Tuesday, April 15, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for April 15, 2014: More PA parents taking children out of standardized tests

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Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for April 15, 2014:
More PA parents taking children out of standardized tests



PSBA members in Bucks, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware Counties - save the date
PSBA Buxmont Region 11 and Penns Grant Region 15 Combined Region/Legislative Meeting -- Thursday, May 15, at William Tennent High School
- Buffet dinner/registration, 6 p.m. ($8 charge for dinner) - Program, 7:30 p.m. -- Minority Senate Education Committee Chair Hon. Andy Dinniman will introduce guest speaker Diane Ravitch, author and education historian, and former Assistant Secretary of Education.  Retiring House Education Committee Chairman Paul Clymer will also be honored for his long time (1981) public service.



More area parents are taking children out of standardized tests
In Pennsylvania, they must cite religious reasons
By Lydia Ann Stern For the York Daily Record/Sunday News 04/13/2014 10:06:25 PM EDT
As PSSA testing goes into its final turn, preparing for future assessments is just beginning, especially for parents who are deciding to practice their legal rights.  More parents were approved to opt their children out of taking the PSSA this year than last.  Tim Eller, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Education, said there were 498 students across the state who opted out of the math and reading PSSA exams, a 52 percent increase from 2012.  For the science exams, 149 students were opted out in 2013, an increase of 7 students from 2012. Eighty-nine students opted out of the writing exam last year. For the Keystone exams, 74 students opted out from algebra I and 80 students from both biology and literature in 2013.  Under Pennsylvania law, parents can opt their children out of testing if they find "the assessment in conflict with their religious belief." Parents are required to review, at least once, the test their child would be taking. They must sign a confidentiality agreement stating they will not disclose any of the questions.

Testing resistance movement exploding around country
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS April 15 at 4:00 am
The testing resistance movement is growing rapidly around the country and parents are opting out their children from high-stakes standardized tests in most states. What do test reformers want to accomplish? Monty Neill, executive director of  FairTest, explains in this post. FairTest, or the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, is dedicated to eliminating the abuse and misuse of standardized tests.

Retrial set in Philly charter school fraud case
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Monday, April 14, 2014, 2:41 PM
The retrial of Philadelphia charter school founder Dorothy June Brown on federal fraud charges is scheduled to start Sept. 8.  U.S. District Court Judge R. Barclay Surrick set the date after conferring with lawyers Friday.  Gregory P. Miller, one of Brown's lawyers, is involved with a criminal trial in Camden that may continue into June.  Brown, 76, faces charges of defrauding the four charter schools she founded of $6.5 million and then engaging in a conspiracy to cover it up.  After five weeks of testimony, and seven days of deliberations, jurors in January acquitted the veteran educator on six counts and deadlocked on the remaining 54.
Jurors said afterward the panel was split 9-3 in favor of convicting Brown.

Pa. Cyber Charter teachers join union
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau
HARRISBURG -- Teachers at the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School have voted for representation by the Pennsylvania State Education Association, giving the state's largest teachers union its only charter school members.  PSEA has represented charter school teachers in the past, said spokesman Wythe Keever, but the approximately 115 teachers from the statewide online public school will be the only such members now.  The teachers voted 71-34 to be represented by PSEA, according to the union.

Acting education secretary discusses funding formula
By John Kopp, Delaware County Daily Times 04/14/14, 10:53 PM EDT
Pennsylvania needs an education funding formula that will better support the needs of students living in poverty and English language learners, acting state Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq said Monday.  “You need additional resources to target those populations to close the achievement gap,” Dumaresq said. “They can learn and get to the same rigor of the outcomes when they graduate. Their trajectory might be a little steeper and they need more supports to get there, but they can learn at that rigor.”  Dumaresq lobbied for such a formula during a wide-ranging interview Monday with the Daily Times editorial board. Earlier, she presented a pair of schools in the Springfield School District with the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Academics.

"Both PSP and PennCAN are polarizing organizations, viewed by some as supporting charter schools at the expense of traditional public schools."
More voices urge action in district dispute
Inquirer Philly School Files Blog by Kristen Graham MONDAY, APRIL 14, 2014, 5:31 PM
Two local education-reform organizations have filed papers asking the state Supreme Court to act quickly on the School Reform Commission's request to affirm it has broad powers to impose work-rule changes.  The Philadelphia School Partnership and PennCAN (Pennsylvania Campaign for Achievement Now) on Monday filed an amicus curiae - friend of the court - brief with the high court. PSP and PennCAN, in the brief, noted the organizations are "deeply concerned that the ongoing and annually-worsening city school budget crisis - and the intractable labor disputes that always accompany it - will continue to erode the state of public education in Philadelphia."

"It would be refreshing to see PSP and PennCAN working with educators to ensure that all of our children have access to nurses, counselors, librarians and classroom supplies," PFT president Jerry Jordan said."
School reform groups support SRC bid to nix teacher seniority
REGINA MEDINA, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER MEDINAR@PHILLYNEWS.COM, 215-854-5985 POSTED: Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 12:16 AM
THE PHILADELPHIA School Partnership and PennCAN, two controversial education-reform groups, want the state's highest court to decide whether the School Reform Commission can impose work-rule changes on teachers.  The two pro-school-choice organizations sought the review in an amicus brief filed yesterday with the state Supreme Court.

Radio Times: School violence in Philadelphia
WHYY Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane TUESDAY, APRIL 15
Hour 1 Guests: Linda Cliatt-Wayman, Otis Hackney
Violence at Bartram High School in Southwest Philadelphia has shaken up the city.  After a video went viral showing students assaulting a staff member, the school’s chaotic climate has received a lot more attention.  But Bartram isn’t the only school struggling with safety issues. Massive budget cuts in schools across the city have led to significantly smaller staffs supporting and supervising larger numbers of students. Today we’ll talk about school violence, what’s behind it and how to make schools safe.  Our guests are two Philadelphia high school principals who have confronted violence in their own schools — OTIS HACKNEY, the Principal of South Philadelphia High School and LINDA CLIATT-WAYMAN, Principal of Strawberry Mansion High School.

Bethlehem schools could cut 22 teachers
Even with those cuts and a tax hike, Bethlehem Area schools would be $3 million short.
By Adam Clark, Of The Morning Call +11:13 p.m. EDT, April 14, 2014
Bethlehem Area School District might have to eliminate 22 teaching positions in order to balance its 2014-15 budget, school officials said Monday.  But then again, it might not.  "I don't think we'll have to cut 22," Superintendent Joseph Roy said after administrators presented the potential job cubs. "But I don't know yet."  Facing a $12.1 million deficit, the district introduced the possible job cuts at Monday's school board Human Resources Committee meeting as part of an Educational Program Change resolution.  School districts cannot legally lay off teachers for financial reasons, according to state law. So if the district believes there's a chance of teacher cuts, it must send the state a resolution explaining another reason for the cuts, such as an alteration or curtailment of programs.
Nazareth school board trims 2014-15 budget proposal but tax hike remains
By Pamela Sroka-Holzmann | The Express-Times  on April 14, 2014 at 10:01 PM
The Nazareth Area School Board tonight further trimmed its proposed 2014-15 $73.8 million budget, but it still calls for a property tax hike.  Taxes are now slated to rise 2.3 percent compared to an estimated 3.6 percent increase proposed in January. That increase proposal had exceeded the maximum allowed by the state and likely would have gone to voter approval.

Penn Manor OKs 2.75% annual average pay hikes for teachers
BY ELAINE J. JONES | Correspondent Posted: Monday, April 14, 2014 10:45 p.m.
Penn Manor school board on Monday approved a three-year teachers’ contract that will increase salaries an average of 2.75 percent each year while changing some healthcare and other benefits.  About 11 members of the Penn Manor Education Association attended the meeting in support of the new contract, effective July 1 when the current two-year contract expires.

There is no perfect solution to preventing school violence
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette April 14, 2014 11:49 PM
If there's one thing school safety experts agree on, it's this: There is no perfect solution to preventing school violence.  "The good news is that schools are actually getting much better at preventing violence, but the bad news is we will always have incidents that slip through the cracks because you are dealing with human behavior," said Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services in Cleveland.  In the wake of last week's mass stabbings at Franklin Regional High School, there have been calls for metal detectors and increased physical security in schools and questions about how school violence continues in spite of security measures and training undertaken by districts.

Editorial: Make schools stop ‘passing the trash'
Delco Times Editorial POSTED: 04/14/14, 11:09 PM EDT |
When teachers or coaches are charged in incidents involving sexual relationships with students, it’s disturbing on a number of levels, not the least of which is the potential that the offenses go unreported and could occur again.  Part of that potential is the reality that schools can allow educators to quit quietly and get hired at another school without their past known.  To combat that risk, state Sen. Anthony Williams, D-8 of Philadelphia, has sponsored a bill to combat this practice, mockingly referred to as “passing the trash.” The Senate passed Senate Bill 46 last year. In the House, state Rep. David Maloney, R-130 of Boyertown, has authored a similar bill, House Bill 2063, that would require public and private schools in Pennsylvania, and their independent contractors, to conduct a thorough employment history review prior to offering employment to any applicant for a position involving direct contact with children.

Children's Literacy Initiative Names New Executive Director to Drive an Expanded Vision
Submitted by cli on Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:21
April 11, 2014, Philadelphia, PA – With an organizational focus clearly fixed upon raising its profile within targeted groups of key, national, decision-makers, the Children's Literacy Initiative (CLI), which trains teachers to achieve literacy education for children in high-poverty, high-minority school districts, by the third grade, today announced that it has completed an intensive national search for a new executive director, and has named Joel Zarrow, Ph.D. to the position.

Downingtown to purchase upgraded iPads for students
By Ginger Dunbar, Daily Local News 04/13/14, 6:21 PM EDT
EAST CALN — Incoming students at the Marsh Creek Sixth Grade Center will use an iPad Air with the curriculum at an additional $110,000 cost to the district.  The Downingtown Area School board members previously approved to purchase 1,100 iPads for up to $420,000. The administration requested that the district purchase the iPad Air version instead of the iPad 4.
The purchase change raised the cost of the contract to $530,000 for the 2014-15 school year.

Two Springfield (Delco) schools honored for academic excellence
Delco Times POSTED: 04/14/14, 10:52 PM EDT |
Carolyn Dumaresq, the acting state Education Secretary, formally recognized the academic achievements of a pair of Springfield schools Monday.  Dumaresq presented the Springfield Literacy Center and E.T. Richardson Middle School with the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Academics. The schools earned the awards by achieving a score of at least 90 on the state’s 2012-13 School Performance Profile.  Springfield Literacy Center attained a score of 93.4 percent — the highest score in the Springfield School District. E.T. Richardson Middle School received a score of 91.6 percent.


With Time Running Out, Arne Duncan Discusses His Lengthy To-Do List
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Michele McNeil on April 14, 2014 7:23 AM
In the waning years of the Obama administration, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sees several important and difficult priorities ahead of him, he told Education Week in a wide-ranging 30-minute interview. Chief among them: The transition to new standards and tests, the debut of new teacher evaluations tied to test scores, and the costly drive to expand preschool.
That's "a lot of change in a short amount of time—none of it easy," he said in an April 11 interview in his Washington office. But if states and the federal government are able to navigate over a mountain of political and policy challenges, he said, then the result will "change education forever in some pretty extraordinary ways."

Teachers: A Call to Battle for Reluctant Warriors
Education Week Living in Dialogue Blog By Anthony Cody on April 12, 2014 12:07 PM
We just wanted to teach.
When I was drawn to teach in Oakland, I saw a chance to give students the chance to do hands-on experiments, to answer their own questions, and explore the natural world. On field trips to the tide pools I found out some had never even been to the Pacific Ocean, an hour's drive from their homes.  I did not enter teaching to prepare students for tests. I wanted my students to think and reason for themselves.  We teach the children of the middle class, the wealthy and the poor. We teach the damaged and disabled, the whole and the gifted. We teach the immigrants and the dispossessed natives, the transients and even the incarcerated.  In years past we formed unions and professional organizations to get fair pay, so women would get the same pay as men. We got due process so we could not be fired at an administrator's whim. We got pensions so we could retire after many years of service.  But career teachers are not convenient or necessary any more. We cost too much. We expect our hard-won expertise to be recognized with respect and autonomy. We talk back at staff meetings, and object when we are told we must follow mindless scripts, and prepare for tests that have little value to our students.

NPE Call for Congressional Hearings on Testing
Network for Public Education April 10, 2014 NPE Call for Hearings
On March 2, 2014, The Network for Public Education issued a call for congressional hearings on the overuse and misuse of testing in our public schools.
Together, we have managed to catch the attention of members of Congress. We created a Twitter Storm that sent out over 20K tweets and reached 400K people via social media while trending #1. We flooded the offices of Congress with phone calls from concerned constituents. We continue to bring attention to the plague of over-testing and the media has taken notice!
For the next part of our campaign, we are asking our Friends & Allies to print out and mail a copy of this letter to the offices of our friends at Institute for America’s Future in Washington D.C.. In the coming weeks, we will hand deliver our letters to Congress. Keep an eye out for details!

Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) will Host an Education Funding Forum in Delaware County on May 7th
On May 7th,  PCCY will host a forum that discusses the state of school funding  in Delaware County. As many of you all know, state budget cuts have impacted districts beyond Philadelphia. The event will be held at the Upper Darby Municipal Branch Library, 501 Bywood Avenue, Upper Darby PA 19082 from 6:30pm-8pm.  Attendees will get a budget update from Sharon Ward of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, hear from School Board members representing Upper Darby, William Penn, and Haverford School Districts and learn how they can get  involved.  Contact Devon Miner at devonm@pccy.org for any questions or concerns.


PSBA Advocacy Forum and Day on the Hill
May 5-6, Mechanicsburg & Harrisburg
Make an impact on the legislative process by attending PSBA’s Advocacy Forum and Day on the Hill, May 5-6. Day one will provide legislative insights on pensions, training on being an effective advocate, and media relations. Dr. G. Terry Madonna, leading Pennsylvania political analyst, will discuss the legislative landscape in his usual lively and informative style.  Just added -- How to Be an Effective Advocate -- Hear from former Allwein Advocacy Award winners Larry Feinberg, Roberta Marcus and Tina Viletto on how to successfully support your issues.   On day two, participants will start with a breakfast at the Harrisburg Hilton and then hit the ground running with visits to legislative offices in the State Capitol. Space is limited so register early. Click here for more details and to register online.

Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Agricultural Sciences
Deadline to Apply: April 25, 2014
When: July 13 to August 9, 2014 Penn State University
PGSAS provides a broad overview of the diverse fields of agriculture and natural resources. Interested high school students and their parents should review this website to learn more about requirements and the application process.

Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Engineering and Technology
Application must be postmarked by April 18, 2014.
July 20, 2014 - August 2, 2014 Lehigh University | Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Engineering and Technology (PGSE&T) is a two-week summer residential program for talented high school students of science and mathematics. Sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and hosted by the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science at Lehigh University, PGSE&T offers an enrichment experience in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and emphasizes cooperative learning and hands-on laboratory experiences.

Educating the Voter: A Forum on Public Education featuring Democratic gubernatorial candidates - April 30th 6:00 pm Phila Central Library
Presented by Committee of Seventy, Congresso and Philadelphia Education Fund
Wednesday, April 30, 2014 at 6:00PM 
Philadelphia Central Library 1901 Vine Street, 19103 215-686-5322
Join Democratic gubernatorial candidates Katie McGinty, Tom Wolf, Allyson Schwartz and Rob McCord for a discussion on public education. Montgomery Auditorium at 6:00 P.M.
Please click here to register.

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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