Thursday, October 9, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 9: Crowds pack forum in Radnor to discuss new mandated 3-part Keystone Exams in order to graduate

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, Superintendents, 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 October 9, 2014:
Crowds pack forum in Radnor to discuss new mandated 3-part Keystone Exams in order to graduate

Follow the Money: Who gave/received school privatization contributions in Pennsylvania in 2014.  Was your legislator a recipient?
Six millionaires and billionaires contributed $1,482,604 to privatize democratically-governed Pennsylvania public education.

Wolf and Corbett get in final jabs in Pittsburgh debate: John L. Micek
By John L. Micek |  on October 08, 2014 at 9:07 PM, updated October 08, 2014 at 9:45 PM
PITTSBURGH _ Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and Democrat Tom Wolf ended their trio of campaign season debates here Wednesday in much the same way they began them: amid a flurry of charges and counter-charges that have yet to move public sentiment on either of them in any significant manner.  But if a winner had to be declared in the final televised match-up in the studios of WTAE-TV in suburban Wilkinsburg, it nominally went to Wolf, who hammered steadily away on a mantra of four years' worth of "failed" policies that had resulted in larger public school class sizes and lagging job-growth and economic development.
But — again — only nominally.

Corbett and Wolf politely answer host of questions
By Steve Esack,Call Harrisburg Bureau October 8, 2014
PITTSBURGH — Attention, Pennsylvanians: Wednesday's debate — the third and final one of the campaign — proved there is more to this gubernatorial election than education spending and income taxes.  Incumbent Republican Tom Corbett and Democratic challenger Tom Wolf answered questions on a wide range of topics. They did so politely, unlike in the second debate in Philadelphia where they tossed verbal haymakers.

Corbett, Wolf restate cases in final gubernatorial debate before election
Trib Live By Melissa Daniels Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014, 11:09 p.m.
With less than a month to go before Election Day, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and Democrat Tom Wolf presented their contrasting policies — spanning fiscal, social and political issues — Wednesday night in the final debate in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race.  Corbett, trailing in the polls, painted his opponent as uninformed and tax-happy, and extolled his own experience.
Wolf, a first-time candidate ahead by double-digits, criticized Corbett's leadership and emphasized his commitment to increasing funding for public schools.
Crowds pack forum in Radnor to discuss new mandated 3-part Keystone Exams in order to graduate
Delco Times By Linda Stein, POSTED: 10/08/14, 11:33 AM EDT
RADNOR - More than 100 parents and educators filled the meeting room at the Radnor Township building Tuesday to hear from a panel discussing the Keystone Exams during a forum hosted by the area Leagues of Women Voters, area school districts and parent teacher organizations.
The class of 2017 will be the first class that must pass three Keystone Exams—Biology, Literature and Algebra I—in order to obtain a high school diploma.
Most of the panel members spoke out strongly against that policy.
Josh Kershenbaum, a lawyer who represents parents and students, compared the public educational system to one-size-fits-all life jackets thrown to drowning children.

Governor Corbett Announces More Than $9.8 Million in Pre-Kindergarten, Early Learning Grants
PDE Press Release October 07, 2014
Harrisburg – Governor Tom Corbett today announced that more than $9.8 million has been awarded to 32 early education providers in 27 counties across the state through the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts program.  In July, Corbett signed into law the state budget that increased state funding for Pre-K Counts by $10 million to $97.3 million – a 12 percent increase.  “High-quality early learning programs, like Pre-K Counts, are proven to ensure at-risk children are ready to learn when they enter the K-12 education system,” Gov. Corbett said.  “This funding will provide the opportunity for more Pennsylvania families to enroll their child in a pre-kindergarten program.”
Pre-K Counts provides half-day and full-day pre-kindergarten services to Pennsylvania children who are: between age three and the beginning age of kindergarten; at risk of facing challenges in school; living in families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level ($67,050 for a family of four); and who may be English language learners or have disabilities or developmental delays.  Editor’s Note: Below is the list of Pre-K Counts grantees and award amount.

Corbett Administration Awards $2.7 Million in Early Childhood Education Community Innovation Zone Grants
PDE Press Release October 06, 2014
Harrisburg - The Corbett Administration is awarding nearly $2.7 million in Early Childhood Education Community Innovation Zone Grants to 12 communities to expand local programs that help bridge the achievement gap for at-risk young children, the Pennsylvania departments of Public Welfare (DPW) and Education (PDE) announced today.
“This grant will provide communities with much-needed funding to expand their successes and ensure children are entering kindergarten ready to learn,” Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq said. “Preparing students for school success requires collaboration of the family, school and community. We all want our children to succeed, and we all can play a part in building a bright future for our students.”  The grants will target innovations on individual at-risk communities serving select elementary schools.

Discussing the teachers' contract cancellation on 'Radio Times'
By the Notebook on Oct 8, 2014 03:00 PM
On Radio Times this morning, host Marty Moss-Coane delved into the controversy surrounding the School Reform Commission's dramatic decision to cancel the contract with the city teachers' union and force health benefits changes on its members.  Joining her on the program were WHYY/NewsWorks education reporter Kevin McCorry for an overview of the situation, new SRC member Marjorie Neff, and PFT president Jerry Jordan, with their reactions to the SRC's decision.

Why health-care cuts for Philly teachers are likely to hurt schools, too
Citypaper By Daniel Denvir Published: 10/08/2014
When the School Reform Commission voted to "cancel" the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers' contract and cut health-care benefits for teachers, nurses, counselors and other members, the district talked about the money it would save. Unmentioned was the likely impact on ensuring high-quality teaching.  Among other changes, PFT members must now, mostly for the first time, pay toward their insurance premiums — standard practice not only across the private sector but in many school districts as well. The SRC's action Monday was an extraordinary move, one made with almost no public notice. And it strikes at what is likely among the PFT's least popular positions with the public.
But as things now stand, Philadelphia teachers are already paid less than their suburban counterparts to teach under far more difficult conditions — conditions that have only gotten worse amid the severe budget crises and deep staffing cuts. As warring parties debate whether the SRC's action was legal (it might not be) or reasonably transparent (probably not), the basic question of how the cut will affect teachers, and schools as a whole, remains unanswered. At issue is not just an individual teacher's financial position and morale but, as a consequence, the School District of Philadelphia's ability to recruit and retain the best educators possible.

Citypaper June 2013 Reprise: Secret Corbett poll proposing teachers union attack funded by PennCAN
CityPaper By Daniel Denvir  Published: 06/19/2013
A secret report, based on a poll of Pennsylvanians, proposing that Gov. Tom Corbett mount a high-profile attack on the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers was funded by the self-described school reform group PennCAN, according to pollsters at Public Opinion Strategies.
The secret poll, which suggested that Corbett exploit the Philadelphia schools crisis to attack the teachers union in an effort to boost his faltering reelection prospects, was first reported by City Paper Wednesday afternoon.  Notably, PennCAN supports school vouchers, which use taxpayer dollars to pay for private school tuition.  PennCAN, which has not yet responded to requests for comment, is part of an expanding universe of corporate-inspired "school reform" groups in Pennsylvania. PennCAN, like many such groups, has deep-pocketed donors.

A look at the law behind cancellation of teachers' contract
CHRIS MONDICS, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Thursday, October 9, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Wednesday, October 8, 2014, 5:56 PM
Legally speaking, can the School Reform Commission really do this?
Legislation authorizing the takeover of the Philadelphia schools, signed in 1998 and implemented a few years later, gives the state broad powers to manage the financial affairs of the district, and it is on that basis that the SRC canceled its contract Monday with the teachers union.  Public employee contracts enjoy broad, if not absolute, legal protections in Pennsylvania, but the SRC says the legislature created a carve-out for Philadelphia schools, and subsequent amendments only bolstered its powers.  It is what lawyers call an issue of first impression, a legal question never before fully tested by the courts, lending an element of uncertainty to the commission's tactic.

Phila. students protest canceling of contract
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Thursday, October 9, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Wednesday, October 8, 2014, 8:32 AM
Two days after the Philadelphia School Reform Commission unilaterally canceled its teachers' contract and announced it would impose changes, hundreds of high school students went on "strike" Wednesday to support their teachers.  Dozens of students from Science Leadership Academy in Center City and as many as 175 from the High School for Creative and Performing Arts in South Philadelphia boycotted classes. They held peaceful, upbeat demonstrations outside the two magnet schools.  Twenty-five students from the Franklin Learning Center in Spring Garden demonstrated outside district headquarters at 440 N. Broad St.

Al Dia: Some of us came to America to flee undemocratic the School Reform Commission
Philly Daily News Attytood Blog by Will Bunch WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2014, 4:21 PM
The Latino-oriented Philadelphia newspaper Al Dia has a killer -- and I mean killer -- editorial today on the affront to democracy that is our city's School Reform Commission and its buried-in-the-classifieds assault on the teachers' union. It speaks for itself, but the most powerful lines say, in so many words, that some Philadelphia Hispanics came here as refugees from regimes that rule in the same banana-republic fashion as the SRC:

Education, education, education…
Vereb, McKenzie square off in 150th Pa. House District
Pottstown Mercury By Carl Rotenberg, Digital First Media POSTED: 10/08/14, 9:35 PM EDT |
NORRISTOWN >> Republican state Rep. Mike Vereb is seeking his fifth term representing the 150th state House District against Democratic challenger David McKenzie III, a West Norriton commissioner and Montgomery County attorney.  Vereb, 47, was elected majority Republican caucus secretary in 2010, and became chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Committee on Dec. 5, 2013. The West Norriton resident worked as a West Conshohocken police officer and detective for 10 years. He served on the West Norriton Board of Commissioners from 1999 to 2006, including four years as board president.  Vereb is campaigning on three issues: reducing school property taxes by devising other funding mechanisms for education, reformulating education spending to make it more equitable for local school districts and improving transportation infrastructures statewide.

District, charter mix proposed in York City
Recovery officer opened door for mix of district- and charter-run schools next year
York Daily Record By Angie Mason @angiemason1 on Twitter 10/08/2014 10:37:30 PM EDT
York City School District's state-appointed recovery officer on Wednesday proposed an alternative plan that would leave some buildings in district hands and turn others over to a charter operator for management next year.  The district, which is operating under a financial recovery plan, has been considering whether to bring in charter operators to run district buildings in 2015-16 or continue to implement an internal reform plan.  But at a Community Education Council meeting, David Meckley laid out an alternative: that the district continue to run five buildings and Charter Schools USA, one of two operators considered, take over the management of three.

Unexpected twist in plan for York City schools' future
York Dispatch By ERIN JAMES 505-5439/@ydcity POSTED:   10/08/2014 11:00:39 PM EDT
The plan for York City schools' financial and academic future took an unexpected turn Wednesday with the announcement that an internal reform option is still on the table.
However, if district teachers and administrators want a shot at reforming from within, they must act fast.  The district's state-appointed chief recovery officer said Wednesday he is willing to consider a blended approach that would include both charter schools and traditional district schools.  Conclusion: David Meckley said he, personally, would prefer to see the district's eight buildings converted by July 2015 to charter schools operated by Charter Schools USA — one of two companies identified as finalists for a potential contract.  "What we're doing is not working," he said.  However, in the interest of building consensus among skeptical school board members and other stakeholders, Meckley said he is willing to consider a compromise.
"My goal is absolutely to gain a board vote on this," he said. "I think they have legitimate concerns, and I am trying to address them."

Arthur Rock, California billionaire and TFA board member noted in this article has contributed $300,000 to Pennsylvania's "Parents and Teachers for Putting Students First"
Why are TFA and a California billionaire investing in Minnesota school board race?
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss October 9 at 5:00 AM  
For several years now local school board races around the country have attracted big money from outside the state — and sometimes from across the country — as school reformers and their supporters seek to elect like-minded public officials. In 2013, for example, millions of dollars were spenton school board races in Los Angeles and in 2012, outsiders poured moneyinto a New Orleans school board race. The following post looks at what is going in a Minnesota school board race . It was written Minneapolis-based writer and former teacher Sarah Lahm, published by In These Times, and reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund with support from the Puffin Foundation.

In protest against Common Core, Portland School Board will consider refusing to set yearly achievement goals
Oregon Live By Kelly House |  on October 07, 2014 at 12:32 PM, updated October 07, 2014 at 5:28 PM
A month after asking the state to delay using Common Core-aligned state testresults to grade schools, the Portland School Board appears ready to back that effort up with a refusal to set yearly achievement targets in three subjects linked to the new test.  The board is set to vote next week upon the district’s proposed yearly goals for student achievement – which conspicuously don’t include targets for third grade reading, fifth-grade math and eighth-grade math.  Oregon law requires school districts to file the yearly “achievement compacts” with the Oregon Education Investment Board, spelling out the district’s goals in areas such as student attendance, graduation rates, and state test pass rates. But during a meeting Monday night, the district committee charged with setting yearly targets declined to address the three subject areas linked to the state’s new Smarter Balanced Test, which is launching this year.

Cleveland Plain Dealer: New bill would limit state testing to four hours per student each year
By Patrick O'Donnell, The Plain Dealer  on October 07, 2014 at 1:50 PM, updated October 07, 2014 at 5:09 PM
CLEVELAND, Ohio - A new bill introduced in the Ohio House Monday would limit state testing of most students to four hours a year.  The bill from State Reps. Andrew Brenner, a Powell Republican, and Anne Gonzales, a Westerville Republican, comes shortly after the announcement of the likely testing hours for new Common Core-based tests this spring.
House Bill 629 would drastically cut back the nine to 10 hours a year needed for the new tests from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) -- the testing partnership Ohio joined along with 16 other states. 

Fairtest Testing Resistance & Reform News: October 1 - 7, 2014
Fairtest October 7, 2014
This week's assessment reform news comes from 15 states and Washington, DC, plus a large number of strong commentaries.  Note, in particular, the trend of jurisdictions, including California, Kentucky, Ohio and New York City, beginning to back away from total reliance on test scores to evaluate schools.  And, remember to check out FairTest's new report -- Testing Reform Victories: The First Wave (

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).

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

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

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

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.  

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)

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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