Established in 2006, the Keystone State Education Coalition is a growing grass roots, non-partisan public education advocacy group of several hundred locally elected, volunteer school board members and administrators from school districts throughout Pennsylvania. Our mission is to evaluate, discuss and inform our boards, district constituents and legislators on legislative issues of common interest and to facilitate active engagement in public education advocacy.
PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 8: Odds just "less than 1 in 100 million"? At 1 in a quadrillion+ you get to investigate yourself…
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
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"less than 1 in 100 million"? At 1 in a quadrillion+ you get to investigate
Let's stop this talk of
'great' or 'failing' schools and talk about student needs
the notebook Commentary By Elliot Seif on Jan 7, 2015 11:22
Elliott Seif is a longtime educator, author, trainer and School District volunteer. He has a master's degree in
Social Science Education from HarvardUniversity and a PhD in curriculum research from WashingtonUniversity. Teaching and learning
policies, resources, and ideas can be found at his website.
Charter school proponents often suggest that the ills of urban
education can be solved by simply creating more charter schools. And even more
people believe that, if we could just have better teachers in all urban public
schools, we could increase student achievement and success for all students. But are schools and teachers really at fault?
My own examination of urban children and their families suggests a very
The writer, a former
Democrat member of the state House from Philadelphia,
manages the Campaign for Fair Education Funding.
Regarding The Associated Press news story “Gap
between rich, poor schools in Pennsylvania doubled in 4 years” : It is
becoming increasingly clear that our commonwealth confronts a significant
public policy question that lawmakers and Gov.-elect Wolf must tackle: How
should our commonwealth fund public education? This latest analysis, conducted
by the AP, is one in a long line that drives home the point that our state's
current approach to funding schools just does not work. Across the state, class sizes are getting
bigger and bigger. Programs are being cut and student performance is
stagnating. School districts are in crisis. The existing funding system places
untenable burdens on local taxpayers. Students and taxpayers need a
sustainable, predictable and long-term funding method based on the real costs
necessary to meet state academic standards.
The good news is that leaders across a wide array of interests and from
every corner of the commonwealth are joining together to help lawmakers address
this challenge. The Campaign for Fair Education Funding ( fairfundingpa.org )
includes more than 40 education advocacy organizations, teachers and
administrators, representatives of charter schools and traditional public schools,
urban and rural interests, business groups and organized labor, faith-based
groups and community groups. Our members agree that every public school must
have the resources necessary to enable every child to meet state academic
standards, be prepared for post-secondary success and become productive,
knowledgeable and engaged adults.
Education spending was a key
piece of the Wolf campaign; now can he deliver?
bis570.com by DAVE GARDNER Published: January 6, 2015
Governor-elect Tom Wolf may find himself caught between a rock
and hard place with his pledge to “fully fund” Pennsylvania’s public educational system due
to an expanding state budget deficit which could top $2 billion by inauguration
day. Jeffrey Sheridan, Wolf’s press
secretary, stands by Wolf’s pledge to channel more money to the schools, and
that the governor-elect’s pledge was simple but firm. Sheridan calls education the foundation for
sustainability, and as a result he says Mr. Wolf will find a way to fund the
school budget pledge. Sheridan accuses the Corbett administration
of making $1 billion in educational cuts. Mr. Wolf, he says, must now restore
this funding. Mr. Corbett’s supporters point out that much of this funding was
temporary stimulus money that the state declined to make permanent — not a
“cut.” During the campaign, Mr. Wolf’s
commercials said that money from a natural gas severance could provide the
revenues needed to restore school funding.
“Governor-elect Wolf also wants to create a fair funding formula that
considers the unique needs of each school district,” adds Sheridan.
Back to work: The Legislature
and Tom Wolf have much to do
Post Gazette By the Editorial Board January 8, 2015 12:00 AM
General Assembly took the oath of office Tuesday, creating a political copy of
Congress: Just as a Democrat sits in the Oval Office and Republicans preside
over both the U.S. House and Senate, so too a Democrat, Tom Wolf, soon will
take the governor’s chair while Republicans hold solid majorities in both chambers
of the Legislature. Let’s hope the
result won’t resemble the gridlock and acrimony that have paralyzed Washington. There is too
much at stake in Harrisburg.
After banner year, PA
school pension fund still deep in red
By Eric Boehm | PA Independent
January 5, 2015
Even after a fantastic year on the stock market, the pension
fund for Pennsylvania’s
public school employees is deep in the red.
The Public School Employees Retirement System reported in December that
it earned 14.91 percent for the past fiscal year, nearly doubling the fund’s
7.5 percent annual benchmark for investment earnings. As a result of the robust
year in the market, PSERS’ unfunded liability has declined slightly, but the
fund is still owes $35 billion in benefits beyond what its assets can cover.
Legislation that would reform Pennsylvania's
cash-strapped public pension system and get the KeystoneState
out of the booze business will play a key role in a final agreement on
next year's state budget, new House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, said
Wednesday. In an interview taped for
broadcast Sunday on WHP-TV's"Face
the State" program, the House's new presiding officer gave the
bills equal weight and called them "of equal importance to the people of Pennsylvania."
Eighth Philly educator
charged in standardized test cheating scandal
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN
MCCORRY JANUARY 7, 2015
educator has been charged in the widespread standardized-test cheating scandal
that's been the subject of continued investigations by Attorney General
In an official release, Kane said Wednesday that a grand jury
recommended charges against Lolamarie Davis-O'Rourke, 43, of Williamstown, New Jersey
– the former principal at Alain Locke Elementary in West
Philadelphia. The A.G.'s
report says Davis-O'Rourke "allegedly created an environment ripe for
cheating" from 2009 to 2012 by helping students change answers,
directing teachers to help students switch answers, and "changing the
locks to a storage room so that only she and the building engineer could access
stored test booklets."
She also changed students' answers and instructed teachers keep
track of student performance to identify so called "bubble
students"– those to target in the cheating conspiracy.
Arrested Wednesday, Davis-O'Rourke was charged with tampering
with public records or information; forgery; tampering with records; and
Blogger Commentary: Attorney General
Kathleen Kane's press release on the arrest includes the following:
"PSSA tests and
grades are produced by Data Recognition Corporation (DRC), which flags
improbable answer change patterns for the Department of Education. DRC found
that in 2011 when Davis-O'Rourke was principal, the probability that erasure
patterns occurred naturally for four grades and subjects was less than 1 in
100,000,000, according to the presentment."
Just 1 in one
"A state forensic analysis found that the
odds that erasure patterns were random on the reading portion of ChesterCommunityCharterSchool seventh-graders’ 2009 PSSAs were between
one in a quadrillion and one in a quintillion. Analyses done in 2010 and
2011, according to the Department of Education, also found “a very high number
of students with a very high number of wrong-to-right erasures.” But the
state left the charter to investigate itself."
Citypaper July 2013: How Pennsylvania schools erased a cheating
Tainted scores throw an entire way of running
schools into question.
The odds that 11th-graders at StrawberryMansionHigh School would have randomly
erased so many wrong answers on the math portion of their 2009 state
standardized test and then filled in so many right ones were long. Very, very
long. To be precise, they were less than one in a duodecillion, according to an
erasure analysis performed for the state Department of Education.
In short, there appeared to be cheating — and it didn’t come as a total
surprise. In 2006, student members of Youth United for Change protested being
forced out of class for test-preparation sessions and won concessions from the
district. In 2010, principal LoisPowell-MondesireleftStrawberryMansion;
after her departure, test scores dropped sharply.
An ErieSchool District lawyer this evening is expected to
offer an opinion on whether the Erie School Board should renew the charter for
Tim Sennett is expected to make a recommendation to the School
Board at a special meeting set for 5 p.m. at the district's administration
building, 148 West 21st St.,
said Matthew Cummings, the district's director of communications. The board can
vote on the renewal as early as tonight.
The School Board notified the school in April that its charter
might not be renewed after an interim audit by the state Auditor General's
Office found concerns, including lack of financial oversight, missing records
and poor student academic performance. An internal investigation by the
district found similar problems. The
final audit from the Auditor General's Office, issued in September, highlighted
the same concerns but also noted changes in policies and procedures the school
has made to improve since April.
Former charter school
staffers claim they've been stiffed
REGINAMEDINA, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER MEDINAR@PHILLYNEWS.COM,
215-854-5985 POSTED: Thursday, January 8, 2015, 3:01 AM
doesn't have a phone, and that's making life quite messy for the school's
former employees, one ex-staffer said yesterday. The lack of a phone means the state's
unemployment office can't verify the many claims filed by staffers seeking
relief now that they're jobless, said Sultan Ashley, who worked in community
relations and partnership development for Walter Palmer.
Real estate agents get upbeat
tour of city schools
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Thursday, January 8,
2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Wednesday, January 7, 2015, 4:37 PM
The grand houses of Northwest Philadelphia
aren't a tough sell for real estate agents. The schools are another matter. Lifelong West Mount Airy resident Rich
McIlhenny, a RE/MAX real estate agent, had not set foot inside a neighborhood
public school until Wednesday, when he and others whose job it is to sell the
city toured five of its schools. The aim
was to show that, very real budget crisis aside, the city schools can be a
solid option for many families.
"I do a lot of my work in this area, and people are always
asking, where are the good catchments?" McIlhenny said outside Emlen
Elementary in East Mount Airy.
The public schools of York
are on a precipice. They have a deficit. The state, contrary to its
constitutional obligation, refuses to help. The district is in receivership. A
judge approved the receiver’s plan to hand the schools over to a Florida-based
for-profit corporation. How the corporation can make a profit from a district
in financial distress is not clear. The district school board wants to appeal.
The judge will decide in the next week whether he will permit an appeal from
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella LAST UPDATED: Thursday, January
8, 2015, 1:08 AM
Ridley school board
rejects labor report
RIDLEY PARK The Ridley school board unanimously rejected a
state fact-finder's report on how to end its stalemate with the teachers union,
which had accepted the report. The
Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board fact-finder recommended that the district
and teachers split the difference on what each side proposed in wage increases.
Classical: Acclaimed CharterHigh School
for the Arts choir performs at CathedralChurch
By Steve Siegel Special to The Morning Call January 7,
The LehighValley has fine choirs, and the Touring Choir of the LehighValleyCharterHigh
School for the Arts, one of the youngest in the
area, ranks up there with the best of them.
A 30-voice mixed choir with students chosen by audition, the
touring choir serves as artistic ambassador for the school. It's performed in
such hallowed venues as the National Cathedral in Washington,
D.C., King's Chapel in Boston
and Avery Fisher Hall in New York.
might not rank quite as hallowed, it certainly proved provident for the touring
choir, which was awarded third place in the seventh annual World Choir Games
hosted by that city in summer 2012. The choir was the highest ranking high
school choir in the Mixed Choir Youth Division, against a field of high school
and college choirs representing nine countries.
The high school isn't being honored with a golden Grammy
gramophone like those awarded every year to artists who dominate the airwaves.
But it is being recognized on a national stage.
The Grammy Foundation, which works to highlight the value of
music and arts education, among other issues, has selected GeneralMcLaneHigh School as a
semifinalist for the Grammy Signature School Award. The school is one of 120
schools nationwide to receive the honor and is the only one in northwestern Pennsylvania to be
"We are pleased to have our music program recognized among
the best in the nation," district Superintendent Richard Scaletta said.
"Our instructors do an incredible job of developing talent within our
students. Our community fully supports our arts program and is proud of its success."
The Grammy Signature Schools program, created in 1998,
recognizes top U.S.
public high schools that are making an outstanding commitment to music
education during an academic school year. GeneralMcLaneHigh School joins some of
the best music programs in the country, including those offered at performing
IN 2015, WILL OFFICIALS STOP
ENABLING BAD CHARTER SCHOOLS?
Cashing In On Kids website January 6, 2015
In a year-end wrap-up in Salon, Jeff Bryant pulls together
a list of the year's charter scandals that, if evidence mattered to
self-proclaimed education reformers, would change the minds of those who
continue to fight every effort to rein in unchecked charter school expansion
and to provide better oversight. Bryant
reports that in 2014 the public learned that certain badly run charter schools:
"the steady drip-drip from local news sources turned
into a fire hose in May when a blockbuster report released by Integrity in
Education and the Center for Popular Democracy revealed, “Fraudulent charter
operators in 15 states are responsible for losing, misusing, or wasting over
$100 million in taxpayer money.”
So, what's up for 2015? We know we'll see charter school
lobbyists offering lip service and recommending various self-policing measures,
but behind the scenes they will fight every effort to rein in abuses. What we
also hope to see -- and what taxpayers and students deserve -- is a serious
effort by public officials to protect taxpayers' and students' interests by
providing adequate oversight of charter schools.
The state would convert failing public schools to independent charter schools
and cut off all state payments to failing private schools for at least four
years, under a draft bill offered by Assembly Republicans Wednesday. The sweeping measure would create a new board
to assign letter grades of A through F to all publicly funded schools in the
state and then lay out eventual penalties for those receiving D's and F's. In a
shift from current law, the measure would allow private schools to use a
different exam from the state test to measure student learning, though it would
create a process for comparing those differing tests.
ED and Dept of Justice
release guidance to help ensure English learner students receive equal access
to a high-quality education
NSBA website January 7, 2014
In an effort to remind states, school districts, and schools of
their legal obligations to ensure all students have equal access to a
high-quality education, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and Department of
Justice today issued guidance specifically addressing English learner students
and their families with limited English proficiency. To help schools better serve these students,
the new guidance includes tools and resources and contains a fact sheet on the
federal law, information about schools’ obligations, and a toolkit for
effectively identifying English learner students. Noting the increase in number of English
learner students, ED’s press release states that almost 5 million students in
the United States
are English learners—about 9 percent of all public school students. From 2002
to 2011, the percentage of English learners in public schools increased in 40
states and the District of Columbia,
and currently three out of every four public schools enroll English learner
Cue the hand-wringing about digital distraction: Fewer children
are reading books frequently for fun, according to a new report released
Thursday by Scholastic, the children’s book publisher.
In a 2014 survey of just over 1,000 children ages 6 to 17, only
31 percent said they read a book for fun almost daily, down from 37 percent
four years ago. There were some
consistent patterns among the heavier readers: For the younger children — ages
6 to 11 — being read aloud to regularly and having restricted online time were
correlated with frequent reading; for the older children — ages 12 to 17 — one of
the largest predictors was whether they had time to read on their own during
the school day.
Pennsylvania Earns a B-Minus on State Report Card, Ranks Eighth in
HIGHLIGHTS REPORT January 2, 2015
After a one-year hiatus from issuing state grades, the 19th
annual edition of Quality
Counts—Preparing to Launch: Early Childhood’s Academic Countdown—resumes Education
Week’s long-standing tradition of grading the states on their performance.
This year, those grades return in a newer, leaner form that focuses on outcomes
rather than on policy and processes. A state’s overall grade is the average of
its scores on the three separate indices tracked by the report.
This year, Pennsylvania
finishes eighth among the 50 states and District
of Columbia, with an overall score of 80.1 out of 100
points and a grade of B-minus. The nation as a whole posts a grade of C.
United Way Building 1709
Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia,
Tickets: Attorneys $200
General Public $100 Webinar
"Pay What You Can" tickets are also
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.
January 23rd–25th, 2015 at The ScienceLeadershipAcademy, 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
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.