Friday, March 7, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 7, 2014: PA Cyber Charter School founder seeks four-month delay in criminal trial

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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 7, 2014:
Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School founder seeks four-month delay in criminal trial

Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School founder seeks four-month delay in criminal trial
By Rich Lord / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 6, 2014 2:05 PM
Nick Trombetta, founder of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, is seeking a four-month postponement of deadlines in the federal criminal case against him, according to a motion filed today.  According to the motion by Mr. Trombetta’s Washington, D.C., attorneys, prosecutors have “produced more than 2.1 terabytes of electronic data, or approximately 4.1 million documents,” in discovery. Prosecutors have told the defense team that there are around 228,000 documents still to come.  The defense is asking for a postponement of pretrial motions until July 14, and indicated in its motion that the prosecution does not object to that.

Survey shows 90 percent of education leaders find predictability of state funding 'very important'
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 6, 2014 1:36 PM
A survey of nearly 600 education leaders shows most want a predictable funding formula and most believe state school funding is inadequate.  The survey of school administrators, board members and school business officials included members of the 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.  Its results were released today.

Latest poll echoes bad news for Corbett and good news for Wolf
By Robert J. Vickers |  on March 06, 2014 at 9:57 AM
A familiar motif of an unpopular Gov. Tom Corbett and surging Democratic challenger Tom Wolf are revealed in a new Robert Morris University poll released Thursday.  Corbett earned a meager 29.4 percent favorable rating from poll respondents, and a 32.5 percent job approval rating.
And regardless of their own voting intentions, just 18.6 percent of poll respondents said they expect Corbett to be re-elected.

"Today, more — although certainly not all — voters want more education spending, Medicaid expansion, a higher minimum wage and a governor who cares about the poor, Madonna said, basing his opinion on state polling.  In Madonna's view, Corbett's acting to drop the work requirement, intervene in the food stamp shortage and ask the state Legislature to increase education funding by $400 million in 2014-15 reflects an understanding of what voters want."
Gov. Tom Corbett moving to the political center?
Decisions this week on food stamp recipients and Medicaid work requirement signal a change for GOP governor.
By Steve Esack, Call Harrisburg Bureau 9:36 p.m. EST, March 6, 2014
HARRISBURG — In an election year, anything appears possible.  Perhaps even conservative Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, known for steadfast convictions regardless of political outcome, taking a step or two toward the ideological center in a bid to raise his historically low poll numbers.  Corbett on Thursday indicated a willingness to drop a proposed work-search requirement for Medicaid, something he had insisted on as part of his hand-crafted expansion plan. Instead, his administration now proposes a voluntary job-training pilot program offering participants lower insurance premiums.
Best and worst SAT scores in Pennsylvania
LancasterOnline Staff Posted: Thursday, March 6, 2014 1:00 pm
The SAT college entrance exam is back in the news today. Yes, it's undergoing a sweeping revision.  College Board officials say the update — the first since 2005 — is needed to make the exam more representative of what students study in high school and the skills they need to succeed in college and afterward.

In Harrisburg, how many politicians does it take to change a school district?: Sheila Dow Ford
 PennLive Op-Ed  By Sheila Dow Ford on March 06, 2014 at 9:15 AM
Something isn't right, and it is important that we identify what and why.  The recent announcement by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale of his intention to immediately undertake a performance audit of the Harrisburg School District left many confused about his true motives.   Suspicion is appropriate and necessary here. It is the byproduct of living in a city where nothing ever is what it appears, especially in the political realm.

Mayor proposes $153 million in new funds, less than Hite's request
notebook by Paul Socolar on Mar 06 2014 Posted in Latest news
Philadelphia's Mayor Nutter, in his annual budget proposal, addressed the dire needs of a School District that again faces an enormous budget deficit by proposing $153 million in additional funding for next year. That amount, if realized, still falls short of the District's request.
The District is turning to the state and city for a combined $440 million. It is counting on $120 million of that to replace funds that were promised and raised last year but were not recurring. And to cover rising costs while taking some steps toward his aspirational vision for the District, Hite has asked for a great deal more. The price tag attached to the first year of Action Plan 2.0, as it's called, is $320 million. A quarter of that amount will be used just to cover unavoidable annual increases in expenses.

Philly principals hear contract pitch that includes major salary reductions
In the Philadelphia School District, Friday might be an especially bad day to be called to the principal's office.  Thursday night, the union representing district principals and other school administrators heard the details of a tentative deal struck between union leadership and the district.  If accepted, the deal would cut salaries by as much as 17 percent in addition to health-care concessions.  The proposed three-year contract would take district administrators from a 12-month to 10-month pay schedule, and call for 5-to-8 percent health care contributions for all members, staggered over the life of the deal.

New Logo, Old Principles

Yinzercation Blog March 6, 2014
Drum roll please … introducing our new logo! Drawn by local artist Danny Devine, the Yinzercation school bus shows people taking action. Are those rally signs we can see peeking out the windows? We are literally on the bus together, ready to save public education as a public good. Movements move, and this bus is going places for education justice. Don’t worry, it will stop for you – and there’s always room for more people.  While the logo might be new, the principles that unite us are not. We are committed to keeping the focus on students and equity, evidence-based arguments, and saving public education as a public good. Sometimes it gets complicated since we are a movement, not an organization, and we may not all agree on everything, all the time. But as I listen to this growing education justice movement – at rallies, on the streets, at national conferences, in community meetings, on petitions, in social media – these are the core principles I hear:

NY - One Charter School Group Sits Out Latest Battle
WNYC By BETH FERTIG Thursday, March 06, 2014 - 04:00 AM
While some charter operators rallied in Albany this week with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, others were working more quietly behind the scenes.  Stacey Gauthier is the principal of the Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights, Queens. She's among 34 charter leaders who recently joined a coalition to work with the mayor, by explaining how they serve diverse communities, including children with special needs.   Gaulthier said she accepted the city's decision to halt three charters from opening this fall because officials opposed placing elementary schools in the same building as high schools. The third would have taken space from a special education program. Despite that decision, she said, she believed the mayor is pro-charter.
"I'm going to hope that he actually will come out and say that he's pro any school that's serving kids with a high-quality education," she said.

"Further, the notion that for-profit operators don’t affect many students is patently false. Hundreds of thousands of children attend charter schools operated by for-profit companies. There were 463,000 students in schools operated by for-profit companies, and 95% of those schools were charter schools."
Cashing In On Kids Blog March 6, 2014
A blogger at StudentsFirst (not to be confused with StudentFirsthas written about Cashing in on Kids, complaining that this website’s focus is on charter schools rather than neighborhood public schools. The blogger argues that the emphasis on for-profit operators “gives a false impression of the public charter school landscape.”  Fair enough. Let’s address those questions.
First, why do we see an urgent need to improve accountability and oversight of charter schools? For school districts and neighborhood public schools, accountability is already in place. Budgets are available. Meetings are public. All kids who show up are required by law to receive an education. It’s imperfect, like any human endeavor, but there are functioning accountability systems. Such a system is lacking for charter schools, which have now been around for more than 20 years, and taxpayers and kids are paying the price.
Second, is our emphasis on for-profit operators justified? We believe that, in a sector with insufficient oversight and accountability, some operators will put profit ahead of students. It’s a concern in every other sector, and downplaying accountability and the sometimes-corrupting influence of profit-taking has led to huge problems for charter schools, students and taxpayers.

“The culminating action from the meeting was a call 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,” according to a press release on the NPE website.”
Options In The Standoff Over Test-Based Education Policy
Education Opportunity Network Blog by Jeff Bryant March 6, 2014
What happens when people feel they aren’t being listened to? They raise their voices louder.
For some time now, teachers, parents, and students have spoken out against the extraordinary emphasis on standardized testing that has become the bedrock of the nation’s education policies. Critics have questioned the whole idea that teaching and learning is a pursuit that can be expressed and judged by numbers and rankings, which seems to be a forgone conclusion to policy makers and economists.  While leaders of the policy establishment calling itself “education reform” have noticed the clamor, they remain unmoved. As operatives atBrookings Institute recently wrote, “The testing and accountability movement is in a bit of trouble.”

‘The drive to test, test, and re-test’ leads famous school board member to quit
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS March 6 at 4:32 pm
Rick Roach, who is completing his fifth four-year term representing District 3 on the Board of Education inOrange County, Fla, may well be the most famous local school board member in the country.  In 2011, he made national news when he took a test with questions used on standardized tests given to students in Florida and flunked, becoming a vocal critic of high-stakes standardized tests. Last year he became alarmed that the state was forcing severely disabled students to take alternative versions of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and helped publicize the plight of a boy named Michael, who was born with only a brain stem and not a full brain with cognitive ability. Michael, was also blind and bound to a wheelchair, was still required to take a state standardized test last year (and will have to take another one this year).

Then and Now, a Test That Aims to Neutralize Advantages of the Privileged
New York Times By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA MARCH 6, 2014
When the College Board announced Wednesday that it was overhauling the SAT in ways that would curb the advantages enjoyed by affluent students, it sounded a bit like the people who first designed and popularized the test decades ago.  The similarities end there. Across more than eight decades, the SAT’s backers have held it out as a yardstick, albeit an imperfect one, for academic merit, but notions of what defines merit have changed profoundly.
The test began in the 1920s supposedly as a gauge of intelligence, but in recent years has moved toward measuring whether high school students have learned what they should. The latest changes give the SAT a hard shove further in that direction, making it more like its competitor, the ACT, in redefining merit as less about cleverness, and more about curriculum mastery.

U.S. Department of Education issues guidelines on student data privacy
NSBA School Board News Today by  Alexis Rice March 6, 2014
The U.S. Department of Education has issued new online resource guidelines to help school districts and educators interpret major laws for protecting student privacy and develop best practices for using online educational services.  The report, Protecting Student Privacy While Using Educational Services: Requirements and Best Practices,  issued by the department’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), noted that classrooms are increasingly employing technological advances such as on-demand delivery of personalized content, virtual forms of interacting with teachers and other students, and many other interactive technologies.

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:
  • 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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