Thursday, November 20, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 20: Pa. cyber charters given poor grades by researchers; had revenues of $418 million in 2012-13

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 20, 2014:
Pa. cyber charters given poor grades by researchers; had revenues of $418 million in 2012-13

"Although school districts approve regular charters, the Education Department has authority over cybers.  The schools enroll students from across the state who receive online instruction in their homes. A total of 36,596 Pennsylvania students are registered in cybers.  Because the students' home districts pay tuition based on how much each spends to educate students, the cyber schools receive funding at 500 different rates.  Cybers had revenues of $418 million in 2012-13, according to the most recent data posted on the Education Department's website."
Pa. cyber charters given poor grades by researchers
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Thursday, November 20, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 5:35 PM
While Pennsylvania's education secretary mulls applications for three new cyber charter schools, a Philadelphia research group has released a paper stating that none of the 14 existing cybers meets state academic standards.  The results of the state's school performance profiles, released this month, show that cybers "continue to lag far behind both traditional public and charter schools," according to a policy brief that Research for Action released Monday.
Kate Shaw, executive director of the independent research organization, said she hoped the analysis would be considered by Carolyn C. Dumaresq as the acting education secretary reviews proposals for the three new cybers.

Philly's opt-out movement grows as Council holds hearing on testing
By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Nov 19, 2014 07:06 PM
In a sign that the movement to opt out of testing is gaining traction, the Philadelphia City Council Education Committee on Wednesday heard parents, teachers, and education advocates decry state and federal officials' emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing.
"Standardized tests negatively impact students living in poverty, English language learners, and children with special needs, of which Philadelphia has many," said Alison McDowell, a District parent who has led Philadelphia's opt-out movement and helped organize the hearing with Councilman Mark Squilla.  Of particular concern to the crowd gathered in Council chambers is the requirement that, beginning with the Class of 2017, Pennsylvania's students must pass Keystone exams in literature, Algebra I and biology to graduate from high school.
This could have a profound effect on families, not just in Philadelphia, but statewide; recent data show that many students are not scoring at a proficient level on the exams, especially biology.

"There has been a growing debate across Pennsylvania about the state's Keystone exams, which were introduced last year. Students will be required to pass three Keystone exams - Algebra I, Biology and Literature - to graduate starting with the class of 2017. The results will also be used to evaluate teachers.  State Rep. Mike Tobash, R-Schuylkill/Berks, has introduced legislation that would halt the state from developing and implementing five additional Keystone exams before 2022. He testified yesterday that he believes testing should be used for accountability, but should not be a focal point."
Critics slam cost, impact of standardized tests
MEREDITH Broussard knew the fix was in when she saw her son's homework from first grade.
"I knew my son would start taking standardized tests in third grade. If the first-grade homework was this confusing, I was really worried about [how] he or how any kid was supposed to figure out the test," said Broussard, a Temple University professor.  Broussard was one of several parents, educators, elected officials and advocates who testified yesterday before City Council's education committee about the cost and impact of standardized testing during a hearing called for by Councilman Mark Squilla.  Like Broussard, many of the speakers in the crowded Council chambers assailed the nation's "fixation" on high-stakes testing as a way to unfairly label students, teachers and schools as failing.

Jerry Jordan's City Council Testimony on High-Stakes Testing
PFT president Jerry Jordan says it's time to end the practice of using standardized tests to evaluate educators and students.
PFT website 11/19/2014
Good afternoon. On behalf of the members of the PFT, I want to thank City Council for convening a public hearing on one of the most critical issues facing public education.
I want to start off by addressing some misconceptions about teachers and testing.
First, teachers are not against testing. Quite the contrary, teachers use tests in the classroom as one way to measure their students’ understanding of the content they are expected to learn. Tests help educators to see where they need to provide additional emphasis and support for their students.  Standardized tests are certainly nothing new. Like tests given in the classroom, they can provide a wide overview of how students in a school are mastering the concepts they should be learning.
When done appropriately, testing is a tool that teachers, students and parents can use to discover new ways and opportunities for our children to be the best students they can be.
But the current national fixation on high-stakes standardized tests has very little to do with figuring out how to better teach our children

"Mosenkis displayed his scatter plot showing starkly how districts with equivalent levels of poverty get more money per pupil if their student body is mostly White. The amount decreases as a district becomes more diverse.  He stressed that his findings show correlation, not causation. "Racial discrimination can emerge even without intention," said Mosenkis."
BEFC: On second day, funding panel hears from POWER, charters
Statistician David Mosenkis presents study of racial bias in funding to commission; Sen. Browne says no formula should have "unintended consequences."
the notebook by Dale Mezzacappa November 19, 2014
On their second day in Philadelphia Wednesday, the Basic Education Funding Commission heard from two distinct groups.  First were charter operators, who highlighted their successes and parsed the complexities of the state's education funding streams, mostly to argue that their schools are being shortchanged.  And then there were the ministers, parents, and advocates from POWER, the faith-based advocacy group who urged the legislators to to think of school funding as a matter of justice.  They argued that all the children of Philadelphia were being unfairly treated because of who they are and where they live.

 “Turning over low-performing public schools to charters has not worked as a strategy for sustained school improvement,” said Whitehorne.  
Community Schools: PCAPS to launch campaign for community schools
the notebook By Payne Schroeder on Nov 19, 2014 03:45 PM
The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools will launch its campaign for community schools on Thursday, Nov. 20, at Arch Street United Methodist Church in Center City.
As a member of the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, which is a confederation of parent, youth, and community organizations, PCAPS will host a community meeting at 4 p.m.
Similar events are set to occur in 20 other cities across the country as part of the alliance's week of action.  “This is a long-term campaign to change the conversation on what kind of schools we need,” said Ron Whitehorne, a PCAPS coordinator. “We see [the community school model] as an alternative vision of how to move schools forward.”
There are no District schools that fit the model of community schools, which can be described as public schools where social services and community resources are brought under the same roof and integrated into the fabric of the school.  

More background on Community Schools

Community Schools: De Blasio Administration Announces $52 Million Investment to Launch Community Schools
New York City Office of the Mayor June 17, 2014
City to launch 40 new Community Schools in high-need neighborhoods that bring social service providers into schools to support at-risk students and families
Wide array of in-school programming can include mental health services, vision testing, physical wellness, tutoring, job training and family counseling
NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced a $52 million grant to launch the development of 40 innovative Community Schools that will match comprehensive social services and learning programs with 40 high-need public schools across the city. By reaching students with vitally important services ranging from mental health support to homework help and family counseling, Community Schools have a proven track-record of helping at-risk children succeed in the classroom and beyond.  Coupled with pre-K for every child and expanded after-school programs for middle schoolers, the Mayor pledged to make Community Schools a key component of transforming the education system and lifting up every child.
The 4-year grant utilizes funding provided by the New York State Department of Education and will be managed in partnership with the United Way of New York City. Schools and non-profit service providers will be selected this summer through a Request for Proposals. The Department of Education and United Way will work in close coordination with parents and communities to design and launch programs during the 2014-2015 school year.

"Like Abraham, Williams has deep roots in Philadelphia politics. He has been in the state Senate, toiling in the minority, for 16 years, but he's also a ward leader with a solid base in West Philadelphia.  He has been known for his support of charter schools and school choice - a position that puts him at odds with fellow Democrats and the teachers' union.
His unsuccessful 2010 gubernatorial run was aided by $5 million from three executives of Susquehanna International Group who support school choice."
Abraham and Williams join race for Phila. mayor
CHRIS HEPP AND CLAUDIA VARGAS, INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS LAST UPDATED: Thursday, November 20, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 7:23 PM
The contours of the 2015 Philadelphia mayor's race finally emerged in sharp relief Wednesday with the entrance of two formidable Democratic candidates - former District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham and State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams.

"No one spoke in favor of the charter conversion during several hours of public comment Wednesday."
Update: York City school board tables vote on charters
York Dispatch by ERIN JAMES 505-5439 @ydcity POSTED:   11/19/2014 06:01:51 PM EST
Another lengthy, and often tearful, York City school board meeting ended Wednesday in an anti-climactic vote to table a proposed agreement with a for-profit charter company.
Hundreds crowded into the cafeteria at William Penn Senior High School to witness the potentially history-making decision.  A vote to approve the document would have turned over operation of the district to Charter Schools USA, a Florida-based company that negotiated the proposed contract with the district's state-appointed financial recovery officer.
That official, David Meckley, is pushing charter schools as the solution to the district's financial and academic problems.  Last week, Meckley gave the board an ultimatum: Approve the contract, or the state will pursue receivership.

York City School Board tables charter decision
Officials requested more information at a meeting Wednesday
York Daily Record By Angie Mason @angiemason1 on Twitter UPDATED:   11/19/2014 11:11:33 PM EST
The York City School Board, faced once again with hours of comment from community members who urged them not to turn district schools into charters, voted to table the idea to get more information on a proposed contract with Charter Schools USA.  The move came with conditions listed by the board, including that meetings be held with the nonprofit charter board and district recovery officer, a revised contract be submitted and that the matter come up for a vote again no later than Dec. 17.
Board president Margie Orr said the board should only vote after a proper review.
"We need to objectively and logically analyze the proposal but temper it with heart since we are guiding the educational future of our city of York children," she said, reading from a document. "The School District of the City of York board needs to have clear and convincing evidence that this agreement is in best interest of York City community now and for the future."

Study into consolidating York County school districts' central office to be released
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | on November 19, 2014 at 6:55 PM
With skyrocketing pension and health care costs, a delegation of York County House members decided to call for a study to look into the cost savings that could be derived by consolidating the administrative operations of 15 school districts in their county.
The results of that study done by the state's Independent Fiscal Office will be revealed at 6 p.m. on Dec. 16 in the cafeteria of the York County School of Technology, 2179 South Queen St., York. Retiring Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, who was among the six lawmakers who requested the study, will moderate the event.  The study looks only at consolidating the administrative functions in all districts located within the county except for West Shore School District, which stretches into Cumberland County.

Top donors to hash out union contracts with Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Wolf
Trib Live By Melissa Daniels Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
When Gov.-elect Tom Wolf negotiates Pennsylvania's largest public sector union contracts in 2015, his administration will sit across the table from some of his largest campaign supporters.
The national chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees gave Wolf's campaign $500,000, as did the political arm of Pennsylvania's Service Employees International Union. The state's AFSCME Council 13 donated $54,000. AFSCME and SEIU contracts for state employees will expire June 30.  The Commonwealth Foundation, a free-market think tank based in Harrisburg, said donations of $5,000 or more from unions to Wolf's campaign total more than $2.7 million, citing figures from Public Source. Nathan Benefield, vice president of policy analysis of the Commonwealth Foundation, said donations don't mean there's a “quid pro quo,” but four of the top 10 donors to Wolf's campaign were unions.
Passing Rate Declines by 20% as NY State Uses New Certification Exams for Teachers
New York Times By ELIZABETH A. HARRIS NOV. 19, 2014
New York State saw a significant drop in the number of candidates who passed teacher certification tests last year as tougher exams were introduced, state officials said on Wednesday, portraying the results as a long-needed move to raise the level of teaching and the performance ofteacher preparation schools.  In the 2013-14 school year, 11,843 teachers earned their certification in New York, a drop of about 20 percent from the previous two years.
Candidates without certification cannot teach in public schools, and education schools with high failure rates may eventually lose their accreditation.

“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.

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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