Monday, January 12, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 12: Program on PA school funding; Chambersburg Jan 15th 6:30 pm

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for January 12, 2015:
Program on PA school funding; Chambersburg Jan 15th 6:30 pm

Public school funding will be discussed at program
A Community Conversation about Public School Funding in Franklin County will be held Thursday, Jan. 15, at 6:30 p.m., in First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Chambersburg, 43 W. Washington St.
The Record Herald Posted Jan. 10, 2015 @ 2:00 pm
A Community Conversation about Public School Funding in Franklin County will be held Thursday, Jan. 15, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 15, in First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Chambersburg, 43 W. Washington St.  Local school district leaders discuss how state funding issues are impacting education and local taxes.
Confirmed guests include state Sen. Richard Alloway II and John Eichelberger Jr. and state Rep. Paul Schemel.  Those attending will be able to ask questions; share stories, concerns, and suggestions; and learn how you can support fair and adequate state funding for schools. 
— Dr. Joe Bard, executive director, PA Association of Rural and Small Schools
— Dr. Joe Padasak, superintendent, Chambersburg Area School District
— Jim Duffey, superintendent, Fannett-Metal School District
— Dr. Gregory Hoover, superintendent, Greencastle-Antrim School District
— Beth Bender, superintendent, Shippensburg Area School District
— Dr. Charles Prijatelj, superintendent, Tuscarora School District
The program is hosted by Education Voters of PA and Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley, partners in the Campaign for Fair Education Funding, a state coalition working to ensure that all students have access to a quality education, no matter where they live.
For more information, contact Susan Spicka at 717-331-4033 or

"Watkins unpacked his plan to partner with the charters -– which included recategorizing charter students as Chester-Upland School District students -- at a hearing in December.  "By recategorizing charter students and making them Chester Upland students, we wouldn't have been obligated to pay their tuition costs," said Watkins. He said the district currently pays $9,000 to $35,000 in tuition per student, in addition to absorbing departure costs."
Chester-Upland School District abandons plan to share administration with charters
A Chester County judge has scrapped a money-saving attempt by the Chester-Upland School District to merge the administration of its district and charter schools.   The District's state-appointed receiver Joe Watkins said Judge Chad Kenney scrapped his plan to merge the administration of public and charter schools due to a lack of progress.  Meetings with charter administrators had been "civil," said  the district's state-appointed receiver Joe Watkins.
"I think some of the concern had to do with the issues of control," he said. "In a partnership, those are legitimate."  The Chester-Upland School District faces a $20 million structural deficit, which Watkins attributes to costs incurred by student exodus to charter schools and the state government's decision in 2011 to eliminate money in the budget to help districts cover the cost of departure.  Almost half of the more than 7,000 students in the area attend charter schools.
Watkins has floated several unorthodox fixes for the chronically underperforming and overextended school district, including talk of a partnership and an flux of more than $1 billion from a Chinese investor.   In the past, the district has offered laptops and Dr. Dre headphones to lure students back from charters.

Did you catch our weekend postings?
PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 10: The Hill Congress Blog: America is secretly number one internationally in education

Weekend tweet from Keystone State Ed Coalition:
Was Corbett Open Records Chief appt an 11th hour gift to charter magnate/benefactor Gureghian?

Common Core pushes Lehigh Valley districts toward full-day kindergarten
By Jacqueline Palochko Of The Morning Call January 10, 2015
Full-day kindergarten may become norm in Lehigh Valley.
Common Core pushes Bethlehem, other school districts toward full-day kindergarten.
Should 5-year-olds spend all day in school?  Remember kindergarten? The songs and stories, naps and snacks. They're still part of a 5-year-old's day, but so are reading, math and science. And school districts are finding that's too much to cram into a half day.  Bethlehem Area may become the biggest district in the Lehigh Valley to switch to solely full-day kindergarten. Superintendent Joseph Roy will ask the school board Monday to expand kindergarten in all 16 elementary schools next school year. Currently, 14 of the district's 48 kindergarten sections are full-day.  Easton Area and Parkland are mulling over the option.
Statewide, nearly 400 of the 500 districts offer just full-day kindergarten, according to the state Department of Education. But in the Lehigh Valley, it's been slow to catch on. Only a handful of districts, such as Northampton Area and Nazareth Area, offer solely full-day classes to all 5- and 6-year-olds.  Others are like Bethlehem, limiting full-day classes to at-risk students. While educators see academic value in expanding kindergarten, cost and space have kept many districts from making the move.  Roy said his request is being driven by several factors: convenience for working parents, the loss of students to charter schools and — most importantly in his mind — Pennsylvania's new Common Core-based academic standards.  Considering what's expected of students when they reach first grade, "full-day kindergarten is the right thing to do educationally," he said.

Pittsburgh pushing minority teachers for leadership roles
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 12, 2015 12:00 AM
Pittsburgh Public Schools is urging more teachers to take on expanded leadership opportunities that could pay as much as $11,300 extra a year, including efforts to attract a more diverse group of applicants.  As one of the ways to recruit current city teachers to the positions, the district today will host information sessions at board headquarters focused on “teachers of color,” although the session is open to all.  “This would be aligned with what we do when trying to build strong and diverse application pools,” said Jody Spolar, chief human resources officer. “If you want to advance the goal of diversity in your workplace … you have to be deliberate about making sure you have a strong applicant pool.”  Currently, 15 percent of the teaching staff are minorities while 11 percent of the career-ladder teachers are minorities. Sixty-six percent of students are minorities.

School with $160 annual budget sees kindness from strangers
First came the calls. Then the reams of paper, more precious in a cash-strapped public school than gold.  Finally, the checks arrived.  Anna Lane Lingelbach Elementary, a public school in Germantown, began the academic year with a discretionary budget of $160: 40 cents to spend on each needy student.  But after readers learned of the school's plight in November from an Inquirer story, an avalanche of donations flowed from around the country.  Most notably, one anonymous angel gave the school $100,000, a sum that should buy Google Chromebooks for each of the school's 420 students, kindergarten through eighth grade.  For a place that principal Marc Gosselin had described as "so far below just the baseline that you need to run a school," the generosity feels like a dream.  "This will help to bridge the equity gap in our school," Gosselin said last week.

Maurice Flurie: Gov.-elect Wolf has correct idea to create charter school office
Morning Call Opinion by Maurice Flurie January 9, 2015
Maurice "Reese" Flurie is CEO of Commonwealth Connections Academy, a public, nonprofit cyber charter school in Pennsylvania.
During his campaign, Gov.-elect Tom Wolf said charter schools in Pennsylvania should be held accountable to the students they teach, the families they support, and the taxpayers who fund them.  I couldn't agree more.  That is why I support his proposal to create an office of Charter and Cyber Charter Schools within the Pennsylvania Department of Education. This new office would strengthen measures of transparency and accountability.  Today, cyber charter schools instruct nearly 40,000 students. The waiting list for brick-and-mortar charter schools exceeds that number. The state Education Department has been backlogged while stretching reduced resources and recently began seeking to contract with outside entities to handle some responsibilities related to cyber charter schools. The demand and evolving landscape necessitates a separate state office with dedicated resources to fulfill its responsibilities.
Our cyber charter school, Commonwealth Connections Academy, reflects that demand. It is a public, not-for-profit cyber charter school serving 9,000 students throughout Pennsylvania. Just five years ago, we served 4,000 students.

Blogger's Note: Cybercharters might be a good fit for some students but none of PA's cybercharters have achieved a passing School Performance Score of 70 in the two years that the SPP has been in place, and most PA cybers never made AYP under No Child Left Behind.  Regarding the 40,000 student waiting list cited above, to my knowledge there is no credible, reliable, accurate unduplicated count of students actually on charter school waiting lists in Pennsylvania.
Nov. 2014: Pa. cyber charters again get low marks on state tests
A new study by Research for Action has found that Pennsylvania's cyber-charter sector continues to yield subpar results on the state's standardized tests.   Using the state's recently released school performance profile data for 2013-14, RFA found the average School Performance Profile score for the cyber-charter sector was 48.9 – well below the averages for the state's brick and mortar charters and traditional public schools.  To date, no cyber charter has earned a SPP of 70 or higher, the state Department of Education's quality threshold.

Ethics complaint filed against Rutgers professor
JONATHAN LAI, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, January 9, 2015, 11:59 PM POSTED: Thursday, January 8, 2015, 6:29 PM
A nonprofit advocacy group representing New Jersey charter schools filed an ethics complaint this week accusing a Rutgers University professor of abusing her title and improperly using her university affiliation to lobby against charter schools.  Julia Sass Rubin, an associate professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, denied the accusations, describing them as an attack on academic freedom and an attempt to silence her.
The New Jersey Charter Schools Association, a nonprofit group that advocates for charters, has long butted heads with Save Our Schools New Jersey (SOSNJ), a group Rubin founded to support traditional public schools and that has criticized charters.

"Rubin co-authored a report in October showing that charter schools in New Jersey educate significantly smaller percentages of poor students, special education students and students from non-English speaking families than the public school districts in which they are located."
Charter schools association files ethics complaint against Rutgers professor, SOSNJ founder
NJ.COM By Adam Clark | NJ Advance Media for Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on January 08, 2015 at 1:26 PM, updated January 09, 2015 at 8:11 AM
Contending that a Rutgers professor and public schools advocate has used her position, title and state university resources to wage a personally driven campaign against them, a group representing the state’s charter schools has filed an ethics complaint against the Save Our Schools NJ co-founder.  The complaint, filed with New Jersey State Ethics Commission, charges Julia Sass Rubinviolated the State’s Conflict of Interest Law and Uniform Ethics Code, as well as the University’s Code and Policies for faculty employees.

NYT Letters: Easing the Rules on Home Schooling
New York Times JAN. 9, 2015
Re “Home Schooling: More Pupils, Less Regulation” (front page, Jan. 5):  The push for looser requirements and less accountability for parents who home-school their children may obscure gaps in home-schooled children’s education.  In general, while children who are home-schooled do well on verbal tests, they do not perform as well in mathematics and have been found to have slightly lower scores on the mathematics SAT and ACT exams. This may limit their academic and career options.  In school, students learn social skills, bond with their peers and are exposed to diverse opinions. Children who are home-schooled risk being socially isolated.

A 'Sizable Decrease' In Those Passing The GED
NPR by Cory Turner and Anya Kamenetz JANUARY 09, 2015 3:26 AM ET
One year after the launch of a major overhaul of the GED exam — the first since 2002 — the high school equivalency program has seen a sharp drop in the number of people who took and passed the test, according to local and state educators and the organization that runs it. In addition, at least 16 states have begun offering or plan to offer new, alternative tests.  Combined, these changes represent a dramatic shift in the equivalency landscape dominated by the GED since its inception during World War II.  Last January, the GED test moved to the computer. It also got more expensive, by most accounts more difficult — and, for the first time, the program is being run on a for-profit basis. The new GED Testing Service is a joint venture between the American Council on Education, the nonprofit that has run the program since it began, and the education company PearsonWhat effect did all of these changes have on test takers?
"Our number of graduates for this last calendar year has dropped about 85 percent," says Myles Newman, who helps coordinate GED preparation for one school district in Lexington County, S.C. States including Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Colorado are reporting large drops as well.

NYT Editorial: Racial Isolation in Public Schools
New York Times By THE EDITORIAL BOARD JAN. 9, 2015
New York’s schools are the most segregated in the nation, and the state needs remedies right away. That was the message delivered to the governor and the Legislature last week by the chancellor of the State Board of Regents. Minority children are disproportionately trapped in schools that lack the teaching talent, course offerings and resources needed to prepare them for college and success in the new economy.  This is not an easy problem to solve. But the state cannot just throw up its hands. It has a moral obligation to ensure that as many children as possible escape failing schools for ones that give them a fighting chance. And history has shown that districts can dramatically improve educational opportunities for minority children — and reduce racial isolation — with voluntary transfer plans and especially with high-quality magnet schools that attract middle-class families.

Silicon Valley Turns Its Eye to Education
New York Times By NATASHA SINGER  JAN. 11, 2015
….“Education is one of the last industries to be touched by Internet technology, and we’re seeing a lot of catch-up going on,” said Betsy Corcoran, the chief executive of EdSurge, an industry news service and research company. “We’re starting to see more classical investors — the Kleiner Perkinses, the Andreessen Horowitzes, the Sequoias — pay more attention to the marketplace than before.”  While rising sharply, the values of ed tech financing deals are chump change compared with the money flowing into consumer software. Uber, the ride-hailing app, for instance, raised $2.7 billion last year.  The smaller sums going into ed tech illustrate the challenges facing start-ups as they try to persuade public school systems to adopt their novel products. Companies often must navigate local school districts with limited budgets and slow procurement processes. To bypass the bureaucracy, many start-ups are marketing free learning apps and websites directly to teachers in the hopes that their schools might eventually buy enhanced services.

NPE 2015 Annual Conference – Chicago April 24 - 26 – Early Bird Special Registration Open!
Early-bird discounted Registration for the Network for Public Education’s Second Annual Conference is now available at this address:
These low rates will last for the month of January.
The event is being held at the Drake Hotel in downtown Chicago, and there is a link on the registration page for special hotel registration rates. Here are some of the event details.
There will be a welcoming social event  7 pm Friday night, at or near the Drake Hotel — details coming soon.   Featured speakers will be:
§         Jitu Brown, National Director – Journey for Justice, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Network for Public Education Board of Directors
§         Tanaisa Brown, High School Senior, with the Newark Student Union
§         Yong Zhao, Author, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon?
§         Diane Ravitch in conversation with
§         Lily Eskelsen Garcia, NEA President and
§         Randi Weingarten, AFT President
§         Karen Lewis, President, Chicago Teachers Union

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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