Thursday, November 13, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 13: PDE Holding Hearings on Three New Cyber Charters; Is "accountability" something that only applies to schools in our struggling urban districts?

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 13, 2014:
PDE Holding Hearings on Three New Cyber Charters; Is "accountability" something that only applies to schools in our struggling urban districts?

"That's just five days before David Meckley wants the district's school board to approve the contract, which would effectively turn over management of all York City schools to a Florida-based company."
Details still scant on York City charter proposal
York Dispatch By ERIN JAMES 505-5439/@ydcity POSTED:   11/12/2014 11:34:43 PM EST
The public will know the contents of a proposed contract between a for-profit charter company and the York City School District on Friday, according to the district's state-appointed financial recovery officer.  That's just five days before David Meckley wants the district's school board to approve the contract, which would effectively turn over management of all York City schools to a Florida-based company.  Meckley has declined to release the document since he announced Monday that he will pursue state takeover if the board does not approve the contract with Charter Schools USA next week.  A takeover, called receivership, would require the consent of the state Department of Education and the York County Court of Common Pleas.

Secret recordings pivotal in fourth day of Trombetta hearing
Beaver County TImes By J.D. Prose Posted: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 9:00 pm
PITTSBURGH -- Secret recordings of the former attorney for the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School and the Beaver County solicitor took center stage Wednesday in school founder Nick Trombetta’s ongoing evidence suppression hearing.  A fourth day of testimony was not enough, though, and both sides will return to the courtroom of U.S. District Court Chief Judge Joy Flowers Conti on Nov. 25 to supposedly finish their arguments. The first day of the hearing was Sept. 30, which was continued to Oct. 20 and then continued again to Monday.

PA House leadership elections wrap up: Familiar faces in new places
PLS Reporter Wednesday, November 12, 2014/Author: Jason Gottesman/
The two House caucuses held closed-door elections today to elect their leaders for the 2015-2016 legislative session, and while there were not many surprises, a lot of familiar faces in leadership were occupying new roles.

PA Senate leadership elections wrap: Can Senate GOP heal its wounds?
PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, November 12, 2014
The most surprising changes of all four closed-door caucus elections occurred in the Senate GOP Wednesday, where Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre) unseated long-time Majority Leader Sen. Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) in what many are calling a shift to the right in Senate GOP ideology.  “I always served at the pleasure of the majority of the caucus and every two years the majority caucus has the opportunity to elect me or not and the majority of the caucus decided to elect Jake Corman, so it’s just that simple,” Sen. Pileggi said after the Senate adjourned sine die Wednesday.  Sen. Corman told The PLS Reporter he is focused uniting the caucus following a very public divide in the media among its members in the days leading up Wednesday’s leadership elections outcome.

"The last thing we want to do is turn into a situation like they have in Washington, D.C., where the two sides won't even talk to each other," said Reed. "We think we can have good conversations and that we can work together."
New GOP leaders in Pa., same political realities
Pennsylvania lawmakers say only time will tell how Republican leadership changes will alter the House and Senate majority caucuses and the Legislature's relationship with the incoming administration.  The success of the Gov.-elect Tom Wolf's ambitious policy agenda came into question as the election night tallies last week showed Republicans expanded their majorities in the House and Senate. But many looked forward to Wednesday's leadership elections as either another nail in the coffin or a glimmer of hope.
"The leadership represents the membership, but the difference is how they represent them," said Chuck Ardo, a former spokesman for former Gov. Ed Rendell. "Some are more combative and confrontational. I think some are more willing to work with the incoming administration."
The House's longtime speaker, Sam Smith, R-Jefferson, retired, leaving a legacy of bipartisan deal-making. He was replaced by erstwhile Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, known for being more ideological. But House Republicans elected as their new majority leader Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana, noted for his ability to forge bipartisan consensus on major bills affecting tax policy and transportation infrastructure funding.  Reed addressed reporters Wednesday afternoon, emphasizing the need for cooperation with the incoming administration.

Corman: 'If there are areas we can agree with Wolf, we'll work toward that'
PennLive By Wallace McKelvey |  on November 12, 2014 at 6:46 PM, updated November 12, 2014 at 8:17 PM
Jake Corman, the Pennsylvania Senate's new majority leader, said he plans to focus on limiting government spending but hasn't ruled out working with Gov.-elect Tom Wolf on potential areas of agreement.  "We have to wait for him to put forth an agenda and we'll be working on our own," he told PennLive. "Clearly, if there are areas where we can agree with Wolf, we'll work toward that."  Senate Republicans voted Wednesday for Corman, R-Centre, to replace Sen. Dominic Pileggi, who had held the post since 2007 and faced criticism for being too moderate.

"The people of Pennsylvania have spoken that they want us to work together," Adolph said. "And we're going to do our best to work together for the best of Pennsylvania and the taxpayers."
Pa. House GOP leadership plan to work with Wolf despite significant majority
PennLive By Christian Alexandersen |  on November 12, 2014 at 5:42 PM, updated November 13, 2014 at 2:33 AM
Despite having a 35-vote majority in the Pennsylvania House, newly elected Republican leaders say they plan to work with Gov.-elect Tom Wolf to pass bills.  The Republican House Caucus met to select their leadership for the 2015-2016 legislative session on Wednesday. The GOP caucus leaders are tasked with representing and furthering the Republican agenda in the House.
Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny County, was selected as speaker of the House, and Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana County, was chosen as majority leader. The speaker's post is formally elected by the full body in January.

With new Senate GOP leadership, is Wolf's honeymoon over before it even starts?: John L. Micek
PennLive By John L. Micek | on November 12, 2014 at 3:04 PM, updated November 12, 2014 at 4:55 PM
There was a spring in Sen. John Eichelberger's step as he strode down a Capitol hallway on his way to a meeting on Wednesday afternoon.   And why not? The Blair County Republican had just come from a closed-door caucus that saw long-serving Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi bounced in favor of a more conservative slate of leaders headed by Sen. Jake Corman of Centre County.  This was good news for Eichelberger, one of the chamber's most outspoken conservatives. A bunch of new sheriffs, who are, on balance, more sympathetic toEichelberger's world view are about to take over the 30-member caucus.  "There are different personalities and philosophies," he said, comparing the more gregarious Corman to the laconic Pileggi.   But it was decidedly bad news for Gov.-elect Tom Wolf, whose plans to boost spending on schools and to slap a severance tax on shale drillers aren't likely to be well-received.

Republicans oust Senate majority leader; Turzai wins election to become Speaker of the House
Trib Live By Melissa DanielsWednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, 12:12 p.m.
Majority Leader Mike Turzai is poised to take on the most powerful role in the state House after more than a decade of climbing Harrisburg's political ladder.
The Republican caucus and its 119-member majority voted Wednesday for Turzai, of Marshall, to become speaker of the House. Rep. Dave Reed of Indiana will take the majority leader post.
“Leadership is moving a principled agenda forward, and our caucus has led and been the driving force behind commonsense policies which are bringing positive change to Pennsylvania,” Turzai said in a statement. “Being recognized and chosen by my colleagues to be speaker of this historic institution is a high honor and one not taken lightly.”  Turzai's ascension coincides with another power shift. In the state Senate, former Appropriations Chairman Jake Corman, R-Centre County, defeated Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County, for majority leader.
Harrisburg takes a step to the right
JOHN BAER, DAILY NEWS POLITICAL COLUMNIST Thursday, November 13, 2014, 3:01 AM
ABOUT NOON yesterday, I'm standing outside the Senate Majority Caucus Room just off the Capitol Rotunda as Republican senators inside cast secret ballots to change their leadership by ousting Chester's Dominic Pileggi.  Staff from a nearby upscale (and excellent, by the way) restaurant, Mangia Qui, noisily roll a hand cart down the mosaic-tiled hallway.
On the cart is a large, whole fish.
I tell a colleague it's probably for a retiring senator on the Legislature's last day of the year, a little going-away luncheon.  He replies, "Just so we don't see a horse head rolled down the hall . . . for a going-away of a different sort."
Such is the gallows/mob humor that often shadows much of what goes on in Harrisburg.

Blogger commentary: Millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars continue to flow annually out of 500 PA school districts to cyber charter schools that were never authorized by any locally elected school boards.  Millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on ubiquitous advertising and corporate bonuses.  Despite 9 years of dismal academic performance as measured by PDE, applications for three new cybers are being considered this month.  Is "accountability" something that only applies to schools in our struggling urban districts?
Cyber education may work great for some kids, but a great many school districts now provide cyber and blended programs.

PDE 2014 Cyber Charter School Applications
·         2014 Public Hearing Notice (PDF)
·         2014 Cyber Hearing Tentative Agenda (PDF)
·         Insight Cyber Charter School (PDF)
·         Synergy Cyber Charter School Part 1 (PDF)
·         Synergy Cyber Charter School Part 2 (PDF)
·         Synergy Cyber Charter School Part 3 (PDF)

PDE 2014 Cyber Charter School Renewal Applications

Pennsylvania Department of Education School Performance Profiles
A score of 70 is considered passing.  No cyber charter achieved a score of 70 in either year.  Additionally, most cybers never made AYP under No Child Left Behind during the period 2005 thru 2012.

Here are the 2013 and 2014 SPP scores for Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools:
School                                                             2013     2014
21st Century Cyber CS                                     66.5      66.0
Achievement House CS                                    39.7      37.5
ACT Academy Cyber CS                                   30.6      28.9
Agora Cyber CS                                               48.3      42.4
ASPIRA Bilingual CS                                       29.0      39.0
Central PA Digital Lrng Foundation CS            31.7      48.8
Commonwealth Connections Academy CS       54.6      52.2
Education Plus Academy Cyber CS                  59.0      50.0
Esperanza Cyber CS                                        32.7      47.7
Pennsylvania Cyber CS                                    59.4      55.5
Pennsylvania Distance Learning CS                 54.7      50.9
Pennsylvania Leadership CS                            64.7      59.3
Pennsylvania Virtual CS                                   67.9      63.4
Solomon Charter School Inc.                           36.9
Susq-Cyber CS                                                  46.4      42.4

Most cybers never made AYP…..
PA Cyber Charter PSSA AYP 2005 - 2012 from PDE
Keystone State Education Coalition Updated September 26, 2012
Of 12 PA cyber charters -only 1 made AYP for 2012 only 2 made AYP for 2011 while 8 were in corrective action status.

"According to Fuller, the School Performance Profile does not provide an accurate portrayal of the effectiveness of schools, principals or teachers.  “Indeed, the scores are strongly correlated with factors outside the control of educators. Thus, as currently calculated, School Performance Profile scores should not be used as an indication of either school effectiveness or as a component of educator evaluations,” Fuller said.  Because Performance Profile scores are strongly correlated to students demographics, Fuller said the scores will identify educators in high poverty students as less effective than they really are, and educators in districts with little poverty as more effective than in actuality."
Professor: School Performance Profile Scores not true measure of school districts
Hazelton Standard Speaker BY MIA LIGHT Published: November 11, 2014
Pennsylvania’s newest method of measuring school performance may be an exercise in misdirection, according to an education policy analyst.  The state’s new School Performance Profile, which was released last week by the Department of Education, is designed to give the public a comprehensive picture of the academic performance of students in Pennsylvania public schools.  The Performance Profile was developed by state education officials to replace the former Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) report, which was part of No Child Left Behind education standards.  But Ed Fuller, associate professor in the department of education policy studies at Penn State and executive director of the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy Analysis, said the School Performance Profile gives an accurate account of the number of economically disadvantages students in each district, but it does not provide an accurate measure of school effectiveness.  “As such, I conclude the scores are misleading to the public and to policy makers,” Fuller wrote in an email to the Standard-Speaker explaining his research and conclusions.

Wolf needs to hit the ground running
the notebook By Ron Whitehorne on Nov 12, 2014 12:09 PM
Tom Wolf won the governor’s race because he made this election about education and he aggressively challenged Tom Corbett’s budget austerity narrative. Wolf put forward bold proposals for funding schools, including taxing shale, closing corporate loopholes, and creating a progressive state income tax.     A landslide vote, running against a strong Republican tide nationally and in local legislative races, allows him to claim a mandate for moving ahead on this agenda.  But it won’t be easy. The legislature, both House and Senate, is dominated by conservative Republicans. And the state faces a massive deficit, thanks to the budget passed this year by the Corbett team, which plugged the fiscal holes with lots of one-time gimmicks.

Pittsburgh schools' proposed budget calls for 5 percent spending increase, but no tax hike
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette November 12, 2014 11:57 PM
The board of Pittsburgh Public Schools is scheduled to vote next month on a $556.4 million preliminary budget for 2015 that holds the line on property taxes.  The district, which operates on a calendar year, Wednesday released the proposed budget, which is an increase of about $27 million or about 5 percent.  The proposal keeps property taxes at 9.84 mills. One mill equals $1 of tax on each $1,000 of assessed property value.  A public hearing on the budget is set for noon Dec. 1 at the district headquarters in Oakland. The board is scheduled to vote at its regular legislative meeting on Dec. 17. The preliminary budget can be found at​Budget.

Four Philly schools approved for redesign
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 12, 2014 06:00 PM
The School District has approved three elementary schools and one middle school for redesign overhauls that could significantly change how students experience education.   All the plans, in one way or another, appear to involve more intensive use of technology and a shift to inquiry- and project-based learning.
The schools are:
• Chester A. Arthur Elementary in South Philadelphia, which wants to model its program after the inquiry-based approach used at the nationally recognized Science Leadership Academy. The school team has been consulting with SLA principal Chris Lehmann.
• Laura H. Carnell Elementary in Lawncrest, which proposed "creating a project-based learning environment for all students."
• J.S. Jenks Academy for the Arts and Sciences in Chestnut Hill, with a plan to enhance teacher collaboration, use resources better, employ a "shared-classroom model," and create a summer session combining more online learning opportunities with hands-on activities and excursions.
• Tilden Middle School in Southwest Philadelphia, which has a plan for blended learning -- a combination of online and classroom-based instruction -- that can better personalize learning.
In all cases, the redesign initiatives that were given the go-ahead were submitted by the existing principal and teachers in the school. When the initiative was announced, there was some concern that outsiders could offer proposals and take over the school's staff and leadership.

Philadelphia City Council Hearings on High-stakes Testing and the Opt-Out Movement, Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 3—5 PM
Education Committee of Philadelphia City Council
Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 3—5 PM, Room 400 City Hall
Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, Councilman Mark Squilla and The Opt-Out Committee of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools urge all who care about the future of education to attend:  Parents, students and educators will testify on the effects of over-testing on students and teaching, including the crisis of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement.
Information:  Alison McDowell or Lisa Haver at:

DelCo Rising: Winning for Education Nov 18 7:00PM - 9:00PM
Delaware County students and taxpayers have sacrificed enough. The state is not paying its fair share.  Rising property taxes and school budget cuts are not acceptable–help us change that.
Join your neighbors for a community workshop: Delco Rising:  Winning for Education
·         Learn about Pre-K for PA and the Statewide Campaign for Fair Education Funding and how they can  help your community
·         Practice winning strategies to advocate for your community
·         Create an advocacy plan that works for you—whether you have 5 minutes or 5 days per month
This non-partisan event is free and open to the public.
Click here to download a PDF flyer to share.

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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