Tuesday, May 27, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 27: Senator Dinniman will propose legislation to remove graduation requirement from Keystone Exams

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

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
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Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for May 27, 2014:
Senator Dinniman will propose legislation to remove graduation requirement from Keystone Exams.

"Dinniman, D-19th of West Whiteland, said he will propose legislation next week to remove the graduation requirement from the Keystone Exams.  By ending the graduation requirement, Dinniman said this could “stop punishing those students, stop stamping failure on those students, who because of a lack of resources, don’t have an equal opportunity and chance to succeed on these exams, and put that money back into teaching and not into testing.”
Schools want state funding needed for state tests
By Ginger Dunbar, Daily Local News POSTED: 05/24/14, 3:47 PM EDT
DOWNINGTOWN — School officials from five counties gathered Wednesday to say that Pennsylvania school district budgets need more state funding as the mandated Keystone Exams are costly in preparation time and testing expenses.  State Sen. Andrew Dinniman, co-chairman of the senate education committee, hosted the education roundtable to listen to the issues concerning public education funds.  “You have to realize that most of the mandates on the public schools, these unfunded mandates, are not put on by the legislature,” Dinniman said. “They are put the schools by the state board of education. And the state board of education never thinks about the costs of these mandates.”

N.J. pension fund troubles echo in Pa.
WHYY Newsworks BY MARY WILSON MAY 27, 2014
New Jersey and Pennsylvania are caught between a rock and a hard place: the budget shortfalls that make deferring pension fund contributions so tempting, and the credit downgrades that await them if they skip more scheduled payments on ballooning pension debt.  Pennsylvania and New Jersey are sister-states when it comes to their public pension systems: both have systems of similar size (roughly $130 billion), with a similarly sized unfunded liability (between $46 billion and $47 billion). Both states also face eye-popping budget gaps, imperiling the money needed to stay on a payment plan for the debt.

"There perhaps never be a better opportunity to put in place – once and for all – a true, fair funding formula for public education in Pennsylvania."
Editorial: Stage set in push for fair education funding in Pa.
Delco Times Editorial May 25, 2014
….Interesting thing about Pennsylvania. We do not routinely dump governors after one term. We have elected incumbents for a second term forever. Then we switch parties and give the other party eight years. In addition, dating back to the 1930s, in mid-term elections the state has an almost allergic reaction to candidates who are the same party as the person who inhabits the White House.  Corbett no doubt is well aware of that. Look for him to link Wolf to Obama and try to make the president’s woes Wolf’s.  He also should be quite cognizant of something else. A lot of people in this state continue to point an accusing finger at him for the deplorable state of education funding.

Official: Oversight needed for state’s cyber schools
Tribune Democrat by Justin Dennis jdennis@tribdem.com May 22, 2014
JOHNSTOWN — State charter and cyber charter school enrollment has exploded, creating a new academic landscape that some say severely disrupts the tax bases of established public school districts.  Parallel concerns on oversight and administrative accountability are also fueling the controversy, in light of the 2013 indictment of Nicholas Trombetta, CEO of Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School – or PA Cyber – which is one of the nation’s largest online schools. He’s accused of diverting $1 million in taxpayer dollars toward his own ends.  Regardless, more parents than ever are choosing to pull their kids from brick and mortar public school districts. There are several reasons why, according to Carolyn Dumaresq, acting state education secretary.

"But the frayed nerves in Perkiomen Valley are typical of what school administrators and their local communities are facing across Pennsylvania as a statewide crisis in education funding enters its fifth year. Budget-crunchers say they have made all the easy choices and all that's left are steep tax hikes or cuts to classroom learning."
Perkiomen Valley schools have their own problems
Hundreds of students walking out of classes to protest teacher layoffs. Angry parents crowding school board meetings every two weeks, protesting proposed cuts in the classroom. Talk of a bus trip to Harrisburg to plead with lawmakers for a fair-funding formula.  This isn't Philadelphia, where the school budget crisis has generated national headlines.  In the Perkiomen Valley School District, in an affluent nook of central Montgomery County, education cuts are nothing like those associated with a $200 million gap, or the loss of school nurses and libraries that has rocked its big-city neighbor.  But five years of penny-pinching and property-tax hikes have caused passion and anger to boil over in this leafy-green suburban area nonetheless.

U.S. Steel's property tax accords soften blow to neighbors
By Robert Zullo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
U.S. Steel has settled two of the three legal challenges filed after the huge assessment reductions the company won last year for its large industrial properties in Allegheny County opened big budget holes for some local school districts and municipalities.  The two settlements, which set the 2013 and 2014 tax values for parcels that compose the Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock and the Clairton Coke Works, are closer to the original county assessments the company challenged last year and soften the blow for school districts and municipalities that were facing what could have been severe reductions in real estate tax revenue.

Philly Schools have emergency procedures; not all have defibrillators or staff trained in CPR
the notebook by Dale Mezzacappa on May 23 2014 Posted in Latest news
Accounts of the collapse of a 7-year-old boy at Jackson Elementary School on Wednesday say that at least two first responders -- a library volunteer who was a retired nurse and an employee of a behavioral health organization trained in CPR -- were not regular staffers and just happened to be in the building.  That raises the question of whether Jackson had in place an emergency plan required by the state departments of Health and Education that identifies "specially trained" staff and specifies staff responsibilities.  "In true emergency situations, the school should do all in its power to render emergency care," say the guidelines. "To prepare for emergencies that can be reasonably anticipated in the student population, the school should have written first aid policies and emergency management practices in place. These policies and procedures should reflect staff responsibilities and district expectations for staff action in an emergency situation, including identifying specially trained and designated individuals who, in addition to the nurse, will render first aid."

Flipped learning is giving Western Pa. students a head start in classroom
Nicole Avon spent a lot of late nights with her computer at the kitchen table.  “The first year was pretty rough,” she said. “We didn't flip a few lessons, we flipped the whole class.”  She and fellow Mars Area physics teacher Janet Adams dubbed their voices over every lecture — more than 90 between them — and sent students links to watch them at home.  “We saved 15, 20 minutes every class by not giving those long-winded presentations (in person) every day,” she said. “Over a whole school year, that's a lot more free time to learn.”
State award highlights Penn Manor's ag education strengths
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Posted: Monday, May 26, 2014 5:55 pm
Lancaster County is well known for its agriculture, and some local schools are doing their part to keep that tradition alive.  An informal survey of county public schools found that at least 7 of 17 school districts, as well as Lancaster County Career and Technology Center, have agriculture education programs with one or more full-time teachers and a Future Farmers of America chapter.  Among those, Penn Manor High School, boasts the largest program with four teachers and 115 active FFA members.  The school's ag program was recently was named Outstanding Secondary Program in Pennsylvania by the state Association of Agricultural Educators.

Students 'blast off' after space program saved
Philly.com by KATHY MATHESON, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS POSTED: Friday, May 23, 2014, 12:54 AM
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - In recent years, students at Northeast High School have virtually saved mankind from a meteor, discovered water on Mars and repaired the International Space Station. But their current mission to establish a habitat on the moon was nearly aborted because of education budget cuts.  The Space Research Center, started 52 years ago as the first NASA-recognized high school space program, was saved by more than $13,000 in donations after the nearly broke Philadelphia school district could not afford to fund it.

Issue Brief: Early Childhood Education In Pennsylvania
Research for Action by Elizabeth Park and John Sludden April 2014
Introduction - Early childhood education has emerged as a priority for state and national policymakers, even in the face of declining education budgets elsewhere. For example, 30 states increased funding for early childhood education in 2013, and 25 governors addressed the issue in 2013 state of the state speeches.1 At the federal level, the Obama Administration proposed a $75 billion increase in early education funding; while this proposal stalled,2 the federal government increased spending in Early Head Start by $1 billion last year.3 Pennsylvania has likewise worked to expand early education investments over the past decade, including the establishment of a dedicated funding stream for pre-K in 2004-05.
This focus is warranted from a research perspective, especially as it relates to low income students.  Reardon (2011) notes “students in the bottom quintile of family socioeconomic status score more than a standard deviation below those in the top quintile on standardized tests of math and reading when they enter kindergarten,” and this gap persists through high school.5 With 20 percent of Pennsylvania’s children living in families earning below the federal poverty level,6 and with more than 300,000 students attending schools in areas of concentrated poverty, there is substantial need for investment in early childhood education programs.7 This PACER brief examines the research and policy base surrounding early childhood education.

Jean Jacques Crawb's Blog Posted on May 24, 2014by jeanjacquescrawb
If you go into the lobby of the Department of Education in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, you will see large placards displayed which inform one about how bullying is being handled throughout the Commonwealth.  It is mostly a description of programs that highlight bullying and its negative consequences and educational tools that might help in its eradication.
It’s not that I don’t believe in education, it’s just that in the case of bullying, it does not work. If what they mean is that we should read about bullying and teach from a prescribed curriculum for kindergarten to twelfth grade, I don’t believe that it will work. If bullying is such a great problem in our schools, and evidently in our society (I read Jonathan Martin and the Miami Dophins), how come no one has come up with a solution yet.
Once again, I will make use of my experience as a principal, assistant principal and human relations coordinator. I still feel that unless you have had some experience in a school, whether elementary or secondary, or even at the post-secondary level, you will have difficulty in seeing what must really be done.

"With tensions running high over issues surrounding academic benchmarks, standardized testing and performance evaluations for educators, unlikely coalitions of teachers, lawmakers and parents from the left and right are increasingly banding together to push back against what they see as onerous changes in education policy. Some have Tea Party Republicans and teachers unions on the same side."
Unlikely Allies Uniting to Fight School Changes
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH  MAY 26, 2014
SMYRNA, Tenn. — She is a fan of MSNBC, supports abortion rights and increased government spending in schools, and believes unions should have the right to strike. He watches Fox News, opposes abortion and is a fiscal conservative who voted three years ago to strip teachers unions of collective bargaining rights.  Yet Emily Mitchell, a wiry, 4-foot-9-inch Democrat and first-grade teacher at David Youree Elementary School here, sees State Representative Rick Womick, a 6-foot-2-inch conservative Republican, as an important ally. Their common cause: battling new high-stakes standardized tests and some other hot-button policies in public education.
“I always viewed him as the enemy, the guy that would never see our side,” said Ms. Mitchell, who is president of the Rutherford County chapter of the Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union. But after she met Mr. Womick at a church function in February of last year, she said, “I realized that even though he’s polar opposite politically from what I believe in, we both agreed on a lot of things on education.”

The Charter School-Hedge Fund Romance
Education Week Reality Check Blog By Walt Gardner on May 23, 2014 7:58 AM
The adage that the money trail almost always leads to the answer to any question is once again on display by the interest hedge funds have shown in charter schools  ("Why Hedge Funds Love Charter Schools," Huffington Post, May 20). They are taking advantage of a change in the federal tax code that provides substantial tax credits to businesses that locate and hire residents in economically depressed urban and rural areas.  Readers who are so inclined can check out the specifics by referring to the Community Renewal Tax Relief Act of 2000. But in a nutshell, hedge funds (and others) are allowed to combine the tax credit with other tax breaks at the same time they are collecting interest on any money they lend out.  As a result, it's quite possible for hedge funds to double their money in seven years.  That's not a bad investment at all these days. 

No. 1 Shanghai may drop out of PISA
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS May 26 at 5:18 pm
First in 2009 and then in 2012, Shanghai’s 15-year-old students (or, rather, a supposed representative group)  were No. 1 in the world on the recent Program for International Student Assessment reading, math and science exams. But now, according to a popular Shanghai newspaper, Shanghai is considering dropping out of PISA. Why?
The title of the article in Xinmin Wanbao goes a long way to answer that question: “Not interested in No. 1 on International Tests, Focusing on Reducing Academic Burden: Shanghai May Drop Out of PISA.”  According to the article, explained in the following post by scholar Yong Zhao, Shanghai officials want to de-emphasize standardized test scores, homework and rote learning that has characterized Chinese education. And PISA, which is sponsored by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, emphasizes standardized test scores.
Last year, China began a major education reform initiative designed to increase student engagement and end student boredom and anxiety — and reduce the importance of standardized test scores. 

“Not Interested in Being #1:” Shanghai May Ditch PISA
Yong Zhao's Blog 25 MAY 2014 2,875 ONE COMMENT
“Not interested in #1 on International Tests, Focusing on Reducing Academic Burden: Shanghai May Drop Out of PISA” is the headline of a story in Xinmin Wanbao[original story in Chinese], a popular newspaper in Shanghai. Published on March 7th 2014, the story reports that Shanghai “is considering to withdraw from the next round of PISA in 2015” because “Shanghai does not need so-called ‘#1 schools,’” said Yi Houqin, a high level official of Shanghai Education Commission. “What it needs are schools that follow sound educational principles, respect principles of students’ physical and psychological development, and lay a solid foundation for students’ lifelong development,” says the article, quoting Mr. Yi.

Public Schools Outperform Private Schools, Book Says
Education Week By Holly Yettick Published Online: May 13, 2014
The recent publication of a scholarly book has reopened the debate surrounding the academic achievement of public vs. private schools.  Public schools achieve the same or better mathematics results as private schools with demographically similar students, concludesThe Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools, published in November by the University of Chicago Press. The authors are Christopher and Sarah Lubienski, a husband-and-wife team of education professors at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Central to the controversy is their suggestion that vouchers, which provide public funding for private school tuition, are based on the premise that private schools do better—an assumption that is undercut by the book's overall findings.  The Lubienskis' analysis draws on data from the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, as well as the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99.

 “How Public School Funding Works in Pennsylvania—Or Doesn’t: What You Need to Know” When: Friday, May 30, 2014, 9 am to 12 pm Where: Marriott Hotel in Conshohocken, PA
Session I:  "Funding Schools: What Pennsylvania Can Learn from Other States"

Key Pennsylvania legislators and public officials will respond to a presentation by Professor Robert C. Knoeppel of Clemson University, an expert on emerging trends and ideas in public school finance.
Introduction: Representative Steve Santarsiero
Moderator: Rob Wonderling, President and CEO, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce
Charles Zogby, Secretary of the Budget, Commonwealth of PA, Senator Patrick Browne, Senator Anthony Williams, Representative Bernie O'Neill, Representative James Roebuck
Session II: "Why Smart Investments in Public Schools Are Critical to Pennsylvania's Economic Future"
A discussion with a panel of CEOs who are major employers in the region.
Introduction: Rob Loughery, Chair, Bucks County Commissioners
Panel (confirmed to date):
Michael Pearson, President and CEO, Union Packaging, Philip Rinaldi, CEO, Philadelphia Energy Solutions, Bryan Hancock, Principal, McKinsey & Company, and author: "The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America's Schools"
You can register for this free event here:

Saturday, May 31, 2014 - 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM (8:30 Registration)
Keynote Speaker: Dan Hardy – Retired Reporter -Philadelphia Inquirer
Distressed Schools: How Did it Come to This?
  • The State of Education in Pennsylvania 60 Years after Brown
  • Keystones and Graduation: Cut the Connection
  • How Harrisburg Cut District Funding, Poured on the Keystones, and Connected them to Graduation
  • Financing Our Schools: What Does it Cost to Educate a Child in 2014 and How Should We Fund It?
  • Effective Advocacy – How to be Heard in Harrisburg - And - What We Need to be Saying
For more info and registration: http://www.naacpmediabranch.org/#

Education Policy and Leadership Center
Click here to read more about EPLC’s Education Policy Fellowship Program, including: 2014-15 Schedule 2014-15 Application Past Speakers Program Alumni And More Information

PCCY invites you to get on the School Spirit Bus to Harrisburg on Tuesday June 10th for Fair and Full School Funding!
Public Citizens for Children and Youth
On Tuesday June 10th, Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) will be going to Harrisburg.  Join committed parents, leaders, and community members from around state to make it clear to Harrisburg that PA students need fair and full funding now!  We are providing free transportation to and from Harrisburg as well as lunch.   Please arrive at the United Way Building located at 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway no later than8:15am.  The bus will depart at 8:30am sharp! Reserve your seat today by emailing us at info@pccy.org or calling us at 215-563-5848 x11. You can download and share our flyer by clicking here. We hope to see you there!

Pennsylvania Education Summit Wednesday, June 11, 2014 from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM (EDT) Camp Hill, PA
PA Business-Education Partnership
Welcome By Governor Tom Corbett (invited)
Remarks Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq (confirmed)
Perceptions & comments of business leaders, educators, college presidents, and advocacy groups

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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