Tuesday, April 1, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for April 1, 2014: Testing to the Limit: How much testing is too much?

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 April 1, 2014:
Testing to the Limit: How much testing is too much?

"There is a place for testing in school, but that place is in classes, where teachers can design and administer tests that help them understand what students have learned so they can adjust their teaching accordingly. State-mandated standardized tests don't do that, but they do take up far too much class time and send a terrible message to children that high test scores are the purpose, rather than simply the result, of learning."
Skipping the PSSA
Inquirer LTE By Steven Baker Tuesday, April 1, 2014, 1:08 AM
Last week, my 9-year-old daughter skipped school for three mornings. With my blessing, she will do the same thing this week.  For a child who rarely misses school and a family that puts a high priority on education, it might seem like a strange choice, but it's not. In fact, it's the only way we can be sure she'll be learning, because her school is more or less abandoning teaching for a large portion of the next two weeks to focus on administering the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) tests.

Legislators want state to repay schools owed $1.7B with Corbett's proposed block grant money
By Jeff Frantz | jfrantz@pennlive.com on March 31, 2014 at 3:46 PM
Gov. Tom Corbett wants the state to spend an extra $240 million on education block grants next year. But some lawmakers in the House are wondering if some of that money wouldn't be better spent repaying school districts millions in overdue reimbursements for construction costs. That idea came up Monday before the House Education Committee in a hearing on a bill that would overhaul PlanCon, the state's system for reimbursing districts.  Pennsylvania owes districts $1.7 billion for work that has been fully or partially approved. Many of those projects began during the great recession. The backlog is so bad, the state placed a moratorium on districts applying to join the program two years ago. Right now, the moratorium is likely to continue for at least another year.

PSBA calls for a more modern, simplified and financially sustainable process for school construction
Speaking before the House Education Committee, Senior Director of Government Affairs John Callahan said HB 2124 sponsored by Rep. Seth Grove provides a more modern, simplified and financially sustainable process for school construction reimbursement.  The current 11-step process, known as Planning and Construction Workbook (PlanCon), is cumbersome and costly for school entities, especially with a moratorium on state reimbursements for construction costs still in place. PlanCon is broken into Parts A through K, but schools are not eligible for reimbursement until Part G and reimbursements don't actually begin until Part H. On average, districts pay 25% of the total project cost on design, pre-construction fees, bond-related fees, and related costs between Part A to Part H.  "On a relatively small school building project with a $10 million budget, this means that before the school district can even apply for Part G approval, it has already had to spend over $1 million, or about 12% of its total project costs just to comply with the PlanCon process even before construction has begun," Callahan said.

Proposal would allow cyber snow days to replace snow make-up days
By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  on March 31, 2014 at 8:45 PM
A state lawmaker is looking to provide some flexibility to school districts to make up school days lost to inclement weather by allowing them to use technology to access lessons online.
Rep. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster, is planning to introduce cyber snow day legislation that would allow public schools to make up as many as three school days lost due to bad weather or other emergencies by requiring students to complete school work online.

Politically Uncorrected: The Other Race for Governor
By G. Terry Madonna & Michael L. Young, Times Guest Columnist
Delco Times POSTED: 03/31/14, 11:52 AM EDT |
It may surprise some to hear that not one but two gubernatorial campaigns are under way in the Keystone state. One of them, of course, is the red hot Democratic race now featuring four candidates, anyone of which could win the primary, and all of whom would be formidable nominees in the fall. The other race for governor, flying well under the radar screen, is Republican incumbent Tom Corbett’s primary “race.”  The Democratic race is getting most of the attention, but the Republican race may be more crucial. Democrats need only to select a nominee to run against Corbett; Republican’s already have a nominee – now they need to make him a contender.
True, at the moment, Corbett may have a nominal primary opponent (petition challenges now pending will decide that). But whether a nominal opponent or not, his real primary opponent is someone he knows very well – one Gov. Tom Corbett. In effect, Corbett is running against himself and his first term tenure in office.

"Though the donations mean good news for now, Snyder is mindful of what Bodine has lost. The school of 500 in Northern Liberties, which is one of the city's strongest, has gone from 40 teachers to 23 in the space of a few years.  Its language program has shrunk drastically, and any extracurricular programs that still run do so because teachers volunteer their time."
Bodine's international program saved by readers
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, April 1, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Monday, March 31, 2014, 4:33 PM
PHILADELPHIA Bodine High School for International Affairs is international again.
Hamstrung by the Philadelphia School District's budget crisis, Bodine severed ties with the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, the nonprofit that helped create the magnet school, on March 11.
But after The Inquirer brought the school's plight to light, readers donated $100,000 in the space of two weeks, and the World Affairs Council staffer who had packed up her office and left the school was back. Full-time.

"But the principal left last year. And this year, the Philadelphia School District's budget crisis has hit hard - Bartram absorbed 100 students from a school that closed, yet still has fewer staffers. Over the last few years, it has lost assistant principals, a disciplinarian, librarian, counselors, and others.  …Now, some teachers say, they have been told not to bother calling for help before 9:30 a.m. because there are no school staffers to assist them."
Climate at Bartram High raises concerns about safety, education
LAST UPDATED: Monday, March 31, 2014, 1:07 AM
When Alphonso Stevenson was knocked unconscious by a student at Bartram High recently, staffers were shocked by the assault on the tall, genial man whose job was to keep the school calm. But many were not surprised.   The school, by many accounts, can be a frightening place, where fights and drug use are common and large groups of students often roam the hallways.
"I had a better chance in Vietnam," said longtime social studies teacher Stephen Pfeiffer, an Army veteran. "Here, you lock your door and pray no one comes in."

Inquirer Editorial: School cuts hit hard
Posted: Tuesday, April 1, 2014, 1:08 AM
At Bartram High, a school in one of the city's toughest neighborhoods, a social studies teacher says, "Here, you lock your door and pray no one comes in." A student was recently charged with aggravated assault for knocking out school staffer Alphonso Stevenson, who suffered a concussion and a fractured skull. That Stevenson is a conflict-resolution specialist made the attack even more emblematic for a deeply troubled school.  While Bartram and other Philadelphia schools have struggled with violence before, recent staff cuts have exacerbated a volatile situation. The state's aid formula is shortchanging Philadelphia and other districts. Gov. Corbett has restored some lost funding, but not enough. The legislature has failed to pass a city cigarette tax approved by City Council, while Council has refused to pass an extended sales-tax increase approved by Harrisburg.
Meanwhile, adults and children in schools like Bartram are suffering for the failures of our leaders.

Guide to dismantling public education
Phiily Trib Written by  Daryl Gale  Friday, 28 March 2014 15:37
…..While these incidents may seem unrelated, I contend that they are all part of the same fabric, woven over the past several years by greed, apathy and neglect, with a touch of racism thrown in for good measure.  Let me put it this way: if I were a greedy and unscrupulous evil genius whose purpose was the corporate privatization of public education, this week is an example of exactly how I’d do it.  I’d separate the parents of the public school students into two categories: one, the parents who are concerned about their child’s educational outcomes, but lack the money, resources and clout to send them to private, parochial, or magnet schools. The other, parents who lack money and demonstrate little concern about their child’s education. You’ll notice we left out the parents with both money and resources, because let’s be honest, their kids are already gone.  Then I’d offer a lifeline to the concerned parents: support charter schools, where your child will get a safer school, a better learning environment and a better chance to pursue his or her educational goals. I’d then watch with glee as they abandon their neighborhood schools en masse, knowing that their absence weakens the school (and the whole system) financially.
Finally, I’d enact slash education budgets to the bone, killing art, music, sports, nurses and classroom aides, and all extracurricular activity.

Philly teachers who police their own — an argument against eliminating seniority  
…..Robeson High School teachers Andrew Saltz and Karla Johnson related an experience far different from the "parasite" teacher narrative that they say often pervades the education-reform conversation in Philadelphia and beyond.  Too often, they say, anti-seniority arguments are bolstered through anecdotal evidence much like Hite's Chemistry teacher example.  [They say that rather than moving up the seniority ladder for decades, underperforming teachers are often confronted and counseled out of the profession long before being officially marked "unsatisfactory."  Instead of attacking seniority, they wish the district would place greater focus on building a culture of accountability in schools. They say: trust teachers to be professionals, build a leadership culture that helps improve the performance of all, provide the necessary resources, and fire those who prove that they cannot perform the job.

State cheats schools
Lancaster Online LTE by Wayne Sheaffer Jr. Posted: Monday, March 31, 2014 10:13 am
As a student who values their education, it's time to speak out more on the education at McCaskey as well as how Gov. Corbett keeps taking funds away from education.
One thing that irritates me is the state complains that the School District of Lancaster does not meet the state standards,  yet they take away funds. On top of that we are by far the most diverse school district in Pennsylvania. We have kids who don't even speak and/or don't understand English. Does that make it right for us as a school to be held to the same standards as other schools?  If the state government wants to complain about us not making  Adequate Yearly Progress, they need to step up and start disagreeing with taking funds away from schools.

New Pocono Mountain Charter School principal had run-in with Auditor General
Involved in $36K spending spree funded by taxpayers
By Jenna Ebersole Pocono Record Writer March 22, 2014
The Pocono Mountain Charter School has named a new principal, weeks after surviving the latest legal test in Pocono Mountain School District's fight to revoke its charter.  Randy Parry, who served as superintendent of the Mid Valley School District in Lackawanna County until December, will be appointed Monday, the school announced, with an $80,000 annual salary. His appointment comes after two turbulent departures of principals at the school.  Annette Richardson served as principal for about seven months, until November 2013, when she claimed she was fired suddenly and without cause. The school said she left her position.
Before Richardson, the school hired Jeffrey McCreary after he was accused of misdemeanor theft charges of stealing nearly $90,000 during his time as a Scranton School District principal. He was terminated after pleading guilty. http://www.poconorecord.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140322/NEWS/403220337

"Public oversight of local government is the foundation of American democracy. Nowhere is this more evident than in our public schools, where voters entrust boards of education with the education of our youth."
Keep the 'public' in public school boards
CEO's call for privatization a disservice to communities
SFGATE by Josephine Lucey | March 25, 2014
Josephine Lucey is the president of the California School Boards Association and a Cupertino Union School District board member.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings spoke recently at the California Charter Schools Association conference to advocate for the end of locally elected school boards. Hastings said the "fundamental problem" with school districts is that they "don't get to control their boards." He suggested that the democratically elected school boards are the problem with public education and they should be replaced by privately held corporations.  The California School Boards Association has another perspective for Hastings and wants to set the record straight about the role and impact of local school boards.

How much testing is too much?
Testing to the Limit
From the Network for Public Education Conference in Austin March 2, 2014
Panel Discussion - Vimeo runtime 34:35
"In the School District of Haverford Township for 2011 - 2012 our school calendar was impacted on 45 days by either testing, training or retesting.  We've had a change in our requirements for this current year: for 2012 - 2013, 106 days out of the school year are impacted by either testing, training or retesting.  What's not on either of these calendars are the several times each year that we give practice tests or diagnostic tests to see how our kids are doing….
… there is a 120 page test to assess our third graders, eight years old, in reading and math.  There's a thirty-two page answer book that goes with it."
… while we're spending $53 million on testing (in Pennsylvania), there are hardly any schools in Philadelphia that have open libraries or librarians..

 ‘You can’t expect much success on standardized tests when students don’t even have basic supplies’ — editorial
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS March 29 at 12:01 pm
The editorial board of a big-city newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, has gone on record as not only supporting the right of parents to have their children opt out of high-stakes standardized tests but also saying they are “right to protest” in this manner.  The editorial (below), refers to this news story in the Inquirer that discusses parents whose children are opting out of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams.

NPE is going old-school - April mail-in campaign; write your letter to Congress now
On March 2, 2014, The Network for Public Education issued a call for congressional hearings into the overuse and abuse of tests in our schools.
Together, we have managed to catch the attention of Congress, we created a Twitter Storm that sent out over 20K tweets and reached 400K people via social media while trending #1, and the offices of Congress members were flooded with phone calls from concerned constituents. We continue to bring attention to the plague of over-testing and the media is beginning to take notice!
For the next part of our campaign, we’re going old school. During the month of April, we are asking our Friends & Allies to print out and mail a copy of this letter to the offices of our friends at Campaign for America’s Future in Washington D.C.. We will deliver our letters to Congress. Keep an eye out for a date and press conference details!

Common-Core Backlash: Track State Efforts
Education Week Published Online: March 31, 2014
Reporting & Analysis: Andrew Ujifusa (@AndrewUjifusa)
Design & Visualization: Chienyi Cheri Hung (@cyhung), Doris Nhan (@doraquinn)
Anxiety about and opposition to the Common Core State Standards continues to highlight many debates about education policy. Now, several states are reassessing, through legislation, their involvement with the standards and associated assessments. Governors have also issued executive orders regarding the standards.    As in 2013, many of the common-core bills aren't getting a great deal of traction, but that could change. Follow their progress below.

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.

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