Monday, April 13, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 13: Main Line district sits for PSSAs with 20x increase in opt-outs

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for April 13, 2015:
Main Line district sits for PSSAs with 20x increase in opt-outs

Lehigh Valley Forum on School Funding April 22, 7:00-8:30 
Penn State Lehigh Valley, 2809 Saucon Valley Rd, Center Valley, PA 18034 
The entrance is at the back of the building and parking is available in lots by the school. 
Confirmed panelists include:
Dr. Bill Haberl, superintendent, Pen Argyl Area SD
Dr. Joe Roy, superintendent, Bethlehem Area SD
Mr. Rich Sniscak, superintendent, Parkland SD
Mr. Russ Giordano, school board director, Salisbury Township SD
Dr. Russ Mayo, superintendent, Allentown SD
Ms. Stacy Gober, CFO, Bethlehem Area SD
Ms. Susan Gobreski, Executive Director, Education Voters of PA
Moderator:  Roberta Marcus, School Board Director, Parkland SD
Register HERE to attend the Lehigh Valley education forum.

Gov. Wolf thinks pension funds paying too much in fees
By Len Boselovic / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette April 12, 2015 12:00 AM
Pennsylvania’s push to erase more than a $50 billion pension fund shortfall could come to a head this year as the state’s Republican-controlled legislature and its Democratic governor try to negotiate a solution that both sides can live with.  Gov. Tom Wolf wants to shore up the funds by significantly reducing the $662 million in investment management fees that the state’s two pension funds pay each year, by contributing $80 million of profits from modernizing state liquor stores and by issuing a $3 billion pension bond to reduce the $35 billion deficit of the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System.  While some Republican lawmakers agree the investment management fees are too high and have considered bonds as part of the solution, their main push is to put pension benefits off limits to new hires. They want to shift new employees into a 401(k)-style defined contribution retirement plan, where workers — not the state — would be responsible for investing for their retirement.  Like many other states, Pennsylvania has not been keeping up with its required annual contributions to the pension funds, which is one reason for the deficit.

"Quality public schools “are a collective responsibility we have and so we can have these choices, which is great, but we also have a responsibility to make quality education available to everyone, regardless of zip code or who your parents are,” he said Thursday night."
Education is priority: Gov. Tom Wolf and Frances Wolf visit local schools
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 04/11/15, 6:34 PM EDT
POTTSTOWN — The day after Frances Wolf graduated from college, her grandfather, an Italian immigrant, wrote her a letter and told her she had “brought honor to the family.”  “They were very strong advocates for public schools; it’s how my mom became a nurse and my uncles became engineers,” Mrs. Wolf said during a visit to Pottstown High School Friday.  She understands the difference education can make in people’s lives.  When her husband, Gov. Tom Wolf, attended The Hill School in the late 1960s, he, like many, struggled with “Beowulf,” and he joked when he was in town Thursday to receive the school’s Sixth Form Leadership Award that he wouldn’t mind a little more time with the Hill teachers “to explore Grendel’s motivations.”  The school’s greatest gift, he said, was that it taught him “how to ask questions, how to think and how to learn and how to live.”

"The suit calls on the state to create a permanent funding formula for districts that is adequate, equitable, predictable and accountable.  Advocates say the state ceased using a funding formula in 2011 and that disparities in educational spending have spanned $9,800 per student in districts with low property values to more than $28,400 per student in districts with high property values.
“In the end, the question is do we want our kids to have the schools that have the adequate resources so ... that they can grow and flourish and get a good-paying job when they grow up?” said Michael Churchill, a lawyer for the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia who’s among those representing the case’s plaintiffs."
William Penn School District advocates: School funding lawsuit a game changer
By Kathleen Carey, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 04/11/15, 11:11 PM EDT
YEADON >> As a panel of Commonwealth Court judges determine whether or not they have the jurisdiction to rule on an education funding lawsuit in Harrisburg, advocates in the William Penn School District rallied that the outcome of this litigation could be a dramatic transformation for students for years to come.  “It’s a game changer for this district because we will be on the same side with each other,” William Penn School Board President Jennifer Hoff said at a forum for equitable education funding at Evans Elementary School Saturday. “It starts changing the conversation. It just has to happen.”  William Penn is one of six districts that joined seven parents, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools and the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference in filing a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court in November on behalf of the state’s responsibility to “provide a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the commonwealth.”

EDITORIAL: Pa. needs to take a closer look at charter schools
Pottstown Mercury Editorial POSTED: 04/11/15, 2:00 AM EDT |
Taken at face value, two recent developments on the charter-school front — at the national and state level — might be considered positive ammunition for those championing alternatives to traditional public schools.  Last week, Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes released a new report that studied charter-school performance in 41 urban areas, including Philadelphia. It found that such charters provide higher levels of growth in math and reading compared to traditional public schools.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that charter students are pulling higher scores, but that their level of improvement is outpacing those of their traditional-school peers. One reason: Charter students are getting more instruction in math and reading; the equivalent of 40 days and 28 days, respectively.  At the state level, the House passed a bill that would institute some charter reforms. Since virtually no reform has occurred since the 1997 law authorizing charters, this could also be considered good news.
The reality on both fronts is more complicated.

Did you catch our weekend postings?
PA Ed Policy Roundup April 11: Community Forums on School Funding slated for Lehigh Valley (Apr 22), State College Area (Apr 28) and Southeastern PA (Apr 29)

"As the numbers show, Biederman's is not an isolated case. Parents from the Treddyffrin/Easttown School District plan to show "Standardized Lies" at the Saturday Club in Wayne,  from 7-9p.m. on April 27th.  Parents also shared that they are forming a three district coalition of parents from the districts of Lower Merion, Radnor and Tredyffrin/Easttown to mobilize around standardized testing."
Main Line district sits for PSSAs with 20x increase in opt-outs
Parents in some suburban Philadelphia school districts are opting out of standardized tests in previously unseen numbers. One test, the Pennsylvania System of School Assessments (PSSA) starts today.  "The number of parents who are requesting to see the exam has gone up 1000, 2000 percent, compared to previous years," said In Lower Merion School District acting superintendent Wagner Marseilles. The district requires parents to view the tests before signing a document requesting to opt out their kids.  Just how many kids? Marseilles said an exact number is not available, but is "close to 200," up from about a dozen last year. And he expects that number to rise.  "We've had incidents of parents showing interest in not having their kids take the test the morning of the exam," said Marseilles. Last year, about 1,000 students across Pennsylvania sat out the PSSAs.  The parents' reasons — loss of instruction time, stress on students — echo some concerns of the nation-wide opt-out movement, according to Marseilles.

Pennsylvania schools will begin revised PSSA tests today
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette April 13, 2015 12:00 AM
Choose the correct answer:
A. Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests follow new academic standards.
B. A new English language arts test combines reading and writing.
C. Some questions have two parts.
D. Some of the tests are harder.
The PSSA testing window for grades 3-8 opens today, and the correct answers are all of the above changes.  One of the most significant changes in the assessment test is the addition of writing to the reading test, now called English language arts, in grades 3-8. Writing previously was tested separately and only in grades 5 and 8.  Statewide, the window for giving the English language arts standardized test runs from today through Friday. The math test for grades 3-8 begins April 20 and continues through April 24. A science test for grades 4 and 8 will be given from April 27 to May 1. There is a makeup window between May 4 and May 8. Schools can offer the tests during those times, but it does not take the whole window to give the tests.
For the first time, the tests fully reflect the Pennsylvania Core, which is the state’s variation on the Common Core, a set of academic standards in English language arts and math developed by the National Governor’s Association and Council of Chief State School Officers.

"Pittsburgh Public Schools' expiring grants support about 40 service contracts and 51 staff positions, Deputy Superintendent Donna Micheaux said at a school board Business and Finance Committee meeting last week."
Pittsburgh Public Schools confident programs will stay despite loss of grants
Trib Live By Tory N. Parrish Sunday, April 12, 2015, 9:10 p.m.
Pittsburgh Public Schools' Summer Dreamers Academy opened up a new world for the three Joos siblings, their mother said.  “I see the opportunities that my kids had that I never would have gone through,” Angel Joos, 42, of Brookline, said of the summer learning camp that offers students literacy and math support, as well as sports, arts and crafts, theater and other activities.  
“Without the program, I wouldn't have gotten into musical theater as deeply as I did,” said Jessica Joos, a senior majoring in dance at the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts 6–12 in the Cultural District. She credits the program, in which she participated in the summers of 2010 through 2012, with building her confidence and ability to succeed at CAPA and at Seton Hill University, the latter of which she'll attend in the fall as a freshman majoring in dance and physical exercise.  The Summer Dreamers Academy, as well as programs centering on teacher effectiveness, mentoring and out-of-school activities, are Pittsburgh Public Schools initiatives run with about $90 million in grants that will expire between 2015 and September 2017.
The district has other grants, but the seven it's losing support significant programs, officials said.
"The school board directors who approve the budgets that set your school property taxes? Candidates for those key positions will be selected in the May 19 primary.  Consider that if a slate of candidates for school board in a district were to win both the Republican and Democratic party endorsements — possible thanks to the crossfiling that sometimes occurs in school board and judicial races — that slate could end up the only names on the November ballot, effectively making the primary the election."
Register to vote in time for Pennsylvania's May 19 primary
Lancaster Online Editorial by The LNP Editorial Board Posted: Monday, April 13, 2015 6:00 am
Lancaster County will hold primary contests on Tuesday, May 19. The deadline to register to vote in those contests is one week from today: Monday, April 20. To  register to vote, you must have been a U.S. citizen, and a resident of your election district, for at least a month as of the election. You also must be at least 18 years old on the day of the election.  Just about 1 in 5 of Lancaster County’s eligible voters are expected to cast ballots in the May primary.  And that will be considered a good turnout for such a primary.  In 2013’s odd-year-election primary, turnout was a paltry 7.8 percent here in Lancaster County. So not even 1 in 10 eligible voters went to the polls that spring.  Part of the low turnout, of course, will be owing to the fact that Pennsylvania primaries are closed to independent and nonparty voters — only registered Republicans and Democrats are welcome — unless there are questions on the ballot.  That’s a flaw in our state’s electoral system that ought to be corrected, but likely won’t be anytime soon.  Part of the low turnout, however, likely will be due to apathy, plain and simple. Which is a crying shame, because odd-year elections determine just who will be making many of the critical decisions that have a direct impact on our day-to-day lives.

Nominations for PSBA offices closes April 30
PSBA Leadership Development Committee seeks strong leaders for the association
Members interested in becoming the next leaders of PSBA are encouraged to complete an Application for Nomination no later than April 30. As a member-driven association, the Leadership Development Committee (LDC) is seeking nominees with strong skills in leadership and communication, and who have vision for PSBA. The positions open are:
  • 2016 President Elect (one-year term)
  • 2016 Vice President (one-year term)
  • 2016 Eastern Section at Large Representative - includes Regions 7, 8, 10, 11 and 15 (three-year term) 
Complete details on the nomination process, including scheduled dates for nominee interviews, can be found online by clicking here.

Please join Education Voters, school officials, community leaders and guest legislators at upcoming community forums in the Lehigh Valleycentral PA, and Southeastern PA to discuss school funding and state funding policy. Click HERE for more details. Pre-registration for the forum is recommended, but not necessary.
Lehigh Valley Forum April 22, 7:00-8:30
Penn State Lehigh Valley, 2809 Saucon Valley Rd, Center Valley, PA 18034
The entrance is at the back of the building and parking is available in lots by the school. 
Confirmed panelists include:
Dr. Bill Haberl, superintendent, Pen Argyl Area SD
Dr. Joe Roy, superintendent, Bethlehem Area SD
Mr. Rich Sniscak, superintendent, Parkland SD
Mr. Russ Giordano, school board director, Salisbury Township SD
Ms. Stacy Gober, CFO, Bethlehem Area SD
Ms. Susan Gobreski, Executive Director, Education Voters of PA
Moderator: Roberta Marcus, School Board Director, Parkland SD
Register HERE to attend the Lehigh Valley education forum.

Central PA education forum Tuesday, April 28, 6:30-8:30
Grace Lutheran Church (in Harkins Hall), 205 S. Garner Street, State College
Dr. Cheryl Potteiger, superintendent, Bellefonte Area School District
Ms. Kelly Hastings, superintendent, Keystone Central School District
Mr. James Estep, superintendent, Mifflin County School District
Mr. Sean Daubert, CFO, Mifflin County School District
Dr. Robert O’Donnell, superintendent, State College Area School District
Mr. David Hutchison, school board member, State College Area School District
Ms. Cathy Harlow, superintendent, Tyrone Area School District
Mrs. Linda Smith, superintendent, Williamsburg Community School District
Register HERE to attend the central PA education forum.

Southeastern PA Regional Meeting on School Funding
Wednesday April 29th 7:00 pm Springfield High School Auditorium, 49 West Leamy Avenue, Springfield, PA 19064
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, the Keystone State Education Coalition and Public Citizens for Children and Youth
Mr. Frank Agovino, school board president, Springfield School District and Board of Directors, Delaware County Chamber of Commerce
Dr. James Capolupo, superintendent, Springfield School District
Dr. Wagner Marseille, Acting Superintendent, Lower Merion School District 
Mr. Joe Bruni, superintendent, William Penn School District
Dr. Richard Dunlap, superintendent, Upper Darby School District
Mr. Stanley Johnson. Executive Director of Operations, Phoenixville Area School District
Ms. Susan Gobreski, Executive Director, Education Voters of PA
Moderator: Mr. Lawrence Feinberg, Chairman, Delaware County School Boards Legislative Council
Registration info to be provided soon.

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

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

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)

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.

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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