 PM
The Obama administration wants to focus the next round of the Race to the Top program on bolstering educational equity for disadvantaged students, according to sources.  The administration's fiscal year 2015 budget proposal—which is slated to be released Tuesday—seeks a $300 million iteration of the administration's signature Race to the Top program aimed at enticing schools to close the achievement gap. It's unclear if the money would go to districts, states, or some combination.  The program would include a teacher-equity component, as well as seek to close gaps in other areas, such as student discipline. The administration has already put forth guidance to encourage districts to ensure that minority students aren't punished more—or more harshly—than others. That move prompted questions in a letter from U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, and other key Republicans on the panel.  Separately, the department is already at work on a "50-state strategy" on teacher equity, which is aimed at ensuring that states give students from low-income families the same access to effective teachers as their more advantaged peers.

Director Steve McQueen wears NSBA wristband at Oscars
It wasn’t designed by Fred Leighton and couldn’t be measured by carats, but it carried an important message.  Director Steve McQueen (L) and actor/producer Brad Pitt accept the Best Picture award for ’12 Years a Slave’ onstage during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on March 2, 2014 in Hollywood, California. Getty Images/Kevin Winter  Steve McQueen, Director of “12 Years a Slave,” wore the National School Board Association’s (NSBA) red wristband for its “Stand Up 4 Public Schools” campaign as he accepted the Oscar for the Best Picture at the 2014 Academy Awards.  NSBA’s “Stand Up 4 Public Schools“ campaign centers on creating strong public schools, governed by school boards, to ensure that all students have the opportunity to learn 21st century skills and are prepared for higher education and the workplace.

NSBA comments on Race to the Top early education grants
NSBA School Board News Today Lawrence Hardy February 28th, 2014
The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has weighed in on a new $250 million federal Race to the Top (RTT) grant program for early childhood care and education, saying it shares the U.S. Department of Education’s commitment to ensuring that all children arrive at school ready to learn. But NSBA is also urging the education department and its partner in the grant, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to “require significant local education agency (LEA) involvement” in state applications for the competition.  In a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Kathleen Sebelius, director of HHS, which is also participating in the grant, NSBA Interim Associate Executive Director Reginald M. Felton noted that local school districts “are essential in the P-3 continuum of education and care, and the success of the RTT- preschool program will be improved by integrating the perspective of local schools boards.”


High Quality Pre-K: Families Need it, Voters Want it – County Meetings

PCCY February 21, 2014
Only 16% of children in southeastern Pennsylvania have access to publicly funded high quality early learning programs.  Statewide analysis from Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children echoes the findings of PCCY’s Bottom Line Report on Early Care and Education that shows access to high quality early learning programs remains out of reach for many children and working families.  A recent poll of likely voters finds 63% of Pennsylvania voters support investing more public funds in high quality pre-k, even 58% say they are willing to pay higher taxes to pay for it.  With proven research and strong voter support, the Pre-K for PA campaign is working to make sure that every candidate running for office in Pennsylvania sees the political wisdom and social benefits of making access to high quality preschool a top priority in their campaign.  YOU can help build momentum for making Pre-K a defining issue in the 2014 elections, join the Pre-K for PA campaign.
Help This Campaign Succeed.  Join the County Organizing Meetings:
Montgomery County Weds. March 5 at Montgomery County Community College

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

Auditor General DePasquale to Hold Public Meetings on Ways to Improve Charter Schools
Seeks to find ways to improve accountability, effectiveness, transparency
The public meetings will be held:
  • Cambria County: 1 to 3 p.m., Thursday, March 6, Commissioners Meeting Room, Cambria County Court House, 200 South Center St., Ebensburg
  • Bucks County: 1 to 3 p.m., Friday, March 7, Township of Falls Administrative Building, Suite 100, 188 Lincoln Highway, Fairless Hills
  • NEW: Philadelphia: 1 to 3 p.m., Friday, March 14, City Council Chambers, Room 400, City Hall
Time is limited to two hours for each meeting. Comments can be submitted in writing by Wednesday, Feb. 19, via email to Susan Woods at: swoods@auditorgen.state.pa.us.

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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