Wednesday, December 17, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 17: York Chief Recovery Officer: Cybers as alternative for students who choose not to attend charter schools

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 17, 2014:
York Chief Recovery Officer: Cybers as alternative for students who choose not to attend charter schools

America’s Most Financially Disadvantaged School Districts and How They Got that Way
How State and Local Governance Causes School Funding Disparities
Center for American Progress By Bruce D. Baker | July 9, 2014

Blogger commentary: None of the state's cyber charter schools have achieved a passing score of 70 on PDE's School Performance Profile in either of the past two years, and most of them never made AYP under No Child Left Behind.  Should cybers really be considered as a viable primary alternative?
Hearing ends in York city schools receivership case; decision possible by Dec. 24
York Daily Record By ANGIE MASON Daily Record/Sunday News 12/17/2014 12:28:33 AM EST
If the York City School District's buildings were converted to charters, the primary district-run alternative for students who didn't want to attend those schools would be the cyber program, the district's chief recovery officer testified in court on Tuesday.  David Meckley, whom the state would like to see appointed as the district's receiver, has said the district should move forward with plans to convert all schools to charters run by an outside operator because of a lack of progress in the internal reform plan. The school board's tabling of the idea, among other things, led to the state's request for receivership.  The recovery law, under which the city district is deemed in moderate financial recovery, says the district can convert schools to charters, but an alternative should be established for current students who choose not to attend the charter schools.

"I think it puts consolidation almost to bed," state Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, said after the presentation at the York County School of Technology.
School consolidation study: Costs likely to outweigh savings
York Daily Record By Ed Mahon Daily Record/Sunday News  12/17/2014 01:32:56 AM EST
State Rep. Stan Saylor said that, over the years, he and other lawmakers have gotten questions about why York County school districts don't consolidate.  So he and other local state representatives asked the state's Independent Fiscal Office to look into the issue.  On Tuesday night, office deputy director Mark Ryan presented those findings: The study found that the costs of merging 15 school districts for administrative functions would likely outweigh potential savings.
"I think it puts consolidation almost to bed," state Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, said after the presentation at the York County School of Technology.

Harrisburg, York and Lancaster represented on Gov.-elect Tom Wolf's transition review teams
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen |  on December 15, 2014 at 3:40 PM, updated December 16, 2014 at 11:08 AM
*This article has been updated with additional information*
Everyone from business owners and environmentalists to union leaders and lawyers will help prepare Gov.-elect Tom Wolf to take office in January.  On Monday, Wolf announced the names of more than 250 people that will review state agencies, commissions and various issue areas as part of his transition team. A number of people tapped for the review team spots work in York, Lancaster and Dauphin Counties.  The areas of interest that will be reviewed include a wide range of areas such as aging, education, health, law enforcement, transportation and environmental protection.   Click here for a full list of all the review team members and click here for a list of the chairmen and women of the committees.
Here's a breakdown of the people from around the area that were selected by Wolf: 

Gas industry: Drilling tax could cripple Pa. economy
AMY WORDEN, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, December 17, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Tuesday, December 16, 2014, 6:41 PM
HARRISBURG - Three days after the newly elected Senate majority leader opened the door to negotiations on a natural gas drilling tax, industry leaders reiterated their stand that such a tax would harm the state's economy.  Additional taxes would have a "crippling effect on jobs" said Stephanie Wissman, executive director of the Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania.

Education groups at odds over study of Philly schools' performance
By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Dec 16, 2014 05:26 PM
An influential school reform group is urging Philadelphia District leaders to approve every charter applicant that can effectively run schools serving a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students.  Last week, District officials heard pitches from operators hoping to open 40 new charter schools across the city.  To back up its advice on charters, Philadelphia School Advocacy Partners – an arm of the Philadelphia School Partnership – has released a report that sorts the city's public school landscape into two systems: "high impact" and "underperforming."

Radnor: Haverford School Board member Larry Feinberg, a 'Circuit Rider' for fair funding
Main Line Times By Linda Stein @lsteinreporter on Twitter Published: Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Radnor << With great disparities in funding among the state’s 500 school districts, Gov. Tom Corbett earlier this year said a funding formula was needed and the Legislature form a Basic Education Commission whose mission is to come up with recommendations by this coming June.
Meanwhile, a group called The Circuit Riders are traveling the state to talk to school leaders about how public schools are funded. One of those Circuit Riders, Lawrence Feinberg, a Haverford Township School Board member and member of the Keystone State Education Coalition, spoke to the Radnor Township School Board communications and government relations committee Tuesday.  “We’re trying to get the word out that there’s a concerted effort underway with the goal of having the state enact legislation in 2016 to have a predictable, sustainable and equitable basic education funding formula,” said Feinberg. “Pennsylvania is one of only three states in the country that does not have a funding formula. They essentially work off whatever you got last year plus whatever the state can put together. And in many instances whatever additional funds that the state can put together get distributed based primarily on how powerful your state legislators area.”

Ground rules set for 2nd round of Philly charter hearings in January
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 16, 2014 05:24 PM
The School District has established the ground rules for a second round of hearings on charter school applications next month.  According to an email from the District's Charter Schools Office, each of the 40 applications will get a two-hour hearing. Last week, the applicants went through a first round of hearings in front of a District hearing officer, in which they had 15 minutes apiece to make their case.  The tentative schedule calls for hearings to be held on 11 different days in January, starting Jan. 5, with two to five applicants considered each day. The final schedule could change depending on the applicants' availability; they have until tomorrow to request changes. 

"In conclusion, some of the schools applying for new charters may be doing great work. But the unlevel playing field and distinct demographics differences belie claims that charters out-perform district schools. Until the law creates an accountability framework that strengthens the authority of the district to hold charters accountable for serving all kinds of students better than district schools and makes revoking a charter an easier, less costly, and less time consuming process, it is unlikely that increasing the number of charter schools will “improve” public education as required by the charter law itself. To the contrary, charter expansion at this time will siphon crucial resources out of district schools and ultimately reduce the number of quality public school options — the opposite of the charter school law’s legislative intent."
Testimony to SRC on Charter Applications and Legislative Intent
By David Lapp, Education Law Center 12-11-2014
My name is David Lapp and I have worked with charter schools in a variety of roles for virtually my entire professional career. First, as a teacher, then as a board member, and currently as a staff attorney at the Education Law Center where I frequently represent students in both district and charter schools.  There is tremendous promise in the theory of independently-operated public schools that areaccountable for equitably serving all kinds of students, achieve superior results, and ultimately increase quality educational options in the larger system of public education. Unfortunately, we do not have such a system in Philadelphia. Until we do, the district is fully within its legal right to restrict charter school growth. Indeed, in order to comply with the legislative intent of the charter school law and with our state constitutional mandate for a “thorough and efficient system of public education,” the district is legally compelled to restrict charter growth.

Report: Consolidating York County school districts would not likely save money
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen |  on December 16, 2014 at 6:00 PM, updated December 16, 2014 at 10:30 PM
The cost of consolidating 15 York County school districts would likely outweigh savings from combining administrative staff, according to a new report.  The Independent Fiscal Office in Harrisburg was asked by a delegation of York County state representatives to study the fiscal impact of consolidating the districts. The study's results were discussed Tuesday night at a meeting in the York County School of Technology in York.  The IFO took several factors into consideration — taxes, state education funding, salaries and savings — before arriving at its conclusion about consolidating the school districts.

Chester Upland's top brass visits 'Live From the Newsroom' tonight
Delco Times Heron's Nest Blog by Editor Phil Heron Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Do you have a question you'd like to ask the top brass of the Chester Upland School District?
This is your night.
After surviving an attempt by Gov. Tom Corbett to remove him from his job, Chester Upland receiver Joe Watkins will pay a visit to our live-stream Internet show, 'Live From the Newsroom,' tonight. Joining us will be Chester Upland Superintendent Gregory Shannon.  Watkins was targeted in a surprise move by acting state Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq, who filed a petition in Delaware County Court to have Watkins ousted. But Delco Judge Chad Kenney decided Watkins deserves more time to turn things around in the seemingly forever troubled school district.  We'll talk about the reasons why Watkins may have been targeted, why he believes it was the wrong move, and the things he's done to reverse course in Chester Upland.
Shannon will be on hand to talk about the current state of affairs in Chester Upland, and where the district goes from here. Do you have a question you'd like to ask either Watkins or Shannon? Email it to me at, and I will ask them tomorrow night.
Then tune in to tonight at 7 tonight as we go live with Joe Watkins and Gregory Shannon. Join the conversation!

All They Want for Christmas … is Art Education
Yinzercation Blog by Jessie Ramey December 16, 2014
Last night at the final board meeting before the winter holidays, Pittsburgh students told school board directors what they want for their schools. If Santa was paying attention, he didn’t have to write down very much. The students’ wish list contains only one item: arts education.
The students who spoke at the meeting attend Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12 and are concerned about the impact of several years of budget cuts on arts education across the district. They reached out to Yinzercation, and steering committee member Kathy Newman worked with them and helped them understand the process of presenting to the school board. Two of those students, seniors William Grimm and Margaret Booth, are co-presidents of the CAPA chapter of the National Arts Honors Society (NAHS). Through that chapter, they collected statements from other CAPA students about why the arts are important in public education.

What’s Missing ?
Lucid Witness Blog by Daun Kauffman September 25, 2014
“Education Reform” discussions often revolve around: 1) a “Common Core”, or “national standards”, plus,  2) Standardized Testing and,  3)  a  “Value Added Measurement” of teachers.
Clearly, something is missing in the  “Reform” discussions.
The Common Core, is an attempt to develop common learning objectives across all U. S. schools.  It’s  faulted for lack of practitioner input (primary years especially absent),  for being developmentally inappropriate, and for how it was constructed and benchmarked.  Other outcries against the Common Core include the heavy hand of ‘Uncle Sam’ into States’ Rights and the sort of “Stepford Wives”, one size fits all, implications.
Standardized Testing is theoretically connected to the common learning objectives via a common, or “standard”,  test.  Standardized Testing is attacked for errors, for  secrecy, and for its propensity to beget a plethora of “interim” or “benchmark” tests along the way, leading to reduced time for teaching and learning :   over testing.   Next the high stakes of the test for both children and schools generate high levels of toxic stress.  The high stakes also lead to “teaching to the test”, (often to the exclusion of a well-rounded curriculum), and sometimes to cheating(by adults).  Finally, the test results are already being wielded to punish, via value-added measures, below,  before having validated the Common Core which the tests are based on.

"None of this is because Americans do not care about their children. It is because America has embraced a policy agenda in recent decades that has caused its economy to become wildly unequal, leaving the most vulnerable segments of society further and further behind. The growing concentration of wealth ― and a significant reduction in taxes on it ― has meant less money to spend on investments for the public good, like education and the protection of children."
Inequality and the U.S. child
The Korea Herald by Joseph Stiglitz Published : 2014-12-15 20:44
Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, is a professor at Columbia University
NEW YORK ― Children, it has long been recognized, are a special group. They do not choose their parents, let alone the broader conditions into which they are born. They do not have the same abilities as adults to protect or care for themselves. That is why the League of Nations approved the Geneva Declaration on the Rights of the Child in 1924, and why the international community adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989.
Sadly, the United States is not living up to its obligations. In fact, it has not even ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The U.S., with its cherished image as a land of opportunity, should be an inspiring example of just and enlightened treatment of children. Instead, it is a beacon of failure ― one that contributes to global sluggishness on children’s rights in the international arena.
Though an average American childhood may not be the worst in the world, the disparity between the country’s wealth and the condition of its children is unparalleled. About 14.5 percent of the American population as a whole is poor, but 19.9 percent of children ― some 15 million individuals ― live in poverty. Among developed countries, only Romania has a higher rate of child poverty. The U.S. rate is two-thirds higher than that in the United Kingdom, and up to four times the rate in the Nordic countries. For some groups, the situation is much worse: more than 38 percent of black children, and 30 percent of Hispanic children, are poor.

New Federal Budget Defunds Race to the Top
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch December 16, 2014 //
According to news reports, the new federal budget strips all funding from Race to the Top. Good riddance to one of the worst, most destructive federal programs in history. Historians will one day tell us who cooked up this assault on teachers and public schools. If states wanted to be eligible for part of Arne Duncan’s $4.35 billion in Race to the Top funding, they were required to adopt the “college and career ready standards,” aka Common Core, even though no one had ever field tested them. States had to agree to evaluate teachers to a significant degree by student scores, even though there was no evidence for doing so. States had to open more charters, transferring control from public to private management. States had to create massive data systems to track students.  RTTT was an all-out assault on the teaching profession, public education, and student privacy.

Jeb Bush's Entry Into Presidential Contest Would Put K-12 Front and Center
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Alyson Klein on December 16, 2014 11:41 AM
It's official! Well, sorta. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will "actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States" in 2016, according to Facebook post he published Tuesday morning.  The Republican's announcement is an early Christmas present for education policy/politics nerds. There is probably no prospective candidate in either party more closely identified with K-12 education policy.  Whether you agree with Bush's positions on things like school choice and the Common Core State Standards or not, his entrance into the race would exponentially raise the profile of K-12 education, which is often an afterthought in national campaigns. He was one of the most active governors on education in recent history and after leaving office even started an organization, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, that's geared towards K-12 policy.  Especially interesting if you're an edu-policy geek: Bush doesn't see eye-to-eye with many of the more conservative members of his party on what's arguably the biggest K-12 political issue of the day, the common core standards.

TFA Closing NYC Office, Not Enough Recruits
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch December 16, 2014 //
There have been rumors for months that TFA has seen a sharp decline in applicants. This may be confirmation.  Teach for America is closing down its NYC office because of a decline in recruitment.  It seems the pushback from alumni has made a difference, despite TFA’s massive PR and funding. Alumni have written many articles warning that they were ill-prepared for their assignments.

Valerie Strauss on TFA’s Sharp Decline in Recruits
Diane Ravitch's Blog  By dianeravitch December 16, 2014 //
Valerie Strauss here analyzes the sharp drop in Teach for America recruits. The numbers of new corps members are down by as much as 25%.  Why? Teachers’ morale has declined precipitously from 2008-2012 (will Arne Duncan be held accountable?) and the teaching profession has lost its allure. Strauss points out that TFA may be a causal factor in the loss of respect for the profession, since it claims that brand néw college graduates are better than veteran teachers. By doing so, TFA has encouraged the belief that 5 weeks of training is good enough. This destroys the profession as such. Veteran teachers have been replaced by TFA kids. This can contribute to instability and demoralization.

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