Friday, May 23, 2014

Policy Roundup May 23: Texas superintendent tells parents: Your children’s standardized test scores don’t mean 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 May 23, 2014:
Texas superintendent tells parents: Your children’s standardized test scores don’t mean much

"The fact of the matter is that the School Reform Commission and District leadership have refused to create or uphold a budget and vision for schools that keeps our children safe – and they continue to do so today."
School District leaders should take a stand now or resign
the notebook by Helen Gym on May 22 2014 Posted in Commentary
A beloved 7-year-old child from Jackson Elementary School died yesterday, but don’t call it a tragedy. Tragedies are for things outside your control, things we couldn’t possibly predict, and for which we have no warning.  Tragedy is not the right word when this is the second child to die who was in a school without a school nurse. Tragedy is not the right word when the District creates a policy by which only students pre-determined as “medically fragile” are entitled to a full-time nurse. Tragedy is not the right word when Jackson Elementary until five years ago had a nurse five days a week. Today? They see her six days a month.
Tragedy is not the right word when the Department of Health requires schools to have a medical team and emergency health plan, and our District’s plan is to cross its fingers and call 911. Tragedy is not the right word when the District presents public budgets that ensure a dangerous level of staffing even as they beg for hundreds of millions of dollars in funding.
Let's be clear: The losses of essential staff at schools are not just budget cuts. These are human-rights abuses happening to our own children on our watch.
Call it willful neglect. Call it child endangerment. But don’t call it a tragedy.

DN Editorial: Sick of it all
Philly Daily News Editorial POSTED: Friday, May 23, 2014, 3:01 AM
THE DEATH of any child is a tragedy. The death of two children who fell ill while at school is unspeakable. And while the cause of death for a first-grader at Andrew Jackson School has not been determined, both cases demand that we take a hard look at the impact the district's budget realities may be having on children.  When the Jackson student died Wednesday, there was no school nurse on duty. Nor was there a school nurse on duty in October when a sixth-grader had an asthma attack and subsequently died.  We don't know whether a nurse would have made a difference in either case, but we do know nurses play a critical role in the health, safety and ability to learn for thousands of children who go to school each day.

Death of Philadelphia 1st Grader Energizes Protests Over District Budget Cuts
Education Week District Dossier Blog By Denisa R. Superville on May 22, 2014 9:23 AM
Some Philadelphia schools staff members are expected to wear black to school today in memory of a 7-year-old 1st grader who died Wednesday after he fell ill at school. 
Students from several schools, including Kensington High School for the Performing Arts, Central High School, and Science Leadership Academy, are also expected to march from City Hall to Gov. Tom Corbett's office at 4 p.m.  today to call for more funding for the city's schools.
Update: (11:15 a.m.)  And dozens of parents and community supporters gathered on the steps of Andrew Jackson School, a South Philadelphia elementary school where a student fell ill on Wednesday and later died, to speak out about the student's death and ask for more money for the schools, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Inquirer's update included a statement from Melissa Wilde, the president of Friends of Jackson and a parent of a kindergartner and 1st grader.

Schwartz tanks, Cawley outpolls Corbett, the Midstate rises and TV uber alles - some winners and losers from Tuesday's primary election: John L. Micek
By John L. Micek |  on May 22, 2014 at 11:35 AM
The dust has settled. The winners and losers have been declared. And some of the professional campaign folks are off to other states, greener pastures and new candidates.  So now seems as good a time as any to take quick stock of the primary election that was and run down a list of the day's winners and losers.  Because history is written by the victors, the winners get first shot:

The All of the Above Election: Terry Madonna and Michael L. Young
PennLive Op-Ed  By Terry Madonna and Michael L. Young
on May 22, 2014 at 2:00 PM, updated May 22, 2014 at 2:11 PM
Before Election Day, the outcome is unknown while the possibilities are numerous. Post-election, we know exactly what happened. The problem is to make some sense of it.  Here are six succinct take aways that try to make some sense of what happened to Pennsylvania Democrats in their May 20th primary, while suggesting what it may mean for the November general election:

Editorial: Lawmakers need to cash out their $140M surplus
Delco Times Editorial POSTED: 05/22/14, 10:06 PM EDT |
This seems like common sense: If you have a deficit, you can’t have a surplus. Those two concepts seem mutually exclusive — unless, perhaps, you’re talking about government finances.
In Pennsylvania, officials are projecting a budget deficit of more than $1 billion.  And yet, at the same time, the Legislature is sitting on a “surplus” of perhaps $140 million, according to some reports.  How can that be?

PA Supreme Court pushes forward charter school’s lawsuit against Philly
By Maura Pennington | PA Independent May 21, 2014
PHILADELPHIA — The relationship between the School District of Philadelphia and the 86 public charter schools in the city has grown strained as financial struggles have intensified.
Now, the state Supreme Court has stepped in.  In March, a charter school filed a lawsuit against the district and the School Reform Commission over the legality of the SRC’s suspensions of the school code to enforce enrollment caps and withhold per-pupil payments.  West Philadelphia Achievement Charter Elementary School requested a preliminary injunction to prevent the school district from taking action against the school. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted that last week, moving the case forward.  The outcome could be relevant to the entire charter sector in Pennsylvania.

Educators demand removal of Keystone Exam graduation requirement
Chester County Press 20 May 17:37 , Published by ACL Lieberman
Key educational stakeholders from across southeastern Pennsylvania came together to denounce the educational and financial impact of Keystone Exams, the end-of-year assessments which could prevent some high school seniors from receiving their diplomas three years from now. The consensus among attendees of the April 24 Keystone Impact Briefing is that the Keystone Exams must be removed as a graduation requirement for Pennsylvania students.
The new regulations that went into effect March 1, 2014 require every public high school student in Pennsylvania, beginning with the Class of 2017, to pass the Keystone Exams in Language Arts, Algebra 1 and Biology in order to receive a high school diploma from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Keystone Impact Briefing featured a stakeholder panel discussion followed by an open question period for Pennsylvania state legislators, including Senator Andy Dinniman, Representative Dan Truitt and Representative Chris Ross.

Acting ed secretary touts Pa. standards
Tribune Democrat by Justin Dennis May 22, 2014
JOHNSTOWN — Carolyn Dumaresq, the acting Pennsylvania education secretary, said this is her second “tour of duty” in the state department – she said, sometimes, it feels like combat.
She sat down with The Tribune-Democrat on Monday to help illustrate and contextualize the “major shifts” within the department’s last three years, which she helped shepherd in after her appointment by Gov. Tom Corbett in August last year.

"Parents United believes "a lot of public policy around education is being shaped out of the public eye," Helen Gym, its co-founder, said. "We're also concerned about the role of big money shaping our education policies."  Attached to the settlement were spreadsheets outlining some $35,000 PSP spent on lobbying in 2012 and 2013.  It also listed its largest funders - including the William Penn Foundation, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, securities trader Jeffrey Yass, businessman and PSP cofounder Michael O'Neill, the Maguire Foundation, and the Patricia Kind Foundation."
Phila. Ethics Board fines school improvement group
BOB WARNER, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Thursday, May 22, 2014, 8:37 PM POSTED: Thursday, May 22, 2014, 2:48 PM
The Board of Ethics announced its first enforcement action under the city's lobbying ordinance Thursday, fining the Philadelphia School Partnership $1,500 for an 18-month delay in registering as a lobbying organization and filing required financial disclosures.  The partnership, a nonprofit that has raised millions with a goal of improving public, private and charter schools, signed a settlement agreeing to pay the fine and file reports outlining its 2012 and 2013 lobbying costs.

Philadelphia ethics board fines education group $1,500
The Philadelphia Board of Ethics has fined the Philadelphia School Partnership, and education policy group, $1,500 for violating the city's lobbyist disclosure law.  The nonprofit partnership invests in traditional public, charter and private schools it regards as innovative, as well as advocating for government policies that give school administrators more flexibility.  Shane Creamer, ethics board executive director, said the group should have registered in 2012 under a city law requiring disclosure of lobbying activities. That year, the partnership spent more than $14,000 on activities including flying city and school district officials to Denver to visit a charter school.

City Council now has fallback plan if Harrisburg doesn't come through for Philly schools
WHYY Newsworks BY TOM MACDONALD MAY 22, 2014
Philadelphia City Council has added a fallback position to ensure sales tax money does go to the city's school district.  The bill contains enabling legislation to send an estimated $120 million from a sales tax surcharge to the schools in perpetuity. Implementing a law passed in the state Legislature last year, it's a fallback in the event that council can't get a city cigarette tax through Harrisburg, Councilman Curtis Jones said Thursday.  "We're optimistic that the Pennsylvania Legislature will give us some relief, but at the end of the day our children will be educated," Jones said.  City Council hopes to have the cigarette tax in place so some of the sales tax revenue could help fill underfunded pension accounts.  The bill modification sends a message since the schools are requesting the sales tax money ... and more, said Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez.  "I think it's important that, no matter what, this council is committed to the $120 million, and I think it's important that we put it on the table so that we can move to the discussion of the additional $75 million that is needed, that is expected, from the city of Philadelphia by the [School Reform Commission]," she said.

School Officials Renew Their Plea For Funding At City Council
CBS Philly By Pat Loeb May 21, 2014 6:12 PM
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia school officials told city council, today, the deadline for massive lay-offs is getting close and a failure to to come up with funding will mean dire conditions in schools next year.  The district says it needs $216 million just to maintain current services, which it says are inadequate. Superintendent Bill Hite says if it doesn’t get the money in the next several weeks, it will have to begin making painful cuts.  “We are trying not to have to send out over a thousand lay-off notices. It has irreversible implications for our district and costs associated with it, separation costs.

Allentown schools approves Executive Education charter, rejects Arts Academy
Executive Education Academy is in; arts charter out. Budget would hike taxes 5.85% and cut 89 jobs.
By Adam Clark, Of The Morning Call 11:31 p.m. EDT, May 22, 2014
As the fifth vote in support of the Executive Education Academy Charter School was cast, Bob Lysek let out an audible sigh of relief.  Lysek, chief executive officer of the new charter school, and his supporters may have been the only people to leave Thursday's Allentown School Board meeting happy.  In a two-hour meeting that highlighted the challenges facing urban districts, school directors approved the Executive Education Academy, rejected the proposed Arts Academy Charter Elementary School and signed off on a proposed final budget that raises taxes 5.85 percent and eliminates 89 jobs
Tweeting the Education News, Minute by Minute
Education Week Education and the Media Blog By Mark Walsh on May 21, 2014 9:07 PM
Nashville, Tenn.  For reporters who cover big (or even small) school systems, the board of education meeting is a necessary, though often mind-numbing, duty.
Boards of education are supposed to be the pillars of local representative democracy, bringing high-minded citizens together to set policies for educating the young. They are often driven by other goals.
If you cover the Philadelphia public schools, as Kristen Graham does for The Philadelphia Inquirer, or the Jefferson County, Ky., school system, as Toni Konz does for The Louisville Courier-Journal, there's no way around covering board meetings that can last five hours or more.  But as both those reporters described in a session this week at the Education Writers Association national conference at Vanderbilt University here, you can make the time pass faster, and more usefully, with Twitter.
Graham, whose Twitter handle is @newskag, said she started tweeting during meetings of the School Reform Commission (a state-appointed body that oversees the 72,000-student district) "because I was really bored."  But Twitter "has dramatically changed the way I cover my beat."

"The way schools are funded — mainly through local real estate taxes — creates a built-in advantage for schools in rich communities, where schools can hire the best teachers, build the best labs and buy the best computers and where the wealthy can surround their children with the children of other wealthy people.  Tracking also happens within schools, where students are often separated by ability. “Advanced children are all put together; they all know each other and learn from each other’s habits,” said Sal Khan, the founder of the Khan Academy of online education. “At the low end, it’s an intellectual wasteland.”
For Schools, Long Road to a Level Playing Field
New York Times by Eduardo Porter MAY 20, 2014
In the American national mythology, there are few more revered ideas than the belief in education’s power to provide every child a shot at success and to overcome entrenched inequality.  In developing its system of public education, the United States took care to avoid the European model of providing high-quality education only to the best, most advantaged students, while generally channeling children from a working-class background into vocational tracks at an early age.  While it often fell short of the ideal, the United States aimed to provide universal comprehensive education to every child, creating “an egalitarian system that put the elite systems of Europe to shame,” the Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz wrote in their book, “The Race Between Education and Technology.” By the early 20th century, young Americans were much more educated than their peers in almost every European country.

Blogger's note: check out the maps showing the gerrymandered evolution of my congressional district (PA-7) in this article…..
What 60 years of political gerrymandering looks like
Washington Post BY CHRISTOPHER INGRAHAM May 21 at 8:07 am
Last week I wrote about the most gerrymandered congressional districts in the United States, as measured by how geometrically compact they are. I found that districts in some states are a bit of a hot mess, particularly in North Carolina and Maryland. The natural follow-up question: have they always been that way?  To answer that, I grabbed historic district "shapefiles" and did the same geometric analysis for a handful of states, going back to the 83rd Congress, which convened in 1953. In nearly every state, the average gerrymander index value -- that is, the average of the gerrymander scores for all districts in a given state -- has risen substantially since then.

Restorative Justice: A Different Approach to Discipline
We Are Teachers Blog By Deva Dalporto
Suspensions at Bunche High School, a continuation school in a high-crime, high-poverty community of Oakland, Calif., dropped by 51% last year. Disrespect for teachers has declined; the school is safer. Students are more focused on their studies and many have stopped cutting class.  Teachers at the school say these positive results are due in large part to a radically different approach to discipline called restorative justice: a bold alternative to the typical zero tolerance policies that lead to mandatory suspensions and expulsions. “Restorative justice is a major cultural shift from a punitive model to a restorative model,” said David Yusem, Program Manager of Restorative Justice for the Oakland Unified School District, one of the first districts in the nation to embrace the practice.  Oakland first introduced the program in 2006 at its Cole Middle School. District leaders planned to close the school due to low test scores when it started a restorative justice pilot program. In the three years since embracing the practice, suspensions dropped by 87%, violence decreased dramatically and expulsions became non-existent. The district took notice and in 2009, it overhauled its system and made restorative justice the new model for handling disciplinary problems. In 2011 it hired a program manager and created a system to roll it out to all the schools in the district.

Texas superintendent tells parents: Your children’s standardized test scores don’t mean much
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS May 22 at 4:00 pm
Paul Jones, superintendent of the Paris Independent School District in Texas,posted a  rather unusual letter  to parents on the district’s website.  Jones informed parents that they would soon receive their children’s scores on state-mandated standardized tests and that they shouldn’t put very much stock into them. In fact, he told them they were part of a “punitive” system in which assessments “do not reflect the quality of teaching or learning.”  Jones adds his voice to the growing chorus of educators — teachers, principals and superintendents — who are publicly protesting the school reform movement uses standardized tests as the main measure of quality. A Chicago principal publicly blasted Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s school reform program, and more protests are taking place around the country every week. 
Here is the letter Jones posted for parents in his district:

 “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:

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 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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