Monday, November 17, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 17: York could join NOLA as one of the first districts in the US transitioned completely to charters

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 17, 2014:
York could join NOLA as one of the first districts in the US transitioned completely to charters

PA Basic Education Funding Commission Hearing Tuesday 1:00 pm and Wednesday 10 am Phila. City Hall Courtroom 676

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

"If it is approved, York would join New Orleans' public schools — converted to charter schools after Hurricane Katrina — as one of the first public school districts in the nation transitioned completely to a charter-style education model."
Nonprofit already forming to oversee York City's switch to charter schools
By ERIN JAMES 505-5439/@ydcity POSTED:   11/16/2014 08:42:09 AM EST
Three members have already been appointed to a new nonprofit called the York Community Foundation Charter School, formed to manage the proposed transformation of the York City School District into a charter school.  On Wednesday, the district's school board will meet to consider the potentially history-making proposal.
If it is approved, York would join New Orleans' public schools — converted to charter schools after Hurricane Katrina — as one of the first public school districts in the nation transitioned completely to a charter-style education model.  David Meckley, the state appointee who has been steering the district's financial recovery process for two years, has drafted an agreement with a for-profit company to operate the district through July 1, 2020, barring any major breaches of contract.

Did you catch our weekend postings?
PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov15: Thorough and Efficient? A video short on Pennsylvania's Education Funding Lawsuit

Editorial: The hunt for fair education funding formula goes on
Delco Times Editorial November 15, 2014
The William Penn School District this week let the rest of the state in on something their students, teachers and parents already know.  Pennsylvania’s formula for doling out education funding is unfair.  Every day when kids make the hike to school in William Penn, it’s a decidedly uphill trudge, due in no small part to an education funding formula that penalizes them merely by virtue of their ZIP code.  It is an unfair, unlevel playing field. That’s not especially new. Even outgoing Gov. Tom Corbett, who became the poster boy for an out-of-whack education funding system courtesy of brutal cuts enacted in his first years in office, agrees.
That’s why earlier this year he asked the Legislature to set up a commission to study education funding in the state and come up with recommendations. They’ve been criss-crossing the state talking to residents, teachers, and administrators. Their conclusions are due next year.
William Penn and five other school districts decided not to wait for their recommendations. They went to court this week and slapped the state Department of Education with a lawsuit, claiming the state’s current funding allocations are “unconstitutional.

School funding shouldn’t be ‘accident of geography’
Jennifer Desmarais is a member of the School District of Lancaster board, and a mother of three.
Lancaster Online by Jennifer Demarais Posted: Sunday, November 16, 2014 6:00 am
As a school board member in the School District of Lancaster, I am proud to serve my community by attending monthly meetings, participating on district task forces, and being visible in our school community. So it was a bit of a departure earlier this week when I traveled to Harrisburg to join school board members from across the state, education advocates and public interest law firms to announce that the SDL is joining with other districts in a lawsuit against the commonwealth.  

"What is the solution? We must reinstitute the charter school tuition reimbursement from the state to offset charter school tuition paid by school districts. We must eliminate cyber charter school payments from school districts and replace them with direct funding from the state. We must create a tiered funding mechanism for special education. And the General Assembly must — at long last — craft a school funding formula that is fair to all."
Auditor General: Fair funding is critical
Lancaster Online BY AUDITOR GENERAL EUGENE DePASQUALE Special to LNP Posted: Sunday, November 16, 2014 6:00 am
Pennsylvania does not have a fair funding formula for how it distributes state aid to our 500 school districts charged with educating students through 12th grade.
This lack of a fair and predictable funding formula is bad for taxpayers, school district budgets and our economy.  Most of all, it is bad for the students served by our public education system. 
Just last week, School District of Lancaster was one of six Pennsylvania school districts to file suit in Commonwealth Court charging that government leaders have failed to provide many of the state’s children with the constitutional right of access to a quality public education.  In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs say that Pennsylvania’s school funding methods are unfair and irrational. 

Fine idea, flawed execution — our approach to testing deserves an 'F'
Sometimes a perfectly reasonable idea, if carried out badly, ends up seeming dumb.
I speak, of course, of the push to use standardized tests to hold schools accountable for whether kids learn.  Given the testing fiascoes unfolding across the nation, it's hard to raise even a weak voice in defense of this approach.  For example, in Florida, an epicenter of the high-stakes testing movement, a public groundswell seeks delay in the roll out of a new state test. Parents offer heart-rending reports of teary, test-stressed youngsters. Teachers lament teaching time lost to tests. Superintendents ask how you can judge schools based on a regimen this screwed up.
And cheating scandals, where adults worried about consequences of low scores forthem, keep on flaring up, nowhere more so than in Philadelphia.  The mounting evidence that accountability testing has run off the rails is an intellectual challenge for me, because I've long been a proponent of the idea.

Republicans consider rush of action before Wolf takes over
West Chester Daily Local By MARC LEVY, Associated Press POSTED: 11/15/14, 11:21 AM EST
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Legislature will be led by massive Republican majorities — including the biggest House GOP majority in more than 50 years — when Democratic Gov.-elect Tom Wolf takes office on Jan. 20.  But for two weeks before he takes office, those majorities will be sworn in and intact under outgoing Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, a fact that has not been lost on Republican Party backers.  That means it is still legal and possible — albeit technically challenging — to enact far-reaching legislation favored by many Republicans that Corbett might sign, but that Wolf had said during the campaign that he would oppose.
People who have looked into it could not find a precedent for such a move in modern Pennsylvania political history, but that does not mean it cannot be done.

Don't be surprised if Wolf and new GOP leaders get along better than you expect: Tony May
PennLive Op-Ed  By Tony May on November 16, 2014 at 11:00 AM
"Fifty years [since the launch of the War on Poverty] we live in the wealthiest and most developed nation in the history of the free world. Yet, shamefully, there are still 46 million of our fellow citizens living in poverty. It remains true even though we continue to spend near $1 trillion per year on programs aimed at fighting poverty.  We should not allow those results to be acceptable in today's America, for the neediest among us and for taxpayers."
— Rep. Dave Reed, "Beyond Poverty," April 2014
If Rep. Dave Reed, the newly-elected House Majority Leader, really meant what he said in the excerpt above from his House Republican Policy Committee report earlier this year on poverty in Pennsylvania, there's ample reason to think that the relationship between the powerful Republican majorities in the General  Assembly and Gov.-elect Tom Wolf will be more fruitful than pundits are predicting.  Although it's easy to jump to the conclusion that the increased GOP majorities in the state House and Senate mean both bodies are, therefore, more conservative, both chambers have elected new leaders that are recognized by both political parties as collaborators rather than conspirators.

Groups plan actions as education funding body meets in Philly
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 16, 2014 11:55 AM
The legislature's Basic Education Funding Commission is coming to Philadelphia for hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday, and two advocacy groups have announced plans to make sure that its members hear from the public whether they want to or not.   The commission, charged with devising a fairer way of distributing state school aid, has been holding hearings around the state. Its witnesses have mostly been experts and school district officials, rather than parents, students, and front-line school workers.  Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) plans to invite parents and others to speak at a separate hearing an hour before the commission is scheduled to convene at 1 p.m. on Tuesday. It will videotape the hearing and make it available to the commission.   But the faith-based organizing group POWER plans to make itself heard during the meeting itself.

"According to the American Institute for Research, districts in the richest 5% of Pennsylvania spent 60% more per student than those in the bottom 5% in 2013."
Unfair Education Funding is a Dirty Trick for Pennsylvania Schools
PCCY Blog November 7, 2014
When a magician takes the stage, he will wave around a wand, a hat or a cape to distract the audience’s eyes from what is happening with his other hand. Like that magician, many in the state government want to distract us from the “other hand” of public education. Unlike the magician, their cuts are real. And they hurt. Defenders of Pennsylvania’s education budget cuts point to the fact that the Commonwealth is eighth in the nation in terms of education spending as a share of the economy. But without a fair funding formula, we must look to see if that funding is actually spread to those who need it. So we did. It’s not. A new review of Pennsylvania’s education funding, perhaps the most comprehensive to date, found that PA has the third highest share of students attending financially disadvantaged school districts. The funding situation in Pennsylvania’s richest districts is so great that it appears to make up for the unacceptably high number of poor, failing districts in the state. That’s bad, but what is worse is that the gap is growing.
Pennsylvania certainly has high quality school districts—a new review gave it three of the top ten in the nation, with two of the top five in the Philadelphia area. Unsurprisingly, those two (Tredyffrin/Easttown and Lower Merion) are among the richest school districts in Pennsylvania, if not the country. It is too bad that most Pennsylvania students, unlike those in Tredyffrin/Easttown and Lower Merion, do not come from households with six figure incomes. In 2010, the study found that per student revenue was $2,000 higher in PA’s richer districts than its poorer districts. By 2013, that difference was $3,000. If you wanted to know what happens when a state dumps its funding formula, that is it. Per student spending increases in the richest districts vastly outpaced the other 80% of districts.

Charter tries to clone itself
CHRIS PIENKOWSKI from Mayfair was overjoyed when his middle son, Ben, beat the odds last year and got into kindergarten at MaST Community Charter School through that high-tech haven's computerized lottery.  "Our neighborhood public school is just horrendous on every scale of measurement," Pienkowski told the Daily News.  MaST, on the other hand, is a K-12 educational wonderland where even the youngest among 1,319 students work on their own iPads and work out in the Wii Gym, while high-school kids design sneakers and airplanes on computers, then build them on a 3D printer.  Not surprisingly, there is a wait list of more than 5,000 children hoping to get into MaST (Math and Science Technology) on Byberry Road near Worthington, in Somerton.  And not surprisingly, MaST CEO John Swoyer wants to meet that demand by replicating his vision in new schools on Roosevelt Boulevard and in Center City.  Now, for the first time in several years, he may get the chance because the Philadelphia School District is accepting applications for charter-school replications.

Controversy swirls around Cheltenham school superintendent
KATHY BOCCELLA, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER  Sunday, November 16, 2014, 1:09 AM
When Cheltenham recruited Natalie Thomas to take over its troubled school district 17 months ago as its $180,000-a-year superintendent, she was hailed as a veteran problem-solver.
The school board approved her with only one dissenting vote, but since she arrived, says a growing legion of critics, she has done little more than create problems.
From the get-go, former school board member Marc Lieberson - the only one to vote against her appointment - said he was troubled by vagueness about her accomplishments in a St. Louis-area school district that she had twice sued, according to court records.
"I felt that I wasn't getting the full story, as far as her educational philosophy," recalled Lieberson. "I couldn't put my finger on it."  Today, he believes, "my gut feeling was right."

Bangor Area School Board wants to eliminate state's Common Core
Lehigh Valley Live By John Best  on November 16, 2014 at 7:30 AM
The Bangor Area School Board is asking state officials to dissolve the Pennsylvania Core Standards and block the Commonwealth's participation in the national Common Core State Standards InitiativePennsylvania is among 48 states to adopt the standards since 2009, according to the Common Core website.  The math and English standards were developed to ensure students graduate career and college ready.  But the Bangor Area board feels the standards take curriculum control away from local districts and impose an unnecessary financial drain, according to Bangor Area Superintendent Frank DeFelice.

"There is as yet no evidence that VAM improves teaching,  improves student achievement, or correctly identifies the strengths and weaknesses of teachers. As its critics have said consistently, VAM results depend on many factors outside the control of the teacher and may vary for many different reasons. A teacher may get a high VAM rating one year, and a low VAM rating the next year. VAM ratings may change if a different test is used. Yet those who stubbornly believe that everything that matters can be measured with precision can’t let go of their data-driven mindset."
Amrein-Beardsley: Two VAM Cheerleaders Resign in Same Week
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch November 15, 2014 //
0Last week, Kevin Huffman and John Ayers resigned. Huffman was state commissioner of education in Tennessee, and he employed every possible strategy to make testing a centerpiece of education policy. Ayers was director of the Cowen Institute at Tulane University in New Orleans, which was greatly embarrassed when it released–and then rescinded–a “research” report claiming amazing gains in the charter schools of New Orleans. Both were big boosters of using student test scores to judge the quality and effectiveness of teachers, a methodology referred to as VAM, or value-added-modeling.  Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, one of the nation’s expert researchers on teacher evaluation, looks at the two resignations as evidence that the VAM-mania is failing and claiming victims.

"Honors Academy is among the first Texas operators to have its contract revoked under a law that broadens the state’s authority to shutter poor-performing charter schools. The provision, passed to help leaders grapple with the rapid expansion of publicly financed, privately managed charter schools, was intended to quickly free up state contracts for high-performing operators by severing ties with low-performing ones. Previously, the process could take years."
Public Charter Schools That Failed to Meet Texas Standards Are Still Operating
New York Times By MORGAN SMITH NOV. 15, 2014
FARMERS BRANCH, Tex. — One recent morning, Branch Park Academy looked like any other bustling suburban middle school.  Beyond a packed parking lot, a banner hanging near the entrance boasted that the school had earned the “highest academic distinction” from the Texas Education Agency. Inside, students’ voices drifted from their classrooms.
By law, the students were not supposed to be there at all.
In June, the education agency revoked the charter of the Honors Academy Charter School District, which runs Branch Park Academy and six other schools. While some individual campuses, like Branch Park, had met state academic standards, Honors had failed to do so over all for three consecutive years, meaning that, under a 2013 law, it could no longer operate as a public school district.  Well into the new school year, all seven Honors Academy schools, which enroll a total of almost 700 students in Central Texas and the Dallas-Fort Worth area, are still open. As of Wednesday on its website and in literature, Honors Academy continued to publicize its campuses as accredited public schools.

Cashing In On Kids November 15, 2014
Profits ahead of education: Bloomberg news has an extensive article on K12 Inc and the myriad problems that their charter schools are facing across the country. The article even features a former marketing director of K12 Inc. who goes on the record with criticism about the company putting profits ahead of education. The former executive, Houston Tucker,makes an allegation made by public education advocates for years: that K12’s brand of digital learning is focused on profits and not serving the 130,000 students that it’s supposed to serve. The article goes on to describe how the focus of the schools is marketing and recruiting new students to make up for the churn as kids are pulled, or just churn out of their schools. Tucker even pulled his kids from K12 Inc’s school in Tennessee because teachers weren’t able to provide individualized instruction.

Public Issues Forums of Centre County | What should be the goal of public schools?
BY DAVID HUTCHINSON State College - Centre Daily Times November 8, 2014 
What: “What is the 21st-century Mission for our Public Schools?”
When: 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 20
Where: Fairmount Building, 411 S. Fraser St., State College
The articles linked on this page offer several perspectives on one of the most important issues we have to wrestle with as residents: What is the goal of a public education?
To prepare students for the workforce?
To prepare them as residents, as Ben Franklin initially proposed? Or to help students discover and develop their individual talents?
What is the experience of our students? What do they think we should do differently? This is your invitation to join that conversation.

Join the Listening Tour hosted by PSBA as it follows the Basic Ed Funding Commission to each location this fall
The next tour stop will be on Thursday, Nov 20, 2014 from 6-8 p.m., at Hambright Elementary School in Lancaster. 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. Members also are encouraged to complete a form online allowing you to "Tell your story" if you are not able to attend one of the BEF Listening Tours.

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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