Monday, September 15, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept 15: When researchers control for the effect of poverty, American test scores are near the top of the world

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, business 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
PA Ed Policy Roundup for September 15, 2014:
When researchers control for the effect of poverty, American test scores are near the top of the world

Concerned with adequate, equitable, predictable, sustainable #paedfunding?  Follow new @PACircuitRider and @CircuitRiderSE accounts on twitter

Education-funding issues heat up Pa. governor's race
THOMAS FITZGERALD, INQUIRER POLITICS WRITER LAST UPDATED: Sunday, September 14, 2014, 1:09 AM  POSTED: Saturday, September 13, 2014, 10:45 PM
Gov. Corbett took Pennsylvania voters to school last week in "Statistics Class," a 30-second TV spot, complete with bar graphs, that asserts he has increased state education spending to "its highest level ever."   Democratic challenger Tom Wolf "and his special-interest friends," Corbett says into the camera, "have spent millions trying to mislead you that I cut education spending."
Wolf responded with his sharpest attack ad yet, a compendium of news clippings that say Corbett "took an ax" to schools with a $1 billion cut in education dollars that caused 27,000 layoffs and big jumps in local property taxes.  "Tom Corbett," a woman announcer concludes. "Can't trust him on education. Can't trust him to be for us." Those sentences are highlighted in red in the final frame.  So, the natural question arises: Who's right?

Norristown Times Herald Editorial: Can a bipartisan commission fix Pa.’s educational funding system?
Norristown Times Herald Editorial POSTED: 09/13/14, 8:20 PM EDT
Editor’s note: This is the 11th in a yearlong series of occasional editorials from the editorial board of Digital First Media newspapers in Pennsylvania focusing on the crucial “Keystone” issues of education and property taxes.

Delco Times Editorial: Education funding: Keep it fair for all
POSTED: 09/13/14, 10:44 PM EDT |
Tom Corbett and Tom Corbett are breaking out the big guns. ‘Tom-my’ guns, maybe?
Actually these are geek guns. Calculators.  The embattled Republican governor and his Democratic challenger are waging a war of numbers – to say nothing of big-money television ads – over education funding.  Wolf, the York businessman, continues to hammer away at what has been a constant criticism of the governor, that he slashed $1 billion from education funding via the austere budgets of his first term.  Corbett is now countering with an ad of his own, pointing a finger at former Gov. Ed Rendell for papering over serious budget concerns with millions in federal stimulus dollars. When those funds expired, Corbett says he was left holding the bag. He points out, correctly, that he actually has increased the basic education subsidy, and notes that this year’s subsidy of $10.05 billion is the highest in state history.
It’s easy to see why Corbett is fighting back. Education funding has hung around his neck like a millstone during his first term.

"A central argument is that there is no need for a radical change in curriculum or testing. Substantial improvement will come only when we deal with the real problem: Poverty. When researchers control for the effect of poverty, American test scores are near the top of the world. Our unspectacular overall scores are because the US has the second highest level of child poverty among all 34 economically advanced countries (now over 23%, compared to high-scoring Finland’s 5.4%)."
Common core doesn't fix the real problem of education– poverty.
Schools Matter Blog by Stephen Krashen September 13, 2014
PUBLISHED in the Christian Science Monitor Weekly Magazine, September 15, 2014
Arguments for opposing the common core presented by Gov. Jindal ("Common Core: Bobby Jindal says Obama forcing a national curriculum," August 27) do not include the
reasons many professional educators and researchers oppose it.
A central argument is that there is no need for a radical change in curriculum or testing. Substantial improvement will come only when we deal with the real problem: Poverty. When researchers control for the effect of poverty, American test scores are near the top of the world. Our unspectacular overall scores are because the US has the second highest level of child poverty among all 34 economically advanced countries (now over 23%, compared to high-scoring Finland’s 5.4%).  Poverty means poor nutrition, inadequate health care, and lack of access to books, among other things. All of these negatively impact school performance.  Instead of protecting children from the effect of poverty, the common core is investing billions in an untested curriculum and massive testing, despite research showing that increasing testing does not increase  achievement.
Stephen Krashen, Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California

Did you catch our weekend postings?
PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept 13: Terry Madonna talks school funding on Pennsylvania Newsmakers with Jay Himes and Sherri Smith

Philly schools counting on cigarette-tax pingpong match to end
Will the pingpong game finally come to a rest?
That's the question Philadelphia education advocates are asking as Pennsylvania's Legislature reconvenes Monday and promises to again consider authorizing a $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes sold within city limits to help fund schools.  House Majority Leader Mike Turzai assured district leaders in August they could count on cigarette tax revenue by October.  That promise followed a summer of legislative pingpong in which the bill bounced between the House and Senate largely because of disputes about amendments unrelated to taxing Philadelphia cigarettes.  Turzai spokesman Steve Miskin said the House will strip those ancillary provisions out in a rules committee meeting Monday and then take up a clean bill Wednesday.  "Everyone's goal is to get this legislation to the governor's desk as quickly as possible," he said.

"Steve Miskin, spokesman for Republican leaders in the House, said he expects the chamber to vote on the cigarette tax by Wednesday. It will then go to the Senate, where officials say it ranks high on the list of priorities.  "Both chambers are interested in finishing it as soon as possible. Nobody wants that bill to linger," said Erik Arneson, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware).  Gov. Corbett has said he will sign the cigarette tax bill if it reaches his desk."
Philly cigarette tax bill tops agenda as Pa. lawmakers return
POSTED: Monday, September 15, 2014, 1:08 AM
HARRISBURG - It's do-or-die for a new cigarette tax to help Philadelphia schools, as well as scores of other bills, when the state legislature returns from its summer break Monday.
The fall legislative agenda is packed with bills touching on everything from public employee pensions to public records. Not only will it play out against the backdrop of a contentious election season, but it will also contend with a time crunch: Any bills that don't get approved this year will effectively die and have to be reintroduced come January, when a new two-year session begins.
Topping the agenda in both chambers is legislation authorizing Philadelphia to enact a $2-a-pack cigarette tax to help plug the School District's budget gap. The matter was left unresolved and in the House's hands when the General Assembly recessed in July.  For the Philadelphia School District, the cigarette tax is critical. And time is of the essence.

Pension overhaul languishing in Pa. Legislature?
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau September 15, 2014 12:00 AM
HARRISBURG — Legislators returning today to the Capitol are expected to take up several bills during their monthlong stint before the election, but there is little sign yet that the pension overhaul promoted by Gov. Tom Corbett will be among those headed to his desk.
House Republicans’ efforts to pass the legislation remaking retirement benefits for future state and public school workers consumed significant energy in the lead-up to the signing of the state budget in July. Mr. Corbett urged legislators to send him the bill, which would limit the defined pension benefit while adding a 401(k)-style plan, but with Democrats opposed, Republicans in the House were unable to rally enough votes from their own ranks.

12 days left in session, and PA legislators are checking their lists
Lancaster Online By KAREN SHUEY | Staff Writer Posted: Monday, September 15, 2014 6:00 am
Lawmakers will have a full plate waiting for them when they return to work Monday.
After spending the summer in their district and the occasional appearance at a hearing, the General Assembly will reconvene for the first of 12 scheduled days of the fall legislative session.
There’s not much time to address issues such as unfunded pension liabilities, property tax reform or changes to the state-owned liquor system.  And historically, fall sessions are far less productive than spring session. But after leaving many high-profile issues unfinished in June, lawmakers have been feeling the heat to take swift action on proposed legislation.  Lancaster County lawmakers made a few predictions about the issues likely to dominate the conversation in Harrisburg this fall.

What’s Happening in the PAHouse – Week of Sept. 15, 2014
PAHouse GOP Blog September 12, 2014
Debt Reduction and Philadelphia Schools on House Agenda Next Week
The House returns to session on Monday, Sept. 15. Live web streams of House session and the majority of committee meetings are available at  Important information and events may also be viewed by visiting

"The reduction is so large in grades 3 to 5 that it amounts to 33 hours, equal to about more than five days of instructional time"
Pittsburgh’s reduction in student tests wins applause
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette September 15, 2014 12:00 AM
It’s almost like adding about a week of instruction to the school year.
Pittsburgh Public Schools announced last week that it is reducing the amount of time students in K-5 spend taking required tests this school year.
The reduction is so large in grades 3 to 5 that it amounts to 33 hours, equal to about more than five days of instructional time. Smaller reductions are being made in K-2, which already had less testing time.  “I think this is wonderful,” said Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers.  “Teachers have complained for so long. This isn’t just in Pittsburgh. This is nationally. They spend so much time testing the kids, which takes away from instructional time. It adds to the stress of the kids.”  Parents also are complaining about too much testing. More than 300 signed an online petition drive calling for reduction in testing in the district.

York County educators confused by Corbett's Core hearings
York Dispatch By NIKELLE SNADER 505-5431/@ydschools 09/14/2014 10:45:28 PM EDT
York educators expressed concern this week that Gov. Tom Corbett's call for public hearings about the state's academic standards brings uncertainty and worry about consistency in education, with several officials questioning whether the announcements were a campaign maneuver.  Last Monday, Corbett announced that Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq would appear before the state board of education to lay out a plan for public hearings about the Pennsylvania Academic Standards, also known as PA Core Standards.
That same day, Corbett's campaign sent out an email saying the governor had "announced his support for the complete elimination of Common Core in Pennsylvania."

"Simply put, charter schools in Pennsylvania are big business and there are no signs of the business slowing down.  It is estimated that over the last decade $4 billion dollars have gone to charter schools in Pennsylvania.  In the 2007–2008 school year alone, Pennsylvania school districts paid out $627,984,205 in “tuition” payments to charter schools and in the 2010–2011 fiscal year, $1.129 billion, $322.3 million of which went to cyber charter schools."
Reforming the "Business" of Charter Schools in Pennsylvania
Brigham Young University Education and Law Journal Volume 2014 Issue 2
By Patrick J. Gallo J Summer 6-1-2014

William Penn Foundation and Drexel University Partner to Improve Early Education in West Philly Promise Zone
Generocity By Alex Vuocolo | Posted on Friday, September 12th, 2014
Drexel University and the William Penn Foundation are partnering to improve the quality of West Philadelphia child care centers by working with parents, caretakers, and community organizations. The effort will be coordinated by Drexel and funded by a three-year $1.8 million grant from William Penn.  The West Philadelphia Promise Zone (a place-based community development program initiated by the Obama Administration earlier this year) is the target area. The zone is bounded by Girard Avenue to the north, Sansom street to the south, 48th Street to the west and the Schuylkill River to the east. It contains the low-income neighborhoods of Mantua, Belmont, Saunders Park and West Powelton.  Drexel has made improving education in surrounding neighborhoods a major goal of its community engagement strategy, which has been amped up since President John Fry was appointed in 2010. The University started by working with K-8 schools, but soon took a more comprehensive approach.
“When you start working with K-8, you realize that you have to go back and you have to go forward,” said Lucy Kerman, vice provost for University and Community Partnerships at Drexel.
This initially meant working with pre-K classrooms with a focus on early literacy to help children 

Tony Auth: An appreciation
What I'll miss most - and there is so much that I'll miss about Tony Auth - is the joy.
The buoyant joy that Tony found in his work, in his colleagues in craft, and in a world that, while never quite living up to his bold expectations, never failed to fill him with delight, curiosity and hope.  People seem frequently to imagine the editorial cartoonist as a dour, sarcastic sort, all curmudgeonly snarls.  Those people never had the privilege to hang around Tony Auth's drawing board as he wove his wonders.  Yes, his pen could be a rapier that flew to its mark. But he never wielded it in sour cynicism. Always in hope. Sometimes anger, too, but always hope.
Here's an enduring image of him, from the 14 years we spent together in the trenches at The Inquirer editorial board, and the blessed bonus of two more at WHYY...

Back to school, with healthier snacks
Kids may notice their usual snacks are not available in school vending machines and cafeterias this year.  In an effort to reduce obesity and improve nutrition for kids, new USDA standards went into effect on July 1 to restrict the types of snacks available in schools. They must now be a fruit, vegetable, whole grain, dairy product or protein food with less than 200 calories--and meet additional limits on the amount of fat, sodium, and sugar.  The standards are the first nutritional update to snacks in schools in more than thirty years and apply to any food sold a la carte in cafeterias, in school stores, or in vending machines.  Jessica Donze Black, Director the Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project for the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said some of the changes might not seem that dramatic.

Act Locally: Let Local School Districts Identify Healthy Meals Students Will Want to Eat
Huffington Post by Thomas J. Gentzel Executive Director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA Posted: 09/11/2014 5:21 pm EDT Updated: 09/11/2014 5:59 pm EDT
A new poll released by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the American Heart Association concludes that a majority of parents agree with strong federal nutrition standards for school breakfasts and lunches.   These parents are in favor of sound nutrition for their children. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) agrees with them. All school board members -- and nearly 40 percent are parents of school-age children -- understand the critical importance of student health.  That is why NSBA supports flexibility that would allow communities to feed their students healthy food that also reflects school districts' unique needs, resources, and circumstances. Using sound nutrition as a base and their communities as partners, districts can serve healthy food that students will eat -- not throw away and go home hungry.

Gates Money Attempts to Shift the Education Conversation to Successes
Anthony Cody Living in Dialogue Blog September 12, 2014
In 2010, a stark image was broadcast around the nation. It showed a child seated at a school desk surrounded by absolute devastation and ruin. That image was used promote the movie, “Waiting For Superman.” The movie was boosted with a $2 million advertising grant from the Gates Foundation, and was further promoted on Oprah and NBC’s Education Nation – also underwritten by the Gates Foundation. The clarion call was “public schools are broken and bad teachers cannot be fired.”   But that is not what we hear now, for some reason. Now, we have stories of success popping up in the media – strangely sponsored by some of the same people who were shouting warnings of calamity just a few years ago.
How and why has the prevailing story advanced by sponsors of education reform shifted over the past four years from one of failure and doom to one of success? And how is our media cooperating with the crafting of these dominant narratives?

Follow new ‏@PublicEdNation on twitter
Time For a New Conversation Indeed: PUBLIC Education Nation is Here
Living in Dialogue Blog By Anthony Cody September 14, 2014
In 2014, most of the communications media is carrying messages sponsored or controlled by the wealthy. When speech is redefined by the Supreme Court to include the spending of money, then those with unlimited money have a nearly unlimited ability to speak via the airwaves. This week I described how that money, often funneled through “philanthropies,” has been used to create recent narratives of failure and success in education.
NBC’s Education Nation has been a prime vehicle for this propaganda over the past several years. Sponsored by the Gates Foundation, it arrived with the release of “Waiting For Superman,” and promoted Michelle Rhee and Bill Gates as the nation’s leading experts on what needed to happen with our schools. But this year NBC appears to have abandoned the broadcast, and the billionaires are investing elsewhere in efforts to “reset” the conversation. Some of us have been organizing an event that will do just that, though perhaps not in the way that Gates, Bloomberg and the Waltons have in mind.

The Way to Beat Poverty
New York Times Opinion By NICHOLAS KRISTOF and SHERYL WuDUNN SEPT. 12, 2014
AS our children were growing up, one of their playmates was a girl named Jessica. Our kids would disappear with Jessica to make forts, build a treehouse and share dreams. We were always concerned because — there’s no polite way to say this — Jessica was a mess.
Her mother, a teen mom, was away in prison for drug-related offenses, and Jessica had never known her father. While Jessica was very smart, she used her intelligence to become a fluent, prodigious liar. Even as a young girl, she seemed headed for jail or pregnancy, and in sixth grade she was kicked out of school for bringing alcohol to class. One neighbor forbade his daughter to play with her, and after she started setting fires we wondered if we should do the same.
Jessica reminded us that the greatest inequality in America is not in wealth but the even greater gap of opportunity. We had been trying to help people in Zimbabwe and Cambodia, and now we found ourselves helpless to assist one of our daughter’s best friends.

PUBLIC Education Nation October 11
The Network for Public Education will hold a historic event in one month's time
PUBLIC Education Nation will deliver the conversation the country has been waiting for. Rather than featuring billionaires and pop singers, this event will be built around intense conversations featuring leading educators, parents, students and community activists. We have waited too long for that seat at someone else's table. This time, the tables are turned, and we are the ones setting the agenda.   This event will be livestreamed on the web on the afternoon of Saturday, October 11, from the auditorium of Brooklyn New School, a public school. There will be four panels focusing on the most critical issues we face in our schools. The event will conclude with a conversation between Diane Ravitch and Jitu Brown.  

Please join us for a symposium on:
“Funding Pennsylvania's Public Schools: A Look Ahead”
This event is co-sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics and the Temple University Center on Regional Politics.
When: Friday, October 3, 2014, 8:30 am to 12 pm
Where: Doubletree Hotel Pittsburgh in Green Tree, PA
Session I:  "Forecasting the Fiscal Future of Pennsylvania's Public Schools"
A panel of legislators and public officials will respond to a presentation by Penn State Professor William Hartman and Tim Shrom projecting the fiscal trajectory of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts over the next five years and by University of Pittsburgh Professor Maureen McClure discussing the implications for school finance of an aging tax base.
Session II: "Why Smart Investments in Public Schools Are Critical to Pennsylvania's Economic Future"
Following an address by Eva Tansky Blum, Chairwoman and President of the PNC Foundation, a panel of business and labor leaders will discuss the importance of public school funding reform to the competitiveness of regional and state economies. 
We look forward to your participation!

Back to School Special Education Boot Camp Saturday, September 20, 2014 8:30 A.M.- 3:00 P.M.
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Join presenters from: Temple University · McAndrews Law Offices · ARC
PA Education for All Coalition · Delaware Valley Friends School
PA Dyslexia and Literacy Coalition
Attend workshops on: Early Intervention · Dyslexia · Discipline · Charter Schools
Inclusion · Transition Services
Details and Registration:

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)

Voting for PSBA officers and at-large representatives opens Sept. 9
PSBA Website 9/8/2014
The slate of candidates for 2015 PSBA officer and at-large representatives is available online. Photos, bios and videos also have been posted for candidates. 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 open Sept. 9 and closes Oct. 6. One person from the school entity (usually the board secretary) is authorized to register 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 received an email on Aug. 13 and a test ballot was sent to them on Aug. 28. In addition, a memo from PSBA President Richard Frerichs will be mailed in the coming days to all board secretaries and copied to school board presidents and chief school administrators.

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