Thursday, August 28, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 28: Wolf's lead in Pa. gubernatorial race grows slightly in new F&M poll

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for August 28, 2014:
Wolf's lead in Pa. gubernatorial race grows slightly in new F&M poll

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to Sue Ed. Dept., Sec. Duncan Over Common Core
Education Week State Ed Watch By Lauren Camera on August 27, 2014 11:58 AM UPDATED
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, plans to file a lawsuit Wednesday against the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for its role in forcing states to adopt the Common Core State Standards and aligned assessments.  The 29-page lawsuit, to be filed at the U.S. District Court's Middle District of Louisiana, argues that Race to the Top, the administration's signature competitive-grant program, used federal money to coerce states into adopting the common core and herded them toward a national curriculum.
It also charges that the administration's offer of No Child Left Behind Act waivers similarly forced states to adopt the standards and aligned assessments, and that the education secretary has no legal authority to offer waivers on a conditional basis.  Taken together, the grant competition and waivers represent "an attempt by the executive branch to implement national education reform far beyond the intentions of Congress," the lawsuit states.

"But Madonna said he has learned over decades in the business that his polls don't decide elections. Voters do.  "What I will say is he faces an uphill challenge the likes of which no incumbent governor [in Pennsylvania] in modern history has ever faced," Madonna said."
With about two months to go, Tom Wolf's lead in Pa. gubernatorial race grows slightly in new F&M poll
By Christina Kauffman | on August 28, 2014 at 4:00 AM
With 67 days to the gubernatorial election, a poll released Thursday painted a slightly higher peak on the hill Gov. Tom Corbett must climb to overtake Democratic challenger Tom Wolf.  Wolf leads the race by 25 points in the poll, completed by the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College, for which 520 registered voters were interviewed between Aug. 18-25.   If the election had been held on the day the voters took the poll, Wolf would've taken 49 percent of the vote to Corbett's 24 percent, with 25 percent of voters undecided, according to the poll. View the entire poll at the bottom of this entry.

"This is evidenced by data from the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools that details the change in state support for education over the last 40 years. In the mid-1970s, Pennsylvania contributed 55 percent of funding for public schools while local, federal and other sources contributed 45 percent. Now that figure is just over 32 percent from the state and over 67 percent from local and other sources. According to the most recent National Center for Education Statistics data from fiscal year 2011, only seven other states contribute less funding than Pennsylvania."
State Senator Matt Smith / Let’s reform education funding
The opportunity to come up with a fair formula for schools must be seized
Post-Gazette Opinion By state Sen. Matt Smith August 27, 2014 12:00 AM
The back-to-school season is marked by sales of new backpacks and school supplies. As parents ensure that their kids are prepared to advance to the next grade and start the school year on the right foot, districts are also working to make sure they are prepared to meet the needs of students and help them excel.  That challenge has become increasingly difficult in recent years as schools grapple with less state funding for basic education, more uncertainty from the state and in many cases glaring student achievement gaps. These are issues the Basic Education Funding Commission will be working on in the months ahead.

Editorial: Let's address school funding problem now
Chambersburg Public Opinion UPDATED:   08/27/2014 02:58:27 PM EDT
We applaud — skeptically — the recent efforts in Harrisburg to build consensus and momentum for changing the state's broken method of funding public schools.  A group of former school executives — dubbed education circuit riders — plans to travel the state for a year to mobilize local school officials to advocate in their communities for reform. Meanwhile a new state commission charged with recommending a new school funding formula by June 2015 is beginning work.  In a nutshell, the systems of both generating and distributing funds to school districts no longer work. The new commission is focused on coming up with a means to distribute state funds fairly and adequately. A legislative effort has focused on shifting local reliance from property taxes to sales and personal income taxes.

School leaders hitting the road to rally support for a new school funding formula
By Jan Murphy |  on August 27, 2014 at 11:56 AM
A group of public school leaders will begin moving about the state to trumpet a statewide coalition's push for a fairer and predictable funding formula for school districts.
These leaders connected with the coalition of more than 40 groups called the Basic Education Funding Campaign are calling attention to the fact that it has been over two decades since Pennsylvania has had an actual school funding formula. The system that has been in place in the interim has created inequities across districts. And this situation gets fixed.
"If some students are able to walk into a classroom that have laptops available to them, why can't all students in the state walk into a classroom that have laptops available to them," said Patricia Sanker, a former South Middleton School District superintendent.  Sanker is among the 11 school leaders hired by the coalition, using funds from the Philadelphia-based William Penn Foundation, to serve as a "regional circuit riders" who will journey throughout the state over the coming months to galvanize support for implementing a new school funding formula.

Kelley named one of 11 "circuit riders"
AM 1160 WCCS Indiana County 8/27/2014
Pennsylvania’s school funding formula is a dominant topic of conversation inHarrisburgthis year, and is a major factor in this year’s gubernatorial race.  Governor Tom Corbett’s Basic Education Funding Commission has begun a study of how to come up with a new formula by which public schools are funded, and a coalition of interested parties has joined forces to inform the research.
One of the so-called “regional circuit riders” who will be traveling across the commonwealth is quite familiar with the Indiana area.  She is former Indiana Area Superintendent Kathleen Kelley, who recently retired as superintendent of the Williamsport School District.  Kelley is an IUP graduate who left Indiana for Williamsport in 2006. 
The circuit riders are being deployed by the Pennsylvania Education Leadership Associations, a coalition ofthe state Association of School Administrators, School Boards Association, Association of School Business Officials, Association of Rural and SmallSchools and Association of Intermediate Units.   

Pa. teachers union says budget cuts equal lower test scores
report compiled by the state's largest teachers union is linking education funding cuts to lower student achievement.  The Pennsylvania State Education Association says standardized test scores dropped in reading and math for third- through sixth-graders in the school years 2010-11 through 2012-13, according to state data.  The examined period includes the year before Gov. Tom Corbett took office and the first two years of his term.
This is the first report of its kind, and PSEA researchers said it's being released now because it took a while for them to get the right data. That said, the organization is a big political spender, and an unrelenting critic of Corbett.  "We didn't time it this way, it was just, we had the research," said President Mike Crossey. "The fact that it's coming out in a political season, you know, I'm certain that it'll be used politically."  Tim Eller, spokesman for the Department of Education, said the report lacks credibility because of its source.

Teachers union: Poor school districts hurt most by funding cuts
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau August 28, 2014 12:00 AM
HARRISBURG — A report from Pennsylvania’s largest teachers union says poor school districts have fared worse than wealthy ones in state funding and student performance.  The Pennsylvania State Education Association has led criticism of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett over funding cuts that schools received in the 2011-12 year, after the expiration of federal stimulus funding that had propped up school spending for two years.  Republicans say Mr. Corbett is accountable only for funding that originated with the state, and they factor in some costs — such as pension payments for school workers — that Democrats tend not to include. When those expenditures are included, the GOP says, the amount of state money directed toward public school districts has increased each year since Mr. Corbett took office.
But Democrats and education groups argue that Mr. Corbett eliminated or reduced other funding streams, such as the $224 million that partially reimbursed districts for payments made to charter schools, leaving districts in a hole.

"Wolf pledges to restore overall education funding to pre-recessionary levels by instituting a higher tax on natural gas drilling, accepting the federal Medicaid expansion and raising income taxes."
Wolf gets warm welcome from Philadelphia teachers
Under a blazing August sun, Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf practiced the politics of friendly with red-shirted members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers at Solis-Cohen Elementary School.  Union members hoping a Wolf win will translate into more school resources Wednesday posed for pictures and shook hands with the man who current polling says will overtake Gov. Tom Corbett in November.

"For an ever-growing number of young people all around the city, this fearlessness is being directed into supporting their own neighborhood schools. Millennials, it's been said, "think globally and act locally." They are philosophically committed to public education and have chosen to raise their children in the city."
The future of city schools rests with you fearless, bike-pedaling millennials
the notebook By Christine Carlson on Aug 26, 2014 10:00 AM
Christine Carlson is a public school parent and the founder of the Greater Center City Neighborhood Schools Coalition.
Frequent Inquirer contributor Clark DeLeon recently wrote that he “has given up on the Philadelphia public schools." He asks why any young person would want to send their kids to a public school here and wonders where the fearlessness of “the endless stream of young, hip parents biking their helmeted toddlers through Center City traffic or adjoining neighborhoods” goes when it comes time to choose a school.  I’m not a millennial (I was born at the tail end of the baby boom), but I can answer his question. 

"William R. Hite Jr., Philadelphia School District superintendent, hailed the new resource, which he said could help spur more high-quality early childhood education options.  "If we could do only one thing to change the trajectory of student outcomes, it is this thing," Hite said at a news conference."
Web tool helps find high-quality child care, preschools
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Thursday, August 28, 2014, 1:09 AM POSTED: Wednesday, August 27, 2014, 5:43 PM
In a city with more than 2,000 child-care and preschool facilities, just 15 percent are considered "high quality" by education advocates. And information about them is tough to come by.
A coalition of local nonprofits on Wednesday launched a Web tool to attempt to make it easier for parents to find strong programs in their area.

Read charter operators' responses to York community questions
York Daily Record UPDATED:   08/27/2014 10:33:08 AM EDT
Community members submitted more than 350 questions for seven charter operators interested in taking over one or more York City School District buildings in the future.
The operators made presentations at a recent Community Education Council meeting, and community members had one day to email in questions. The operators returned answers within a couple of days, and those were given to the Community Education Council members, who completed preliminary evaluations of the operators.  The evaluations put Mosaica Education and Charter Schools USA at the top of the pack. David Meckley, the district's chief recovery officer, recommended focusing on those two operators for further investigation.
Below, you can read the questions and answers from the seven operators. Some questions were aimed at particular providers, and other questions were more broad.

Charter renewal process begins for Phoenixville's Renaissance Academy
By Frank Otto, The Mercury POSTED: 08/27/14, 4:27 PM EDT |
PHOENIXVILLE — Per state law, the Phoenixville Area School Board will review Renaissance Academy’s charter soon and decided whether to renew it for another five years.  Both Renaissance Academy’s CEO and Phoenixville Area School District’s superintendent think the charter will be renewed.  “In all honesty, at the end of the day, I expect you to approve the renewal for the charter school,” Phoenixville Superintendent Alan Fegley told the school board at its Aug. 14 workshop.

SD-26: McGarrigle Announces Support for Severance Tax
PoliticsPA Written by Nick Field, Managing Editor August 27, 2014
It’s not every day a Republican supports a tax, let alone a tax on natural gas drilling. Yet Tom McGarrigle is out to prove the conventional wisdom wrong.  The contest for the State Senate’s 26th district is one of the most competitive in the commonwealthand could very well determine control of the chamber.  GOP nominee Tom McGarrigle sought to illustrate his policy (and moderate) bona fides by calling for a 4% severance tax on natural gas drilling in an op-ed for the Delaware County Daily Times.

High-quality early education is essential for Pa.’s children
Post-Gazette Opinion by FLOYD TITUS August 27, 2014 12:00 AM
The writer is CEO/president of J. Feltric Metals, board member of Allies for Children and board member of the Thelma Lovette YMCA.
As a father, grandfather, businessman and city of Pittsburgh resident, I am elated by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s announcement regarding the $250 million preschool development grants competition. Mr. Duncan’s visit hit home — literally, since he met with children attending my Hill District neighborhood’s Hug Me Tight Child Life Center (“City Gears Up to Seek Federal Aid to Boost Early Childhood Education,”Aug. 14).  The grants confirm this administration’s commitment to early childhood education and our country’s future. It also illustrates challenges many children face when entering kindergarten unprepared to do their best, because they did not attend preschool.

Reading's Alvernia University bets $10 million on poor city's kids
Michael Rubinkam Associated Press UPDATED:   08/28/2014 01:50:11 AM EDT
READING, Pa. (AP) — On the second day of class at Reading Senior High School, teacher Eric Knorr directs his students' attention to the banners hanging on the wall. Syracuse. Temple. Brown. Penn State. All of them brought back by former students who bucked the odds and went to college.   "You need to make sure you have a plan," Knorr exhorts the class. "Because your plan will lead to a banner, OK? It will lead to an opportunity to go to college."
Long seen as a way out of poverty, higher education eludes most students at Reading High. The public schools here are plagued by low test scores in reading, math and science; the school district has one of the highest dropout rates in the state; and, in a city where almost 60 percent of the population is Hispanic, many students' parents speak little or no English.
Yet, as another school year gets underway, Reading's Alvernia University is placing a $10 million bet that it can help kids in one of the nation's poorest cities get ready to do college work — and to succeed once they get there.

In Florida, Lee County makes history, opts out of Common Core testing
Emily Atteberry, eatteberry@news-press.com10:04 p.m. EDT August 27, 2014
Lee Schools made history Wednesday night when they voted to become the first school district in the state to opt out of all statewide, standardized tests.  The motion passed three to two with the support of board members Armstrong, Tom Scott and Mary Fischer. The decision was received with overwhelming cheers and applause in the packed auditorium of opt-out supporters who donned red in an act of solidarity.  "Sometimes it takes an act of civil disobedience to move forward," said board member Don Armstrong. "We cannot allow the fear to hold us back."
Fischer, who was initially reluctant to support the vote, served as the vote's tie breaker.
"No matter what else is going on, teachers go on and they teach the students," she said. "If this is our window of opportunity, I hope we make the best of it."
While the news was met with jubilation, Superintendent Nancy Graham said she was deeply concerned about the board's decision.

America's public schools remain highly segregated
Urban Institute Metro Trends Blog Author: Reed Jordan | Posted: August 27th, 2014
Fifty million children will start school this week as historic changes are under way in the U.S. public school system. As of 2011 48 percent of all public school students were poor* and this year, students of color will account for the majority of public school students for the first time in US history.  What is surprising about these shifts is that they are not leading to more diverse schools. In fact, the Civil Rights Project has shown that black students are just as segregated today as they were in in the late 1960s, when serious enforcement of desegregation plans first began following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Despite our country’s growing diversity, our public schools provide little contact between white students and students of color. We’ve mapped data about the racial composition of US public schools to shed light on today’s patterns at the county level. These maps show that America’s public schools are highly segregated by race and income, with the declining share of white students typically concentrated in schools with other white students and the growing share of Latino students concentrated into low-income public schools with other students of color.

The Con Artistry of Charter Schools
Once an effort to improve public education, the charter school movement has transformed into a money-making venture.
In These Times BY RUTH CONNIFF August 20,2014
'Instead, they divert public monies to pay their six-figure salaries; hire uncertified, transient, non-unionized teachers on the cheap; and do not admit (or fail to appropriately serve) students who are costly, such as those with disabilities.'
There’s been a flood of local news stories in recent months about FBI raids on charter schools all over the country.  From Pittsburgh to Baton Rouge, from Hartford to Cincinnatti to Albuquerque, FBI agents have been busting into schools, carting off documents and making arrests leading to high-profile indictments.

Rich Student, Poor Student
EduShyster Blog Posted on August 26, 2014
Students in Salem, MA learn a hard lesson about class
Dear [insert name here]:
Welcome back to school, Salem, MA student! If you’ll be attending thisschool, this school or this school, let me take this opportunity to congratulate you. Like the mariners of yore, your parents successfully navigated the treacherous shoals of Salem’s school *choice* system. And that’s great news for you because it means that you’ll be having your *whole child* educated this year, including the part of you that loves art, music and super cool project-based learning. As for those of you who’ll be going to this school, this school, this school or this school, well, your education is going to look just a little bit different. Shall we pop in and see?

Vermont Board of Education Blasts Misuse of Standardized Tests
Education Week Curriculum Matters By Catherine Gewertz on August 26, 2014 2:01 PM
Education officials in Vermont are pretty fed up with standardized testing.
The state board of education has released a set of guiding principles for Vermont's use of standardized tests, but it could double as an attack on nearly everything about that method of gauging student learning.  "The way in which standardized tests have been used under federal law as almost the single measure of school quality has resulted in the frequent misuse of these instruments across the nation," the board's statement said. It calls on Congress to amend the No Child Left Behind Act to "reduce testing mandates, promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality, eschew the use of student test scores in evaluating educators, and allow flexibility that reflects the unique circumstances of all states."
While it is part of a state's obligation to report to the public on its schools' work, those reports should be on "a diverse and comprehensive set of school quality indicators in local school, faculty, and community communications," the board's principles say.
The Vermont board was sharply critical of the use of cutoff scores to make judgments about schools or students.

We used six indicators culled from school surveys to compare public high schools in the U.S., with graduation and college acceptance rates weighed most heavily. Other criteria included: college-level courses and exams, percentage of students with free or reduced lunch, as well as SAT and ACT scores - another mark of how well a school prepares students for college. The full results are below. School entries with icons indicate the school ranked in the top 100 of that category.

PSBA Members - Register to Join the PSBA, PASA, PASBO Listening Tour as BEF Funding Commission begins work; Monday, Sept. 8th 4-6 pm in Bethlehem
The bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission established under Act 51 of 2014 has begun a series of hearings across the state, and you’re invited to join the Listening Tour hosted by PSBA, the PA Association of School Administrators (PASA), and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) as it follows the panel to each location this fall.
The first tour stop will be on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014 from 4-6 p.m., at the Broughal Middle School, 114 W. Morton St, Bethlehem, PA 18015.  Click here to register for the free event.  Other tour dates will be announced as the BEF Commission finalizes the dates and locations for its hearings. The comments and suggestions from the Listening Tour will be compiled and submitted to the Commission early next year.

Research for Action Fall 2014 Internships
Fall internships run from September – December.  Exact start and end dates are based on the needs of the project and the availability of the student.  Interested applicants should submit a cover letter and resumé to  In your email, please include the two projects you’d most like to work on selected from the list below.
Applications will be considered on a rolling basis until all positions have been filled. Research for Action qualifies for work study and PHEAA and interns may also be eligible for course credit.

Education Law Center Celebrating Education Champions 2014
On September 17, 2014 the Education Law Center will hold its annual event at the Crystal Tea Room in the Wanamaker Building to celebrate Pennsylvania’s Education Champions. This year, the event will honor William P. Fedullo, Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association; Dr. Joan Duvall-Flynn, Education Committee Chair for the Pennsylvania State Conference of NAACP Branches; and the Stoneleigh Foundation, a Philadelphia regional leader on at-risk youth issues.

Pennsylvania Arts Education Network 2014 Arts and Education Symposium
The 2014 Arts and Education Symposium will be held on Thursday, October 2 at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, PA.  Join us for a daylong convening of arts education policy leaders and practitioners for lively discussions about the latest news from the field.
The Symposium registration fee is $45 per person. To register, click here or follow the prompts at the bottom of the page.  The Symposium will include the following:

Register Now – 2014 PAESSP State Conference – October 19-21, 2014
Please join us for the 2014 PAESSP State Conference, “PRINCIPAL EFFECTIVENESS: Leading Schools in a New Age of Accountability,” to be held October 19-21 at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel, Pittsburgh, Pa.  Featuring Keynote Speakers: Alan November, Michael Fullan & Dr. Ray Jorgensen.  This year’s conference will provided PIL Act 45 hours, numerous workshops, exhibits, multiple resources and an opportunity to network with fellow principals from across the state.

PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference (Oct. 21-24) registration forms now available online
PSBA Website
Make plans today to attend the most talked about education conference of the year. This year's PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference promises to be one of the best with new ideas, innovations, networking opportunities and dynamic speakers. More details are being added every day. Online registration will be available in the next few weeks. If you just can't wait, registration forms are available online now. Other important links are available with more details on:
·         Hotel registration (reservation deadline extended to Sept. 26)
·         Educational Publications Contest (deadline Aug. 6)
·         Student Celebration Showcase (deadline Sept. 19)
·         Poster and Essay Contest (deadline Sept. 19)

Slate of candidates for PSBA offices now available online -- bios/videos now live
PSBA Website August 5, 2014

The slate of candidates for 2015 PSBA officer and at-large representatives is now available online. Photos, bios and videos also have been posted for each candidate. According to recent PSBA Bylaws changes, each member school entity casts one vote per office. Voting will again take place online through a secure, third-party website -- Simply Voting. Voting will openSept. 9 and closes Oct. 6. One person from the school entity (usually the board secretary) is authorized to cast the vote on behalf of the member school entity and each board will need to put on its agenda discussion and voting at one of its meetings in September. Each person authorized to cast the school entity's votes will be receiving an email in the coming weeks to verify the email address and confirm they are the person to cast the vote on behalf of their school entity. 

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