Saturday, January 10, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 10: The Hill Congress Blog: America is secretly number one internationally in education

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for January 10, 2015:
The Hill Congress Blog: America is secretly number one internationally in education

"More than two-thirds of children from Pennsylvania families with yearly incomes above $100,000 are enrolled in quality early childhood education programs. For families making less than $20,000 a year, though, that number is only about one in five."
Report finds that Pa. lags in early childhood education access and equity
the notebook By Laura Benshoff for NewsWorks on Jan 9, 2015 11:13 AM
A new report finds that Pennsylvania ranks 41st nationally in early childhood education, lagging behind New Jersey, Delaware, 37 other states, and the District of Columbia.
This week, the nonprofit Education Week Research Center released its annual Quality Counts report on state-by-state school performance for grades K-12.  For the first time, the report also looked at preschool and kindergarten numbers, using information from the U.S. Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Senator Smucker Moves Up To Chair Education Committee
Senator Smucker's website January 9, 2015
For state Senator Lloyd Smucker, the new legislative session begins with a challenging assignment he was seeking – chairing the Senate Education Committee.
“All the discussions in our communities about growing jobs and expanding opportunities and encouraging investment and development ultimately come back to the quality of the workforce, which in turn reflects on how well our education system is performing,” Smucker said.
“During my six years in the Senate, I have heard constantly from parents, students, educators, administrators, and employers about education issues ranging from funding to testing to curriculum.  Last year, for the first time in a long while, voters were citing education as their top concern.  There may not be a common definition of reform or improvement, but there is wide agreement on the need to do things differently.  We cannot afford to put off acting on effective solutions to the problems confronting basic and higher education,” he stated.

PA Senate Democrats announce committee chairs
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Friday, January 9, 2015
The Senate Democrats have named their committee chairs, according to a release sent out Friday afternoon.  As it looks from the line-up, a number of Democrats will be pulling double duty with Senators Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny), Sean Wiley (D-Erie), and Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) chairing two committees each.  Freshman Senator Art Haywood (D-Montgomery) has found his way to be Minority Chairman of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee.
Meanwhile, Sen. Matt Smith (D-Allegheny) moves from the State Government Committee to chair Banking and Insurance for Sen. Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia), who plans to resign when sworn in as Lt. Governor later this month.  Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) replaces Sen. Smith on State Government.  Here is the rest of the list:

PA Senate Republicans announce committee chairs
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Friday, January 9, 2015
On behalf of the Senate Republican Caucus, President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) announced the Republican standing committee chairs for the 2015-2016 session.
Notable changes from last session include a switch in State Government and Education Committee chairs with Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) taking over the Education Committee for Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), who will helm the State Government Committee where Sen. Smucker was chairman last session.  Former Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) will find his home as chairman of the Senate Local Government Committee taking over for Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair) who replaces the retiring Sen. Mike Brubaker (R-Lancaster) as chair of Senate Finance.  Freshman senators and former House members Michele Brooks (R-Mercer), Mario Scavello (R-Monroe), and Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) all received chairmanships.
Sen. Brooks will chair the Aging and Youth Committee, Sen. Scavello will chair the Game and Fisheries Committee, and Sen. Aument will chair the Intergovernmental Operations Committee.
The other three freshman senators—Camera Bartolotta (R-Washington), Thomas McGarrigle (R-Delaware), and Pat Stefano (R-Fayette) did not receive chairmanships.  The full list follows:

Pa. releases some recent test results in an accessible format
After 2012, the state stopped posting spreadsheets with school and district test scores. Through a Right-to-Know request, the Notebook has obtained files with the Keystone and PSSA results.
the notebook By David Limm on Jan 9, 2015 11:05 AM
Say you're someone who's curious about taking a detailed look at how Pennsylvania's schools, districts, and students performed over the past few years. As a researcher, policymaker, journalist -- or anyone with an interest in exploring the data -- it would be reasonable to expect test-score results to be made available in a similar format each year, in a spreadsheet form that can be easily sorted and manipulated.  Until two years ago, anyone could download the same Excel spreadsheets containing data sets of PSSA scores from the Pennsylvania Department of Education's website -- all in the same, easy-to-mine, easy-to-compare format. Test results as far back as 1995 were all available via one web page.  But for the last two years of tests, unless you possessed the computational chops to extract an enormity of data from PDF files or separate web pages, you would be out of luck. That's because the state stopped releasing the data in spreadsheet form and stopped highlighting year-to-year comparisons of proficiency rates for schools, districts, and the state as a whole.

Obama’s community college plan could cause 15% jump in Philly enrollment
By Anna Orso for Billy Penn on Jan 9, 2015 04:31 PM
In a move that could change the way the nation views higher education, President Obama today announced details for a proposal that would use federal dollars to subsidize two years of community college for Americans “willing to work for it.” AKA, free college for lots of people.
Leaders here say the plan could allow thousands of Philadelphians to attend community college — people who wouldn’t have attended before because they couldn’t afford it. Donald Generals, president of the Community College of Philadelphia, said Friday that the school’s enrollment could increase by 15 percent, and that’s a “conservative” estimate.
Bonus: If the plan moves forward, it could cut down on the city’s nearly-9-percent high school dropout rate, giving students the financial hope they might need to push through their final years of high school with plans to attend community college.
But there are major concerns with the proposal — like where schools will put the thousands of (theoretical) new students. And experts say it’ll be a hard sell for the president who will need backing from a Republican-controlled Congress. Here’s what you need to know.

Longtime Pileggi spokesman Erik Arneson tapped to lead Office of Open Records
By Tim Logue, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 01/09/15, 11:31 PM EST |
For more than 20 years, Erik Arneson has been in the communications business, first as a reporter in Lebanon County and then a lieutenant for two of the state’s most influential Republican leaders.  State Sen. Dominic Pileggi’s communication and policy director expects those jobs will serve him well as the next executive director of Pennsylvania’s Office of Open Records.  “I think it’s helpful for the person in charge of this office to have experience in both fields,” Arneson said Friday afternoon, a few hours after Gov. Tom Corbett announced the appointment. “I think it’s especially useful to have an understanding of the ‘why’ from the perspective of a journalist.”  Arneson, 43, helped craft the 2008 Right-to-Know Law, introduced by Pileggi and signed by Gov. Ed Rendell, that led to the establishment of the Office of Open Records. He will replace its first executive director, Rendell appointee Terry Mutchler, an attorney and former journalist for the Associated Press who resigned Friday.

Timing of Corbett's open records chief appointment draws fire
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 09, 2015 at 7:40 PM, updated January 10, 2015 at 7:11 AM
With only 11 days left in his four-year term, Gov. Tom Corbett announced his decision on Friday. On Monday, he will sign the paperwork to appoint longtime Senate Republican staffer Erik Arneson, 43, of Cornwall, Lebanon County, to the $140,000-a-year post in the open records office for a six-year term.  Shortly before his appointment was made public, Mutchler, 49, announced at a Capitol Rotunda news conference she was resigning her post to accept a position at the Philadelphia law firm of Pepper Hamilton where she will spearhead a transparency practice focusing on promoting open government from a media, government and corporate perspective.

Blogger's note: Was this appointment an eleventh hour "gift" to charter magnate Vahan Gureghian, who was Corbett's largest individual campaign donor?  Mutchler was an outspoken critic of charter schools flaunting RTK. Gureghian fought a right-to-know request seeking financial details of his Charter School Management Company and also sought a change in PA charter school law that would have excluded vendors like him from the state's RTK requirements.  Several years later, the public still has no detailed information on how their tax dollars are being spent.

"They (charter officials) don't feel they should be subject to this law, or, candidly, subject to you," Mutchler told senators on the state government committee, which is considering legislation to amend the five-year-old law. "They are a cancer on the otherwise healthy right-to- know-law."
May 2013: Pa. official: Charter schools flout public-records law
By Amy Worden, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau POSTED: May 15, 2013
HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania's 180 charter schools routinely ignore the state's Right-To-Know Law even though as publicly funded institutions they are bound to comply with it, the chief of the state's Office of Open Records told a Senate committee on Monday.
Executive director Terry Mutchler said her office had received 239 appeals in cases in which charter schools either rejected or failed to answer requests from the public for information such as budgets, payrolls, or student rosters. She said her office ruled in favor of the schools on just six of those appeals.

Twitter Fight of the Week: Can All Schools Actually Be Great?
A social media duel that cuts to the heart of the Philly schools debate.
Philly Mag BY PATRICK KERKSTRA  |  JANUARY 9, 2015 AT 9:00 AM
Sure, Twitter is an ephemeral, terse medium. Yes, it is better suited for pithy one-liners and insults than for substantive policy debate. But every so often, Twitter’s immediacy, its frisson-stoking powers, yields fascinating and relatively unfiltered discussions between those Philadelphians who are wrangling with the city’s Big Issues.  Citified will highlight these edifying Twitter fights when we find them (ok, ok, we may highlight some that aren’t so edifying as well). This week features a genuinely substantive debate sparked by a provocative op-ed published Wednesday by the Public School Notebook.

Jeremy Novak: What Do We Mean By Public and Private Today?
In today’s rancorous schools debate, old distinctions no longer apply
The Philadelphia Citizen By Jeremy Nowak January 9, 2015
Anytime the hot-button issue of our schools is debated, sides are taken and lines are drawn in the sand. It’s the public school advocates versus those who favor privately-run charters, and the finger pointing begins. But that narrative misses a crucial point about our schools today.
In Philadelphia right now, one out of three children attends a public charter school—a school that is publicly funded and regulated but managed by a civic entity (the overwhelming majority of charter schools are nonprofits).  But the math is even more complex than the 1 out of 3 figure. The School District also has contract schools where major institutions like the University of Pennsylvania or The Franklin Institute run schools, and it has special select schools that you test into or apply to from anywhere in the city.  If you put the number of charters, special selects, and contract schools together, then the number of children that go to schools that are very different than the conventional District-run schools gets closer to about 55 percent. That means the District now embodies contending notions of what it means to be a public school, based on management autonomy or admissions selectivity.

Canton school board members honored
Daily Review BY ERIC HRIN (STAFF WRITER) Published: January 10, 2015
CANTON - Some might say serving as a school board member is a thankless job.
But this week, Canton Area School Board members found the opposite to be true.
They were honored for School Director Recognition Month.
The district presented them certificates and windbreakers as tokens of appreciation.
During his report at the school board meeting, district superintendent Matt Gordon read a portion of the 2015 resolution for School Director Recognition Month from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA).  Gordon stated, "whereas, locally elected school officials distinguish themselves and their communities in this non-paid, volunteer public service commitment; and whereas the contributions of these men and women need to be recognized and appreciated by those who benefit from the workings of our public school system; and therefore be it resolved that the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association proclaims January as School Director Recognition Month in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."
Sharing his own thoughts, Gordon said, "on behalf of our school district and our students and staff, thank you very much. We certainly appreciate it."  The members of the Canton Area School Board are Jared Wilcox, president; Judy Sourbeer, vice president; Gary Black, treasurer; Ryan Allen; Eric Anderson; Mike Herman; Bill Holland; Dennis Sourbeer; and Melony Taylor.

Seven Delco school districts look to raise taxes
Delco Times By Kevin Tustin, Special to the Times POSTED: 01/09/15, 11:33 PM EST |
As Delaware County school districts tackle another budget process, one thing is certain for the next school year: about half of them will continue to be held at the state base index for raising taxes.  According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, seven of the county’s 15 districts will be allowed to raise their school taxes at the base index of 1.9 percent for the 2015-16 school year. The other eight school districts were given higher maximums by which they could raise their taxes, some around one percentage point higher.
Individual district indices range from 1.9 to 3 percent: Chester-Upland, 3.0 percent; Chichester, 2.5 percent; Garnet Valley, 1.9 percent; Haverford Township, 1.9 percent; Interboro, 2.6 percent; Marple Newtown, 1.9 percent; Penn-Delco, 2. 2 percent ; Radnor Township, 1.9 percent; Ridley, 2.5 percent; Rose Tree Media, 1.9 percent; Southeast Delco, 2.8 percent; Springfield, 1.9 percent; Upper Darby, 2.7 percent; Wallingford-Swarthmore, 1.9 percent; and William Penn, 2.8 percent.  Garnet Valley, Haverford, Marple Newtown, Radnor, Rose Tree Media, Springfield and Wallingford-Swarthmore school districts have been held at the base index since at least the 2006-07 school year.

"A new Columbia University study by Michael Rebell and Jessica Wolff has found that the United States outperforms every single country in the world when controlling for schools with a child poverty rate of less than 20 percent."
America is secretly number one internationally in education
The Hill Congress Blog By Rachel Burger January 09, 2015, 01:00 pm
Are U.S. schools really underperforming? A new study may change the perception of American public education’s shortcoming as one of cash, not curriculum.   For years, a narrative of the U.S. lagging behind other industrialized countries has dominated the media. For example, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranks the United States as 27th in math and 17th in reading internationally — far below the international average — while the U.S. maintains the highest federal education budget in the world
The United States certainly has underwhelming scores, but that isn’t the whole picture. 
A new Columbia University study by Michael Rebell and Jessica Wolff has found that the United States outperforms every single country in the world when controlling for schools with a child poverty rate of less than 20 percent.   While noted education experts have started to come out against standardized testing in response to the U.S.’s supposedly abysmal performance, perhaps a new takeaway should be drawn. Namely, our “education” problem is really a problem of poverty.   Given the United States’ huge education budget, it may seem baffling that schools would need even more money, but consider how funding is dispersed in the United StatesNearly half of school revenue comes from local property taxes, meaning per-student spending increases with more affluent neighborhoods. For example, in Philadelphia, poor school districts would need an additional $1 billion to have the same funding as the rich public schools. 

NCLB Rewrite Could Target Mandate on Annual Tests
Education Week By Alyson Klein and Lauren Camera Published Online: January 9, 2015
For more than a decade, even amid big revisions to the original No Child Left Behind Act, one thing has remained constant: States have required students to take annual tests in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school.  Now, as a long-stalled reauthorization of the law gets underway in a newly Republican-controlled Congress, that could be changing.
There’s been a reshuffling of the political landscape that’s aligned GOP interests in scaling back the federal role in K-12 education with support from some education organizations in reducing the number of tests.

Teachers to the Test
Evaluating educators based on their students' exam scores is misguided and threatens reform efforts.
The Atlantic by AMANDA M. FAIRBANKSJAN 8 2015, 11:00 AM ET
GREAT NECK, N.Y. — On September 2, the day her principal shared each teacher’s annual evaluation, Sheri Lederman came home from work and announced to her husband that she was ready to quit.  In the span of one year, Lederman’s score dropped 13 percentage points. Suddenly, she was demoted from an "effective" teacher to an "ineffective" one. It was enough to make her head spin. After all, this marks Lederman’s 18th year in the classroom. She teaches fourth grade at the Elizabeth M. Baker Elementary School in Great Neck, a middle-class suburb about 20 miles from New York City.
A statewide teacher ranking system was implemented in 2012 and changed how educators were assessed. Nearly half of Lederman's score—40 percent—was tied to her students’ test scores and the number of kids who progressed on statewide exams. The rest of the rating was based on classroom evaluations conducted by administrators. Depending on the final percentage, teachers in New York received ratings of "highly effective," "effective," "developing," or "ineffective." Teachers who received ineffective ratings for two consecutive years could face an expedited dismissal process—a fate that Lederman now fears might soon be her own.

Join a Community Conversation about Public School Funding in Franklin County; January 15, 6:30 pm Chambersburg
Confirmed Guests of Honor: Senator Richard Alloway Senator John Eichelberger Representative-Elect Paul Schemel
Join a Community Conversation about Public School Funding in Franklin County on Thursday, January 15 at 6:30 at the First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Chambersburg, 43 West Washington Street, Chambersburg, PA Local school district leaders will discuss how state funding issues are impacting our children’s educational opportunities, our local taxes, and our communities and area legislators will be in attendance to learn about voters' concerns. Ask questions. Share your stories, your concerns, and your suggestions. Learn how you can support fair and adequate state funding for our area schools
Dr. Joe Bard, Executive Director, PA Association of Rural and Small Schools
Dr. Joe Padasak, Superintendent, Chambersburg Area School District
Mr. Jim Duffey, Superintendent, Fannett-Metal School District
Dr. Gregory Hoover, Superintendent, Greencastle-Antrim School District
Mrs. Beth Bender, Superintendent, Shippensburg Area School District
Dr. Charles Prijatelj, Superintendent, Tuscarora Area School District

Mark Your Calendars.  The next Twitter Chat on PA School Funding is Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 8:00 p.m.  Join us #paedfunding
Tweet from Circuit Rider Kathleen Kelley

Adams Co. PSBA Basic Education Funding Listening Tour Breakfast
JAN 14, 2015 • 8:30 AM - 10:30 AM
Jan. 14, 8:30-10:30 a.m. at the Gettysburg Area Middle School, 37 Lefever St., Gettysburg, PA
PSBA Members Register online:

PILCOP Special Education Seminar: Dyslexia and Other Learning Disabilities
Philadelphia Tuesday, January 20, 2015, 1:00 - 4:00 P.M.
United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Tickets: Attorneys $200  General Public $100   Webinar $50   
"Pay What You Can" tickets are also available    
Speakers: Sonja Kerr; Kathleen Carlsen (Children’s Dyslexia Center of Philadelphia) 
This session is designed to provide the audience with information about how to address 1) eligibility issues for children with learning disabilities, including dyslexia and ADHD, 2) encourage self-advocacy and 3) write and implement meaningful IEPS (what does Orton-Gillingham really look like?)   This session is co-sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania School of Policy and Practice. The University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice is a Pre-approved Provider of Continuing Education for Pennsylvania licensed social workers. 
Questions? Email or call 267-546-1316.

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.

PSBA Master School Board Director Recognition: Applications begin in January
PSBA website December 23, 2014
The Master School Board Director (MSBD) Recognition is for individuals who have demonstrated significant contributions as members of their governance teams. It is one way PSBA salutes your hard work and exceptional dedication to ethics and standards, student success and achievement, professional development, community engagement, communications, stewardship of resources, and advocacy for public education.
School directors who are consistently dedicated to the aforementioned characteristics should apply or be encouraged to apply by fellow school directors. The MSBD Recognition demonstrates your commitment to excellence and serves to encourage best practices by all school directors.
The application will be posted Jan. 15, 2015, with a deadline to apply of June 30. Recipients will be notified by the MSBD Recognition Committee by Aug. 31 and will be honored at the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference in October.
If you are interested in learning more about the MSBD Recognition, contact Janel Biery, conference/events coordinator, at (800) 932-0588, ext. 3332.

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