Thursday, March 6, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 6, 2014: Parent to Obama: Why don’t private schools adopt your test-based school reforms?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 6, 2014:
Parent to Obama: Why don’t private schools adopt your test-based school reforms?

“But please take the next step and accept this invitation to see his school—a modern version of an effective comprehensive urban high school. Talk with teachers and students, and with Georgia’s Principal of the Year, Dr. Robbie Hooker.  Maybe after seeing Clarke Central in action, you can urge Education Secretary Arne Duncan to reassess the test-driven school “reform” that makes it harder for schools to educate their students successfully. Maybe your administration can recommit to the fundamental mission of American education: assuring access to quality education for  all our children no matter their circumstances.”
Parent to Obama: Why don’t private schools adopt your test-based school reforms?
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS March 5 at 6:00 am
Bertis Downs is a parent who lives in Athens Ga., and the former legal counselor and manager of the band R.E.M.  He wrote the following letter to President Obama, inviting the president to visit a high school in Athens to see the impact of his administration’s standardized test-based policies there.

“Still, with Scarsdale's track record—virtually every student graduates in four years; 96 percent attend four-year colleges; over 60 percent are admitted to those Barron's calls "most selective"—why am I concerned? And why should anyone care about what might seem to be my one-off view of the world, anyway?  Because colleagues in other districts tell me that there, as here, too many teachers are worrying about their new state-imposed, essentially meaningless, evaluation scores. Everywhere, there's more talk about prepping for tests.”
When Education Is But a Test Score
Education Week Commentary By Michael V. McGill Published Online: March 4, 2014
I've come to think that a school superintendent's main mission today is to protect teachers and kids from the ideological madness around us. If I can keep education reform from "helping" them, I'll have achieved something.  In June, I'll complete my 41st year as a school or district head. For the last 16, I've been the superintendent in Scarsdale, N.Y., just north of New York City.
Scarsdale's schools have always marched a bit to their own drummer. Some would say that's a result of elitism: Median income here is somewhere in the nation's top 100, depending on which source you use. Over 80 percent of residents hold a bachelor's degree. Students are among the country's top performers.

SAT: A Test of Knowledge or Income?
New York Times Magazine Graphic March 9, 2014
Page down to see this graphic showing family income and average SAT scores for 2013

“The changes won’t take away from the fact that no single standardized test score should be used for a high-stakes decisions involving young students — not for student promotion from grade to grade, high school graduation, etc. Some kids are simply better taking tests than others, some kids are sick when they take them, and historically, the scores are as reflective of the socio-economic divide in the country than they are of anything. Kids who live in poverty do worse than kids who don’t.  The new test won’t change any of that, according to Bob Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), a nonprofit group dedicated to ending the misuse of standardized test scores. It also won’t be any “less susceptible” to coaching by tutoring companies, he said.”
The key problem the SAT changes won’t fix
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS March 5 at 6:53 pm
Big changes are coming (again) to the SAT, the once almighty college admissions test that was overtaken in popularity by the ACT.  The essay portion of the exam, added in 2005 with great fanfare as a crucial new part of the exam, is now being made optional, because apparently, it wasn’t all that crucial after all.  And those silly vocabulary words that nobody ever needed to know except for the SAT (and weren’t on the ACT) are being dumped.

“Bob Schaeffer, public education director for the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (known as FairTest) and a longtime SAT opponent, said he thinks the changes "fail to address many major concerns of independent researchers, standardized exam critics and equity advocates."  He noted that since the SAT was revised in 2005, nearly 100 colleges and universities stopped requiring college entrance exams scores, bringing the total to more than 800.”
College Board revamps SAT college entrance exam for spring 2016
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 5, 2014 11:01 PM
For students taking the SAT college entrance exam in spring 2016 and later, it won't be like their older siblings' exam.  The College Board on Wednesday announced the redesigned test, including switching from 2400 points back to 1600 points.

A New SAT Aims to Realign With Schoolwork
New York Times By TAMAR LEWIN MARCH 5, 2014
Saying its college admission exams do not focus enough on the important academic skills, the College Board announced on Wednesday a fundamental rethinking of the SAT, ending the longstanding penalty for guessing wrong, cutting obscure vocabulary words and making the essay optional.  The president of the College Board, David Coleman, criticized his own test, the SAT, and its main rival, the ACT, saying that both had “become disconnected from the work of our high schools.”  In addition, Mr. Coleman announced programs to help low-income students, who will now be given fee waivers allowing them to apply to four colleges at no charge. And even before the new exam is introduced, in the spring of 2016, the College Board, in partnership with Khan Academy, will offer free online practice problems and instructional videos showing how to solve them.

Time to Talk Testing
Testing Talk, Part I: “Standardized”
Yinzercation Blog March 5, 2014
How is the dramatic expansion of high-stakes-testing affecting our schools? What is the impact on our children and their learning? Come be a part of the conversation at the only public screening in Pittsburgh of the new film, “Standardized: Lies, Money, & Civil Rights.”

“The new policy rollout, to be presented to the School Reform Commission for a vote at its next meeting on March 20, comes at the same time that Pennsylvania's General Assembly is considering legislation that weakens the power of districts to control charter growth. Kihn said the proposed policy will be revised to take the feedback into account.
Among other changes, the proposed state law would allow universities to authorize charter schools, take away a district's power to set enrollment limits, and allow any charter operator with multiple sites to switch its oversight away from the district to the state.
"Any of those things would pose an existential threat to the District," said Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn in an interview.”
Philly: Deadline Friday to comment on District's proposed new charter policy
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa on Mar 05 2014 Posted in Latest news
The School District is proposing an overhaul of its charter school authorizing policy to make it more rigorous and consistent and is seeking public comment on the changes.
The deadline for providing such comment is this Friday, March 7. Comments can be recorded here.  Specifically, the proposed rules are aimed to support high-quality charters and close underperforming ones, while offering more frequent monitoring, more transparency, and the opportunity for expansion to charters that meet new, higher standards and academic benchmarks.  But the District also wants to require charters to sign agreements that include enrollment caps -- a bitter bone of contention among charter operators -- and enshrine in policy the notion that the District has a right to take its own financial condition into account when making charter decisions. 

Nutter's budget likely to spark debates on schools, PGW
PHILADELPHIA Mayor Nutter plans to present to City Council on Thursday a modest budget without bold spending ideas, but one that nonetheless sets the stage for coming debates over selling the Philadelphia Gas Works and funding the School District.  On Wednesday, School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. sent a letter to Nutter requesting $75 million next year to boost a district still running deficits despite making painful cuts.  That would be on top of the $120 million the district hopes to receive from the city's extra 1 percent sales tax.
Nutter's budget, however, does not include more money for the schools, according to sources briefed on his spending plan, and how much money the district can expect from the sales tax remains in doubt.

Mayor's report cites progress and priorities in education
The notebook by David Limm on Mar 05 2014 Posted in Latest news
Mayor Nutter has released a report that sums up his administration's accomplishments over the last six years and lays out priorities for the remaining two.   In education, the mayor says that Philadelphia increased its contribution to city schools by $155 million since 2010 to help alleviate the District's fiscal turmoil.   The report also notes the creation of the Great Schools Compact. It estimates that, since 2011, this coalition that brings together public and private school leaders has replaced 20,000 "low-performing" seats in city schools with "high-performing" seats -- mostly by converting some District schools to charters and closing schools that were deemed failing. The Compact has a goal of converting 50,000 seats in total.

 “The core pre-K-12 program for low-income students, Title I grants, would be held flat at this year’s $14.4 billion level; while the other central program, special education grants for states, would receive a small increase, from $11.5 billion to $11.6 billion.”
What Does Obama's Budget Say About Education?
The president's most significant reform proposals come on the workforce side: New investments would create apprenticeship programs, on-the-job training, and work-based learning, both for youth and for adults. 
The Atlantic by CLARE MCCANN MAR 5 2014, 12:04 PM ET
President Obama released a relatively unambitious, largely partisan proposal for funding the federal government for fiscal year 2015, which begins on October 1, 2014. In recent years, the president’s budget request has included proposals that have driven successful education policy reforms, including a debate and new funding for early education programs and reforms to student loan interest rates. This year’s budget request, though, has been widely disparaged as dead on arrival. Even so, the bill offers some important insights to the White House’s thinking as it heads into the middle of Obama’s second term. New America’s Education Policy Program has gathered some of the highlights of the bill here.

“Currently, the federal government provides less than 16 percent of the cost of IDEA, despite promising three decades ago when the law was passed to pay 40 percent of excess costs.”
NSBA applauds proposed K-12 budget increase, but more funds needed for Title I and special education
NSBA School Board News Today by Lawrence Hardy March 5th, 2014
The National School Boards Association (NSBA) welcomed the 2 percent increase in discretionary funding for education in President Obama’s $3.9 trillion proposed federal budget for fiscal 2015. But NSBA leaders remain concerned that the budget did not include badly needed increases in two of the most foundational formula programs for school districts: Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
“We applaud President Obama’s pledge to raise K-12 education funding at a time when strong public schools are vitally important to America’s families and the nation’s global competitiveness,” NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel said. “However, we are deeply disappointed to see no increases for Title I and IDEA despite the critical need for these programs and the tremendous burden that the lack of federal funding for them is putting on school districts.”

US DOE: 2015 Education Budget: What You Need to Know
US Department of Education Homeroom Blog Posted on March 4, 2014 by Cameron Brenchley
President Obama’s 2015 budget request reflects his belief not only that education is a top priority, but that America’s public schools offer the clearest path to the middle class. Investing in education now will make us more competitive in the global economy tomorrow, and will help ensure equity of opportunity for every child.  The administration’s request for about $69 billion in discretionary appropriations represents an increase of nearly 2 percent over the previous year and slightly more than the 2012 discretionary level for education before the sequester.

Bloggers React to the NPE National Conference in Austin
I had planned to publish each of the bloggers’ descriptions of the first conference of the Network for Public Education, but it would take weeks to report them all.  Here is the initial wave of comments.  My impression from the conference was that people were ecstatic. They loved the conversations, the debates, the solidarity.  Robert Perry, communications director of NPE, and a middle school teacher in Rhode Island, collected these posts, mostly from bloggers but some from outside commentators:

Audit finds poor oversight of Utah schools’ online education
Senator accuses schools of enrolling ‘‘ghost’’ students.
By Kristen Moulton | The Salt Lake Tribune Feb 26 2014 01:01 am
Two private companies are being paid millions in Utah tax dollars to recruit online students who boost enrollment for mostly charter schools — on paper.  The schools contract out the students’ online education back to the same companies that recruited them. Some schools then pay little attention to student performance, attendance, or progress toward graduation, leaving it to the private company, a new state audit says.

What? Five weeks isn’t enough?
Teach For America to Pilot Yearlong Teacher Training, Retention Efforts
Education Week Teacher Beat Blog By Stephen Sawchuk on March 4, 2014 7:29 PM
Teach For America plans to provide a year of up-front training for a subset of its new teacher recruits—and put more of an emphasis on teaching for longer than the group's two-year requirement, the organization's leaders announced in a speech.  The two pilot programs, outlined March 4 by TFA co-CEO Matt Kramer during a "What's Next for TFA" address in Nashville, Tenn., mark the organization's biggest shift in internal policy since its founding in 1990.

PILCOP Special Education Seminars 2014 Schedule
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia

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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