Wednesday, September 3, 2014


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

These daily emails are archived and searchable at
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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for September 3, 2014:

October 6th is the last day to register to vote for the November 4th election

Help us get to 600 followers on Twitter - Follow the Keystone State Education Coalition on Twitter at @lfeinberg

The next PA Basic Education Funding Commission meeting is on September 9 in the Lehigh Valley.  You can follow the goings-on and download the presentations from the commission’s website.
Third and State Blog Posted by Sharon Ward on August 25, 2014 4:42 pm
The second meeting of the Basic Education Funding Commission, on August 20 in Harrisburg, got off to a rocky start. Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion) read a statement on behalf of the House Republican caucus indicating a lack of interest in addressing the adequacy of education funding and great interest in protecting the hold harmless funding system (which ensures minimum funding increases for districts with declining enrollments).
Events soon turned more cordial as commission members expressed a willingness to gather as much information as possible, from all perspectives, and even to consider previously verboten topics, such as the 2006 Costing Out Study - the basis for the 2008 adequacy funding formula.

Congrats, you're on the hook for $14,500 in state debt: Tuesday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek | on September 02, 2014 at 8:27 AM
Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
So we hate to be a downer on that first day back to work after a long holiday weekend -- especially since we know some among you are still shaking off the after-effects of one too many Special Adult Beverages. But nonetheless, we find it's best to rip the Band-Aid off quickly as we dive into today's headlines.  So here's the sobering news: According to a new report, the state has $38.9 billion in available assets, but it owes more than $100 billion, making for $62 billion in obligations that have been pushed off on generations of po-faced Joe Paterno-obsessives yet to be born.

Heyl: Pennsylvania really needs your $14,500
TribLive By Eric Heyl Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, 11:03 p.m.
You can buy many spiffy things for $14,500.
That amount, for example, is close to the manufacturer's suggested retail price of a no-frills 2014 Chevrolet Sonic. While it's certainly no BMW, the Sonic is a relatively slick set of wheels for cost-conscious car purchasers.  What $14,500 also would buy is financial solvency for Pennsylvania — provided each of the state's 12.7 million residents quickly rolled all of their spare change and kicked in that sum.  That's the finding of a fiscal watchdog group called Truth in Accounting, which has been bringing integrity to government balance sheets since 2002. The Illinois organization recently crunched Pennsylvania's numbers and found the state's books are as overcooked as many turkeys on Thanksgiving.
Pennsylvania First Lady and Acting Secretary of Education Announce 35 Schools Statewide Implementing Dropout Program
Tool is Part of the First Lady's Opening Doors Initiative
PR Newswire Press Release ANNVILLE, Pa., Sept. 2, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/
First Lady Susan Corbett and Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq today visited Annville-Cleona School DistrictLebanon County, to announce 35 Pennsylvania school districts and charter schools now implementing the dropout prevention Early Warning System and Interventions Catalog (EWS/IC.) The schools, located in 23 counties across the commonwealth, will start using the system during the 2014-15 school year.  "I am pleased that 35 more school districts across the commonwealth will be able to use this effective tool to identify middle school students who are at risk of dropping out of school," Mrs. Corbett said.  "Identifying students early and intervening with help will have a positive impact on their lives."  "The Early Warning System and Interventions Catalog not only gives teachers and school leaders the tools to recognize students who are at risk of dropping out, but identifies school, government and community based resources to keep students on track to graduate from high school."

Wolf has double-digit lead against Corbett in RMU poll
Paul J. Gough Digital Producer-Pittsburgh Business Times Sep 2, 2014, 1:39pm EDT
A new poll from Robert Morris University Polling Institute shows Tom Wolf has a 30-point lead against Gov. Tom Corbett in the race for Pennsylvania governor.  The York Democrat has captured 55.5 percent support compared with Corbett's 24.7 percent in the RMU poll released Tuesday.

With talks paused, Weingarten tells teachers to work to defeat Corbett
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Sep 2, 2014 07:25 PM
There have been no meaningful contract negotiations all summer because District leaders have declined to schedule any talks, teacher union leaders told several hundred members who came to a general membership meeting Tuesday.  Teachers are returning to school this week without a contract, facing bare-bones conditions in schools but still under pressure to agree to contract changes that would save the District some $30 million.  Over the past two years, schools that have seen relentless cuts in administration and support personnel, fewer nurses and counselors, and reduction in teacher allotments that have caused class sizes to balloon in some schools. 
American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten told the group to work to defeat Gov. Tom Corbett and to drum up support for a nonbinding referendum on the Philadelphia ballot asking whether control of the School District should be returned to the city.
"The path forward is to elect a new governor who believes in education and is willing to take responsibility" for the District instead of just "ideologically blaming" teachers and those closest to them for its fiscal crisis, she said.   The referendum on local control, while non-binding, would "give voice to the frustration about having the state take control of the School District without the state taking any responsibility for [adequate] funding," Weingarten said.

Philly teachers union's hopes ride on November election
AS TEACHERS prepare to return to Philadelphia schools with fewer resources and still without a contract, union leaders already have an eye toward November.  That's when Democrat Tom Wolf looks to defeat Republican Gov. Corbett, who trails by 30 points in a Robert Morris University poll released yesterday. The union's hope is that Wolf, a businessman who publicly supports a tax on natural-gas drillers to help fund education, would restore some of the money cut under Corbett.

Phila. principal and 3 teachers ordered to stand trial in cheating probe
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, September 3, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Tuesday, September 2, 2014, 7:08 PM
After a parade of witnesses testified they saw adults manipulating state exams at one Philadelphia elementary school, a judge on Tuesday ordered four educators to stand trial on multiple cheating charges.  Evelyn Cortez, the principal of Cayuga Elementary School, and teachers Jennifer Hughes, Lorraine Vicente, and Ary Sloane were all charged by state Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane with forgery, conspiracy, tampering with public records, and other crimes.  At the conclusion of a lengthy pretrial hearing in which several teachers said they saw incorrect answers changed and teachers berated for failing to take illegal steps to boost scores, Common Pleas Court Judge David C. Shuter ordered the four defendants to be tried on most of the charges brought by Kane. Corrupt organization counts filed against some of the defendants were dismissed.  The criminal charges were the first brought in a citywide cheating probe. Officials have said that the investigation was continuing and that they expect more people to be charged.

Philly High School Students Could be Biking to School
Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia August 29, 2014
Earlier in the month, the School District of Philadelphia announced a series of budget cuts that would take place this fall. One of the proposed budget cuts would have reduced the number of students eligible for SEPTA TransPasses. In the past, students living more than 1.5 miles from their neighborhood school received a TransPass; the proposal was to increase this distance to 2 miles. When the Bicycle Coalition heard about the District’s plan to change the rules about which high school students receive TransPasses, we started putting together a guide for high school students who want to use the bicycle as a primary means of getting to and from school. Late last week at a School Reform Commission meeting Superintendent Hite withdrew the proposed budget cut to TransPasses. We are glad that thousands of high school students will still have access to their SEPTA TransPasses. That said, we still think that biking is the best way to get around and we want to work with high school administrations and students to encourage bicycling to and from school. Our staff and volunteers can partner with high school administrators and students to reduce the barriers to bicycling to school. Helping schools obtain secure bicycle parking, recommending the safest routes between home and school, and educating students about safe urban riding practices are the top three ways we can assist. We have compiled some of the most pertinent information that schools and students need to start bicycling to school: Bicycle Coalition High School Resources

Meals free at Johnstown city schools
Johnstown Tribune Democrat By Randy Griffith Posted: Saturday, August 30, 2014 12:23 am
All students in the Greater Johnstown School District will receive free breakfasts and lunches this year through a federal program that serves communities with a significant proportion of low-income families.  Greater Johnstown is among school districts qualifying under the Community Eligibility Provision of the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.  “The Community Eligibility Provision will have a widespread effect on our students,” schools Superintendent Gerald Zahorchak said.  “A simple and basic act such as providing breakfast can result in better attendance and fewer disciplinary issues. Fewer students complain about stomachaches and headaches associated with hunger, and there are fewer visits to the school nurse.
“Student participation in the classroom increases, and there is a positive influence on academic performance.”
The goals include providing nutritious food, improving academic performance and discipline, and fighting childhood obesity. In addition, the program is expected to reduce paperwork and the task of collecting lunch and breakfast fees from only a portion of students.
Students do not need to meet income guidelines or fill out application forms to get the free meals.

Unionville High School named as one of the best schools in nation
By Fran Maye, West Chester Daily Local News POSTED: 08/30/14, 4:11 PM EDT |
EAST MARBOROUGH>>Unionville High School once again has been ranked as one of the very best high schools in the nation.  This time, the ranking comes from the Daily Beast, which also owns Newsweek Magazine. It is the second time this year Unionville High School was recognized for academic excellence. The Pittsburgh Business Times named Unionville as tops in the nation earlier this year.  Because of all the stringent factors that go into the Daily Beast’s rankings, John Sanville, superintendent of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, said he was especially pleased.  “UCFSD has all the ingredients,” Sanville said. “Staff and faculty who are dedicated, knowledgeable and prepared; students who work hard and focus; and families who truly understand the value of quality public education.”
The Beast used six indicators culled from school surveys to compare public high schools in the nation, 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.

Here's 3 older items covering Digital Research Corporation and the economics of testing in Pennsylvania:

"All of this has to do with the economics of testing. Across the nation, standardized tests come from one of three companies: CTB McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, or Pearson. These corporations write the tests, grade the tests, and publish the books that students use to prepare for the tests. Houghton Mifflin has a 38 percent market share, according to its press materials. In 2013, the company brought in $1.38 billion in revenue.  Pearson came under fire last year for using a passage on a standardized test that was taken verbatim from a Pearson textbook.
Pennsylvania currently has a multi-million-dollar contract with a company called Data Recognition Corporation (DRC) to grade the PSSAs. DRC works with McGraw-Hill as part of a consortium that has a $186 million federal contract to write and grade standardized tests for the rest of the country. McGraw-Hill, meanwhile, also writes the books and curricula schools buy to prepare students for the tests. Everyday Math, the branded curriculum used by most Philadelphia public schools in grades K­–5, is published by McGraw Hill."
Why Poor Schools Can’t Win at Standardized Testing
The companies that create the most important state and national exams also publish textbooks that contain many of the answers. Unfortunately, low-income school districts can’t afford to buy them.
The Atlantic by Meredith Broussard JULY 15, 2014
You hear a lot nowadays about the magic of big data. Getting hold of the right numbers can increase revenue, improve decision-making, or help you find a mate—or so the thinking goes. In 2009, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a crowd of education researchers: “I am a deep believer in the power of data to drive our decisions. Data gives us the roadmap to reform. It tells us where we are, where we need to go, and who is most at risk.”  This is a story about what happened when I tried to use big data to help repair my local public schools. I failed. And the reasons why I failed have everything to do with why the American system of standardized testing will never succeed.

"It awarded a $201.1 million contract with Data Recognition Corp. of Maple Grove, Minn., that extends over seven fiscal years to develop the testing series called Keystone Exams, a model curriculum, and diagnostic tools to monitor students' progress."
May 2009: Education department awards contract for graduation tests
By Jan Murphy | on May 14, 2009 at 5:57 PM
Although the debate over whether Pennsylvania should institute high-stakes graduation tests is far from settled, the state Department of Education executed a contract on Tuesday to begin developing the tests.  It awarded a $201.1 million contract with Data Recognition Corp. of Maple Grove, Minn., that extends over seven fiscal years to develop the testing series called Keystone Exams, a model curriculum, and diagnostic tools to monitor students' progress.
Lawmakers opposed to high-stakes testing called the contract award premature and an effort by Gov. Ed Rendell to circumvent the Legislature.

"The company has held another contract with the Education Department since 1992, when the late Robert P. Casey was governor. It administers the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment standardized test under a contract that pays Data Recognition about $30 million per year."
May 2009: Minnesota-based Rendell supporters get $201M state contract
By Brad Bumsted and Walter F. Roche Jr., Thursday, May 21, 2009 
HARRISBURG — Top officials with a Minnesota education company that won a $201 million Pennsylvania contract employ a Harrisburg lobbyist and donated $22,000 in campaign money to Gov. Ed Rendell, records show.  Rendell's administration last week awarded the contract to Data Recognition Corp. to develop high school graduation exams, though the Legislature hasn't approved such exams.

"According to a 2012 New York Times story, for example, New York City’s value-added model has resulted in a system “where the margin of error is so wide that that the average confidence interval around each rating spanned 35 percentiles in math and 53 in English,” while some teachers are evaluated on a sample “as few as 10 students."
Education Is Not 'Moneyball': Why Teachers Can't Trust Value-Added Evaluations Yet
Education Week Teacher By William Eger Published Online: August 27, 2014
William Eger is a high school math teacher in Philadelphia who writes on issues inside and outside of the classroom. 
Statistically speaking, public education today is a bit like baseball in the 1990s: The mechanism for evaluating talent is broken. In the 90s, baseball teams, relying on scouts and counting stats like home runs and RBIs, often misidentified average players as stars. Today, teacher-evaluation systems think everyone is satisfactory, failing to identify any true MVPs.
In response, school leaders and policymakers, like the general managers of the past, have experimented with quantitative modeling to better measure outcomes. Yet there are reasons to think that approach, arguably successful in baseball, won’t help identify good (or bad) teachers.

Back to school 2014-15 — by the numbers
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss September 2 at 8:00 AM  
Here is everything you didn’t know you didn’t know about the 2014-15 school year, getting under way in earnest around the country this week. This information comes directly from the U.S. Education Department’s Nation Center for Education Statistics:

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.

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)

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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