Friday, September 26, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept 26: "the odds that erasure patterns were random … were between one in a quadrillion and one in a quintillion. …But the state left the charter to investigate itself."

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3500 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, Twitter and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for September 26, 2014:
"the odds that erasure patterns were random … were between one in a quadrillion and one in a quintillion.  …But the state left the charter to investigate itself."

KEYSTONE EXAMS: Not Just Another Standardized Test
What You Need to Know About Pennsylvania’s NEW High School Graduation Requirement
Join the Radnor, Haverford, Chester County, Lower Merion & Narberth Leagues of Women Voters October 7 @ 7:00 pm in Radnor

How to Register to Vote - Deadline is October 6th
PA Department of State
Once you know you are eligible to vote, the next step is to register. In Pennsylvania, you can register in person, by mail and at various government agencies. Below you will find information about how to register, as well as links to voting registration forms and applications.

Upcoming PA Basic Education Funding Commission Meetings*
PA Basic Education Funding Commission  website
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 at 11 AM, Clarion University
Thursday, October 16, 2014 at 10 AM, Perkiomen Valley
Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 11 AM, Pittsburgh
* meeting times and locations subject to change

"Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign against incumbent President George H.W. Bush featured the famous line, “It’s the economy, stupid.” In Pennsylvania this election cycle, “it’s education, stupid.”
It’s Education, Stupid
Yinzercation September 26, 2014
Is it any surprise that Governor Tom Corbett is woefully trailing his opponent, Tom Wolf, in the polls? The latest numbers released last week show Tom W. ahead of Tom C., 49% to 31%. With 60% of registered voters saying that Pennsylvania is “off on the wrong track,” survey respondents continue to name education as their number one concern. [Franklin & Marshall poll, Sept. 2014] In fact, education is now far ahead of “the economy,” which has traditionally been voters’ primary concern (going back to at least 2006 in these polls).
Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign against incumbent President George H.W. Bush featured the famous line, “It’s the economy, stupid.” In Pennsylvania this election cycle, “it’s education, stupid.” (Now, my mother taught me not to call people stupid; so please note, I am not calling you stupid, dear reader, I know you get this point – which is exactly the point!)
In fact, I said this very thing last week when I appeared on “Get to the Point,” a PCNC Friday night talk show. I had the chance to sit across from Bob Bozzuto, the Executive Director of the Republican Party in Pennsylvania, and Katie McGinty, former Democratic gubernatorial candidate and now chair of the Fresh Start PA campaign supporting Tom Wolf. And for an hour, I did my best to steer the conversation back to education, education, education.

Pennsylvania hit by 5th debt downgrade in 2 years by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS POSTED: Thursday, September 25, 2014, 6:25 PM
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Standard and Poor's Ratings Services is following through on its warning that it would lower Pennsylvania's debt rating if it didn't see strides on deficits and pension debt.  The credit ratings agency said Thursday that it downgraded Pennsylvania's approximately $11 billion in general obligation debt from AA to AA minus.
That puts Pennsylvania in the bottom seven of states rated by Standard and Poor's. Pennsylvania was last at AA minus in 1998.

Two former principals charged in state cheating investigation
the notebook By David Limm on Sep 25, 2014 03:09 PM
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane has filed criminal charges against two more former Philadelphia principals.  Barbara McCreery, 61, former principal of Communications Technology High School, and Arthur "Larry" Melton, 70, former principal of Bok Technical High School, were arrested Thursday as part of the state's ongoing probe into adult cheating on standardized tests.
They were taken into custody and charged with crimes of "tampering with public records or information, forgery, and tampering with records or identification," according the attorney general's office.  A grand jury presentment said that Melton admitted to making an answer key and to personally changing students' answers on test sheets as early as 2008 or 2009. In an interview with investigators, Melton had cited an "intense" pressure on principals from the District with respect to PSSA test performance. 

2 more Philly educators charged in cheating probe
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER AST UPDATED: Thursday, September 25, 2014, 4:50 PM POSTED: Thursday, September 25, 2014, 10:45 AM
Two more principals have been snared in a Philadelphia School District cheating scandal, criminally charged Thursday with manipulating standardized tests to boost their schools' scores.
Barbara McCreery and Arthur "Larry" Melton, the former leaders of now-closed Communications Tech and Bok High Schools, are the latest to be arrested in an ongoing grand jury investigation into widespread cheating in Philadelphia and other parts of the state.
Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane's office said that McCreery, 61, of Philadelphia and Melton, 70, of Cherry Hill, were both charged with three counts of tampering with records and forgery.
A state grand jury recommended the charges after the Pennsylvania Department of Education referred the case. The principals will be prosecuted in Philadelphia.

As additional Philadelphia educators are charged in this cheating scandal it is worth noting that charter operators were "left to investigate themselves" and have not been charged.  Here's three prior postings well worth reading:

"In Pennsylvania, the 2009 statistical analysis that was unearthed by The Notebook has provided many good leads. Chester Community Charter, one of the state’s biggest schools, with 2,700 students, was among those most often flagged for suspicious erasure results. It also was flagged for questionable test scores: in 2009, 65.4 percent of eighth graders were proficient in math, compared with 22 percent the year before."
NYT July 2011: Pa. Joins States Facing a School Cheating Scandal
New York Times By MICHAEL WINERIP Published: July 31, 2011
PHILADELPHIA — In April, Dale Mezzacappa attended a panel discussion on cheating sponsored by the Education Writers Association. At the time, she was one of three staff reporters for The Notebook, a community newspaper and Web site that covers the Philadelphia public schools.  While few know of The Notebook, many know of Ms. Mezzacappa. For 27 years, until the newspaper industry’s near collapse, she was a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer. She is also a former president of the Education Writers Association.
People trust Ms. Mezzacappa to get it right. After the panel discussion, an executive for a testing security company suggested she ask state officials if they had done a study flagging schools with suspicious numbers of erasures on state tests. In May, the state responded, sending Ms. Mezzacappa a file so large she needed technical assistance to download it.

"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."
Citypaper July 2013: 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.
In short, there appeared to be cheating — and it didn’t come as a total surprise. In 2006, student members of Youth United for Change protested being forced out of class for test-preparation sessions and won concessions from the district. In 2010, principal Lois Powell-Mondesire left Strawberry Mansion; after her departure, test scores dropped sharply. 

the notebook July 2011: Two of Pa.'s largest charters part of test score probe
by Benjamin Herold for the Notebook/NewsWorks on Jul 21, 2011 12:07 PM
Two of the largest charters in Pennsylvania, Chester Community Charter School (CCCS) and the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber), are among the 89 schools across the state that are to be investigated for statistical irregularities on 2009 standardized tests.
In all, 10 Pennsylvania charters were found to have 2009 test scores warranting further inquiry, according to a recently revealed state report meant to identify "potential test results that may have been earned unfairly."
The rest of the 89 schools are spread over 38 school districts. State Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis has directed those districts to conduct investigations in all their traditional public schools that were heavily flagged in the study. The charters with unusual results will investigate themselves, according to Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) spokesperson Tim Eller. 

"Palmer is a lesson in the dire need for reforming the charter system in the state. Virtually every attempt at "charter reform" at the state level has been to grant more independence to charters, not less, and to expand the numbers of charters without the proper framework for managing them well. Right now, the district oversees "bricks and mortar" charters, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education oversees cyber charters. But the district's thin ranks makes this oversight problematic. And the PDE's involvement sometimes hinders that oversight."
DN Editorial: Charter reform, anyone?
Philly Daily News Editorial Friday, September 26, 2014, 3:01 AM
MAYBE the Walter Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School should be renamed the "Palmer Chutzpah Academy."  The charter school claims that the school district owes it $1.3 million, and without that money the 1,290-student school might close.
The problem is, the charter under which Palmer is operating allows it to have only 675 students. The money coming from the school district is based on that number, not on the higher number.

State official: York City charter school decision soon
York Dispatch By ERIN JAMES  505-5439/@ydcity POSTED:   09/25/2014 11:16:57 PM EDT
The York City School District's state-appointed chief recovery officer said Thursday he could make a recommendation to the school board as early as next month about the district's financial and academic future.  When that happens, David Meckley will likely recommend the district choose one of two paths.  One option is moving forward with the district's current transformation model, which went into effect during the 2013-14 academic year.
However, Meckley has repeatedly said that plan is not financially viable without significant wage and benefit concessions from teachers, support staff and administrators.
Negotiations between the district and the teachers union have been ongoing for more than a year. As of Thursday, a new collective-bargaining agreement had not been reached, Meckley said.
Charter conversion: The district's other option — outlined in the financial recovery plan approved by the school board in June 2013 — would be to convert the district to charter schools through a contract with an outside provider.

Charter operator Mosaica Education fields questions in York
Community asked what Mosaica Education would do differently in schools
York Daily Record  By Angie Mason @angiemason1 on Twitter UPDATED:   09/25/2014 11:08:08 PM EDT
Representatives of Mosaica Education took questions from a small crowd Thursday night, including some about what the company would do differently in York City schools.
Thursday's meeting was the third in a series of public forums as the school board considers bringing in a charter operator — either Mosaica or Charter Schools USA — to run district schools next year.  Mike Johnson, who serves on the district's Community Education Council, asked the officials to be frank about what they've seen in their visits to York and what might be different if the company was selected to run schools.

Charter school founder heads to prison, temporarily
POSTED: Thursday, September 25, 2014, 3:01 AM
CHARTER SCHOOL founder Dorothy June Brown voluntarily agreed yesterday to go to a federal prison for up to 30 days to undergo a mental-competency evaluation, as requested by federal prosecutors.  The government's request followed a defense motion that asked for a competency hearing for Brown, 77.  The defense motion was filed the week before Brown was to face a Sept. 8 retrial on charges that she defrauded two of the four charter schools she founded of about $6.3 million.  U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick postponed the retrial and ordered Brown to submit to a psychiatric and mental-competency evaluation, and then an additional psychological examination.

'Crushing' school taxes
As Pa. districts struggle for money, residents find their rising tax bills alarming.
the notebook By  Connie Langland  on Sep 25, 2014 12:23 PM
On Duncan Avenue in Yeadon, owning a modest home means paying several thousand dollars in real estate taxes. Taxes in the William Penn School District are among the highest in the state. Yet the district’s spending level per student is among the lowest in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
If Gwenevere Washington and her husband lived in the Marple-Newtown School District in the western suburbs, whose property tax rate is the lowest in their county, the school tax bill that arrived in their mailbox midsummer would have totaled about $1,700, even less with the state discount given to senior citizens.  But the Washingtons own a home in Yeadon, a borough less than 10 miles away, down Darby Creek. It is one of six communities that make up the William Penn School District in Delaware County.
The tax bill that arrived in July hit like a hammer. It was $4,000 for the year, less a $400 discount.
Add to that borough and county taxes, and their total tax tab tipped well beyond $5,000 a year, on a property that might sell for $150,000.  “We’re talking about downsizing. It costs too much, with these high taxes,” Washington said. “When you retire, you get less money, and all of our money goes to taxes.”  Despite tax bills a neighbor calls “crushing,” her school district is struggling for funds.

Bethlehem, Allentown schools expand full-day kindergarten at expense of pre-K
By Colin McEvoy | The Express-Times  on September 25, 2014 at 9:09 AM, updated September 25, 2014 at 9:17 AM
Even despite state funding cuts, tax hikes and positions getting eliminated this budget season, the Lehigh Valley's two largest public school districts have increased their full-day kindergarten offerings this year.  But they did so by either scaling back on prekindergarten programs they previously offered, or declining to seek new pre-K grant money so they could focus on offering more full-day kindergarten classes.

The Philadelphia School District’s Ongoing Financial Crisis
Why the district has a money problem
Education Next By John Caskey and Mark Kuperberg
Each year, as predictably as classes end in June, the School District of Philadelphia faces a budget crisis for the coming school year. In 2014, the School Reform Commission, the school district’s state-imposed governing body, for the first time and in violation of the city charter, refused to pass a budget, arguing that there were insufficient funds to run the schools responsibly. Philadelphia’s mayor Michael Nutter said, “It is a sad day in public service that we find children being held on the railroad tracks awaiting some rescue to come from somewhere.” And yet, casting the school children of Philadelphia in the Perils of Pauline has become a yearly ritual.

Tom Wolf and PennLive talk 'fair' taxes, shale, schools, and data
Penn Live By Christina Kauffman |  on September 25, 2014 at 5:35 PM
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf left the Jeep at home and arrived for his Thursday PennLive editorial board meeting in a staff-accommodating Dodge minivan.  Readers submitted an overwhelming number of questions to be asked of the wonkish candidate, more than the hour-long meeting afforded.

"They still haven't done what no state has really done adequately, which is to set up a review system to keep the original bargain of charter schools, which was if they weren't outperforming the public model, they weren't supposed to get their charter renewed."
Bill Clinton Weighs In on Charter School Accountability
Education Week Charters and Choice Blog By Arianna Prothero on September 25, 2014 4:39 PM
Former President Bill Clinton is wading into the charter school accountability debate, noting at an event earlier this week that charters have great potential, but the movement isn't totally delivering on its promises, according to The Huffington Post.  Although charter schools can claim many successes—Clinton pointed specifically to New Orleans—he told a group of international philanthropists and businesspeople in New York City that states have failed to set up comprehensive accountability systems. Here's Clinton's exact quote from the Huffington Post's story: "They still haven't done what no state has really done adequately, which is to set up a review system to keep the original bargain of charter schools, which was if they weren't outperforming the public model, they weren't supposed to get their charter renewed."
Clinton later told the Huffington Post that he was an early supporter of charter schools, but his backing always came with the caveat that poorly performing schools would be shuttered. That idea—that charter schools consent to greater accountability in exchange for greater autonomy—is generally called the charter promise or compact.

Judges Rule that Washington State School Funding Is Inadequate
The Education Law Center reports on a major ruling in Washington State:
Orders State to Comply in 2015 Legislative Session
On September 11, 2014, in McCleary v. State, the Washington Supreme Court held the State in contempt for failing to obey a court order for a phase-in schedule for fully funding the components of “basic education” by the 2017-18 school year. The Court ruling was unanimous.
As reported by the Associated Press, Thomas Ahearne, the lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said Thursday’s order “wipes out all the excuses that legislators tell themselves as to why they don’t have to do anything. I think the attorney general is now going to be telling legislators, ‘Guys you are in a box.'”

Health Issues in Schools: "Mom I can't find the Nurse"
October 21, 2014 1:00 -- 4:00 P.M.
United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia 
Philadelphia has one of the worst childhood asthma rates in the country. We need more nurses in Philadelphia's schools to aid children suffering from this and other health issues. Join us to discuss Pennsylvania laws governing nursing services.
Tickets: Attorneys $200       General Public $100      Webinar $50   
"Pay What You Can" tickets are also available
Click here to purchase tickets

LWV Panel:KEYSTONE EXAMS Not Just Another Standardized Test Oct 7th Radnor
What You Need to Know About Pennsylvania’s NEW High School Graduation Requirement
Join the Radnor, Haverford, Chester County, Lower Merion & Narberth Leagues of Women Voters October 7 @ 7:00 pm in Radnor
In partnership with your area schools’ Parent Organizations and supported by your area School Districts
Moderator: Susan Carty, President, League of Women Voters of PA
Panelists Will Include:
Pennsylvania State Senator, Andy Dinniman
Lower Merion School District Board of Directors Member, Lori Actman
Conestoga High School
Principal, Dr. Amy Meisinger
Education Lawyer, Josh Kershenbaum, Esq.
Additional Panelists To Be Announced
Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014 at 7:00 PM Radnor Municipal Building, 301 Iven Ave., Radnor
Questions? Please Call 610-446-8383 or e-mail

What About the Schools? A Community Forum on the Next Governor's Education Agenda Oct. 15 7:00 pm WHYY Philly
Pennsylvania's public schools, especially in Philadelphia, are in dire straits. Many hope that the upcoming gubernatorial election will help shine a light on the state's education issues. But how will Harrisburg politics and financial realities limit the next governor’s agenda for education?
Join Research for Action, WHYY, and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey for an interactive community forum designed to suggest an education agenda for the next administration—and to assess the politics of achieving it.  Hear from local educators about what they see as priorities for the schools, and from seasoned policy practitioners on the political realities of Harrisburg.  Then, make your voice heard. Discuss your thoughts and perspectives with other event guests and interact with the panelists. You’ll come away from this spirited discussion with a more nuanced view of the politics of education in both Philadelphia and at the state level.
This event is FREE and open to the public, but registration is required.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014 from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
WHYY, Independence Mall West, 150 N. 6th Street, Philadelphia, Pa 19106
Questions? Call 215-351-0511 during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Save the date: Bob Herbert book event! Pittsburgh October 9th
Yinzercation Blog September 17, 2014
Save the date – you don’t want to miss this! We are hosting the national launch of Bob Herbert’s new book, Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled AmericaYou might remember Mr. Herbert as the award winning and longtime columnist for the New York Times. This book is especially exciting for us because Bob came to Pittsburgh several times to interview parents and teachers in our local grassroots movement and wound up writing three chapters on our fight for public education!
Date:    Thursday, October 9, 2014  Time:    5:30 – 6:30PM, moderated discussion and Q&A.
Doors will open at 5 with student performances.  Followed by book signing.
Location:    McConomy Auditorium, Carnegie Mellon University, 5000 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh 15213.  Free parking in the garage.
Hosted by:    Yinzercation (we are profiled in the book!)
Moderator:    Tony Norman, columnist and associate editor,Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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!

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.

January 23rd–25th, 2015 at The Science Leadership Academy, Philadelphia
EduCon is both a conversation and a conference.
It is an innovation conference where we can come together, both in person and virtually, to discuss the future of schools. Every session will be an opportunity to discuss and debate ideas — from the very practical to the big dreams.

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