Wednesday, March 5, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 5, 2014: Activist calls for congressional hearings on standardized testing, gets unexpected support

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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 5, 2014:
Activist calls for congressional hearings on standardized testing, gets unexpected support

Activist calls for congressional hearings on standardized testing, gets unexpected support
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog by VALERIE STRAUSS March 4 at 4:03 pm
Education historian and activist Diane Ravitch just called for congressional hearings on the misuse and abuse of standardized tests used for high-stakes purposes — and she got some unexpected support.  Ravitch and the nonprofit Network for Public Education that she leads held a conference in Austin this past weekend, just before the start of the SXSWedu conference in the same city opened on Monday.  During the NPE conference, activists discussed how to coordinate efforts to get teachers and parents to resist school reforms that they say are leading to the privatization of the public school system.  At the end of the conference, Ravitch called for congressional hearings on standardized tests and the way they are being used — and abused — in school districts across the country as a result of federal and state laws that require student scores to be used to evaluate not only the students but their teachers, principals and schools. Testing experts have long said that standardized test scores should not be used for high-stakes purposes, but policymakers have insisted on it anyway.

As a Test Gets Phased Out In Chicago, Some Boycott Its Final Year
NPR by CHERYL CORLEY March 04, 2014 4:00 PM
In Chicago, a boycott has begun to protest the extent of standardized testing. Parents and teachers are saying that a recent test is useless, so hundreds are opting out or refusing to administer it.

Kids caught in tug of war over ISAT
By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah and Lisa Black, Chicago Tribune reporters 7:01 a.m. CST, March 4, 2014
Many Chicago Public Schools students found themselves Monday in the middle of a tug of war between parents and teachers calling for a boycott of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test and district officials who continue to stress the exam's importance.  A coalition of anti-testing advocates said parents at more than 70 district schools have submitted letters telling administrators they don't want their children to take the test. The action is the latest sign of nationwide dissatisfaction over the growth of standardized testing.  "Chicago is the focal point for a high-stakes confrontation around testing," said Robert Schaeffer of Boston-based FairTest, which scrutinizes such exams.

 “FairTest, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, notes that the No Child Left Behind Act doesn't allow or prohibit opting out of tests, but it does give states key motives to keep students from opting out: They have testing participation minimums to meet, and   incentives to include especially those students who will perform well.  If parents are unhappy with the time testing robs from instruction, and the influence, writ large, of the testing industry on education, it's becoming increasingly clear that they have some allies in local and state policy circles.”
Opting Out of Testing: A Rising Tide for States and Districts?
Education Week Curriculum Matters Blog by 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.  A legislative committee in Colorado has just been charged with the huge job of analyzing the state's assessment system for a possible revamping. One of its tasks? Looking into parent opt-outs, according to Chalkbeat Colorado.  Just a couple of months ago, the school board in Albuquerque rejected a proposal—which had been unsurprisingly denounced by the state—that would have sent parents a letter outlining their "opt out" options.   These kinds of issues are cropping up more and more often. Late last month, my colleague Karla Reid at the K-12 Parents & the Public blog reported on the establishment of a new collective of groups dedicated to parent activism against high-stakes standardized testing. 

John Kuhn at the NPE Conference: This is Our Education Spring
By Anthony Cody on March 4, 2014 10:00 AM
John Kuhn, alongside Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis, gave the keynote speech to the Network for Public Education conference on Saturday, March 1. He kindly gave me permission to share the text of his speech here. You can watch it here, thanks to the expert volunteer Vincent Precht.
Speech by John Kuhn, delivered on March 1, 2014, at the University of Texas in Austin
You're an impressive group. I'm looking out at a collection of some of the bravest and most outspoken advocates for America's public education promise. That word--promise--is important, and it's the title of this speech. There is a public school, funded by and accountable to the people, a school required to admit and educate every child, no matter where they live, anywhere you go in this country. There isn't a square inch of America that doesn't fall inside some school district or another. There isn't a pupil who can't walk into their local school and demand an education. This is no accident. This is by design. This is promised to us.
And that promise is under siege.

Bring on the Education Spring: Lessons from Austin
Twin Cities Daily Planet By Sarah LahmEyes on Education March 03, 2014
Are we on the verge of the “Education Spring”?
Impassioned school superintendent and author John Kuhn, who works in the Perrin-Whitt district in Texas, raised this question on March 1, the first day of the Network for Public Education’s(NPE) inaugural annual conference.  As soon as Kuhn uttered the words “Education Spring,” a noticeable ripple went through the University of Texas-Austin auditorium where he was speaking. This politically charged phrase, in fact, seemed to give the crowd something electric and powerful to hold onto, as they thought more about what they were doing at this conference, and what they could do to preserve, defend, protect, and improve public education in our country.

Yinzercation’s Jessie Ramey recaps the Network for Public Education Conference in Austin
We are Many
Yinzercation Blog March 4, 2014
If I had to sum up in three words the first national conference of the Network for Public Education, they would be: We. Are. Many. There were over 400 people from across the U.S. (and at least one person from Canada) in Austin this past weekend, and we know there are many thousands more with us in the education justice movement. In her keynote address Sunday, education historian Dr. Diane Ravitch stated several times, “We will win. Because they are few, and we are many.” (Watch it here.)  Indeed. Let me tell you just a little bit about some of those manypeople I met this weekend to give you a sense of what this grassroots movement looked like on display in Texas. Nearly all of us were there on our own dime and the conference was organized by the volunteer board of the Network for Public Education. I was lucky to travel with fellow Yinzercators Kipp Dawson, a Pittsburgh Public School middle level teacher and mother of two PPS graduates, and Pam Harbin, a mother of two PPS students and co-chair of the Local Task Force on the Right to Education.

Are kids learning? How one of the best public high schools in Pennsylvania gets education right
By Nick Malawskey |  on March 03, 2014 at 12:40 PM
It is third period at Hampton High School outside Pittsburgh.  Inside the school's senior AP physics class, teacher Jamie Pugliese is wearing a yellow tutu over her normal work clothes.   
She is jumping between the small groups of students clustered in her room, their desks pushed together into jumbled yet orderly chaotic groups. They're studying how charged particles interact, a fundamental piece of physics.   There is -- at first glance and aside from the tutu (being worn for a school fundraiser) – nothing out of the ordinary about her classroom. It is a sparse, almost utilitarian space, where aging laptops are charging along the walls, while equations are written on a white board at the front of the room.  And yet, by the measuring stick that is the state's standardized tests, Pugliese is among the best teachers in Pennsylvania. This classroom, with bare cinderblock walls, is among the best in the state.

“Responses were received from 598 superintendents, school board members, business managers/CFOs and other school administrators - with the vast majority identifying their districts as located in rural (52 percent) and suburban areas (40 percent).”
Survey of Pa.'s education leaders shows need to fix way state supports schools
The Daily Review March 4, 2014
HARRISBURG, Pa. - School administrators, board members and school business officials believe predictability is needed in education funding, and school funding levels statewide are currently inadequate. They also identified factors to include in a fair, state public school funding formula according to survey responses from nearly 600 of Pennsylvania's education leaders.
The two-week online survey was conducted in February and reflects the perspectives of on-the-ground level educators supporting teachers and students in schools throughout Pennsylvania. The survey was emailed to members of the state's major education leadership associations, including: Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, Pennsylvania School Boards Association, Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, and the Central Pennsylvania Education Coalition.

Pa. misses the mark on tax collections for the third straight month
By Jeff Frantz |  on March 03, 2014 at 5:22 PM
For the third straight month, Pennsylvania collected less in taxes than it expected.
The state brought in $34.6 million less in February than it had projected, according to the Department of Revenue. To date, the state is $75.5 million below where it expected to be for the fiscal year, which began July 1.

Pittsburgh schools data reveal efficiency gaps
Show variations throughout district
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 4, 2014 11:26 PM
As Pittsburgh Public Schools tries to tackle academic and financial challenges, administrators Tuesday night presented the school board with an array of data that show wide variations across the district's 54 schools.  At an education committee meeting, Brian Smith, executive director of strategic priorities, presented data on academic achievement, socio-economic conditions, population and other factors.

Pittsburgh school board sees likely savings from closings
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 4, 2014 11:54 PM
No one knows yet whether the new Pittsburgh Public Schools board will decide to close more schools.  The board is, however, looking for ways to save more money.  The district forecasts it will run out of money in 2016, when the operating deficit is expected to reach $53 million if the district doesn't change course.  The district estimated it could save $3 million to $5 million a year through five to 10 unnamed school closings, consolidations and reconfigurations in fall 2015. That estimate came in the "Whole Child, Whole Community: Building a Bridge to the Pittsburgh Promise" report released in December.

For the SRC & bad ideas: 'Time's up' LTE by Daun Kauffman Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 3:01 AM
I AM DEEPLY discouraged after reading new SRC chairman Bill Green's remarks about Dr. Hite's "impatience" with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers during contract negotiations, and in particular the demand for "labor" concessions.  Mr. Green seems to shrug off the fact that the School District of Philadelphia is in a starting position 20 percent below competing districts' salaries in the very nearby suburbs. He seems to forget that our class sizes are much higher than our peers'. He seems to forget that many educators here spend at least $1,000 per year out-of-pocket for books and basic classroom and office supplies.  Urban educators have a different job in a much different environment, which most will agree is also more complex. Start with the children we serve and advocate for. They are even further behind suburban counterparts than teachers.

After budget cuts, violent incidents in Philly schools tick slightly up this year
By Kevin McCorry WHYY Newsworks MARCH 1, 2014
Editor's Note: Since this story first ran on Saturday, we've done additional reporting. The story has been updated to reflect per capita violent incident totals.
The Philadelphia School District says the number of reported violent incidents in schools this year is comparable with last year's levels, ticking up 1.12 percent.  In total, district data shows that 1,266 incidents have been reported in the 2013-14 school year through January.
In the 2012-13 school year, 1,252 incidents were reported through January.

Starr hopes to raise $100k for Philly schools Philly School Files Blog by Kristen Graham TUESDAY, MARCH 4, 2014, 10:48 AM
If you dine at any Stephen Starr restaurant (like Parc, Buddakan, Morimoto, Talula's Garden) in the next four weeks, be prepared for the upsell - not to a pricier bottle of wine, but to donate to the Philadelphia School District.  Starr on Tuesday announced he was making a donation to the district, hoping to spur $100,000 in donations over the next four weeks.
"Every check that we print will ask politely for a donation," Starr said at a news conference.

Pass Pa. ‘passing the trash’ bill
Lancaster New Era editorial Tuesday, March 4, 2014 9:02 am
The recent arrest of a newly hired assistant principal in a suburban Harrisburg school district on charges that he repeatedly had sexual contact with a 16-year-old student casts a glaring light on a dark subject: “passing the trash.”  The pejorative refers to a situation in which a teacher, administrator or other school employee accused of misconduct is allowed to quietly resign from one district, likely avoiding adverse publicity and/or lawsuits, and is unwittingly hired by another.

“None of the Democratic candidates has called for a tax increase either in campaign ads or in public forums. But all are calling for increased funding for education, which remains a sticking point for Corbett because of cuts he imposed on public schools and universities in 2011-12.”
Lehigh Valley voters sour on Corbett
Poll puts governor's approval rating at 36 percent.
By Steve Esack, Call Harrisburg Bureau 10:27 p.m. EST, March 4, 2014
HARRISBURG — To keep his job, political experts say, Gov. Tom Corbett needs to win over the Lehigh Valley, and right now he's failing to do that, a new Morning Call/Muhlenberg College poll shows.  The Republican governor's job approval rating in Lehigh and Northampton counties is 36 percent, up 3 percentage points from last year but still historically and dangerously low for an incumbent.  Corbett's campaign team faces a monumental task in fixing his image with Valley voters, who are considered barometers of public opinion for the entire state. His camp has eight months until the Nov. 4 election.  In 2010, Corbett beat Democrat Dan Onorato in Lehigh and Northampton counties by a combined 16,623 votes — or nearly 55 percent of all ballots cast. That margin of victory in the Valley was nearly identical to Corbett's statewide results.
Easton Area schools chief: Charter school applications costly, pesky
Superintendent John Reinhart would like to limit number the district receives.
By Jacqueline Palochko, Of The Morning Call 10:36 p.m. EST, March 4, 2014
Charter school applications are time-consuming and costly for school districts, Easton Area School District Superintendent John Reinhart says.  At Tuesday's school board committee meeting, Reinhart asked the district solicitor to review the district's policy on charter school applications. The policy was last examined in 2007, and since then, the district has seen more applications, Reinhart said.  When administrators need to read a proposed charter school application and form questions for a public hearing, it takes administrators away from their day-to-day job, Reinhart said. The district reviewed a proposed charter school application last month, and Reinhart estimated administrators put in up to 25 hours for the application.  The district also needs to obtain legal counsel when reviewing an application, and Reinhart said it costs about $5,000 in legal fees per application.
NY: De Blasio and Builder of Charter School Empire Do Battle
New York Times By AL BAKER and JAVIER C. HERNÁNDEZ MARCH 4, 2014
She was a darling of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s administration, given free space to expand her charter schools from a single one in Harlem into a network larger than many New York State school districts. Along the way, her Success Academy empire became a beacon of the country’s charter school movement, its seats coveted by thousands of families as chronicled in the film “Waiting for ‘Superman.’ ”  But eight years into her crusade, Eva S. Moskowitz is locked in combat with a new mayor, Bill de Blasio, who repeatedly singled her out on the campaign trail as the embodiment of what he saw was wrong in schooling, and who last week followed his word with deed, canceling plans for three of her schools in New York City while leaving virtually all other charter proposals untouched.  Never was their battle more clear than in Albany on Tuesday, where each took part in simultaneous rallies — which each insisted had nothing to do with the other, but which felt like a duel nonetheless.

“Jeb Bush is jeopardizing 20 years’ worth of hard-won school choice successes by stubbornly promoting and defending the Common Core math and English learning standards.”
Does Jeb Bush realize Common Core threatens school choice concept? By Ben Velderman Published March 03, 2014
When future scholars write the history of the school choice movement, Jeb Bush will be remembered as one of its founding fathers.  Bush was a charter school advocate years before most Americans had even heard about the alternative public schools. Through the work of Bush and other leaders, there are more than 5,200 charter schools in the U.S. that serve an estimated 1.7 million students. The schools can be found in 41 states, including Florida, where Bush helped establish the very first charter back in 1996.

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:

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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