Thursday, May 8, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 8: Polls are showing that education is the hands-down most important issue for PA voters heading to the polls later this month

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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for May 8, 2014:
Polls are showing that education is the hands-down most important issue for PA voters heading to the polls later this month

Where do Dem candidates for Pa. governor stand on education?
Pennsylvania's gubernatorial primary is just a few weeks away. With four Democrats left in the race, we're taking a look at what sets each of them apart.  Once a week until the primary, WHYY's Morning Edition host Jennifer Lynn will interview our beat reporters about where the candidates stand on some of the issues we cover. This week it's education with WHYY's Kevin McCorry.
Polls are showing that education is the hands-down most important issue for voters heading to the polls later this month.  The gubernatorial candidates — state Treasurer Rob McCord, former DEP Secretary Katie McGinty,  U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, and York businessman Tom Wolf — agree on most education-related issues.  All four want to abolish Philadelphia's School Reform Commission, increase early childhood education programs, enact tougher reforms on the charter school sector, and re-evaluate the formula for distributing state aid. They also have specific proposals that set them apart from one another.

The bumpy road map to the May 20 Democratic primary: Terry Madonna and Michael L. Young
PennLive Op-Ed  By Terry Madonna and Michael L. Young on May 07, 2014 at 2:00 PM
 “D-Day,” June 6, 1944, was the never-to-be-forgotten day allied forces launched the crucial Normandy invasion that ultimately defeated Hitler and ended World War II in Europe. In fact, this year we commemorate the 70-year anniversary of that epic contest.  But a few days before that celebration, Pennsylvania Democratic primary voters will launch their own D-day when they resolve the party’s fiercely contested gubernatorial primary on May 20. What started out as a mundane, love-fest has now turned into a nasty ad-and-debate war that has former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell and U.S. Sen.Bob Casey, D-Pa., calling on one of the candidates to remove a controversial commercial from the air waves.  How the voters will react to a campaign turned negative remains to be seen. But each of the four remaining candidates envisions a path to victory that might take them to the gubernatorial nomination – or could send them home.

Pa. needs high-quality pre-K
The Tribune-Review By John W. Peck & John J. Whelan May 7, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
The call for providing increased access to high quality pre-kindergarten programs is not a rallying cry heard only from educators. It's one coming from all segments of the community — and for a good reason.  As prosecutors, our job is to hold criminal offenders responsible for their actions, which unfortunately also includes juvenile offenders. When we deal with them, we often think about their childhood and what led them to their criminal behavior. We see children and young adults who are on a self-destructive path and question: Could this have been prevented?
Fortunately, there is an intervention that has been proven to work. Investing in high-quality pre-K can help ensure that every child has the best chance possible for academic and social success. Data collected on more than 10,000 children throughout Pennsylvania show that Pre-K Counts Public Private Partnership worked to reduce disruptive problem behaviors — reducing the percentage of children with low levels of social skills or self-control from 21 percent to 4 percent. This is significant because 60 percent of children with high levels of disruptive, aggressive behaviors in early childhood will manifest high levels of anti-social and delinquent behavior later in life.
Testing Run Amok: Will Bunch Nails It
They'll never catch the real culprits
Philly Daily News Attytood Blog by Will Bunch POSTED: WEDNESDAY, MAY 7, 2014, 9:37 PM
The Inquirer is reporting tonight that the chickens are finally coming home to roost in the Philadelphia schools cheating scandal:
A criminal investigation of cheating on state tests is expected to lead to the arrests of teachers and other employees of the Philadelphia School District - including at least one principal - as the state Attorney General's Office brings charges of doctoring test results, The Inquirer has learned.
Let's be clear: While their higher-ups placed these teachers and principal between a rock and hard place -- commanded to improve test scores in schools that are starved of resources, in poverty-stricken neighborhoods where kids cope with hunger and crime just to make it to class -- the appropriate response was not never is. Some punishment should be meted out, although from what's happened to so-called justice in America it's pretty safe to assume the punishment -- certainly the proposed punishment, anyway -- will greatly exceed the actual crimes.

Charges expected in Phila. school cheating scandal
CRAIG R. MCCOY AND KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 10:05 PM POSTED: Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 7:42 PM
A criminal investigation of cheating on state tests is expected to lead to the arrests of teachers and other employees of the Philadelphia School District - including at least one principal - as the state Attorney General's Office brings charges of doctoring test results.  According to sources familiar with the investigation, a state grand jury brought cheating-related charges against a group of educators.

Arrests imminent in cheating scandal, sources confirm
notebook by Dale Mezzacappa on May 07 2014 Posted in Latest news
Sources have confirmed that an unknown number of Philadelphia educators have been told to turn themselves in Thursday in connection with a criminal investigation by the state attorney general of cheating on standardized tests in Philadelphia schools.
The imminent arrests were first reported Wednesday evening by the Inquirer.
The criminal investigation and charges are the latest developments in a statewide cheating probe that began in 2011. The Pennsylvania Department of Education ultimately called for investigations of likely cheating at 53 District schools in Philadelphia and three city charters. 

Analyze this:
"The latter would make for a fearsome legal opponent. CSMI, a management company to which the school, according to a 2012 Inquirer article, pays $16.7 million (more than 41 percent of the charter’s budget), is run by businessman and political powerhouse Vahan Gureghian, Gov. Tom Corbett’s top campaign contributor and a member of his education transition team. The charter enrolls the majority of Chester Upland district’s kindergarten-through-eighth-grade students. In December, the chronically broke Chester Upland district was placed under state control; they had just exited 16 years of state control in 2010. 
Gureghian unsuccessfully sued the Inquirer over a 2008 investigation that examined “whether the school is spending too much of its budget on administration and too little on teaching.” The next year, he sued the 18-year-old proprietor of a blog, Homes of the Rich, for posting a photo of his 10-bedroom, $13.5 million, Main Line mansion. It is surrounded by a moat. So, it appears, is his school.  A state forensic analysis found that the odds that erasure patterns were random on the reading portion of Chester Community Charter School seventh-graders’ 2009 PSSAs were between one in a quadrillion and one in a quintillion. Analyses done in 2010 and 2011, according to the Department of Education, also found “a very high number of students with a very high number of wrong-to-right erasures.” But the state left the charter to investigate itself."
How Pennsylvania schools erased a cheating scandal
Tainted scores throw an entire way of running schools into question.
Citypaper By Daniel Denvir Published: 07/18/2013
The odds that 11th-graders at Strawberry Mansion High School would have randomly erased so many wrong answers on the math portion of their 2009 state standardized test and then filled in so many right ones were long. Very, very long. To be precise, they were less than one in a duodecillion, according to an erasure analysis performed for the state Department of Education.

Despite entreaties, Clarke is firm on splitting sales tax between schools, pensions
notebook by Dale Mezzacappa on May 07 2014 Posted in Latest news
At hearings this week, School District leaders, education advocacy groups, and others have been imploring Philadelphia's City Council to swallow hard and do what the state legislature authorized it to do: extend the 1 percent surcharge on the sales tax and devote the first $120 million to the city's schools.  District leaders have already budgeted the money, and each day that goes by without a guarantee of recurring dollars, they pointed out, increases the chances of another school year marked by instability and disinvestment.
Council President Darrell Clarke has given his answer: No.

Public lobbies Council for more school funding
SEVENTH-GRADER Angela Beqiri's math class does not have textbooks.
Terrilyn McCormick's child sat in a classroom with more than 40 students to begin the school year due to a staffing shortage.  Fishtown resident Danya Lingle's son was bullied and assaulted at an elementary school with no support staff to come to his aid.  Those three were among dozens of concerned parents, students, educators and advocates who testified before City Council yesterday, urging members to provide the Philadelphia School District with additional funding to avoid more than 1,000 layoffs.

Federal judge strikes down quick transfers of Philly students with autism
Parents of children with autism in the Philadelphia School District are celebrating a victory this week.  In a preliminary decision, United States Federal District Court Judge Legrome Davis ruled that the school district can no longer transfer autistic students to new elementary or middle schools without giving parents an opportunity to understand and discuss the decision.
Transfers are often necessary because not every school in the Philadelphia School District has classrooms and teachers designated to providing autistic support for every grade level. Some schools, for instance, may be able to serve kindergarten through third grade, but lack resources for grades four and five.  When this happens, the district's "automatic autism transfer policy" shuffles students to another public school that can serve the students' needs. The problem, though, according to a class-action lawsuit filed in 2011, is that the district has been acting with little to no input from parents, often at the last minute.

Education funding cuts hit
Principals blocked Corbett protest, McCaskey student
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Posted: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 5:45 pm |Updated: 9:01 pm, Wed May 7, 2014.
A would-be protest of Gov. Corbett's Tuesday visit to McCaskey High School was quashed by administrators, according to a student organizer.  Senior Therese Deslippe, 17, described what happened in an online document shared via Facebook on Tuesday.  Corbett came to McCaskey East campus to announce school resource officer grants. Deslippe's government class was invited to the event.  Deslippe wrote that she and about six other students planned to protest Corbett's visit silently with signs and fliers, citing her disapproval for education funding cuts and increased prison funding during his tenure.

Woodland Hills proposes cutting 19 teachers, aides
By Clarece Polke / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 7, 2014 10:14 PM
About 15 Woodland Hills teachers and four teacher’s aides would be cut under the school board’s 2014-15 budget proposal in part to offset reduced state funding.  The spending plan also includes a proposed 0.6-mill increase in property taxes, Pete Camarda, the interim business manager for the district, said during a board workshop meeting tonight.

"According to Smith, increased expenditures involved salaries in the amount of $2.3 million, benefits at $1.2 million and $1.4 million of charter school tuition."
Upper Darby S.D. budget calling for 2.3% tax increase
Delco Times By LINDA REILLY, Times Correspondent POSTED: 05/07/14, 10:32 PM EDT |
UPPER DARBY — The Upper Darby School District’s tentative 2014-2015 budget was detailed Tuesday at a special meeting, and calls for a 2.3 percent tax increase.  Business Manager Edward Smith presented details of the $173.4 million budget, which calls for an increase of 0.778 mills and results in a hike in the millage rate from 33.8 to 34.5 mills.  A homeowner with a house assessed at $100,000 will pay $3,459 in taxes, an increase of $77.80 over the current year.

"There are numerous subjects we can argue over but, in my opinion, high-stakes testing is the issue most worth fighting over. It is a policy that is doing great harm to students and teachers, especially in poor schools."
A Dialogue With the Gates Foundation About School Reform
Huffington Post by John Thompson Award-winning historian and inner-city teacher
Posted: 05/07/2014 9:03 am EDT
Once again, I would like to thank the American Enterprise Institute's Rick Hess and the Gates Foundation's Steve Cantrell for a dialogue on school reform. Here are my first thoughts on the conversations with Dr. Cantrell, as presented in Hess' Aftermath: My Note to the Gates Foundation.  Firstly, I am glad that we mostly stayed focused on stakes attached to standardized tests. There are numerous subjects we can argue over but, in my opinion, high-stakes testing is the issue most worth fighting over. It is a policy that is doing great harm to students and teachers, especially in poor schools. It is the policy that is most complicating and intensifying the battles over the other issues that Cantrell and I sidestepped. I believe that a consensus is rapidly forming among most educators and parents that this testing mania must stop. Then, we can move on to more humane and effective methods of accountability and school improvement. 

"Among other things, the CTU resolution, passed by delegates to its governing body, contends that standards contain "numerous developmentally inappropriate expectations," "reflect the interests and priorities of corporate education reformers," "emphasize pedagogical techniques, such as close reading, out of proportion to the actual value of these methods." It adds that the upcoming aligned tests will consume "tremendous amounts of time and resources for test preparation and administration."   Despite Chicago teachers' efforts, "the significant time, effort, and expense associated with modifying curricula to the Common Core State Standards interferes and takes resources away from work developing appropriate and engaging courses of study," the union concludes."
Chicago Union Passes Resolution Opposing Common Core
Education Week Teacher Beat Blog By Stephen Sawchuk on May 7, 2014 10:25 PM
The Chicago Teachers Union today passed a resolution saying that it opposes the Common Core State Standards.   Unions, as Education Week has reported, have a complicated relationship with the standards. Both the the American Federation of Teachers (the parent of the CTU) and the National Education Association say they support the standards themselves but think implementation has been lousy, with states and districts failing to provide enough teacher support or high-quality curricula. Most of the heat has centered on the situation in one state, New York.
Now the resolution from the Chicago union, which represents teachers in the third-largest school district, is adding a new wrinkle to the conversation: It's not bothering to draw the same distinction between standards and their implementation. 

State Political Rifts Sap Support for Common-Core Tests
Assessments drawing fire as target in standards fight
Education Week By Andrew Ujifusa Published Online: May 6, 2014
While nearly every state that adopted the Common Core State Standards appears to be sticking with that commitment, political pressure is fragmenting the environment for tests aligned with the common core and the two federally funded assessment consortia producing them.
The most recent tally shows that 13 states do not belong to either the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers or the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. At the peak in 2010, PARCC claimed the membership of 26 states, and Smarter Balanced had 31. Currently, 16 states and the District of Columbia are sticking with PARCC, and 22 are in Smarter Balanced.  And in some cases, states appear to be willing to sacrifice the tests to keep the standards themselves.

Charter schools are cheating your kids: New report reveals massive fraud, mismanagement, abuse
Millions of dollars are being vacuumed out of public schools and into the corporate pockets -- or fraudulent execs by PAUL ROSENBERG WEDNESDAY, MAY 7, 2014 10:05 AM EDT
Just in time for National Charter School Week, there’s a new report highlighting the predictable perils of turning education into a poorly regulated business. Titled “Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud and Abuse,” the report focused on 15 states representing large charter markets, out of the 42 states that have charter schools. Drawing on news reports, criminal complaints, regulatory findings, audits and other sources, it “found fraud, waste and abuse cases totaling over $100 million in losses to taxpayers,” but warned that due to inadequate oversight, “the fraud and mismanagement that has been uncovered thus far might be just the tip of the iceberg.”
While there are plenty of other troubling issues surrounding charter schools — from high rates of racial segregation, to their lackluster overall performance records, to questionable admission and expulsion practices — this report sets all those admittedly important issues aside to focus squarely on activity that appears it could be criminal, and arguably totally out of control. It does not even mention questions raised by sky-high salaries paid to some charter CEOs, such as 16 New York City charter school CEOs who earned more than the head of the city’s public school system in 2011-12. Crime, not greed, is the focus here.

No change in 12th-grade performance on NAEP math, reading
by thenotebook on May 07 2014 Posted in Latest news
by Liana Heitin for Education Week
High school seniors' performance in mathematics and reading has stagnated since 2009, according to a new round of results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
The achievement data from NAEP, known as "the nation's report card," show that 12th graders' average math score remained at 153, on a 300-point scale, when comparing the 2013 results with those from 2009, the last time the test was administered. Just 26 percent of students scored at or above the proficient level in math — again, the same as four years ago.
In reading, the national average stayed flat at 288, on a 500-point scale, with 37 percent of students scoring at or above proficient, according to the new NAEP report, issued May 7

PILCOP Know Your Child’s Rights Seminars
Join us on May 15th for one of three training sessions on Assistive Technology and Settlements.
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
This training series on special education law teaches parents, attorneys and advocates how to secure education rights and services for students with special needs. These seminars aim to bring together a diverse community of advocates including parents, special education advocates, educators, attorneys, and community members. Each session focuses on a different legal topic, service or disability. Many sessions are co-led with guest speakers.
Next Trainings: Thursday May 15, 2014: Assistive Technology and Other Related Services; Settlements; Settlements (Abbreviated Session)

PSBA members in Bucks, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware Counties
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.

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:

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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