Tuesday, October 28, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 28: Inky Owner/Publisher Lenfest: No endorsement in PA governor's race

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for October 28, 2014:
Inky Owner/Publisher Lenfest: No endorsement in PA governor's race

Meet the candidates in general election: PennLive's 2014 Voters Guide
By Therese Umerlik | tumerlik@pennlive.com  on October 27, 2014 at 12:00 PM, updated October 27, 2014 at 1:21 PM
Registered Republican, Democratic and independent voters will head to the polls Nov. 4 for the general election.  PennLive's Voters Guide provides information on candidates who are in competitive races. In addition to races for governor and lieutenant governor, the guide includes state House and Senate and congressional races in districts representing constituents in Dauphin, Cumberland, York, Lebanon, Perry and Lancaster counties, among others.
The candidates were mailed letters inviting them to submit information for Voters Guide.
The information in this guide was entered by the candidates and is unedited. If we did not receive a response from a candidate, we noted that.

A change on election editorials
Inquirer Opinion by owner and publisher GERRY LENFEST Sunday, October 26, 2014
As owner and publisher of The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com, I am honored to ensure that this region has the benefit of a free press. The public service that this company provides is a commitment I take very seriously. I also know that we need to keep pushing and reviewing every corner of our operation to make sure we are providing our readers and users with the news and information they need most.  To that end, Sunday's editorial represents a shift in the way we will approach some elections. Instead of an endorsement for governor, I asked the editorial boards of both The Inquirer and the Daily News to provide a summary of where the candidates stand on the critical issues facing the state, as well as the positions each paper has taken on those issues, and then let the voters decide who they think is most qualified.

"The strange one is the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, which are owned by the same company and are not endorsing in the race. Owner and publisher H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest wrote in yesterday's Inquirer that he's decided the papers shouldn't endorse a candidate, and has instead asked the editorial boards to "provide a summary of where the candidates stand on the critical issues facing the state, as well as the positions each paper has taken on those issues, and then let the voters decide who they think is most qualified."  Missing from Lenfest's piece: The fact that he gave Corbett a $250,000 campaign contribution. Bad show."
Corbett runs scary ad, Inky punts on endorsement
WHYY Newsworks Commentary OCTOBER 27, 2014 DAVE DAVIES OFF MIC
Bill Clinton's in Pittsburgh today. Obama's coming to Philly over the weekend. Michael Bloomberg's writing big checks. And the Republicans are telling you Tom Wolf even scares zombies. Folks, we got ourselves an election.
As we enter the last week of Pennsylvania's gubernatorial election, both sides are running like they can win, and maybe they can. There's no poll that's showed Corbett with a lead, but a Republican polling firm 10 days ago declared him to be within seven points of Wolf, the Democrat.  Both Franklin & Marshall and Muhlenberg College come out with new surveys this week. If either shows Corbett within single digits, it will boost the spirits of Corbett partisans, who are convinced Republicans will turn up in greater concentrations than the samples in most polls suggest.  Either way, nobody is slowing down. The Democrats have Bill Clinton in Pittsburgh today, Obama here Sunday, and Wolf on a bus tour of the whole damn state. Corbett is holding rallies among his faithful in several western Pennsylvania counties.

Corbett Friend Screwing with Newspaper Endorsements
Huffington Post by Laura Goldman Posted: 10/27/2014 9:30 am EDT
Gerry Lenfest, the new sole owner of the Philadelphia InquirerDaily News, andPhilly.com, has jettisoned his paper's 185 year old tradition of political endorsements for this year's elections. He announced the move in a note to readers, "A Change on Election Editorials," published in Sunday's paper. Lenfest omitted an important fact from his announcement: he donated $250,000 to one of the candidates' campaign, Republican Governor Tom Corbett.
Lenfest, age 84, became the sole owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer after the tragic plane crash of his former partner Lewis Katz. Former Governor Ed Rendell hailed him and his wife Marguerite as the region's biggest philanthropists since former Ambassador Walter Annenberg, who was coincidentally the Inquirer's last sole owner.  The editorial page has been the source of much controversy at the paper. A former owner, George Norcross, also wanted to reduce the amount of the space devoted to opinion, a change that Lenfest then opposed. The paper will not ignore the upcoming election entirely, they will publish a list of where the candidates stand on the issues.

School Choice: Trick or Treat?
Yinzercation Blog October 27, 2014
Boo! Halloween is a scary time of year, so I suppose it’s an appropriate week to talk about “school choice.” Tomorrow evening, A+ Schools is sponsoring a panel discussion with Dr. Howard Fuller, a well-known advocate of charter schools, vouchers, and tax-credit programs. Dr. Fuller will also be the keynote speaker at a full-day seminar sponsored by the Heinz Endowments at the University of Pittsburgh. I’m not sure if anyone will be handing out chocolate, but as we consider whether these programs actually work for students I hope folks will ask: is school choice a trick or a treat?

PA Solicits Standards Feedback
Curmudgucation Blog by Peter Greene Monday, October 27, 2014
Pennsylvania's Department of Education wants public feedback on Eligible Content, the specific skills and knowledge that are listed in the Pennsylvania (Totally Not The Common) Core Standards.  Anybody with an internet hookup can go to http://www.paacademicreview.org 
and review the standards, item by item. They can give each individual item a check (for "that's just fine") or an X. With the X, you get four specific complaints that you can lodge:
* The statement should be broken up into several, more specific statements.
* The statement should be in a different grade level
* The statement should be rewritten
* The statement should be rewritten
These choices allow for written explanation, rationale, and/or suggested rewrites.  You'll be asked for an email address and to explain why you have a stake in PA standards (so knock it off, you crazy carpetbaggers), and you'll only be allowed one comment per standard per device. Right now only the third grade math and ELA standards are up, but everything is supposed to be up within the next couple of weeks. The site will be available until January 15, 2015.  

"Never before in recent memory has an appointed body, acting without clear legislative authority, sought to rip up a contract and impose new costs on public workers."
Cash-starved district's action seen as new threat to unions
Education Week By Benjamin Herold Published Online: October 27, 2014
Philadelphia - Three weeks after the School Reform Commission that governs this labor-friendly city's public schools activated its "nuclear option," the shock waves are still being felt around the country.  Beset by an epic budget crunch, the SRC unilaterally canceled its expired contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers earlier this month and declared that the union's 11,500 members will begin paying a portion of their health-insurance costs.  Observers across the political spectrum view the action as the latest salvo in an ongoing national battle over the collective bargaining rights of public-sector workers. In recent years, teachers and other public employees from Louisiana to Wisconsin have found themselves on the defensive as management has sought to roll back benefits and job protections.  "There's a drumbeat across the country that this is the way to deal with your public-sector unions," said Linda Kaboolian, a public-policy lecturer at Harvard University.

Hundreds of Philly students displaced as Walter Palmer Charter shuts its high school
Two months into the school year, Walter Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter has shuttered its high school — displacing the 286 students who attended the Tacony campus in what the school's founder called a "human tragedy."  The scene on Harbison Avenue was the latest development in the charter's years-long scuffle with the Philadelphia School District regarding enrollment caps.  Students arrived for classes Monday morning only to be told to head home.
Despite the fact that Palmer signed a charter in 2005 limiting enrollment to 675 children, when the academic year started, Palmer served about 1,275 K-12 students at campuses in Northern Liberties and Tacony.  For years, when Palmer enrolled students in excess of that number, the district withheld payment, but the state Department of Education instead funnelled that money directly to the charter.  The district filed a lawsuit against Palmer charter and, in May, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed with the district's rationale.
Based on the court's decision, the state Department of Education has discontinued payment to Palmer for students above the 675 cap.

Embattled Walter D. Palmer charter to close its high school
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Monday, October 27, 2014, 1:33 PM POSTED: Monday, October 27, 2014, 11:16 AM
The embattled Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School is closing its high school two months into the academic year.  The move affects 286 students in ninth through 12th grades at the charter's secondary campus in Frankford.  In an e-mail to sent to staff Sunday, the school's chief administrative officer said the students would be welcome to transfer to West Philadelphia High School.

"We're not here for a press op," one woman yelled, referring to TV news cameras, as Palmer tried to have seniors describe their experience. "We want to know what's happening with our kids."
Angry parents confront Palmer Charter School founder
A CROWD OF angry parents confronted the founder of Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School last night, demanding answers about yesterday's abrupt closing of the high school, affecting almost 300 students.   Walter Palmer met with families inside a packed cafeteria at the school's Frankford campus, on Harbison Avenue near Sanger Street - the location of grades 5-12 - to explain the decision to close the high school immediately and help families of ninth- through 12th-graders find other school placements.  Palmer insisted that the school had done all it could to stay open after losing a bitter court battle with the Philadelphia School District over enrollment. But that was little consolation to adults who blamed Palmer for leaving families in the lurch seven weeks into the school year.

Great schools matter
Butler Eagle Opinion by Dick Hadley, Cranberry Township Supervisor October 24, 2014
What makes a community great? As an elected member of Cranberry Township’s board of supervisors, it’s a question I face all the time. Residents tell me they want to make sure Cranberry remains a place where employers want to locate and where people want to raise their families.
There are several secret ingredients in a great place. One of the most important is public education. A community’s schools, along with the job readiness of its workforce, are huge factors in determining where businesses choose to locate. Great schools and great jobs are closely connected. Evidence of this connection played out again with the recent announcement of PPG Coatings joining numerous other companies in choosing to locate operations in Cranberry.
Good schools and good jobs intertwine. An investment in a strong 21st century educational system is an investment in communities and our economy. Statewide, if we are interested in being an attractive option for businesses across the globe, we need to be competitive. A large piece of that is a strong public school system that is attractive to students, families and employers.   A critical step in creating a strong public school system is the creation of a full and fair funding formula for schools across Pennsylvania. One of just three states currently without a fair funding formula, Pennsylvania recently ranked 45th nationally in regards to support from the state level. In order to create a statewide system of high-quality schools, we must support a funding formula that allocates basic education dollars based on the student enrollment of a school district as well as the needs of its students.

Heinz Endowments pushes for parents' engagement
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 28, 2014 12:00 AM
How can more Pittsburgh parents become engaged in their children’s education?
For the Heinz Endowments, an answer is training and organizing parents through community groups to have the skills to advocate for what they want in their children’s schools.
The foundation is spending $584,500 on an effort that will provide 10 community groups with training from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University.
“Even if the schools were doing everything right, we do believe parents deserve to create their own opportunities and methods in how they engage in their children’s education,” said Melanie Brown, Heinz Endowments education program officer.  Rather than a criticism of school-based opportunities for involvement, “this is about building capacity within communities that can last beyond what might be a staff person in a school,” Ms. Brown said.

Allentown School District to outsource substitute teachers
By Adam Clark,Of The Morning Call October 27, 2014
Another school district outsourcing subs, citing Obamacare mandate
In a decision prompted by low fill rates and Obamacare, the Allentown School District will outsource some of its substitute teaching positions effective Jan. 1.  The district will continue to employ substitutes who fill short-term assignments, as well as salaried substitutes, who are contracted to work at least 90 consecutive days and are members of the teachers union.
Those who work between 15 and 89 cumulative days for an average of at least 30 hours a week will now be hired through Substitute Teacher Service Inc., which is based in based in Aston, Delaware County, but opened an office in the Lehigh Valley.

"When the cigarette tax was approved as school-funding source, it included a provision that opened a window for new charter-school applications.  Applications filed by Nov. 15 would then face a 45-day waiting period during which public hearings could be held.  The SRC, which is expected to receive more than 40 applications, must decide which to approve within 75 days of the waiting-period's onset."
Germantown residents discuss plan to turn GHS property into a community charter school
More than 20 Germantown residents gathered at the Daniel E. Rumph II Recreation Center on Saturday to learn more about the proposal to turn the now-empty Germantown High School site into a community charter school.  Julie Stapleton-Carroll, who would serve as Germantown Community Charter School principal should the idea gain Charter School Office approval, led the meeting.  Organizers plan to hold several more meetings to bolster neighborhood support as the Nov. 15 application deadline approaches.  "There has already been a huge groundswell of support for the project in the neighborhood," said Stapleton-Carroll. "We now have over 100 subscriptions to our email service and almost 1,000 signatures on a petition expressing support for the school's application.

Philadelphia: Helen Gym and Bill Green Debate the Way Forward
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch October 27, 2014 //
Philadelphia Magazine invited the education activist Helen Gym and the leader of the School Reform Commission Bill Green to debate the condition of public education in that city, where public schools are in desperate financial shape.  A fascinating discussion and dynamic between the two. Most interesting to me was Green’s insistence that the state-controlled SRC was “democratic” and that having an elected board, as 95% of districts in America do, would be a very bad thing for Philadelphia. People would want counselors and nurses, and no one would be willing to pay for them. Unasked was why Philadelphia is shortchanged by the state, why the city should accept the status quo without fighting for the needed funding for nurses, counselors, librarians, reduced class sizes, the arts, and everything else that the students need.

Philadelphia: Helen Gym Rebukes SRC for Canceling Teachers’ Contract
Diane Ravitch's Blog by dianeravitch October 27, 2014
Helen Gym, Philadelphia's leading activist for public education, complains that the School Reform Commission wrongly canceled the teachers' contract while failing to fight for funding from the state.  She writes:
"Recently, I visited my brother-in-law at Radnor High School and was privileged to see him teach his ninth-grade English/civics class. When I walked in, his students were engaged in a debate about Plato and the notion of dissent versus rule of law in Athenian society. The students had finished reading John Stuart Mill and were getting their first papers back for revision. It was October 2nd.  "A few days later, I attended a parent meeting at Central High School, one of the city’s premier institutions. Dozens of ninth graders had spent their school year with substitute teachers who changed every week. The substitutes were put in place to relieve teachers leading classrooms with 40, 50, or even more students. For these ninth graders, school didn’t really start until October 8th, when permanent teachers were finally assigned to them.
"This is what a teacher’s contract was supposed to prevent.  "And it’s why the School Reform Commission’s move last week to tear up that contract is about far more than the dishonest suggestion of “shared sacrifice” and health care contributions.

Bill Green Responds to Helen Gym: Honest School Dialogue Requires All the Facts
Here’s how her attack on the School Reform Commission’s actions was misleading.
Philadelphia Magazine BY BILL GREEN  |  OCTOBER 27, 2014 AT 9:37 AM
In criticizing our decision to begin charging teachers for health benefits and directing the $44 million annual savings to schools, Helen Gym makes an important point: Unless the School Reform Commission is open to and responsive to public input, it cannot meaningfully improve public education in Philadelphia (“SRC’s Contract Move Isn’t About Shared Sacrifice—It’s Looting.”).  I share the value Ms. Gym places on winning “the public trust,” but she considerably weakens her credibility with the sloppiness and bad faith of her attack on the SRC.
To wit, she opens by comparing an idyllic classroom in Radnor to an overcrowded Philadelphia school: “This is what a teachers' contract was supposed to prevent,” she says. Perhaps, but class size in Radnor has nothing to do with the teachers' contract. It is entirely at the discretion of the district’s administration; the teachers' contract does not stipulate any class size limits.

Schools chief, D.A. meet with Central Bucks West parents
Morning Call by By Ben Finley and Chris Palmer,The Philadelphia Inquirer October 28,2014
Parents of Central Bucks High School West football players expressed a variety of emotions Monday night during a private meeting with the school district's superintendent and the Bucks County district attorney, the first time officials have met with parents since the district canceled the rest of the football season over allegations of hazing.  For more than an hour in the Doylestown school's auditorium, Superintendent David Weitzel addressed about 75 parents and took questions from the audience, said the father of a sophomore player who did not want to be identified.

No matter how helpful, tech will never replace actual teaching: Lloyd E. Sheaffer
PennLive Op-Ed  By Lloyd E. Sheaffer on October 27, 2014 at 2:00 PM
"The art of thinking is being lost because people can type in a word and find a source and think that's the be all end all," lamented Tom McCarthy in a New York Timesarticle explaining why his school in Liverpool dropped the all-laptop all the time approach to education all the way back in 2007, an eon ago in this digital age.  Despite similar actions in states including Virginia, Massachusetts, Florida, and California, the onslaught continues for schools to shift  to a "paperless classroom" model.   In a recent issue Time Magazine offered the article "The Paperless Classroom Is Coming."  The subheading proclaimed, "A national push to get a computer into each student's hands will upend the way American children are taught."
I suggest that rather than upend, the writer should have used the word capsize to describe what will happen in our school rooms if "paper" goes away. I submit our pupils and teachers will lose much more than "paper" if this initiative continues.

INVITATION: Twitter Chat on Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding
The next monthly Twitter chat with Pennsylvania’s major education leadership organizations is set for Tuesday, Oct. 28 at 8 p.m. The October chat will focus on Basic Education Funding and the work of new PA Circuit Riders charged with statewide advocacy for re-establishing a fair, predictable public school funding formula. Use hashtag #FairFundingPA.
On the last Tuesday of each month at 8 p.m., the following organizations go to Twitter to discuss timely topics, ask questions and listen to the public’s responses:
·         The Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA);
·         The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA);
·         The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO);
·         The Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS); and
·         The Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units
Join the conversation. Share your ideas, lurk, learn and let us know what you think about the state of support for public schools. It’s a simple, free and fast-paced way to communicate and share information. If you’ve never tweeted before, here are directions and a few tips:

Poverty and Achievement
Education Week Opinion By Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers on October 28, 2014 6:57 AM
Poverty can be clearly identified as a contributing factor in the achievement gap. Over time, schools' responses to students living in poverty have included early childhood intervention, education for parents, breakfast and lunch programs, academic intervention programs, full day kindergartens and so on. But the gap remains. Standardized test results hold up a mirror that reflects this unchanged fact: students living in poverty are not improving enough in their achievement to narrow and close the gap. The 2013 NAEP results reveal since 1998, scores in math and reading have improved, but not for all students. "The disparity between races and economic classes remain."  Measuring implementation of the Common Core Standards and using standardized tests as part of teacher evaluation, has upped the ante and released a distain and disrespect for the results from inside educational circles. In spite of the current discourse about the value of these tests, when it comes to information about our students living in poverty, these results are consistent and they are a call for action.

This school paid teachers $125,000 a year — and test scores went up
Vox.com Updated by Libby Nelson on October 24, 2014, 12:00 p.m. ET
It's common to hear that teachers should be paid better — more like doctors and lawyers. In 2009, the Equity Project, a charter school in New York decided to try it: they would pay all their teachers $125,000 per year with the possibility of an additional bonus.  The typical teacher in New York with five years' experience makes between $64,000 and $76,000. The charter school, known as TEP, would pay much more. But in exchange, teachers, who are not unionized, would accept additional responsibilities, and the school would keep a close eye on their work.
Four years later, students at TEP score better on state tests than similar students elsewhere. The differences were particularly pronounced in math, according to a new study from Mathematica Policy Research. (The study was funded by the Gates Foundation.) After four years at the school, students had learned as much math as they would have in 5.6 years elsewhere:
The gains erased 78 percent of the achievement gap between Hispanic students and whites in the eighth grade.  The results are important in part because TEP also appears to have sidestepped some common concerns about charter schools. They didn't expel or suspend students out of school in the first four years. There is no evidence that the school encouraged problem students to leave or transfer on their own. And the students who attended were roughly as likely to be low-income, and to have had similar levels of academic achievement before they arrived. They could still differ in other ways — they could have more involved parents, who get them into the charter school lottery, for example — but TEP doesn't present some of the obvious factors that help explain other charter schools' success.

White House Is Root of Test-Reduction Rhetoric, Sources Say
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Alyson Klein on October 27, 2014 8:19 AM
President Barack Obama appears to be behind his administration's recent rhetorical push on the need to reconsider the number of tests students take, sources say. And the president's new thinking on tests would seem to put U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a pretty awkward position.  For the first six years of his term in office, Duncan has bet big on student scores on state tests,pressing states to use them in pivotal decisions, such as teacher evaluations. That started to crumble with this blog post in August, in which he wrote, among other things, that "testing and test preparation takes up too much time." (More on Duncan's waffly rhetoric on testing in this very smart Curriculum Matters post.)
And earlier this month, when the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Council of the Great City Schools said they wanted to take a hard look at the number of tests states and districts require and consider paring it back, Duncan cheered. He also posted this op-ed on the subject.
So what caused the secretary to (sort of) change his testing tune?

New website offers closer look into candidate' views on public education
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) has created a new website for its members and the general public to get a closer look into candidates' views on public education leading up to the 2014 election for the Pennsylvania General Assembly.  Following the primary elections, PSBA sent out a six-question questionnaire to all Pennsylvania House and Senate candidates competing for seats in the November election.  Candidates are listed by House, Senate seat and county. Districts can be found by visiting the 'Find My Legislator' link (http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/).
Features include:
·         Candidate images, if provided
·         Candidates are tagged by political party and seat for which they are running
·         Candidates who did not respond are indicated by "Responses not available."
Visit the site by going to http://psbacandidateforum.wordpress.com/ or by clicking on the link tweeted out by @PSBAadvocate.
Candidates wishing to complete the questionnaire before election day may do so by contacting Sean Crampsie (717-506-2450, x-3321).

Children with Autism - Who’s Eligible? How to get ABA services?
Wednesday, November 19, 2014 1:00 – 4:00 P.M.
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Join us on November 19th, 2014 to discuss eligibility services for children with Autism. This session will teach parents, teachers, social workers and attorneys how to obtain Applied Behavioral Analysis services for children on the autism spectrum. Presenters include Sonja Kerr (Law Center), Rachel Mann (Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania), Dr. Lisa Blaskey (The Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania), and David Gates (PA Health Law Project).
Registration: bit.ly/1sOY6jX

Register Now – 2014 PASCD Annual Conference – November 23 – 25, 2014
Please join us for the 2014 PASCD Annual Conference, “Leading an Innovative Culture for Learning – Powered by Blendedschools Network” to be held November 23-25 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center in Hershey, PA.  Featuring Keynote Speakers: David Burgess -  - Author of "Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator", Dr. Bart Rocco, Bill Sterrett - ASCD author, "Short on Time: How do I Make Time to Lead and Learn as a Principal?" and Ron Cowell. 
This annual conference features small group sessions (focused on curriculum, instructional, assessment, blended learning and middle level education) is a great opportunity to stay connected to the latest approaches for cultural change in your school or district.  Join us for PASCD 2014!  Online registration is available by visiting www.pascd.org

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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