Saturday, January 17, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 17: For the first time in at least 50 years, majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3525 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, 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 January 17, 2015:
For the first time in at least 50 years, majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty

Save the date/heads-up; details/confirmation on this as they become available...
The next Basic Education Funding Commission hearing will be held on January 29 in Greenville, Mercer County.#FairFundingPA
Tweet from Circuit Rider Pam Lenz January 16, 2015

Still no announcement regarding the appointment of Wolf's Secretary of Education....
Peering into Wolf's cabinet - a smart mix of fresh faces, a few classics and one past its sell-by date: John L. Micek
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 16, 2015 at 10:50 AM, updated January 16, 2015 at 4:28 PM
Depending upon whom you ask, Gov.-elect Tom Wolf has either cannily hired a team of rivals for the administration that will take power next Tuesday or he's set the stage for the second (or third) coming of Ed Rendell.  Such are the bleak extremes of Harrisburg politics that nuance gets trampled like a hapless tourist on the Farm Show's main concourse.  A closer look at Wolf's incoming cabinet and circle of senior advisers reveals a mix of veteran Democrats and Republicans, as well as a handful of outsiders, who will help him through what is guaranteed to be a rough first semester of his freshman year. All but a handful require Senate confirmation.

Dinniman to Introduce Bill to Stop Standardized Tests as Graduation Requirements
Senator Dinniman's website on JANUARY 16, 2015
WEST CHESTER (January 16) – State Senator Andy Dinniman said the lack of resources in Pennsylvania’s financially distressed public schools is so stark that the use of the Keystone Exams as graduate requirements must be stopped before they exacerbate an already dire situation.  “It’s clear to me that there are two systems of public education in Pennsylvania: separate and unequal,” said Dinniman, who serves as minority chair of the Senate Education Committee. “Until we resolve that discrepancy, how can we, in good conscience, stamp ‘failure’ on the backs of kids who lack the teachers, resources and classes to pass such standardized tests? To continue down this path without addressing such basic issues is beyond the pale. It’s downright shameful.”  Dinniman announced that he will introduce legislation to end passage of the Keystone Exams as high school graduation requirements because they will only widen the growing gap between financially distressed and more affluent high schools.

Franklin County school funding woes aired at public forum
Herald-Mail Media by Don Aines Posted: Thursday, January 15, 2015 11:07 pm | Updated: 11:17 pm, Thu Jan 15, 2015.
CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — State funding as a percentage of school district budgets has been trending downward for two decades, while school populations have increased, causing districts to cut programs and personnel, according to superintendents from Franklin County's six public-school districts.  The superintendents addressed about 100 people, including some state legislators, on Thursday about the problems they face with the current funding formula. The event was hosted by Education Voters of PA and Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley.
"The Pennsylvania system of funding schools is a failure by any criteria," said Joe Bard, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools.
Bard told those assembled at First Evangelical Lutheran Church that the state does not adequately fund education, properly account for the cost of educating students or distribute the money equitably.

DV School Board hears about Campaign for Fair Education Funding In Pennsylvania from Circuit Rider Sandra Miller
Pocono News Net January 16, 2015
SHOHOLA - A school board member from Saucon Valley School District, explained to the DV School Board the mission of a campaign to have fair education funding in Pennsylvania. Miller, a circuit rider for the campaign, stated that the three priorities are to have funding to school districts accurate, stabile and evenly distributed.   “There has been no formula for funding since 1992,” Sandra Miller said.  Pennsylvania is presently one of only three states that has no funding formula for school districts. Many of the other states have a formula because the Supreme Courts of those states mandated a funding formula.  Miller’s job is to inform school boards of the campaign, get them to join it and contact legislators to tell them basic education fair funding is needed once again in Pennsylvania.

Pew report: PA funding formula not a silver bullet, overall state funding matters too
The size of the pie matters, not just how you slice it.
So said a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts' Philadelphia Research Initiative, which looked at 10 big city school districts across the country and compared how the states funding formulas of each affected funding at the district level.  A funding formula, essentially a plan for the state's distribution of its education dollars between districts, often takes into account factors including student needs and demographics at the district level.  The project director of the Philadelphia Research Initiative for Pew, Larry Eichel, spelled out two main questions the report set out to answer. The first is how per-pupil funding in Philadelphia stacks up against other big city districts.  The second? "Since there's been so much talk about the absence of a state funding formula in Pennsylvania, how much of a difference do those formulas make on other big city districts?" said Eichel.

The truth about education funding in Pa.
Delco Times Heron's Nest Blog by Editor Phil Heron Friday, January 16, 2015
Well, what do you know. Someone agrees with us. Hold the champagne, though. This isn't a cause for celebration. It's a cause for concern.  For years I have taken up the pulpit on the editorial pages of this paper and harangued anyone who would listen that Pennsylvania's system of education funding is unfair, one that creates an unlevel playing field that unduly penalizes a lot of kids for no other reason than their zip code.  In other words, the state is divided into the 'haves' and the 'have-nots' when it comes to education funding. Too many kids in Delaware County, like the kids and families in the William Penn School District, are facing a decidedly uphill battle before they ever enter a classroom.

York City Students urge parents to call about charter alternatives
Cram Session Blog Posted on January 16, 2015 by Angie Mason
Some William Penn Senior High School students are distributing fliers, urging parents who don’t want their child to attend a charter school to let the state education department and chief recovery officer David Meckley know.  Ashlee DeSantis, a student who has been leading a group called the Student Union in protesting proposed all-charter plans, had bright orange fliers in hand Wednesday at a York City Community Education Council meeting.  “Do you want your child in a charter school next year?” the top of the flier reads. The flier urges parents answering no to call provided numbers for the state and Meckley or to sign an online petition.  DeSantis said students just felt this would be the best way to get the word out.  “A lot of parents don’t know what’s going on,” she said.

York City school officials to join anti-charter rally
ERIN JAMES / The York Dispatch 505-5439 / @ydcity POSTED:   01/16/2015 05:03:39 PM EST | UPDATED:   ABOUT 15 HOURS AGO0 COMMENTS
Members of the York City School District's school board will join students, parents and employees in an anti-charter rally next week.  The 4:30 p.m. rally at Bethlehem Baptist Church, 474 S. Pershing Ave., will proceed a 6:30 p.m. board meeting Wednesday at the district administration building, 31 N. Pershing Ave.  Margie Orr, president of the school board, and other members of the board will be there "to show that the York community is united against a charter takeover of its neighborhood schools," according to a news release from the Pennsylvania State Education Association.  A state-appointed official has advocated a full conversion of district schools to charter schools operated by a for-profit company.

PDE: Pa. School Performance Profile: Year 2 profiles now available  
The 2013-14 School Performance Profile scores have been released publicly by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.   
The School Performance Profile is based upon many data points. State assessment scores, college readiness tests, industry standards-based assessments, progress in closing achievement gaps, and degree of student growth over time are factored into the scoring, while other identifiers of high-achieving schools are also considered: graduation, promotion and attendance rates as well as evidence of offering rigorous courses factor into the calculation. Schools may also earn extra points beyond the 100-point scoring system for those students who have earned advanced scores on the state, industry, and Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate exams.
In addition to the scoring aspect of the site, the public can compare schools within their geographical area and across the state. For schools, the site also offers supports to consider as they identify needs associated with the performance measures in the School Performance Profile.
Access to the Pennsylvania School Performance Profile is available at

Northampton schools budget could see 1.23 mills increase
By Christy Potter  Special to The Morning Call
Northampton schools budget could see 1.23 mills increase
The Northampton Area School District could see a budget increase of 1.23 mills for the 2015-2016 school year, due in part to pension and benefits costs, and some additional staff needed at the new middle school.  During the board of education's regular meeting on Wednesday — rescheduled from Monday due to inclement weather — Superintendent Joe Kovalchik and business manager Terry Leh gave the board an early peek at the budget.

Pittsburgh city education officer leaves post after 1 year
By Amy McConnell Schaarsmith / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 16, 2015 11:51 PM
After one year on the job, Mayor Bill Peduto’s point man for supporting public education and revitalizing Pittsburgh neighborhoods is leaving the administration — even as the education task force he was responsible for leading moves forward.  “I consider myself, at heart, to be a creative, intellectual type, and I thought I better start looking into those venues of success now,” Curtiss Porter, 73, said.  Mr. Porter has worked as Mr. Peduto’s chief education and neighborhood reinvestment officer since January 2014.

Scranton School District considers changes to teacher hiring policy
Times-Tribune by SARAH HOFIUS HALL, STAFF WRITER Published: January 17, 2015
The way teachers are hired in Scranton may soon change.
Instead of applicants being interviewed once every three years and being scored and placed on lists, prospective teachers might be interviewed only when there are openings.  During an education committee meeting Thursday night, district officials discussed how to better meet the district’s hiring needs, along with saving time and money.  This past summer, the interview process — in which nearly all applicants are interviewed by panels that include a university professor, a teacher and an administrator — cost $22,800.

Do home-schoolers need government oversight?
Nationwide the number of families that home school their children is on the rise, but some argue that regulations ensuring that a home-school education matches national standards are still lacking, and could even open the way to abuse.
Christian Science Monitor By Donald Bradley, Associated Press JANUARY 12, 2015
KANSAS CITY, MO. — The number of home-schooled children continues to rise in the country - now up to an estimated 2.2 million, including thousands in the Kansas City area.
Public oversight of home schooling? Not so much, The Kansas City Star reports.
In fact, Pennsylvania - where home-schooling families had to register with the local school district, submit study plans and follow other rules - recently eased its regulations under pressure from home-school advocates.

"The shift to a majority poor student population means that in public schools, more than half of the children start kindergarten already trailing their more privileged peers and rarely, if ever, catch up. They are less likely to have support at home to succeed, are less frequently exposed to enriching activities outside of school and are more likely to drop out and never attend college.
It also means that education policy, funding decisions and classroom instruction must adapt to the swelling ranks of needy children arriving at the schoolhouse door each morning."
Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty
Washington Post By Lyndsey Layton January 16 at 5:00 AM  
For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has profound implications for the nation.   The Southern Education Foundation reports that 51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade were eligible for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program in the 2012-2013 school year. The lunch program is a rough proxy for poverty, but the explosion in the number of needy children in the nation’s public classrooms is a recent phenomenon that has been gaining attention among educators, public officials and researchers.

Percentage of Poor Students in Public Schools Rises
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH JAN. 16, 2015
Just over half of all students attending public schools in the United States are now eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, according to a new analysis of federal data.  In a report released Friday by the Southern Education Foundation, researchers found that 51 percent of children in public schools qualified for the lunches in 2013, which means that most of them come from low-income families. By comparison, 38 percent of public school students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches in 2000.  According to the report, which analyzed data from the National Center for Education Statistics, a majority of students in 21 states are poor. Close to two-thirds of those states are in the South, which has long had a high concentration of poor students. In Mississippi, for example, close to three-fourths of all public school students come from low-income families.

Sen. Alexander's Draft NCLB Bill: Cheat Sheet
Education Week By Alyson Klein on January 16, 2015 7:08 AM
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate education committee, put out his opening bid for reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act earlier this week.  And so far, all the interesting discussion has been about  testing, testing, and more testing. But there's a lot more to the draft.  What would it actually do?

Pennsylvania ranks 8th best on this list...
USA Today: States with the best schools
USA Today by Thomas C. Frohlich, 24/7 Wall St.1:35 p.m. EST January 15, 2015
The United States has lost ground among developed nations in promoting quality education for its students. To counter this troubling trend, the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association worked to create a state-led program called the Common Core State Standards. Common Core is intended to ensure that all American children receive a quality, rigorous education. Although education policy is becoming increasingly uniform across the county, state school systems are still far from equal.  Clearly, the stakes for students are high, and the U.S. still has a way to go to develop an education system that best-serves its children. Based on this year's edition of Quality Counts, released by Education Week, the United States received a score of C for its school systems. Among states, Massachusetts had the best school systems in the country, with a grade of B, while Mississippi had the worst with a grade of D.

Arizona becomes first state to require civics test for high school graduation
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss January 16 at 11:50 AM  
Arizona has become the first state in the nation to require students to pass a 100-question civics test to graduate from  high school. That test questions are actually from the civics portion of the test that the U.S. government gives to immigrants seeking to become U.S. citizens.  Gov. Doug Ducey (R) just signed the new law, ahead of a number of other states that are expected to consider doing the same thing. An organization based in Scottsdale, the Joe Foss Institute, has set a goal to have all 50 states require a civics test for graduation by 2017, according to the Associated Press.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: January 7 - 13, 2015
Submitted by fairtest on January 13, 2015 - 1:18pm 
As the national fight to end standardized exam overkill escalates nationally and victories continue to mount, FairTest was saddened to learn of the death of Mary Barr, a leader of the Learning Record, a pioneering model for high-quality assessment that does not rely on test scores ( This week's large collection of testing reform stories, commentaries and other resources is one testament to her legacy.

Education Voters Statewide Call to Action for Public Education Day, Wed. Jan 21st
Education Voters of PA Facebook page
We want to kick off this legislative session right and make sure the phones in the Capitol are ringing off the hook all day with calls from voters throughout the Commonwealth!  Join thousands of Pennsylvanians as we take 5-10 minutes on January 21st to call our new governor and our legislators to send a message that Harrisburg’s top priority this year must be implementing a fair and adequate education funding formula for our public schools that provides all children with an opportunity to learn.

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

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

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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