Wednesday, November 19, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 19: Education Spring? At least 5,000 Colorado high school seniors opted out of the tests last week

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 November 19, 2014:
Education Spring?  At least 5,000 Colorado high school seniors opted out of the tests last week

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

"We have been subjected to larger class sizes, cuts to art, music, and extracurricular activities, and fewer opportunities in school. Our reward for putting up with these difficulties is more standardized testing with questionable purposes and monetary costs."
Opting Out
Taking Note Blog by JOHN MERROW on 17. NOV, 2014 in 2014 BLOGSTESTING
What to make of recent events in Colorado, where thousands of high school seniors refused to take a state-mandated standardized test? Is this a harbinger of things to come, an American version of “Arab Spring,” or was it an isolated incident with slight significance beyond the Rocky Mountain State?  These days most eyes are on Washington because Republicans have won control of both houses of Congress, but perhaps the big story in 2015 will be a louder student ‘voice’ about what goes on in schools.
At least 5,000 Colorado high school seniors opted out of the tests, given Thursday and Friday, November 13th and 14th.
I spent a fair amount of time on the phone with three Fairview high school seniors talking about the protest, Natalie Griffin (17), Jonathan Snedeker (also 17), and Jennifer Jun (18), all college-bound next year, and all remarkably articulate. [1] At their high school, 98% of the seniors opted out. Across the state, nearly 40% refused to take the test known as CMAS.
Given over two days, CMAS was designed to measure student knowledge of social studies and science. “It’s a no-stakes test for us,” Jonathan Snedeker explained. “The district and the state want data they can use to judge teachers and schools.” And, they say, Colorado is spending $36 million on the test, money they would like to see used to benefit their education.
Students from twelve Colorado high schools [2] wrote and posted an “open letter” to the citizens of Colorado explaining their decision to opt out. The letter, which presents five points of concern, is worth reading in its entirety. These two sentences jumped out at me:

Testing Resistance & Reform News: November 12 - 18, 2014
Submitted by fairtest on November 18, 2014 - 12:57pm 
Want more proof that the assessment reform movement is exploding across the nation?  Check out this week's stories from 22 (!) states along with several great commentaries.
As always, let FairTest know how we can help you keep the heat on at the grassroots.

Standardized Testing Hearing in Philadelphia
Wednesday, November 19th, 3pm, City Hall Room 400
Caucus of Working Educators wikispace; links to City Council resolution on testing plus transcripts of some of the written/oral testimony to be presented today
A public hearing on the impact of standardized testing on teaching and learning will be held before the Education Committee of Philadelphia's City Council on Wednesday, November 19th at 3pm.  The hearing will be held at Philadelphia's City Hall in Room 400 (4th Floor), Broad and Market Street.  Please enter at the NE corner of the building and bring a photo ID for the security check in. A dozen educators, parents, and community stakeholders will share their perspectives on the ways in which high-stakes testing is transforming our children's classrooms.
The public is welcome and encouraged to attend. 

"This election confirms that Pennsylvanians don’t want state funding of education reduced. Had they been comfortable with the cuts of the last four years, they would have re-elected Gov. Corbett. Instead, they voted by a wide margin for Gov.-elect Wolf and his commitment to reinvest in education."
Letter: This election was a vote for public education in Pa.
Delco Times LTE by Sharon Ward November 18, 2014
Sharon Ward, Director, Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, Harrisburg
To the Times:
Conventional wisdom may hold that Gov. Corbett fell short in his re-election bid because voters, and his Republican Party leaders, didn’t much like him. Some pundits will say he didn’t do a good job selling his ideas. The fault lies not in his personality, nor his communications, but in the policies the governor pursued.  On Election Day Pennsylvanians sent a clear message that education matters to them, and they endorsed a severance tax as a way to pay for it.
During his four years in office, Corbett closely hewed to a formula of budget cuts and tax cuts — a little too closely for voters in a “purple” state.  It turned out that cutting state spending and revenues meant cutting services that voters rely on. Middle-class independents and even many Republicans, particularly women, don’t much like state cuts to public schools that mean increased property taxes and larger class sizes. They don’t like cuts to higher education that raise the tuition for their children at Pennsylvania’s public universities.

Gov.-Elect Tom Wolf Names Transition Steering Committee
November 18, 2014 by Wolf Transition
YORK, PA - Today, Governor-elect Tom Wolf named the Steering Committee for his transition team. The steering committee will work with already named leadership on efforts to review state agencies, commissions, departments, and functions.  "As we begin to understand the complexity of the fiscal crisis my administration will face, it is important that my Transition Team move forward," said Governor-elect Tom Wolf. "Today's announcement, which rounds out my steering committee, continues that momentum, and I look forward to working with these individuals to address the steep fiscal and economic challenges ahead."

Thorough and Efficient
Website on Pennsylvania School Funding Litigation
The Education Law Center of Pennsylvania and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia filed suit in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court on November 10, 2014 on behalf of six school districts, seven parents, and two statewide associations against legislative leaders, state education officials, and the Governor for failing to uphold the General Assembly’s constitutional obligation to provide a"thorough and efficient" system of public education.

The Basic Education Funding Commission held it's first of two days of hearings in Philadelphia yesterday…..
BEFC: Tweets from the notebook's Dale Mezzacappa November 18, 2014

·         Principals now speaking. Marilyn Carrion-Mejia of McKinley elementary in Kensington. Her students deserve same as "your children.

·         (South Philadelphia HS Principal) Hackney:"What our children experience in Phila skls would never be tolerated in other districts." He was also principal in suburb

BEFC: Commission hears from Philadelphia that spending cuts have created a crisis
Experts and public all urge legislators to base new formula on real needs of students
the notebook Dale Mezzacappa's Blog November 18, 2014
Experts, advocates, and ordinary citizens from Philadelphia on Tuesday told legislators charged with revising Pennsylvania's education funding formula that city schools are reeling from the consequences of insufficient revenue and urged the panel to base state aid on real student need. 
"Philadelphia schools are now a strong investment," said School Reform Commission Chair Bill Green to the members of the Basic Education Funding Commission, which has been holding hearings around the state. He said that several years ago, while on City Council, he didn't believe this, but is now confident in the leadership of Superintendent William Hite.
"Under Dr. Hite, the District has navigated a difficult course to financial stability. ...Today I can confidently tell you that further funding won’t go to bureaucracy but will be used instead to improve student learning."
The commission spent three hours listening to Green, as well as Mayor Nutter, Hite, District Chief Financial Officer Matthew Stanski, two school principals, Mark Gleason of the Philadelphia School Partnership, and experts David Rubin of Children's Hospital and Temple president Neil Theobold. Rubin wrote a study of showing that one in five Philadelphia students have had contact with the family court and juvenile justice system, while Theobold is a professor of school finance and a consultant to states on funding.

BEFC: Pa. lawmakers take heat over school funding
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Tuesday, November 18, 2014, 5:06 PM
Members of the Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Commission got an earful Tuesday at City Hall.  State legislators charged with developing a new formula to distribute state funds for public schools heard from parents, school principals, education advocates, experts, and city and school district officials.  While the details of their testimony varied, all said the state needed to provide more funding for schools and to develop a fair method for disbursing the money that provides additional resources for students who are poor, learning English, or require special-education services.  "Our schools need a differentiated formula that acknowledges the difficulties of educating students who come from deep pockets of poverty, as well as those who are new to this country and speak little or no English," said Bill Green, chairman of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission.  Such a formula, he said, "will help not just Philadelphia children, but students in many rural districts as well as Reading, Allegheny [County], Lancaster, and more."

BEFC: Officials in Philly seek fair funding for education
CITY OFFICIALS, school district leaders and education experts yesterday testified before a group of state lawmakers about dire conditions in city public schools and an urgent need for Pennsylvania to implement a fair formula for education funding.  One by one, the speakers at City Hall, including Mayor Nutter, described the stark contrast between the city's schools and those in neighboring suburban districts, because of wild disparities in per-pupil funding. They insisted that poorer districts should receive more to bridge the gap resulting from less local funding.
"The district cannot cut its way to high student achievement, nor can we cut our way to solvency," Superintendent William Hite said. He noted that many other districts in the state grapple with funding cuts and would benefit from a predictable formula. "Our students don't get a do-over just because we lack sufficient resources."

BEFC: Funding Commission, Activists Reach Accord
Public comment will be allowed, and protests are called off.
Philadelphia Magazine BY JOEL MATHIS  |  NOVEMBER 18, 2014 AT 9:44 AM
The state’s Basic Education Funding Commission has decided it might be worth getting some public input, after all.  POWER, the Philadelphia faith-based activist group, said today it was calling off plans to protest at the commission’s two-day meeting in Philadelphia this week, after the commission agreed to begin offering public comment sessions at all its future meetings. Previously, a spokesman for the commission said that only “expert” testimony from officials was needed — precluding the comments of parents, teachers, and other interested parties.

A different model of School District governance
the notebook Commentary By Susan Gobreski on Nov 18, 2014 03:23 PM
There is a conversation happening in the city around the issue of local control of the School District of Philadelphia, and moving away from a state-run district.
It is virtually inarguable that the state-controlled School Reform Commission has not solved the issues of the District. Indeed, one could argue that the premise that governance was the problem has been proven false. Clearly, the citizens of Philadelphia must have more to say, while still ensuring that those who allocate funding are directly engaged with the decision making.
Local control most likely means either an elected board or mayoral control, each presenting challenges. There are numerous troubling issues with mayoral control: It has been trendy, but it is not a proven improvement strategy, and people should be wary of it. Furthermore, it is not substantially different from the SRC in that a handful of appointments are made, insulated from the public and other elected officials.
Headed into an election year, voters should be skeptical at best about people who want to be handed the only set of keys to the District.  There are also reasonable concerns about how an elected school board might work, including the influence of money and political deals. But these worries alone do not outweigh the need to have democratic access to how the District is run.

"The timing smacks of politics — he made his ultimatum less than a week after incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett lost to Tom Wolf, a local Democrat who opposes a full charter conversion of the district.  It sure seems as if Meckley is trying to slide this deal under the door before Corbett leaves office.  We can't think of another reason to rush a transformation if this magnitude.
For these reasons, we feel the board should vote "no" on the contract at tomorrow's meeting."
York Dispatch EDITORIAL: Vote no on York City schools takeover
York Dispatch POSTED:   11/18/2014 10:59:43 AM EST
After two years as York City schools' state-appointed recovery officer, David Meckley is suddenly in an awful big hurry to turn the district over to a for-profit charter school operator.  Last week he directed the school board to sign a contract with Charter Schools USA — or risk a court fight that could lead to a state takeover of the district.   After first refusing to make the proposed contract public, Meckley finally relented and released the document Friday.  Later that day, he acknowledged a new nonprofit called the York Community Foundation Charter School had been formed to manage the proposed takeover.  Meckley identify the three members and said their first meeting "has either happened or is about to happen."
He didn't provided any other details — such as who selected them, how they were selected, what makes them qualified to manage a school district, who they will answer to
There are a lot of questions, and the York City community deserves an answer to each once, since this body essentially will replace the school board residents elected.

York, PA and the Death of Public Education
Jersey Jazzman Blog Monday, November 17, 2014
Earlier this year, I wrote about the sick, sad story of York, Pennsylvania's school district, starved to death thanks to the cruel indifference of outgoing governor Tom Corbett. Back in 2012, Corbett cut $8.4 million - over 15% - from York's budget. The district slashed programs in the arts and student services and increased class sizes to try to make up the difference, but it didn't matter: York's school district went into a fiscal tailspin.  Corbett then sent in his hand-picked minion, David Meckley, to lay the groundwork for the privatization of the district. Meckley has been insisting that the best thing for York's children isn't a well-funded, democratically controlled school system; instead, York should turn over its entire district to charter school operators.

Education task force to be Pittsburgh commission
By Robert Zullo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette November 19, 2014 1:50 AM
The education task force convened this year by Mayor Bill Peduto and Pittsburgh City Council will become an ongoing city commission despite what critics contended was a lack of focus and objectives that prevented it from accomplishing much since it was assembled in June.
City Council on Tuesday approved a resolution by Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith transforming the task force into a commission. The task force has one final meeting with the mayor that is yet to be scheduled and is to deliver a report by the end of the year.

Pittsburgh schools asking educators to look inward to help close race gap
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette November 18, 2014 12:00 AM
An uncomfortable fact: Pittsburgh Public Schools has as much as a 27-point racial achievement gap in its schools, with white students overall scoring significantly better than black students in many institutions.  To try to address the problem, the district is asking teachers, administrators and staff to make themselves uncomfortable by examining their own racial histories and attitudes, including using words that can be emotionally charged, such as “whiteness,” which refers to someone of any race after the social norms of the dominant culture, and “white privilege,” which refers to societal benefits whites receive beyond what others receive.
The examination is intended to help educators better understand their students and interact with them more effectively.

Get schooled on #PHLed: 5 things we learned at the State of Young Philly event By Anna Orso November 17, 2014
Between the SRC deciding to unilaterally ditch teachers’ contracts and a constant battle between the state and the city over education funding, Philadelphia schools are a hot topic.
It’s a complex system, unique to Philly. To help, Philly CORE Leaders, a group of young leaders and entrepreneurs working to “change the narrative” around Philadelphia education, hosted about 100 young people Monday night at Ladder 15 in Center City. The idea: Holding a series of lightning talks about the state of Philly education. (It was part of the annual State of Young Philly lineup of events put on by Young Involved Philly.)
Here are five things I learned while hanging out in the lightning talks:

More Free Lunches Could Spoil Data For Researchers
FiveThirtyEight By BEN WIEDER NOvember 17, 2014
A new federal initiative that could provide millions of students with a free lunch might have an unexpected cost for researchers and state educational agencies.
Starting in July, many high-poverty schools where at least 40 percent of students qualify for a free or reduced lunch could begin to offer that free lunch to every student — regardless of income — under the new community eligibility provision of the National School Lunch Program.
In the process, however, expanding the program presents challenges for researchers and educators that have for decades used participation in it as a proxy for poverty in tracking student performance.  “It’s obviously good for kids, but from a pure data perspective it provides some weaknesses,” said Brandon LeBeau, an assistant professor at the University of Iowa’s College of Education who has studied the use of free lunch eligibility in education research.

“Circuit Rider” Lawrence Feinberg to visit LMSD on 11/25 to speak about PA school funding
Lower Merion School District Announcements Posted: November 18, 2014
With school funding a hot issue in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, an alliance of state education leaders is engaged in a campaign to build support for changing the way the state pays its school bills. During the yearlong campaign, 11 "circuit riders" will attempt to build support among current superintendents, business managers, and school board members for a movement for education-funding changes.  Please join us on Tuesday, November 25 at 8:30 AM as "circuit rider" Lawrence Feinberg will speak at the District's Legislative Committee meeting in the District Administration Building Board Room.
Click here for a recent article on about the circuit riders.

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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