Wednesday, February 11, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup for February 11, 2015: High-Stakes-Testing in National and Local Spotlight

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 February 11, 2015:
High-Stakes-Testing in National and Local Spotlight

Upcoming Basic Education Funding Commission hearing scheduled in Dauphin County
PA Basic Education Funding Commission website
Thursday, February 26, 2015, 11 am Dauphin County, location TBA

Why Pew Works with States on Pension Reforms
A conversation about Pew's pension work with Project Director Greg Mennis.
The Pew Charitable Trusts September 26, 2013 
Public pension reform is arguably one of the most significant fiscal challenges facing states and municipalities today. In fact, our research shows that as of 2010, state governments had pension debts totaling $757 billion. Although some plans are well-funded, in other places, if changes are not made, retirees, workers, and taxpayers will be left with rising costs and unpaid promises for years to come.

Arne Duncan: Deliver on promise of schools Opinion By Arne Duncan POSTED: Monday, February 9, 2015, 1:07 AM
Early reading skills can be a powerful predictor of life outcomes, ranging from school success to incarceration. So when dozens of schools in Camden and Philadelphia see jumps in students' reading skills, it's worth asking why.  The answer, according to early results from a rigorous study, is an effort called the Children's Literacy Initiative, a locally based group that coaches and supports teachers and provides books tailored to teaching early reading. The expansion of this important work is supported by federal innovation funds.  Growing effective approaches to teaching and learning is exactly what America's young people need. Yet support for this type of innovation is in doubt today, amid troubling proposals for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).

High-Stakes-Testing in National and Local Spotlight
Yinzercation Blog by Jessie Ramey February 10, 2015
Are they or aren’t they? As the U.S. Senate debates re-authorization of the No Child Left Behind act, they have waffled on eliminating the federal mandate for annual high-stakes-testing. Just two weeks ago, Education Week gave opponents of required testing some hope when they reported:
Although members of the Senate education committee agreed at a hearing Tuesday that teacher evaluations are essential for a thriving public education system, it’s unlikely that the forthcoming reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act will include specific requirements. Republicans, including Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said Washington shouldn’t mandate such policies, while Democrats, including ranking member Patty Murray, D-Wash., were wary of increasing the role student test scores play in evaluations and how those evaluations are used to compensate teachers. [Education Week, 1-27-15]
But yesterday, Politico reported, “Now that Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray are working together on a No Child Left Behind bill, it’s all but certain that any deal will keep the federal annual testing mandate.” This despite massive push-back by parents across the country who point to the dramatic expansion of testing and test culture, the elimination of non-tested subjects, the loss of learning time, and a host of negative impacts on kids, teachers, and schools. 

Preview of House Education Committee Markup of NCLB Rewrite
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Lauren Camera on February 10, 2015 12:22 PM
Ahead of tomorrow's House education committee markup of a bill that would drastically overhaul the No Child Left Behind law, members on both sides of the aisle are prepping amendments they plan to offer in hopes of reshaping the opening bid of the committee's chair, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn.  On the right, lawmakers will offer amendments to further reduce the footprint of the federal government with proposals that would, for example, put in place a private school voucher system. On the left, members will try to wholesale replace the federal K-12 measure with one of their own, and also offer more-tailored amendments on a variety of issues, such as maintaining dedicated streams of funding for certain programs eliminated in the bill.

Capitolwire: Moody’s report credits cash-strapped school districts for ‘bold’ recovery plans.
PSBA website Reprinted with permission By Christen Smith, Staff Reporter, Capitolwire
HARRISBURG (Feb. 9) — Moody’s Investors Service leveled rarely-sung praises last month at four Pennsylvania school districts currently navigating through different stages of state-ordered financial recovery.  The report, released Jan. 21, credited York City School District, Harrisburg City School District, Chester-Upland School District and Duquesne City School District for pursuing “innovative” strategies — both structurally and academically — designed to reverse the loss of revenue, mainly to charter schools.

"In a Feb. 9 email, Przywara said the large deficit was due mostly to factors out of the district's control, including unfunded state mandates and rapidly rising pension obligations.  According to Przywara, Public School Employees' Retirement System costs account for $4 million of the district's deficit.  State support for special education, flat for six years, also has a big impact. Przywara said 50 percent of newly enrolled students have special academic, health or other needs."
School District of Lancaster asks state to allow 11.5% tax hike
Lancaster Online by K. SCOTT KREIDER | LNP Correspondent Posted: Tuesday, February 10, 2015 2:09 pm | Updated: 9:54 pm, Tue Feb 10, 2015.
The School District of Lancaster will seek special exceptions from the state to raise taxes above the adjusted Act 1 index of 2.8 percent to as much as 11.5 percent.  Facing a projected deficit of $7.9 million for the 2015-16 school year and with state subsidies unknown until Gov. Tom Wolf presents his budget proposals in March, Chief Administrator Matt Przywara said the special exceptions will give the district extra flexibility when board members approve the final budget in June.

No Tax Hike in Pottsgrove -- Yet
Digital Notebook Blog by Evan Brandt Wednesday, February 11, 2015
The Pottsgrove School Board did something unusual Tuesday night.
They adopted a preliminary budget with no tax increase, but with a $2.5 million deficit.
And they did it unanimously.  Which  either makes them irresponsible, or geniuses.

Report: Pa. lags in school breakfasts
Only 45 percent of low-income children who eat lunch at school in Pennsylvania also are eating a school breakfast, according to a report released Tuesday by a national food research group.
Pennsylvania's score was several percentage points below the national average -- and New Jersey's -- in the School Breakfast Scorecard compiled by the Food Research and Action Center or FRAC.  One notable exception, however, is Penn Wood Middle School in Darby, the site of the news conference to discuss the findings. Penn Wood has figured out a way to get more kids to chow down in the morning - they serve breakfast in classrooms.

In BASD, few issues with fed's tough new lunch guidelines
By Christy Potter Special to The Morning Call February 10, 2015
Bethlehem Area School District committee hears of nutrition guidelines implemented for school meals
So far so good.  That's the assessment that the Bethlehem Area School Board got Monday night on the implementation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's tough new school lunch guidelines.
Andrew Chandler, supervisor of dining services, and Michelle Martucci, the district's new dietitian, gave the board's Finance Committee an overview of the nutrition guidelines that began to be phased in during the 2012-13 school year.  Gone are the days when schools would offer students a cup of fruit or vegetables, or a whole grain option. Now students must take at least a half-cup of fruit or vegetables as one of their three items selected in order for the meal to be reimbursable by the USDA, Martucci said.  The federal government provides reimbursement for breakfasts, lunches and snacks served to children participating in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.

"The 25-year-old program is for students in Grades 1-5 who are in a class during which Spanish is spoken all day for all five grades."
SoLehigh nixes vote on Spanish immersion policy, saying proposal would create 'uproar'
By Charles Malinchak Special to The Morning Call February 10, 2015
Changes to Spanish Language Immersion program at Southern Lehigh shot down
A new method of enrolling students in Southern Lehigh School District's Spanish language immersion program was shot down Monday after several school board members said it favored a select few.  The proposal called for creating a lottery system allocating 14 slots of the program's 29 for students who had siblings enrolled or had finished the program. The remaining 15 seats would have been open to all other students.

Facing growing shortfall, Philly officials ask public for ideas on new revenue, cuts
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Feb 10, 2015 06:31 PM
At the School Reform Commission's latest strategy, planning and priorities meeting Monday night, District officials again laid out a bleak budget picture -- predicting a shortfall next fiscal year of $80 million. The projection assumes that no labor savings and no new revenues are forthcoming.
At the two-hour meeting, officials asked about 40 members of the public who attended how they would make decisions about raising new revenue and cutting spending -- or adding services, should more than enough money to balance the budget miraculously materialize.  Chief Financial Officer Matthew Stanski ran the meeting, and discussion took place in small groups at six tables.

Kenney rips Williams over PSP, donors
David Gambacorta, Daily News Staff Writer TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2015, 12:10 PM
If you can do a decent Michael Buffer impersonation, now might be a good time to bust out a hearty, "Let's get ready to rumble!"   Former City Councilman Jim Kenney today lashed out at fellow Democratic mayoral candidate state Sen. Anthony Williams over Williams' stance on a $25 million donation the Philadelphia School Partnership has offered to make to the School District of Philadelphia, in the name of boosting the number of charter schools in the city. 
He also questioned money Williams has received from political action committees. 

Piling on Anthony Williams
In a sign the mayoral campaign is truly underway, Kenney and Diaz attack the state senator.
Philly Mag Citified BY HOLLY OTTERBEIN  |  FEBRUARY 10, 2015 AT 1:43 PM
Until today, Philadelphia’s mayoral race seemed to be missing something: good old-fashioned mudslinging.  That all changed when former City Councilman Jim Kenney and former Judge Nelson Diaz issued press releases slamming state Sen. Anthony Williams. Until now, no candidate had come out strongly against Williams — the top fundraiser in the race — or anyone, really. The only other notable mudslinging, aimed at former District Attorney Lynne Abraham, was by a candidate who has since withdrawn.  Team Kenney attacked Williams over schools. Lauren Hitt, a spokeswoman for Kenney, said in a statement that Williams is a "single-issue candidate driven by the contributions from anonymous billionaires more concerned with making a profit than a quality school. The Senator is supported by no fewer than four PACs with either implicit or explicit education privatization missions." This comes after Kenney said last week that the district should not accept a $35 million offer from a nonprofit to expand charters.

Testing Resistance & Reform News -- February 4 - 10, 2015
Fairtest Submitted by fairtest on February 10, 2015 - 12:46pm 
This week's news stories and opinion columns -- from more than half the 50 states -- demonstrate the rapidly growing breadth and depth of the U.S. assessment reform movement. As the school testing season draws near, we expect parent and student opt-out campaigns, teacher boycotts, community teach-ins, demonstrations, school board resolutions, and legislative hearings will escalate pressure on policy-makers to roll back widespread misuse and overuse of standardized exams.  As always, please feel free to call on FairTest for assistance.

Education Voters of PA will hold a forum about public school funding in York County 6:30 to 8 p.m. March 25
Where: York Learning Center, 300 E. 7th Ave., North York
Who: Panelists will include Emilie Lonardi, West York Area School District superintendent; Scott Deisley, Red Lion Area School District superintendent; Brian Geller, Northeastern School District director of operations; Troy Wentz, Hanover Public School District business manager; Ellen Freireich, York Suburban School Board member; Eric Wolfgang, Central York School Board member; Jim Buckheit, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. Susan Spicka, advocacy coordinator for Education Voters of PA will facilitate the event.

PSBA 2015 Advocacy Forum
APR 19, 2015 • 8:00 AM - APR 20, 2015 • 5:00 PM
Join PSBA for the second annual Advocacy Forum on April 19-20, 2015. Hear from legislative experts on hot topics and issues regarding public education on Sunday, April 19, at PSBA headquarters in Mechanicsburg. The next day you and fellow advocates will meet with legislators at the state capitol. This is your chance to learn how to successfully advocate on behalf of public education and make your voice heard on the Hill.
·         Schedule of Events
·         Day One –PSBA headquarters
·         10 a.m. — Early Bird Arrival and Registration
·         10:30-12 p.m. — The State Education Agenda
The chairman of the Senate and House Education Committees will share their perspectives on the education agenda for the 2015-16 session of the General Assembly. Speakers: Senator Smucker, chairman, Senate Education Committee; and Representative Saylor, chairman, House Education Committee
·         Noon-1:15 p.m. — Welcome Lunch
·         1:00-12:15 p.m. — Special Welcome and Introduction: Nathan Mains, PSBA Executive Director and William LaCoff, PSBA President
·         12:30-1 p.m. — Speaker: Diane Ravitchnationally known education historian, policy analyst and author of Reign of Error.
·         1:15-2:00 p.m. — Education Priorities will be discussed with the Education Secretary Pedro Rivera
This session provides the latest information on the governor’s proposed state funding plans, the pension crisis and the latest on special education.
·         2:00-2:30 p.m. — Federal Education Update: NSBA
Director of National Advocacy Services Kathleen Branch will join Director of Federal Programs Lucy Gettman from NSBA, to speak about federal advocacy.
·         2:30-3 p.m. — Social Media Training (Speakers to be announced)
·         3-3:15 p.m. — Break
·         3:15-3:45 p.m. — Grassroots Advocacy: How to be an Effective Advocate
Hear from former Allwein Advocacy Award winners Shauna D’Alessandro, school director from West Jefferson Hills SD and PSBA Allegheny Region 14 director, and Mark B. Miller, board vice president of Centennial SD and PSBA BuxMont Region 11 director.
·         3:45-4:15 p.m. — Legislative Update and Lobby Day Coordination
PSBA’s Senior Director of Government Affairs John Callahan will walk you through legislative issues and priorities that might be addressed the next day during legislative visits by members.
·         4:15-5 p.m. — Roundtable Discussion
Network with your fellow board members before visiting your legislator
·         5:00-5:15 p.m. — Break
·         5:15-6:30 p.m. — Dinner Buffet
Enjoy a legislative discussion on the 2015-16 budget and appropriations with Senator Browne
·         6:30 p.m. — Adjourn

Campaign for Fair Education Funding Seeks Campaign Manager
Campaign for Fair Education Funding February 2, 2015
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding seeks a campaign manager who is a strategic thinker and an operational leader. This position could be filled by an individual or firm. The manager will lead the day-to-day operations of the campaign and its government relations, communications, mobilization and research committees and work in partnership with the campaign governing board to set and implement the campaign’s strategic direction.

Sign-up for weekly email updates from the Campaign
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding website

PA Basic Education Funding Commission website

Thorough and Efficient: Pennsylvania Education Funding Lawsuit website
Arguing that our state has failed to ensure that essential resources are available for all of our public school students to meet state academic standards.

Sign up for National School Boards Association’s Advocacy Network
Friends of Public Education

Register Now! EPLC 2015 Regional Workshops for School Board Candidates and Others
The Education Policy and Leadership Center, with the Cooperation of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) and Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), will conduct A Series of Regional Full-Day Workshops for 2015 Pennsylvania School Board Candidates.  Incumbents, non-incumbents, campaign supporters and all interested voters are invited to participate in these workshops.
Pittsburgh Region Saturday, February 21, 2015 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Allegheny Intermediate Unit, 475 East Waterfront Drive, Homestead, PA  15120
Harrisburg Region Saturday, March 7, 2015– 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Pennsylvania School Boards Association Headquarters, 400 Bent Creek Boulevard, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
Philadelphia Region Saturday, March 14, 2015 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Montgomery County Intermediate Unit, 2 W. Lafayette Street, Norristown, PA 19401

PILCOP: Children with Emotional Problems: Avoiding the Juvenile Justice System, and What Does Real Help Look Like?
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia Tuesday, February 17, 2015 1:00 -- 4:00 P.M.
This session will help you navigate special education in order to assist children at home not receiving services, those in the foster care system or those in the juvenile court system. CLE and Act 48 credit is available.  This session is co-sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania School of Policy and Practice, a Pre-approved Provider of Continuing Education for Pennsylvania licensed social workers.  Click here to purchase tickets  

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

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