Friday, April 10, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 10: Gov. Wolf Visits a Philly High School, Pushing For Better Education Funding Statewide

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for April 10, 2015:
Gov. Wolf Visits a Philly High School, Pushing For Better Education Funding Statewide



Save the date: Wednesday April 29th 7:00 pm Springfield (Delco) High School
Southeastern PA Regional Meeting on School Funding
Local school district leaders will discuss how state funding issues are impacting our children's educational opportunities, our local taxes and our communities.
Hosted by Delaware County School Boards Legislative Council, Education Voters of PA and the Keystone State Education Coalition



Auditor General, legislators cast light on troubling PDE conduct
The PLS Reporter Author: Alanna Koll/Thursday, April 9, 2015
During Thursday’s meeting with the House Republican Policy Committee, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale told committee members he’s uncovered a number of troubling actions on the part of the Pennsylvania Department of Education while conducting his department’s yet-to-be-released audit.  “[There] is a culture in that agency that is not healthy for fostering good education outcomes,” he told the committee.  He said that his department’s audit will focus on, among other things, what PDE does to help school districts that are struggling academically, specifically on reporting.  “School districts are incredibly frustrated,” he added.
He said in meetings with school business officials, he has been told repeatedly that it is common knowledge among their peers that you do not call a certain office within the department on a Thursday because nobody will answer the phone.  He continued saying he was surprised to find out that this wasn’t a joke.  “If you have a problem on a Thursday, the Pennsylvania Department of Education is not going to help the school district,” he said. “I find that absolutely outrageous.”

Gov. Wolf Visits a Philadelphia High School, Pushing For Better Education Funding Statewide
CBS Philly By Dan Wing April 9, 2015 1:26 PM
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf took a tour of a Philadelphia school this morning as part of his “Schools That Teach” program.  Going class-to-class with city leaders, Wolf chatted with students and teachers at Kensington Health Sciences Academy, learning about the unique programs offered there for the more than 400 students.  While it was an exciting moment for the students at this specialty high school run by the School District of Philadelphia, Wolf says those students are a perfect example of a message he’s been trying to spread via his education push.

7 things we learned from Secretary John Hanger’s visit
Lancaster Online By KAREN SHUEY | Staff Writer Posted: Thursday, April 9, 2015 9:38 am | Updated: 11:39 am, Thu Apr 9, 2015.
John Hanger is hoping Pennsylvania is ready for big changes.
The secretary of policy and planning — a key post in Tom Wolf’s administration — said the governor is proposing a budget based on “honest math” and “tough decisions.”   “If you think the state is doing fine then this budget is not for you. But if you think we need to do better then this budget is for you," he told a crowd at a Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry Wake Up to the Issues forum at the Cork Factory Hotel.  Hanger, a one-time primary opponent of Wolf who served as the state’s top environmental official under former Gov. Ed Rendell, said the administration is touting a spending plan that will “transform the state” by focusing on public education and economic development.
Here are seven notable excerpts from the secretary’s talk:

"Philadelphia is not alone in posting test scores that would hit their graduation rates.  While students must pass all three tests to graduate, across-the-state scores for the biology test drag down the average. Last year, about 54 percent of Pennsylvania students taking the tests passed the biology Keystone.  Scores were especially low in urban school districts including Allentown, where only 18 percent of its students passed the biology Keystone in 2014. Wealthier suburban districts - such as Lower Merion with a 71 percent passing rate for biology -- fared better."
Philly school district projects 22 percent graduation rate in 2017
WHYY Newsworks BY LAURA BENSHOFF APRIL 8, 2015
In two years, Pennsylvania students will have to pass three standardized tests -- the Keystone Exams -- to graduate high school.  Right now, 65 percent of Philadelphia School District students graduate in four years, but district officials expect a big drop when the Keystone Exam requirement comes into full effect.  "While our graduation rate remained steady last year, extrapolating from current seniors, only 22 percent of the Class of 2017 will graduate on time," according to a report published by the district in January. That estimate is based on the number of current seniors on track to pass all three Keystone Exams and obtain the requisite class credits to graduate this spring.  In 2008, Gov. Ed Rendell's administration introduced the Keystone Exam as the state Graduation Competency Assessments (GCA). The State Board of Education approved the graduation requirement in 2009. Since then, use of the Keystone tests to determine graduation has triggered debate at the state and local level.

Beyond 'failing schools': The difficulty of fairly comparing public schools on uneven playing field
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY APRIL 9, 2015
File this story under "wonky but important."
In an era where standardized test scores often determine a school's reputation and, ultimately, its survival, comparing and judging schools based on results has become a commonplace ritual.  Parents often use the scores as a North Star for deciding where to enroll their kids. Districts often use them when considering which schools to shutter or to turn over to new management.  Within this context, a toxicity has brewed between advocates of Philadelphia's traditional district schools and proponents of charters — built mainly on the premise that the two sectors aren't playing by the same rules.  Tension between the two have festered especially in recent years. Steady student migration from traditional public schools to charters caused dozens of schools to close in 2012-13. Funding debates have become especially fraught since Gov. Tom Corbett's 2011 budget, which cut the state aid that helped districts defray the added costs of charter schools.  But those debates often gloss over some of the important differences between and within the sectors that have a very real effect on a school's perceived quality.

"You cannot run around this school, shake hands with students, take pictures, read to second graders, talk to middle schoolers, inspire high school students, and then when you're back at your office comfortably not put forward the money that they need to educate their students,"
Nutter challenges candidates for specifics on schools
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, April 10, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, April 9, 2015, 5:53 PM
Mayor Nutter took shots Thursday at the people hoping to become his successor, suggesting the candidates' plans to fund the Philadelphia School District were "bogus."
"You cannot run around this school, shake hands with students, take pictures, read to second graders, talk to middle schoolers, inspire high school students, and then when you're back at your office comfortably not put forward the money that they need to educate their students," Nutter said at an event at Kensington Health Sciences Academy with Gov. Wolf. "Let's cut the phoniness. Let's be serious about educating kids."  School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. has asked the city for $103 million in new recurring funds to begin to implement his academic plan after several years of brutal cuts, and Nutter has proposed a property-tax increase that would give the district $105 million.  All six of the Democratic candidates - all of whom have declared that education would be a priority in their administration - have said they want more money for the schools, but do not support the tax increase.

There are ways, Chairwoman Neff, to make SRC relevant
Philly.com Opinion by LISA HAVER POSTED: Friday, April 10, 2015, 12:16 AM
IF THERE WERE ever a governmental body that needed to change its ways, it would be the current School Reform Commission. After years of ineffective leadership and financial mismanagement, the SRC's credibility with the system's stakeholders - the teachers, parents, students and community members - is in the basement.  The imperial attitude of its leadership, especially in the past year, has alienated Philadelphians, many of whom see it as a rubber stamp for the political and economic interests who can buy a ticket to its pay-to-play game.  Gov. Tom Wolf has made clear his desire to dissolve the SRC. Education activists are petitioning for a return to local control. A Pew Charitable Trusts poll shows that city residents who have an opinion on the subject favor eliminating the SRC by a 4-to-1 margin. Editorials in both major newspapers have said that it is time to seriously consider an elected school board in Philadelphia.

New chief recovery officer selected for York City School District
York Dispatch by ERIN JAMES 505-5439 @ydcity POSTED:   04/09/2015 12:42:07 PM EDT
Carol Saylor is no stranger to the York City School District.
Five or so years ago, as a mentor for administrative interns through York College, Saylor spent some time in a district elementary school.  "I was impressed all the way down to the gentleman who sat at the front door and checked people in," she said.  Saylor returned this year to York City as a coach for the district's site-based management program. At William Penn Senior High School, she reunited with the same gentleman she'd met years earlier.  "And he recognized me," Saylor said.  The new CRO: The former superintendent of two regional school districts is taking on yet another role in York City. On Thursday, Gov. Tom Wolf named Saylor the district's new chief recovery officer.

New Chief Recovery Officer Named for York City School District
York and state officials announce Carol Saylor to lead recovery effort
PR Newswire HARRISBURG, Pa., April 9, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire
Governor Tom Wolf, acting state Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera and Mayor Kim Bracey announced today that long-time educator and administrator, Dr. Carol Saylor, has been named chief recovery officer of the York City School District to lead the district's financial recovery.  "School districts across Pennsylvania are struggling as a result of funding cuts, and the York City School District has been driven to the brink of financial collapse," said Governor Wolf. "Dr. Saylor, a long-time educator and administrator, working with Mayor Bracey will provide the leadership and vision needed to put York City Schools on a path back to stability. With Dr. Saylor's proven experience in public education and my proposed reinvestment in our schools, York City students will finally have the tools they need to succeed."  Saylor, who is from Manheim, Lancaster County, worked in education for over 35 years, including serving as superintendent of the Fairfield Area and Manheim Central school districts. She received a bachelor's degree from Susquehanna University, a master's degree from Bucknell University, and a doctorate in education from Nova University.

Carlisle to send formal appeal to state lawmakers for school funding improvements
Special to PennLive By Elizabeth Gibson | Special to PennLive  on April 09, 2015 at 3:11 PM
The Carlisle Area School District will call upon state lawmakers to take action to resolve a funding dilemma confronted by public schools which, it says, are seeing fewer state dollars available to educate students.  Carlisle school board members on Thursday will discuss three formal resolutions.  The board then expects to vote on the resolutions on April 16 and send them to the General Assembly.  It also plans to call on community members to do the same.

Penn Hills school district petitions court to avoid financial crisis
Post Gazette By Tim Means April 10, 2015 12:00 AM
The first sign that something was amiss in the Penn Hills School District came in late January when superintendent Thomas Washington was relieved of his duties without explanation as part of a separation agreement that paid him through April.   Then, longtime director of business Richard Liberto was placed on leave March 24, a day after Moody’s Investors Service announced it had downgraded the bond rating of the 3,900-student school district.   Then came the big bombshell Monday when the school board approved a resolution to petition Allegheny County Common Pleas Court for permission to borrow up to $18 million to pay the district’s day-to-day expenses.

Mt. Lebanon school board agrees on maximum tax increase
Post Gazette By Harry Funk April 10, 2015 12:00 AM
The maximum that Mt. Lebanon School District property taxes would rise for 2015-16 is 0.42 mills, according to a consensus of school board members.  They addressed the coming year’s budget during their discussion meeting Tuesday, with the agreement that an increase would not exceed the amount of revenue needed to meet the district’s mandatory contribution to the state Public School Employees Retirement System.  Board members also agreed to use at least $750,000 of the district’s unreserved fund balance to help meet expenses.

Local activists claim 'education apartheid' in Allentown School District
By Jacqueline PalochkoOf The Morning Call contact the reporter April 9, 2015
Local activists claim “education apartheid” in the Allentown School District
Local activists are claiming the Allentown School District is failing minority and low-income students, and that there is 'education apartheid' in the district.
Before Thursday night's school board meeting, the Rev. Gregory Edwards stood with a crowd outside the district's office building and accused the district of racial toxicity. Edwards demanded that the district work with community leaders to change, and said he will attend every meeting until he sees change in the district.  "We are here because of the ongoing practices of a school district which continues to fail black, brown and poor white students and in equal measure," Edwards said. "Education apartheid is real in the Allentown School District."  Edwards, pastor of Resurrected Life Community Church in Allentown, said he and others will meet with Superintendent Russ Mayo and a few school directors next week. Mayo said he also has met with NAACP leaders and said he wants to be part of the solution.

The U.S. Senate wants to rewrite No Child Left Behind; how would it change public schools?
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Posted: Friday, April 10, 2015 6:30 am
No Child Left Behind may soon be a law that gets left behind.
For more than two months, U.S. legislators have debated an overhaul of the education policy that ushered in an era of high-stakes testing in public schools.  On Tuesday, two senators unveiled a bipartisan proposal, the "Every Child Achieves Act," which will be debated by the Senate Education Committee next week.  The pitch — which comes from Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash. — has elements that should appeal to both sides of the aisle, according to Education Week's Politics K-12 blog.  It comes just before children in grades 3 through 8 across Pennsylvania begin weeks of PSSA testing, and as ranks of parents opting their children out of standardized tests grow.  So how much would schools change if No Child Left Behind is rewritten? Below are three key things to know about the Senate proposal.

"These protests could serve as a reminder that parents and students are stakeholders in education policy."
What Happens When Students Boycott a Standardized Test?
The movement to opt out of nationwide exams is gaining traction—and forcing policymakers to rethink the role of such assessments in public education.
The Atlantic by LAURA MCKENNA  APR 9 2015, 1:37 PM ET
Standardized tests have been an integral part of the American school routine since the 1970s, the protocol changing very little. Children were told to put away their books; to fill in the bubbles, with No. 2 pencils, completely; and, when the time was up, to immediately put down their writing utensils. However, those ubiquitous (and ever-dreaded) tests have evolved dramatically as of late—and deliberations over their purpose have become increasingly urgent.  This semester, students in roughly three dozen states and the District of Columbia are taking one of two new standardized tests that are known by their consonant-riddled acronyms: PARCC, which is part of the Pearson family, and SBAC, which was developed by a consortium of states. The force behind these assessments is the Common Core State Standards, the set of highly controversial universal learning benchmarks that, the thinking goes, would’ve been difficult to implement without new-and-improved standardized tests. (Students in the remaining states are taking other exams; under No Child Left Behind, the federal government requires that every state gives its kids some form of assessment, but it doesn’t stipulate a specific one.) Like the hodgepodge of older tests used over the past five decades, these new assessments are designed to gauge students' proficiency in math and English via series of multiple-choice questions.


Register for the April 18 Education Voters Advocacy Summit in Harrisburg
Education Voters of Pennsylvania will be holding a half-day advocacy summit for public education advocates on Saturday April 18 from 10:00-2:00 in Harrisburg, PA.
During the summit we will:
  • Get an update on Governor Wolf’s budget from John Hanger, secretary of planning and policy,
  • Develop successful advocacy techniques and strategies to maximize our impact on public policy,
  • Receive organizing and communications training
  • Network with other advocates from throughout the state, and
  • Leave prepared to support fair and adequate state funding for schools this year!
Event Location: Temple University Harrisburg 234 Strawberry Square Harrisburg, PA 17101
Lunch will be provided. Please register today! Space is limited.

EPLC "Focus on Education" TV Program on PCN - Sunday, April 12 at 3:00 p.m. 
Education Policy and Leadership Center
Topic 1: Reaction to Governor Wolf's 2015-2016 State Education Budget Proposal
Jim Buckheit, Executive Director, PA Association of School Administrators
John Callahan, Senior Director of Government Affairs, PA School Boards Association
Topic 2: Physical Education and Health Education Issues for Students
Dr. Cindy Allen, Professor, Health Science Department, Lock Haven University
Todd Bedard, Chair, Health and Physical Education Department, Cumberland Valley School District
Linda Woods Huber, Executive Director, PA State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance
Jessica Peconi-Cook, Health and Physical Education Teacher, Mt. Lebanon School District
All EPLC "Focus on Education" TV shows are hosted by EPLC President Ron Cowell

All are invited for a screening of the documentary:
STANDARDIZED: Lies, Money & Civil Rights—How Testing is Ruining Public Education Monday, April 27, 7-9PM
The Saturday Club, 117 West Wayne Avenue, Wayne, PA
Standardized testing has long been a part of public education. Over the last ten years however, education reform has become an increasingly heated political issue and seemingly a highly profitable target market for private enterprise resulting in expanded and high-stakes testing. While some hold the view that testing is an effective assessment of student ability and teacher and school effectiveness, many feel these exams are instead undermining our students, teachers and schools.   Daniel Hornberger’s STANDARDIZED documentary raises issues about this model of education reform and the standardized testing that goes along with it. The film includes interviews with prominent educational experts and government officials who take aim at the goal of standardization that is being promoted and imposed by our federal and state governments. It sheds light on the development, nature and use of these assessments, the consequences of high-stakes testing, and the ostensible private enterprise and government agendas behind them. 
A Q&A session with a panel of informed parents, teachers and experts will follow.
This screening is made possible through a collaboration of Radnor, Tredyffrin/Easttown and Lower Merion concerned parents and PTOs.
For questions and to RSVP, contact RTSDPTOPTSA@gmail.com

Your Right to a Fair Shot: Discrimination Claims, Post-Secondary and the Professions

Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia Tuesday, April 21, 2015 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM

United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Attendees will learn about discrimination claims, post-secondary schools and the professions in this session. You'll learn how federal law aids students with disabilities who do not qualify for special education services, hear about recent cases, and understand strategies for getting students services.  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.  
Tickets: Attorneys $200       General Public $100      Webinar $50   
"Pay What You Can" tickets are also available

Workshop: Fair Funding and other Commons Sense Reforms for Public Education - Saturday April 11, 9:30 am
The William Penn School District presents another public workshop in its series on school funding in Pennsylvania.  Topics to be covered include:
  • A discussion with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia about the ABC's of public education funding and school funding lawsuit filed by the William Penn School District and others. 
  • An in-depth look at Governor Tom Wolf's proposed budget and its impact on property taxes and developing a more equitable funding formula.
LOCATION: Evans Elementary School Auditorium, 900 Baily Rd Yeadon, PA 19050
Questions: Please email rafi@thecavegroup.com

Who will be at the PSBA Advocacy Forum April 19-20 in Mechanicsburg and Harrisburg?
  • Acting Ed Sec'y Pedro Rivera
  • Senate Ed Committee Majority Chairman Lloyd Smucker
  • House Ed Committee Majority Chairman Stan Saylor
  • Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Pat Browne
  • Diane Ravitch
  • House Majority Leader Dave Reed
  • House Minority Leader Frank Dermody
  • 2014 PSBA Tim Allwein Advocacy Award winners Shauna D'Alessandro and Mark Miller
How about You?
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.
·         Registration is only $25! We don't want cost to be a factor. That's how important public education advocacy is!
·         Can't make the two days? Register and come to either day that works into your schedule.
Details and Registration for PSBA members (only $25.00) https://www.psba.org/event/advocacy-forum-day-hill-2015/

Join NPE in Chicago April 25-26
Curmuducation Blog Saturday, March 21, 2015
I don't get out much. I'm a high school English teacher in a small town, and kind of homebody by nature. When I leave town, it's for family or work. But in just over a month, on the weekend of April 25-26, I am taking a trip to Chicago for neither.   The Network for Public Education is the closest thing to an actual formal organization of the many and varied people standing up for public education in this modern era of privatizing test-driven corporate education reform. NPE held a conference last year, and they're doing it again this year-- a gathering of many of the strongest voices for public education in America today. Last year I followed along on line-- this year I will be there.

Beyond a New School Funding Formula: Lifting Student Achievement to Grow PA's Economy
Wednesday, May 6, 2015 from 7:30 AM to 10:00 AM (EDT) Harrisburg, PA
7:30 am: Light breakfast fare and registration; 8:00 am: Program
Harrisburg University Auditorium, Strawberry Square 326 Market Street Harrisburg, PA 17101 
Opening Remarks by Neil D. Theobald, President, Temple University

SESSION I: THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF ACHIEVEMENT GAPS IN PENNSYLVANIA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS with introduction by Rob Wonderling, President, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, and Member, Center on Regional Politics Executive Committee.            
Presentation by Lynn A. Karoly, Senior Economist, RAND Corporation 

SESSION II: WHAT CAN PENNSYLVANIA LEARN FROM THE WORLD’S LEADING SCHOOL SYSTEMS? with introduction by David H. Monk, Dean, Pennsylvania State University College of Education
Presentation by Marc S. Tucker, President and CEO, National Center on Education and the Economy 
Sessions to be followed by a response panel moderated by Francine Schertzer, Director of Programming, Pennsylvania Cable Network 
Program presented by the University Consortium to Improve Public School Finance and Promote Economic Growth

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