Saturday, March 8, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 8: March Madness Begins in Our Schools: It's Test Prep Time/Keystone Exams: Chapter 4 revisions now final and effective

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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 8, 2014:
March Madness Begins in Our Schools: It's Test Prep Time

Court Orders Kansas Legislature to Spend More on Schools
New York Times By JOHN ELIGON MARCH 7, 2014
Kansas’s highest court ruled on Friday that funding disparities between school districts violated the state Constitution, and ordered the Legislature to spend more than $125 million to bridge the gap, setting the stage for a messy budget battle in the Capitol this year.  With its ruling, the state Supreme Court averted for now a larger constitutional showdown by ordering a lower court to reconsider the most controversial part of the case — whether the public school system statewide was adequately funded. The lower court originally ordered an increase of more than $400 million in school funding, and the conservative-led majority in the Legislature had vowed to defy that order if it were upheld. Legislators said it was the job of lawmakers, not judges, to appropriate money.  Still, the unanimous court decision Friday would seem to leave some Republican lawmakers in Kansas unsettled because it orders them, by July 1, to appropriate tens of millions of dollars in payments to poorer districts to make the school system more equitable. The Legislature had been withholding those constitutionally mandated payments in recent years.

March Madness Begins in Our Schools: It's Test Prep Time
Education Week Living in Dialogue Blog By Anthony Cody on March 4, 2012 11:41 AM
In our nation's public schools, March Madness has taken on a whole new meaning. It is test prep time in America.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is fond of saying that we should not teach the test. At the same time, there are huge consequences for schools, teachers and principals that do not raise test scores. The NCLB waivers allow states to eliminate Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for the majority of schools, but huge pressure will still be applied to the bottom tier of schools, those with high poverty and large numbers of English learners. And new policies mandated by the NCLB waivers require the inclusion of test scores in teacher and principal evaluations.  As the month of March begins, across the country schools are in the midst of the most pressure-packed time of the year. We have just a few short weeks before the tests will be given that determine the fate of our students, our schools, our principals and ourselves. It is test-prep time.  But over at the Department of Education, there is another world, where the magic of "multiple measures" make all these pressures melt like lemon drops.  I asked teacher friends recently if, in fact, they were being asked to teach to the test in their schools. Here is what I heard from around the nation. Some asked that their names be removed out of fear for their jobs.

Thanks to State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and his staff for holding this series of hearings around the state; the last one is scheduled for March 14 in Philly.  State Reps Bernie O'Neill, Frank Farry and Matt Bradford also attended yesterday's hearing in Bucks County.
PSBA testifies before state auditor general on charter school reform
PSBA NEWS RELEASE Steve Robinson, Senior Director of Communications 3/7/2014
PSBA highlighted the need for charter school reform at a hearing today before State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.  In his testimony on behalf of PSBA, Lawrence Feinberg, a school director from the School District of Haverford Township (Delaware Co.) and PSBA regional director, recognized that charter schools will continue to be a significant part of public education, and because of this, the current system is in "serious need of reform."  While not directly discussing various pieces of proposed charter school legislation, Feinberg focused his testimony on key problem areas and provided constructive recommendations to address performance of charter schools, funding and accountability.
- See more at:

Officials put focus on charter funding
By Russ O’Reilly ( , The Altoona Mirror March 7, 2014
Charter school officials and rural public school district superintendents had the attention of Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale on Thursday at the Cambria County Courthouse.  DePasquale's hearing with representatives of both sides of the ongoing charter funding debate was part of a multi-hearing process across the state, he said.
In about a month, he will release a report including all the testimonies he's heard, as well as recommendations he'll have made for improving Pennsylvania charter school law.
"Regardless of what side of the charter school issue you're on, it's agreed that its not working. We need to find a better way to make this work," he said during the hearing.

Charter, cyber schools appraised
Johnstown Tribune Democrat by Kathy Mellott March 6, 2014
EBENSBURG — Mark Bower is the high school principal and superintendent at Rockwood Area School District, two positions he has to hold because of lack of funding.  That funding problem is only growing greater and is compounded by the hundreds of thousands of dollars the state takes from his district’s subsidy to fund students in charter and cyber schools.
Anthony Pirrello likewise wears multiple hats. The former public school teacher and administrator is chief executive officer at Montessori Regional Charter School in Erie.  Pirrello said the rules for the charter schools have to be the same as they are for public schools.
Both educators were among a half-dozen who testified Thursday at a hearing by state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale in the Cambria County Courthouse.

Keystone Exams - Commentary
In Pennsylvania we will now be requiring students in high poverty districts to pass Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement without providing those districts with adequate resources to properly educate or remediate those kids.  We continue to spend more and more tax dollars on testing while we leave some students without counselors, libraries, school nurses, art, music and extracurriculars.
As you may have read, the final form of Chapter 4 regulations, which govern state assessments and graduation requirements, became official on Saturday, March 1.  One item in the final form may be of timely concern.  In addition to the three required Keystone Exams, the regulations call for the development and implementation of two additional exams:  English Composition (beginning with the class of 2019) and Civics and Government (beginning with the class of 2020).  Each is scheduled to become a graduation requirement in the same manner as the original three.
The regulations call for a mandatory field test of the English Composition test in all Districts in 2014-15.  Since both new tests are contingent upon legislative funding, we might consider advocacy with our legislators to prohibit funding of the new tests in the upcoming state budget so that neither of these tests gain momentum.
Points of emphasis:
-  Since the field test is scheduled for 2014-15, we need to act fast to ensure the test is not funded in the state budget currently under deliberation so this test does not ever get off the ground.
-  The budget or some other bill must explicitly restrict the development of new exams.  If PDE gets a budget line labeled generally for assessments, they may use these funds to develop the tests without specifically enumerating where the money is going and say they are implementing Chapter 4.  We have seen this in the past.
-  The addition of a 4th test adds yet another unfunded mandate with District costs to administer, schedule, analyze results, train proctors, etc.  The largest expense will the cost of remediation.
-  The state will have costs in development, distribution, collection, scoring, and reporting, etc.  They will also need to fund the development of another project based assessment and pay for the ongoing scoring of that.
-  Most importantly, do we really want to see kids remediated in 4 exams, potentially simultaneously?  What will be the opportunity costs for them?  Stress?  Willingness to stay in school?  Plus why do we need another Language Arts Exam?  We already have Literature.  We can't accomplish a thorough Language Arts assessment with just one test?
Keystone Exams: Chapter 4 revisions now final and effective
PSBA's website
The State Board of Education's revisions to its Chapter 4 regulations for academic standards and assessment are final and effective as of Saturday, March 1, when they are published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
Among the key provisions under the newly revised Chapter 4 regulations:
Keystone Exams –Keystone Exams will be developed in five content areas for graduation purposes: Literature, Algebra I, Biology, Composition, and Civics and Government. Keystone Exams in Literature, Algebra I, and Biology will serve a dual purpose as both graduation requirements and for state accountability as required under federal law. The Keystone Exam scores do not count as one-third of the student's final course grade. Therefore, the use of the Keystone Exams will be as a stand-alone requirement for graduation. 
High school graduation requirements – Effective with the graduating Class of 2017, graduation requirements include the following: 1) Course completion and grades; 2) Demonstration of proficiency as determined by the school district, charter or cyber school or AVTS if applicable in each of the state academic standards not assessed by a state assessment; and 3) Require proficiency in Algebra I, Biology and Literature Keystone Exams or project-based assessment if applicable.
Beginning with the Class of 2019, students will also have to pass a Composition Keystone Exam. Beginning with the Class of 2020, students will also have to pass a Keystone Exam in Civics and Government.  The composition and civics and government exams are subject to available state funding for development and implementation of each assessment.
Districts will retain the option for independently-validated local assessments or completion of an Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate Exam to replace the Keystone Exams. 
Other Keystone Exams for voluntary use -- Five additional Keystone Exams will be developed by PDE for voluntary use by districts, subject to funding by the state.  The tests and schedule is as follows: Geometry in 2016-17; U.S. History in 2017-18; Algebra II; in 2018-19; Chemistry in 2019-20; and World History in 2020-21. There will be no related project-based assessments or validation of local assessments for these exams.


The man who will save Philly's crumbling school system? by Sean Collins Walsh POSTED: Sunday, March 9, 2014, 4:01 AM
THE FIRST Bill Green was an Irish immigrant who owned a tavern in Kensington in the early 1890s. Bill Green Jr. was a congressman and legendary Democratic Party boss. Bill Green III was a firebrand mayor who in his single term took on the unions, City Council and just about everyone else. Will Bill Green IV become the man who saved Philly's crumbling school system?
Daily News writer Sean Collins Walsh sat down with Green No. 4, who recently resigned his Council seat to become School Reform Commission chairman, in his half-moved-into office at district headquarters. They talked about his new role.

"Nearly 50 percent of Pennsylvania’s prison population failed to receive a high school diploma. High school dropouts are three and a half times more likely than graduates to be arrested and eight times more likely to be incarcerated."
Carlisle police chief says to fight crime, invest in kids: PennLive letters
Pennlive Letters to the Editor  on March 06, 2014 at 8:15 AM
By STEPHEN L. MARGESON, Chief, Carlisle Police Department, Carlisle
Donald Gilliland’s recent PennLive article (“Rising prison costs spell trouble for Corbett’s signature reform”) details the multiple factors that led to a small state prison population increase last year, instead of the projected decrease. As a law enforcement official, I am tough on crime and believe that prison is necessary to help ensure public safety; however, the considerable challenges cited in the article should remind us of why it is so critical to keep people from ever becoming criminals in the first place.  Compelling long-term scientific research and common sense clearly indicate that investing in high-quality pre-kindergarten programs is a key strategy to help ensure that at-risk children get a good start in life thereby cutting the cycle of crime and incarceration.

Billionaire backed education groups battle teachers unions in state races by RACHEL BAYE, CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY LAST UPDATED: Friday, March 7, 2014, 2:11 PM
Three weeks before Tennessee’s August 2012 primary election, state Rep. John DeBerry Jr.’s Memphis-area district was flooded with $52,000 worth of get-out-the-vote efforts supporting the then-nine-term incumbent. Six days later, another $52,000 in materials appeared.  By Election Day, the Tennessee affiliate of StudentsFirst, the education-focused organization behind the influx of support, had spent more than $109,000 backing DeBerry, a rare Democrat who supports voucher programs and charter schools. The state branch of the American Federation for Children, another education group, spent another $33,000.  DeBerry faced another Democrat, state Rep. Jeanne Richardson, whose district was eliminated through redistricting.  DeBerry won.

Common Core Panel Discussion at the NPE Conference, March 2, 2014
from Schoolhouse Live PRO 2 days ago video runtime 39:54
Since No Child Left Behind, no national program has met more controversy than the Common Core. In this featured panel, educators will discuss the challenges we face with the Common Core. Should we embrace the standards but reject the high stakes tests? Or should we oppose the whole project? How can we offer a clear alternative to top down reform, and advocate clearly for our students in this context?
Moderator: Anthony Cody Panelists: Paul Horton, Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin, Mercedes Schneider, Jose Luis Vilson, Randi Weingarten

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:
  • 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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