Thursday, March 27, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 27: Principal of the Year: Slay the testing beast

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 27, 2014:
Principal of the Year: Slay the testing beast


State gives school districts more time for spring Keystone exams
By Barbara Miller | bmiller@pennlive.com  on March 26, 2014 at 2:00 PM
Pennsylvania school districts are getting an extension on when they can give Keystone exams this spring, due to the unusual number of snow days this winter.  The state Department of Education announced Tuesday it is extending the testing window for Keystones, just as it did for PSSA tests. Keystone tests are given in algebra I, literature and biology.  After a survey of school districts, the state said it will add a week to the Keystone testing window, which will now be May 12-30.  The state previously added a week to the PSSA testing window. For math and reading, it had been March 17-28, and is now March 17-April 4, with a makeup period April 7-11.
The writing testing period is now March 31-April 11, extended a week from the previous April 4 deadline. The make-up period will be April 14-25.  The changes mean School Performance Profiles will now be released to the public Sept. 24.

PSSA tests: Schools aim to stay positive, reduce anxiety
Weather had an effect on test preparations, schedules
York Daily Record By Angie Mason amason@ydr.com @angiemason1 on Twitter  03/25/2014 09:17:06 PM EDT
On Monday, students at Northeastern Middle School held a pep rally to celebrate all things academic, from honors achievements to character education accomplishments.  Students wore their school colors, orange and black, and competed in games like office-chair relays for a coveted trophy made out of plungers.  "It's about building our school community and our school spirit," Principal Michael Alessandroni said.  In part, it was also a chance for the kids to scream for an hour and 45 minutes, to let out any stress they might have been feeling and have a bit of a "brain break," he said.  Because Tuesday, it was test time.

Slay the testing beast
Standardized tests are out of control; let's stand together to fight them off
Post-Gazette Opinion by GREG TARANTO March 26, 2014 12:00 AM
I am the principal of an award-winning middle school in Canonsburg. We have been designated as one of 350 “schools to watch” nationwide, not for our test scores, which are very good, but instead for the ways in which we engage the “whole child.” This means we surround strong core academics with quality arts programs, technology education, physical fitness, wellness and extracurricular opportunities such as athletics and jazz band.  Normally my school is alive with student-work displays, posters, inspirational sayings and images. My seventh-grade teams recently completed a cross disciplinary unit on mythology and the rooms were proudly filled with student work. This included material from Investigation of a Mythological Character (research in English and social studies), Student-Created Myths and Movie Proposal PowerPoints and Prezis (creative writing in language arts) and Hypothetical Future Offspring of the Gods Projects (genetics in science).  But not this week — because one of the many ugly heads of the student-testing monster is test security. Pennsylvania System of School Assessment testing security requires that “… all materials on the walls that relate to tested content, including motivational posters” are to be covered. So this week, a testing week, all of these amazing projects are hidden or removed. Even a poster that says, “Expect the Best” has been covered because testing rules say such a poster might “spark” a student’s imagination during testing.

More Susquehanna Valley families choosing to opt out of PSSA testing
Parents: “Standardized tests not accurate picture of child’s potential”
WGAL UPDATED 6:28 PM EDT Mar 25, 2014 (video runtime 2:34)

Lancaster County Opt Out
Lancaster County Opt Out was designed with parents in mind.  No one knows what’s best for a child moreso than a parent, and we are embarking to teach each and every parent what their options are when it comes to education.  What if we told you that the entire standardized test industry is making money off of your child’s scores?  What if we told you that the teachers can’t teach how they know best?  What if we told you that your child’s teacher could be evaluated based on your child’s performance?  All of these claims are true.  Now, what if we told you that it’s your right to opt your child out of these tests… to show the government that we won’t let our children be pawns in this governmental game?  Well, that is also true.  Read more on our website to find out how!

"Hughes said the money set aside for education would include reinstating the charter-school-reimbursement line item eliminated by the Corbett administration and provide money for a new basic-education funding formula."
Lawmaker to propose Marcellus Shale tax to raise $ for schools
SOLOMON LEACH, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER LEACHS@PHILLYNEWS.COM, 215-854-5903 POSTED: Thursday, March 27, 2014, 3:01 AM
A STATE lawmaker from Philadelphia said he has a plan to generate $375 million for local school districts without costing taxpayers a dime.  Sen. Vincent Hughes, minority chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said yesterday that he would introduce legislation to impose a 5-percent severance tax on natural-gas drilling in the state's Marcellus Shale region. By 2020, Hughes said, the tax would generate more than $1 billion for education.  "Given the status of what's going on in our schools, we need a much more aggressive funding plan put in place," Hughes told the Daily News.  He is scheduled to announce the legislation today at a rally outside the Philadelphia School District's headquarters.

More taxes for schools? Philly's unlikely champion
WHYY Newsworks by KIMBERLY HAAS MARCH 26, 2014 (audio runtime 4:50)
The importance of funding for public education is not lost on the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the eleven-county region’s business advocacy organization that promotes growth and economic development.  Its president and CEO Rob Wonderling spoke with WHYY’s Dave Heller on the chamber’s efforts to improve public education in the region, and the Philadelpha School District in particular, including a surprising support of more taxes for schools.

Pittsburgh school district ends '13 with $20.8 million surplus
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 26, 2014 11:19 PM
Pittsburgh Public Schools ended 2013 with an operating surplus of $20.8 million, official year-end figures showed Wednesday night.  A $9.86 million operating deficit had been forecast when the calendar year budget was approved.  When this year's budget was being put together, a surplus of $2.38 million was anticipated, but the final amount turned out to be significantly larger. The surplus was large enough to leave a nearly $103.2 million unreserved fund balance at the end of 2013.  One of the reasons the district is in better financial shape than expected a year ago is the earned income tax collections -- they were about $14 million higher than budgeted in 2013. The amount collected was $9.3 million more than in 2012, an increase of 9.2 percent.  In addition, real estate transfer tax collections were up about $3.9 million over the budgeted amount. The transfer taxes, which totaled $10.9 million, were higher than they have ever been.

"The teaching cuts, a cost-saving measure, are officially being attributed to a decline in enrollment, one of the reasons Pennsylvania school districts can legally lay off teachers."
Allentown School Board to vote Thursday on teacher cuts
School board to vote Thursday night on cuts; 26 other jobs at risk.
By Adam Clark, Of The Morning Call 9:31 p.m. EDT, March 26, 2014
The Allentown School Board is scheduled to vote Thursday night on the district's proposal to eliminate 74 teaching positions.  If approved, the teaching cuts, along with 26 other job cuts introduced earlier this month, would push the total jobs slashed to more than 450 over the past five years. By eliminating 100 positions, the district would save more than $5 million, helping offset a $13.2 million deficit in its preliminary budget.  Under the Pennsylvania School Code, a school board resolution is required for eliminating teachers, district spokeswoman Kimberly Golden Benner said. The other positions — 12 clerical workers, 10 paraprofessionals and four administrators — can be eliminated without a formal resolution, according to the district.  The teaching cuts, a cost-saving measure, are officially being attributed to a decline in enrollment, one of the reasons Pennsylvania school districts can legally lay off teachers.  The district says its enrollment has dropped from 18,504 in 2006-07 to 17,006. District projections show a further decline to 15,577 by 2018-19.
Adding a 13th grade could help students prepare better for their next steps, postsecondary commission chairman Rob Wonderling says
By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com on March 26, 2014 at 6:24 PM
For some high school students, the thought of attending a 13th grade may make them cringe.
But Gov. Tom Corbett's appointed commission that studied the future of postsecondary educationin Pennsylvania spent time mulling over the value of adding that extra grade.
Granted that notion would break from tradition, but Rob Wonderling, the president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce who chaired that commission in 2012, said it could be time for Pennsylvania to consider this change.

Giving Up on 4-Year-Olds
New York Times By THE EDITORIAL BOARD MARCH 26, 2014
new report released by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, examining the disciplinary practices of the country’s 97,000 public schools, shows that excessively punitive policies are being used at every level of the public school system — even against 4-year-olds in preschool. This should shame the nation and force it to re-evaluate the destructive measures that schools are using against their most vulnerable children.
Black students, for example, are suspended at three times the rate of white students. Minority children with disabilities fair worst of all; the race effect is amplified when disability comes into the picture. More than one in four minority boys with a disability — and nearly one in five minority girls — receive an out-of-school suspension. Students with disabilities make up 12 percent of the student population, but 25 percent of those are either arrested or have their disciplinary cases referred to the police.

Republican governors wrestle with unpopular Common Core education standards
PBS Newshour BY BILL BARROW, ASSOCIATED PRESS  March 24, 2014 at 10:44 AM EDT
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — More than five years after U.S. governors began a bipartisan effort to set new standards in American schools, the Common Core initiative has morphed into a political tempest fueling division among Republicans.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce leads establishment voices — such as possible presidential contender Jeb Bush — who hail the standards as a way to improve student performance and, over the long term, competitiveness of American workers.  Many archconservatives — tea party heroes Rand Paul and Ted Cruz among them — decry the system as a top-down takeover of local schools. The standards were developed and are being implemented by states, though Common Core opponents argue that President Barack Obama’s administration has encouraged adoption of the standards by various parameters it set for states applying to get lucrative federal education grants.

The lost opportunity of the Common Core State Standards
Kappan Magazine By Kevin G. Welner Phi Delta Kappan April 2014 vol. 95 no. 7 39-40
Until we focus on closing opportunity gaps, the Common Core will be part of the problem, and its potential benefits will never be realized.

Does School Board Leadership Matter?
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute by Arnold F. Shober and Michael T. Hartney
Foreword by Dara Zeehandelaar and Amber M. Northern

NSBA comments on Fordham Institute’s new school leadership report
NSBA School Board News Today by Lawrence Hardy March 26th, 2014
A new report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute concludes that school districts whose school board members are focused on student achievement are more likely than others to “beat the odds” academically — that is, to perform better than the demographics and financial conditions of their students would suggest.  The report, “Does School Board Leadership Matter?” is a follow-up to the 2010 report “School Boards Circa 2010: Governance in the Accountability Era,” a joint project of Fordham Institute, the National School Boards Association (NSBA), and the Iowa School Boards Association. As with the earlier report, NSBA says that — while the new study makes a valuable contribution to the field of school board research —  some of its findings are based on questionable assumptions.


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.

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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