Monday, November 3, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 3: It's all about voter turnout; Obama, Christie try to give Pa. voters a jolt

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 3, 2014:
It's all about voter turnout; Obama, Christie try to give Pa. voters a jolt

2014: Pledge to be an Education Voter
Education Voters Action Fund of PA
Pledge Right Now to Vote on November 4
On Tuesday, November 4th,  voters will finally be able to go to the polls to replace politicians who do not support our children or their public schools. On November 4th education voters can elect candidates who will stand up and fight to get public education in Pennsylvania back on track.

The key to the Election? It's all about voter turnout: The Sunday Brunch
Penn Live By John L. Micek |  on November 02, 2014 at 8:30 AM
Good Sunday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Well it's cold and blustery outside the window here at Casa de Capitol Notebook. And all the bluster is, frankly, a none-too-subtle reminder that the political season is nearly done and Election Day is nearly upon us.  As of this writing, a scant 48 hours remain before the polls open and voters pick from the two Toms and host of legislative and congressional offices.  And though you might think the key to voters' hearts lies in offering them free pot brownies (well, maybe in Daylin Leach's district), it's actually all about which side, in a low turnout year, can get their base out to vote.  Based on the last couple of gubernatorial cycles, voter turnout is expected to be somewhere in the 40 percent to 49 percent range, Franklin & Marshall College political sage Terry Madonna told us last week.

Obama, Christie try to give Pa. voters a jolt
Post-Gazette By Thomas Fitzgerald & Jane M. Von Bergen Philadelphia Inquirer November 3, 2014 12:39 AM
PHILADELPHIA — President Barack Obama called on a crowd Sunday night at Temple University to elect Democrat Tom Wolf governor Tuesday, casting the election as a choice between failed trickle-down economics and shared prosperity based on a strong middle class.
“The biggest corporations, they don’t need another champion. The wealthiest Americans don’t need another champion, they’re doing just fine,” Mr. Obama said.
But the hardworking single mother and the first-generation college student need a champion like Mr. Wolf, the president said, “somebody who understands that opportunity for all is what America’s all about, opportunity for all is what Pennsylvania's all about.”
In what may be his last midterm political rally while still in office, Mr. Obama sought to stoke voter turnout in the Democratic stronghold of Philadelphia two days before polls open.
Meanwhile, in the northern Philadelphia suburb of Ivyland in Bucks county, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did what he came to do: Stir up the crowd Sunday night to vote for Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.

Obama, Christie try to swing Philly region's gubernatorial vote
Trib Live By The Associated Press Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014, 9:03 p.m.
BLUE BELL — President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dropped in on Pennsylvania on Sunday to try to influence the gubernatorial campaign in the race's waning days and motivate voters in what is a relatively sleepy midterm election in the state.
Democrat Tom Wolf, a first-time candidate who ran his family business for nearly three decades, is trying to knock off Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, a conservative former state and federal prosecutor who is seeking a second term after stumbling through his first four years. In particular, Corbett has struggled to explain budget-balancing cuts in aid to public schools in 2011 at the same time he cut business taxes.
Pa. gubernatorial candidates battle voter apathy in final days of election
Penn Live By Wallace McKelvey | on November 02, 2014 at 10:35 PM, updated November 03, 2014 at 2:26 AM
PHILADELPHIA – Barack Obama concluded his speech with a chant of "vote, vote, vote" before an audience of some 5,500 supporters of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf.
But he conceded that he was "preaching to the choir."  "I'm hoping you then take this message to people who don't plan to vote," he said.  A crowd of more than 5,000 people at a campaign rally is impressive for a mid-term election, but what most people didn't see was behind the black curtain at Temple University's Liacouras Center. Nearly half of the arena, which can seat up to 10,000 during a basketball game, was empty and cordoned off from the crowded bleachers.  Wolf is leading his opponent, incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in the polls, but he and his surrogates—right down to the president of the United States—have emphasized that voter turnout is key.  And the Corbett campaign has been singing from the same hymnal, albeit to even smaller crowds.  "We need you to work ... very hard for the next three and a half days," Corbett told about 50 supporters at a restaurant in Schuylkill County on Saturday.

Tuesday is election day: What you need to know to cast your vote
Penn Live By Teresa Bonner | 
on November 02, 2014 at 6:00 AM, updated November 02, 2014 at 7:54 AM
Pennsylvania voters will head to the polls Tuesday to choose the Commonwealth's next governor, as well as their representatives to Congress and to seats in the state House and Senate.
Here's a quick primer on what you need to know to cast your vote:
When can I vote?
The polls are open from 7 a.m to 8 p.m.  If you're in line at 8 p.m., stay put. You'll be allowed to cast your vote. 
Where do I vote?
In the precinct assigned to you. Check your voter registration card, or just use the state website to find the location. That also will tell you which state House, state Senate and congressional district you live in. 
Do I have to show ID?
No — unless you are voting at your polling place for the first time. In that event, you'll need to show a photo ID, whether it be driver's licenses or PennDOT ID card, your passport, or Armed Forces, student or employer ID.  If you've voted in the precinct in the past, you don't need to show ID, but simply sign your name.

PPG Editorial Board: No confidence: Neither Wolf nor Corbett has earned our support
Post-Gazette By the Editorial Board November 2, 2014 12:00 AM
Pennsylvania voters face two unsatisfying options in this year’s race for governor. The Democratic candidate, York businessman Tom Wolf, is untested. The Republican incumbent, Tom Corbett of Shaler, already has failed the test of a first term.  Try as we might, it is impossible for the Post-Gazette to endorse either Mr. Wolf, the former state revenue secretary who revived his family’s cabinet manufacturing firm, or Mr. Corbett, who was appointed once and elected twice as state attorney general before becoming governor. Despite extensive interviews with the candidates, both of whom are 65, we believe that neither possesses the strong leadership skills that Pennsylvania needs in a chief executive.

"Fifty-one of the 111 House Republicans and 31 of the 91 Democrats (one House seat is vacant) face no foe.  In the Senate, where 25 seats are on the ballot, nine of those are unopposed — five of 12 incumbent Republicans and four of seven Democrats."
In contests for Pa. seats, 91 incumbents face no opposition
By Kate Giammarise / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau November 3, 2014 12:00 AM
HARRISBURG — No matter if Tom Corbett or Tom Wolf wins Tuesday’s gubernatorial election, many winners of state legislative races already have been decided.  That’s because they are one-person races, in many cases.  While the state has several high-profile legislative races, particularly in the Senate, many incumbent legislators will face no opposition to re-election Tuesday. In the House, all 203 seats are theoretically on the ballot, but 82 incumbents will have no opponent in Tuesday’s general election.

"At least one study has attempted to argue that cuts in education funding under the Corbett administration are linked to declining test scores."
More on the Notebook/NewsWorks PSSA investigation
Notebook contributing editor Dale Mezzacappa will be on WHYY's NewsWorks Tonight, Friday at 6 p.m., discussing the Notebook/NewsWorks investigative report about the Pennsylvania Department of Education's delayed release of the 2014 PSSA results. (Listen to the show live at or by tuning into 90.9 FM. A recorded version will also be available at
The article, published Thursday evening, also discussed an across-the-board decline in statewide PSSA scores in reading and math in 2013 that had not previously been reported in the press.
The delayed release of 2014 test results has been a topic of discussion in education circles this fall. Detailed statewide reports have generally been out by the end of September in past years. Last year, though, the state unveiled the new School Performance Profiles, based on multiple measures of performance, on Oct. 4. 
But what prompted the investigation was a discovery last week by theNotebook/NewsWorks reporting team that 2013 PSSA results were not available on astate website that has links to 18 previous years of test-score data. That prompted staff members to ask questions about 2013 PSSA results. They soon found that the statewide trends included in the 2013 "state report card" had never been announced or reported in the press.  Some argue that the 2014 release has been delayed for political reasons -- because declining or lackluster scores would hurt Gov. Corbett's re-election chances. The Department of Education counters that it is just doing its due diligence to ensure accurate results.

Pittsburgh initiative to laud teachers contrasts with national talk on educators
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette November 3, 2014 12:00 AM
One recent week, a Time magazine cover on “rotten apples” declared that it is nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher.  Last week at a forum on educational equity in Pittsburgh, Marquette University professor Howard Fuller said of teachers, “You’ve almost got to have a video of them molesting a child to get rid of them.”  This week, Pittsburgh Public Schools is celebrating “Teachers Matter,” including honoring its 387 teachers rated as distinguished.  “ ‘Teachers Matter’ is not just a slogan in Pittsburgh. We mean it,” Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent Linda Lane said. “We want to affirm with them how important they are not only for the individual students and families that we serve but for this community as a whole.”
Talk about contrasts.

"But school districts have concerns about accountability, he said. While there are criteria for someone to be an evaluator, he said, there's really no oversight, and home school guardians can hire anyone who meets the requirements.  "By removing this oversight, it's going to remove one of the checks in place to make sure an appropriate education is taking place," he said."
Home-schoolers say bill awaiting approval would alleviate burden
Legislation would remove a step from the evaluation process, but districts have concerns
York Daily Record By Angie Mason @angiemason1 on Twitter  11/01/2014 09:15:17 AM EDT
A bill approved by the state legislature would eliminate a step for home-schooling families as they seek approval of their programs each year, but some school officials have raised concern that it lessens accountability.  Both the House and Senate approved House Bill 1013, which now awaits approval in the governor's office. Among other changes, the legislation would mean that home-schooling families need only the approval of an evaluator for their work from throughout the year — instead of getting the evaluator's OK and then sending a portfolio to the local school district for approval, too.  Under the changes in the bill, the district would receive certification from the evaluator that appropriate education took place.

We must still hate our kids: Philadelphia and “education reformers” fight demented war on elementary schools
No nurses, few textbooks, closed libraries: Money to urban schools is being starved, intentionally. It's just wrong by JEFF BRYANT SATURDAY, NOV 1, 2014 06:30 AM EDT
Imagine sending your child to a school with a leaky roof, busted windows and a rodent infestation.
Or worrying whether the elementary school where you take your daughter every day is really a health hazard.  Or telling your teenager to feel good about attending a school with no sports or athletic programs of any kind in winter or summer and no instrumental music classes.
Imagine a school system where class sizes have gotten beyond ridiculous with one school so overcrowded that first, second and third graders are packed into a single classroom. In another school, classes overstuffed with 50 students or more are herded into the auditorium.
This is not made up, nor is this a third-world country. This is America. This is Philadelphia. And it is rapidly becoming the norm for schools in many more large, urban communities across the nation.

The Myth of Chinese Super Schools
New York Review of Books by Diane Ravitch NOVEMBER 20, 2014 ISSUE
Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon? Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World
by Yong Zhao; Jossey-Bass, 254 pp., $26.95
On December 3, 2013, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced yet again that American students were doing terribly when tested, in comparison to students in sixty-one other countries and a few cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong. Duncan presided over the release of the latest international assessment of student performance in reading, science, and mathematics (called the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA), and Shanghai led the nations of the world in all three categories.  Duncan and other policymakers professed shock and anguish at the results, according to which American students were average at best, nowhere near the top. Duncan said that Americans had to face the brutal fact that the performance of our students was “mediocre” and that our schools were trapped in “educational stagnation.”
He had used virtually the same rhetoric in 2010, when the previous PISA results were released. Despite the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, which mandated that every child in every school in grades 3–8 would be proficient in math and reading by 2014, and despite the Obama administration’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top program, the scores of American fifteen-year-old students on these international tests were nearly unchanged since 2000. Both NCLB and Race to the Top assumed that a steady diet of testing and accountability, of carrots for high scores and sticks for low scores, would provide an incentive for students and teachers to try harder and get higher test scores. But clearly, this strategy was not working. In his public remarks, however, Duncan could not admit that carrots and sticks don’t produce better education or even higher test scores. Instead, he blamed teachers and parents for failing to have high expectations.

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 Nov18 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.

New website offers closer look into candidate' views on public education
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) has created a new website for its members and the general public to get a closer look into candidates' views on public education leading up to the 2014 election for the Pennsylvania General Assembly.  Following the primary elections, PSBA sent out a six-question questionnaire to all Pennsylvania House and Senate candidates competing for seats in the November election.  Candidates are listed by House, Senate seat and county. Districts can be found by visiting the 'Find My Legislator' link (
Features include:
·         Candidate images, if provided
·         Candidates are tagged by political party and seat for which they are running
·         Candidates who did not respond are indicated by "Responses not available."
Visit the site by going to or by clicking on the link tweeted out by @PSBAadvocate.
Candidates wishing to complete the questionnaire before election day may do so by contacting Sean Crampsie (717-506-2450, x-3321).

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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