Friday, October 31, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 31: Election near, but still no Pa. test scores; 2013 results showed a downward trend

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for October 31, 2014:
Election near, but still no Pa. test scores; 2013 results showed a downward trend

The Campaign for Fair Education Funding
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“Between 2011 and 2013, scores have dropped in every subject, in every grade, and among every group of students. Drops are particularly steep among students most at-risk--- Black, Latino, English language learners, and the economically disadvantaged. In some instances, we see double-digit decreases for these groups.”  She added, “This is not surprising given what’s happening in Pennsylvania. We are moving towards higher academic standards during a time when state funding for our public schools has plummeted.”
Election near, but still no Pa. test scores; 2013 results showed a downward trend
An across-the-board decline in PSSA scores last year for grades 3-8 has till now stayed under the radar.
By Dale Mezzacappa, Kevin McCorry, and Paul Socolar for the Notebook and NewsWorks on Oct 30, 2014 10:18 PM
Have standardized test scores declined for a third year in a row in Pennsylvania?
We’re not likely to find out before the gubernatorial election next week.
This year, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has waited longer than usual to publicly release any data on test scores or school performance.  State officials say they are still checking for errors and don’t have a release date. And they say also that PDE is now focused on its new school rating system, the School Performance Profile (SPP) and is de-emphasizing comparisons of standalone test scores. The SPP includes multiple measures of achievement, including attendance and student progress.  The state says it is being especially careful.
“The reason why there is an extra effort this year to make sure that the scores are accurate is because the 2013-14 school performance profile is the first year that impacts teacher evaluations,” said PDE spokesman Tim Eller.  One high-ranking Senate Democrat says that is hogwash, and that the scores are being delayed for political reasons – because they will hurt Gov. Corbett’s re-election chances.  The fact that scores went down two years in a row, in 2013 as well as in 2012, has scarcely been reported in the press.

Upcoming BEF Commission Meetings*
PA Basic Education Funding Commission website
·         Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 10 AM, Harrisburg, NOB, Hearing Room 1
·         Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at 1 PM & Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 10 AM Phila.
·         Monday, November 24, 2014 at 10 AM IU#13 Lancaster
·         Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 10 AM East Stroudsburg
·         Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 10 AM - 12:00 PM Lancaster
* meeting times and locations subject to change

Pennsylvania governor's race: Claims vs. facts
Penn Live By The Associated Press on October 30, 2014 at 12:56 PM
Some of the most prominent claims being made in the race for Pennsylvania governor between Republican incumbent Tom Corbett and Democrat Tom Wolf, and a look at the facts behind them.

Corbett, Wolf campaigns hit home stretch, bracing for low turnout
Call it a "prebuttal" – a chance for the state GOP to respond to President Barack Obama's visit to Pennsylvania before it happens.  Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf is scheduled to appear with Obama in Philadelphia at a rally on Sunday, and Republicans are treating it as an opportunity to make some of the president's low poll numbers stick to Wolf. Most polls show Wolf has a wide lead over Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, but indicate the president is far less popular.

The Five State Senate Races to Watch on Election Night
PoliticsPA Written by Nick Field, Managing Editor October 29,2014
While many have been paying attention to the gubernatorial election and the various congressional races, the story of Election Night may well be the State Senate.
Currently, the Republican Party holds a 27 to 23 majority in the legislature’s upper chamber. Democrats need to pick up a net of two seats if Tom Wolf wins the Governor’s race (and Mike Stack doesn’t cause a constitutional crisis) and three seats if Gov. Corbett wins re-election.
We’ve narrowed down the five Senate races that are most likely to switch party control on Nov. 4th. The good news for Democrats, a path exists to take control of the Senate. The good news for Republicans, the Dems would have to win a clean sweep of these five races and the Gov contest.
Each district has been ranked by the likelihood it will switch parties, starting with the least likely.

"Most surprising: the controller points out that the charter schools have run substantial fund balances every year since 2008, while the fortunes of the District have eroded. Charter schools as a whole had $117 million in 2013, at the time the school district was looking at a hole of $70 million, and was forced to make drastic cuts across the board."
DN Editorial: Frankencharters
Philly Daily News Editorial POSTED: Friday, October 31, 2014, 3:01 AM
IT WOULD be unfair to liken Philadelphia charter schools to a pack of vampires targeting the neck of the school district, but after reading a report on school funding by Controller Alan Butkovitz, we can't help likening the charter system to a fiscal monster - one that was built by Harrisburg lawmakers and then ignored by its creators.  The controller's report asserts that it's not fair for the district to pay whatever the charters bill them and then not get reimbursed, which has been an issue since Gov. Corbett dropped such reimbursements back in 2011. But the report also offers a detailed and much overdue look at some of the surprising ways that inequities continue to erode the traditional public system.

Pa. board prez: Public needs an education
Lewisberg Daily Item by Evamarie Socha Posted: Monday, October 27, 2014 10:47 pm
LEWISBURG — Public education in this state is not failing, but that’s how people see it, Kathy Swope, the new president-elect of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, said Monday. Her first order of business in office it to change that perception.  “We need to educate the public on public education,” said Swope, who is president of the Lewisburg Area School Board.
She said she wants to “bring facts to light for a clearer understanding” of public education in Pennsylvania, which, she said, has changed so much over the past decades.
The association, which represents more than 4,500 active school board members in Pennsylvania, focuses on good school governance, advocates to state officials — including the governor — for public education and provides services and training to its members.

Scholarships: 2,000 low-income Philly kids to go to nonpublic schools
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, October 31, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, October 30, 2014, 6:00 PM
The Children's Scholarship Fund Philadelphia announced Thursday that 2,000 new, four-year scholarships were available to help low-income city families send their children to nonpublic schools for kindergarten through eighth grade.  The scholarships begin with the 2015-16 academic year.  Established in 1998, Children's Scholarship Fund Philadelphia now provides financial aid to 4,500 city children at 185 nonpublic schools.

Child poverty in the U.S. is among the worst in the developed world
Washington Post By Christopher Ingraham October 29 at 1:29 PM  
The United States ranks near the bottom of the pack of wealthy nations on a measure of child poverty, according to a new report from UNICEF. Nearly one third of U.S. children live in households with an income below 60 percent of the national median income in 2008 - about $31,000 annually.  In the richest nation in the world, one in three kids live in poverty. Let that sink in.  The UNICEF report pegs the poverty definition to the 2008 median to account for the decline in income since then - incomes fell after the great recession, so measuring this way is an attempt to assess current poverty relative to how things stood before the downturn.
With 32.2 percent of children living below this line, the U.S. ranks 36th out of the 41 wealthy countries included in the UNICEF report. By contrast, only 5.3 percent of Norwegian kids currently meet this definition of poverty.

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 (
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 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).

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

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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