Saturday, November 29, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 29: Campaign for Fair Education Funding draws broad support statewide

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 29, 2014:
Campaign for Fair Education Funding draws broad support statewide

Upcoming PA Basic Education Funding Commission Public Hearings
Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 10 AM East Stroudsburg; Carl T. Secor Administration Bldg., 50 Vine Street, East Stroudsburg Area School District
Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 10 AM - 12:00 PM Lancaster; location TBA
* meeting times and locations subject to change

"When scholars control for the effect of poverty, American students score at the top of the world on international tests."
Stephen Krashen letter on Common Core: Our concerns are not just "noise"
Stephen Krashen's Blog by Stephen Krashen, Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California Sent to Reading Today, November 27, 2014
"Moving beyond the noise of the common core" (Nov/Dec 2014) reads like advice from a mature adult to excitable children: don't pay attention to the critics, just embrace the core. Focus on implementation, on making the common core work.    But many of us are convinced that the common core is a disaster, a tsunami that could destroy American education.  Our concerns are not "noise." They are very serious.
Briefly, there is no need for the common core: The problem in American education is not teacher quality, nor is it a lack of tough standards. The problem is our unacceptably high rate of poverty.  Poverty has a devastating impact on school achievement. When scholars control for the effect of poverty, American students score at the top of the world on international tests.
The common core makes no attempt to protect children from the effects of poverty. Instead it imposes, as Susan Ohanian accurately describes it, “a radical untried curriculum overhaul and … nonstop national testing," a plan that is already costing billions, and, thanks to the requirement that testing be online, will cost billions for years to come.   The common core promises to bleed every spare dollar from education, all to profit computer and testing companies, without a shred of evidence that it will help students. 
This is not the time for blind obedience.

School funding hearing in East Stroudsburg Thurs., 12/4 10 am
Pocono Record Posted Nov. 28, 2014 @ 2:01 am
State Rep. Rosemary Brown will host a hearing to discuss Pennsylvania's basic education funding formula from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday at the Carl T. Secor Administration Center, 50 Vine St., East Stroudsburg.  The public is invited to sit in as the Basic Education Funding Commission will hear from a panel of area educators to gather testimony before making its recommendations to the Legislature.  The panel will include Delaware Valley School Superintendent John Bell, Pocono Mountain School Board President Meg Dilger, Pleasant Valley School Superintendent Carole Geary, East Stroudsburg School Superintendent Sharon Laverdure, and Stroudburg School Superintendent John Toleno. 

Campaign for Fair Education Funding draws broad support statewide
the notebook By Shannon Nolan on Nov 26, 2014 12:14 PM
More than 40 organizations joined forces in early October to launch a statewide campaign that calls for a fair school funding formula and access to quality education for all children, no matter where in Pennsylvania they live.  Known as the Campaign for Fair Education Funding, the coalition has a mission of ensuring that Pennsylvania adopts a K-12 public education funding system by 2016 that is “adequate and equitable,” with a focus on the importance of accuracy, stability for students and schools, shared responsibility, and strong accountability standards.
"Every child deserves a chance to succeed,” said campaign manager Kathy Manderino at the press conference announcing the effort. “We need a fair, sustainable and predictable method for funding public schools that recognizes the shared responsibility we all have – and the shared benefits we all receive – when every Pennsylvania child gets that opportunity."
Member organizations, including businesses and faith-based groups, educators, school district representatives and child advocates from across the state, agreed that sufficient resources are necessary so children can achieve success and that a collective effort is imperative, according to a campaign statement.

UPenn report finds Pa. schools need an additional $3.5 billion
A new report from the University of Pennsylvania finds that the state's school districts need additional $3.5 billion to educate all students to meet academic proficiency standards.
In an policy brief titled "An Urban Myth? New Evidence on Equity, Adequacy, and the Efficiency of Educational Resources in Pennsylvania," Penn Graduate School of Education professors Matthew Steinberg and Rand Quinn analyze the so-called "adequacy gap" — the difference between what school districts actually have to spend and the amount needed to reach state targets.  Steinberg and Quinn derive their calculations from the "costing out" study which was performed by the Pennsylvania legislature in 2006. It assumed a base per-pupil cost of $8,000 and then awarded districts additional resources based on student-weighted measures such as poverty and English fluency.  Statewide, based on 2009-10 data, Steinberg and Quinn say 412 of the state's 500 school districts don't have enough. On average, these districts required an additional $1,559 per pupil in order to provide students with the education that the state expects.

Inquirer LTE ISSUE | CHARTERS: Stacking the deck on school success
Inquirer letter to the editor by Ronald Zigler Thursday, November 27, 2014, 1:08 AM
Ronald L. Zigler, associate professor of educational psychology, Penn State Abington, Abington
Self-selection by parents and students who seek charter schools increases the likelihood of success, given that such interest in education marks an important ingredient to the success of any school ("The facts on charter schools," Nov. 23). While these individuals are a testimony to the potential among disadvantaged students, often overlooked are the students left behind when they fail to take the initiative to self-select charter enrollment.  These students are often those whose disengagement from academics undermines the education of their classmates. When these students are left behind, it should not be surprising that a charter school, with fewer disengaged students, succeeds where a public school fails. Until we acknowledge this, our debates about charter schools will remain vacuous.  Creating a school environment not overwhelmed by the problems that accompany poverty is possible, but no school - public or charter - will succeed if they and their students are confronted by too many of these very problems.

Inquirer Letters to the Editor November 28, 2014
Chalk talk did traditional schools disservice
Janine Yass uses data irresponsibly to make her case for public-school choice ("The facts on charter schools," Nov. 23). First, she says 40,000 Philadelphia students are on charter waiting lists. That number counts as multiple students a single student's applications to different charters, and it counts students who have enrolled in other schools. Then Yass argues that because charters get 29 percent of the School District budget, though they enroll one-third of students, they are therefore more cost-effective. But that supposes the rest of the budget is spent on district schools, which is not the case. The district's large, non-school costs include, for instance, more than $100 million annually for private and alternative-school students and nearly $300 million annually for debt service. Finally, Yass faults the district for spending too much on its low-performing schools without mentioning that it pays for low-performing charter schools, as well.
The challenge of serving our city's largely disadvantaged student population in the most equitable manner for all families, with limited resources, merits a more even-handed and careful treatment.
|Paul Kihn, deputy superintendent, Philadelphia School District

Alternatives not seen in well-heeled suburbs
I've yet to hear Mark Gleason, head of the Philadelphia School Partnership, or any other charter champion, explain why suburban communities are never the focal point for charter expansion ("District receives 40 applications for charters," Nov. 18). If charter schools are the best way to deliver a quality education, why are they largely absent in districts outside of urban areas? The truth is that this level of experimentation and disdain for traditional public-school education is only allowed in large, urban districts. Outside of cities like Philadelphia, you find that properly funded, managed, and staffed public schools are seen as a basic necessity, not a privilege.
|Sheth Jones,

Hearings start Dec. 8 for 40 new Philly charter school applicants
One new applicant, Liguori Academy, has done a makeover of its website, eliminating some obvious religious references. In this round of hearings, schools will have 20 minutes to make their case.
By Kevin McCorry and Paul Socolar for NewsWorks and the Notebook Nov 26, 2014 06:55 PM
For the first time in years, the Philadelphia School District is accepting applications to open new charter schools.  Many of the applicants, which are listed below, are already familiar names. KIPP proposes three new schools, String Theory seeks four, and Mastery wants two, as do American Paradigm and MaST.  There are also some interesting newcomers making pitches.
The Public Health Management Corp., whose experience thus far has been in public health, not public schools, would like to open a charter.   There's also a request to open Liguori Academy, a school that says it would be "grounded in the philosophy Alphonsus Liguori," an 18th-century Catholic bishop from Italy.  "We're not Catholic. We have no religious affiliation," said the school director, the Rev. Mike Marrone, a priest who has taken a voluntary leave of absence from the vocation.  Theology classes wouldn't be on the agenda, he says.  "We're not looking to give spiritual messages, not pushing any specific denomination, Christian, Muslim or otherwise," he said.  The proposed school's website appears to have undergone a recent makeover to remove religious language. (Here's what the website looked like a week ago.)

"Wright said the charter hopes to attract disengaged youth who as freshmen are reading several years below grade level and often cannot do basic math. He said the school would focus on ninth graders who have been absent 30 days; suspended at least once; have D's or F's in both reading and math; and scored below basic on the state's standardized tests.
As of Sept. 8, the founding group's research showed there were close to 9,000 current ninth graders in district, charter, and Catholic schools in the city who met all those criteria.  National dropout experts, Wright said, have found that such students have less than a 1 percent chance of graduating from high school without significant intervention."
A charter school named for a saint, but with secular aims
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Friday, November 28, 2014, 1:08 AM
Among the 40 applications for new charters the Philadelphia School District has received is a novel proposal for a high school for at-risk students that would combine online course work and instruction that would equip them to graduate to skilled jobs.  The proposed Liguori Academy aims to bring struggling students up to grade level, organize them in career clusters based on growing areas of the regional economy, and engage them in real-world projects, so that they have credentials and industry certificates by the end of 12th grade.  Modeled after a successful approach pioneered at a school in California, the proposed school has an unusual history:
It was originally conceived as an independent school within the auspices of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

"Passport Academy offers a “blended learning” program, which includes face-to-face instruction and online education. The curriculum is purchased from a private company, K12, which some other charter schools in the state use, including Agora Cyber Charter School and Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School. K12 also provides some management services.  Its nearly $2.3 million annual budget includes $858,768 in K12 charges. The budget also lists “net charges” to K12 as $595,546. The difference of $263,222 is equal to the school’s expected deficit. The budget includes a $208,663 implementation grant from the U.S. Department of Education."
Passport Academy Charter School opens to help high school dropouts earn diplomas
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette November 29, 2014 12:00 AM
When the Hill House Passport Academy Charter School opened this fall in the Hill District, it had about the same number of students as teachers: 10.  Since then the number of students has grown to 114 as students who had withdrawn from other schools learned that the school could help them earn a high school diploma, not just a GED.  Chartered by Pittsburgh Public Schools, Passport Academy so far has attracted students from Pittsburgh and 11 other districts: Cornell, East Allegheny, Gateway, McKeesport Area, Penn Hills, Shaler Area, Steel Valley, Sto-Rox, West Mifflin Area, Wilkinsburg and Woodland Hills.  Charter schools are public schools open to students from throughout the state.  Under state law, home school districts pay a fee that the state sets for each resident who attends and pay for transportation if the school is within 10 miles of the district’s border. The fee for Pittsburgh is $12,403 for regular education and $27,270 for special education.

Students and tutors converge at Chester High and Widener
MARI A. SCHAEFER, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Friday, November 28, 2014, 1:08 AM
Chester High School freshman Jameisha Johnson is the first to admit that school was not working for her. She struggled academically, had serious behavioral issues, and was placed in an alternative-school program.  Then two Widener University professors and their cadre of student tutors stepped in with a pilot program aimed at increasing literacy for at-risk students, simultaneously providing hands-on experiences for their education majors.  "My grades went up. My behavior improved. I got into sports," said Johnson, 15, who plays point guard on both the junior varsity and varsity girls' basketball team, even though she's only a ninth grader.  She is one of six students in the Widener program from Camelot Chester's Transitional School, a Chester High program operated by a for-profit company that specializes in alternative education.

Education issues to consider in the Philly mayoral race
the notebook By James Lytle on Nov 26, 2014 02:00 PM
James H. Lytle is Practice Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, a former District administrator, and a former superintendent in Trenton.
Although the mayoral primary isn’t until May, prospective candidates for mayor are already testing their prospects.   Four have already announced their intentions to run: former head of the city's Redevelopment Authority Terry Gillen, former City Solicitor Ken Trujillo, former District Attorney Lynne Abraham, and State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams. In the view of many Philadelphians, there is no more important issue than the future of public education in the city. And advocacy groups like the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools are already determining what issues to focus on and which candidates they might support.
In some respects the issues seem obvious: increased funding, local control, and restored services like libraries, counselors, and nurses. But the devil is in the details. What specifically would the candidates do? What is the candidate’s record on support for city schools? What experience does the candidate have in dealing with City Council and Harrisburg

Tom Wolf: Ready to Take Over
Tom Wolf was one of ten Democratic gubernatorial candidates elected in the Republican sweep of the 2014 midterm election cycle.  Wolf’s candidacy, juxtaposed against one of the most unpopular governorships in the country, led many pundits and prognosticators to give him the likely win. Then every major media outlet in the country confirmed the victory at 8:01 on election night. It was the first race called nationwide. With zero percent reporting.  And they were all right: Wolf defeated incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett 54.9 percent to 45.1, with nearly 350,000 more votes cast in favor of Wolf.  Corbett and Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell were the only Republican governors to lose this election cycle. Parnell was defeated by independent challenger Bill Walker.
The electoral mandate gives Governor-elect Wolf bargaining power heading into his first term in Harrisburg, and there’s a good chance he’s going to need it.
That’s because the Republican led Pa. General Assembly picked up additional seats on Nov. 4, giving the party a 35-seat majority in the House of Representatives and a 10-seat advantage in the Senate.  Whether the political advantage will be polarizing or positive remains to be seen.

Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania talent scout
It occurred to me recently that the next eight weeks may be the most critical time in Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Tom Wolf's career.  I say that because one of the toughest tests of leadership is the ability to find, recruit, empower and keep really talented people. I've seen this again and again among mayors and governors. Those who get good people do so much better than those who get hacks and duds.  In a little less than eight weeks, Wolf needs to name 16 department heads who'll have to pass Senate confirmation, dozens more of their deputies, and assemble a crackerjack staff of his own -- policy, legislative and communications people who must be smart, hard-working, politically savvy and a smoothly functioning team.  It's clear in retrospect that current Gov. Tom Corbett staffed the governor's office poorly to begin his administration. You can always make changes when people don't work out, but you can never get back the time you lost.

Fox Chapel Area schools forum to feature legislators Dec. 4th 7 pm
TribLive By Tawnya Panizzi Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, 4:36 p.m.
Fox Chapel Superintendent Gene Freeman wants to open a dialogue between district residents and the lawmakers.  “Sometimes we get orders from the state and I think a lot of times, the public asks why we are doing these things,” Freeman said.  The district will host a public forum at 7 p.m. Dec. 4 with state legislators in the large group instruction room at the high school.
The meeting is aimed at creating an open dialogue between the lawmakers and the public.
The meeting will be moderated by district resident Maureen Porter, a tenured associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education.  Legislators scheduled to attend include state Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-40), and state reps Dom Costa (D-21), Frank Dermody (D-33), Hal English (R-30) and Ed Gainey (D-24).
Philly teachers hatch a militancy plot
Citypaper By Daniel Denvir  Published: 11/26/2014
When the School District of Philadelphia announced its latest round of mass layoffs in June 2013, Science Leadership Academy teacher Larissa Pahomov created "Faces of the Layoffs," a simple website that featured posts about those who had lost their jobs along with a photograph and explanations of what each loss would mean.  Overbrook High School counselors Tonnie Davenport and Melissa Lawson were "the thread that holds the school together." One student credited Northeast High School teacher Dave Sokoloff with having "opened my eyes to the world." Kim Richardson, a history teacher, changed jobs after a career working for the city because she had "always dreamed of being a teacher. ... Kim has a big heart, open enough for all members of the Girls' High community. Don't break it this way."
Pahomov started the project to support a friend, Bartram High School English teacher Anissa Weinraub, who was among those who had been let go. The website ultimately collected about 200 profiles and exploded on social media and into local news coverage.
"That started with me getting a call from Anissa [on Saturday] in the afternoon, knowing she had gotten a pink slip, and we had to do something by Monday," says Pahomov.
The site was heartfelt and straightforward, and humanized teachers and other staffers who in recent years have been under attack. And it was the sort of bottom-up initiative that inspired Pahomov, alongside fellow teachers, counselors and nurses, to form the Caucus of Working Educators (WE), a group of militant members shaking up the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT). The group, founded in March, recently held its first convention.

Downingtown superintendent receives 2014 PASA leadership award
West Chester Daily Local Staff Report POSTED: 11/26/14, 12:08 PM EST |
HERSHEY >> Lawrence Mussoline, superintendent of the Downingtown Area School District, has been named the recipient of the 2014 PASA Instructional Leadership Award.
The award is co-sponsored by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) and Lincoln Investment Planning, Inc.  It recognizes an administrator who has demonstrated commitment to excellence in teaching and learning by developing, nurturing and supporting exemplary programs that support the academic achievement of particular student populations, enrich student learning in a particular content area or implement strategies to enhance student learning across the curriculum.

PA Cyber attorney didn't work for Trombetta, board president says
Beaver County Times By J.D. Prose  Tuesday, November 25, 2014
PITTSBURGH -- The evidence suppression hearing for indicted Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School founder Nick Trombetta ended Tuesday in federal court in Pittsburgh, but don’t expect a decision anytime soon.  After initially starting Sept. 30 and being continued four times, the hearing ended with PA Cyber board President Ed Elder testifying that former PA Cyber attorney Tim Barry never told the board he was personally representing Trombetta.  Faced with 11 federal charges, including filing false tax returns, Trombetta has asked U.S. District Court Chief Judge Joy Flowers Conti to toss out secret recordings and wiretaps collected by the FBI that would be used against Trombetta at trial.

Mississippi Schools Sue State For More Money
NPR Morning Editiion by JEFFREY HESS from MPB November 26, 2014 4:18 AM ET
In Taneka Hawkins' classroom, 20 kindergarteners wiggle through a mid-morning dance break, waving their arms and jumping around to a guided dance video. It's busy, to be sure, and a bit crowded.  "The children are so small, and a lot of things that we do have to be so hands on, and it's kind of hard when it is more than 20," Hawkins says. A class size of 15, she adds, would be ideal. "I think we could reach more students with that smaller class size."
Hawkins teaches in Hattiesburg, Miss. Her state regularly ranks at or near the bottom in the nation for measures like student outcomes and per pupil spending. Now, nearly two dozen school districts think they have a way to break out of that rut: They're suing the state for hundreds of millions of dollars in funding.  If the effort is successful, the Hattiesburg Public School District would be in line for a $12 million boost — equivalent to nearly a third of its current yearly budget. The money could allow the school to hire more teachers and decrease class sizes, which would make it easier for the kids to get their wiggles out.
Mississippi's former governor, Ronnie Musgrove, is leading the lawsuit, giving the schools a high-powered advocate. "Our objective is to get as much money as possible back for every school district. We want to once again make education a priority in Mississippi," Musgrove says.

Discipline, Disabilities, School to Prison, Disproportionality
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Saturday, December 13, 2014 from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM
United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Presenters include Sonja Kerr; Howard Jordan, ACLU; Dr. Karolyn Tyson; Michael Raffaele, Frankel & Kershenbaum, LLC
This session is designed to assist participants to understand the specifics of the federal IDEA disciplinary protections, 20 U.S.C. §1415(k) as they apply to children with disabilities. Topics will include functional behavioral assessment, development of positive behavioral support programs for children with disabilities, manifestation reviews and avoiding juvenile court involvement. 
Questions? Email or call 267.546.1317.

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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