Thursday, May 28, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 28: About that Tennessee Achievement School District being touted as a model for PA….

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 28, 2015:
About that Tennessee Achievement School District being touted as a model for PA….

Northwestern PA School Funding Forum
May 28, 2015 7:00 PM Jefferson Educational Society 3207 State St. Erie, PA 16508

"Sometimes these reformers pop up again in unexpected places.  Huffman was in Pennsylvania the other day where he testified in front of their senate and also wrote an op-ed for one of the local papers with the title ‘Want Pa. schools to flourish?  Try this Tennessee model that worked.”
I’ll Huffman and I’ll Puffman and I’ll Blow Your District Down
Gary Rubenstein's Blog Posted on May 22, 2015by garyrubinstein
Kevin Huffman was the first Teach For America alum to become a state education commissioner.  Despite having only taught for two years between 1992 and 1994 and having had no role related to schools for the next seventeen years (he was a VP of TFA for a time) he was appointed to his position in Tennessee in 2011 by the current Governor, Bill Haslam.  In November 2014 after the Governor was re-elected, Huffman ‘resigned’ saying that “it feels like the right time to pass the baton.”  Huffman was one of the ‘Chiefs For Change’ a group of reform-minded ‘leaders’ who have nearly all resigned or been fired over the past few years.

"So far there have been two years of data and, by any objective standards, the experiment is floundering.  Of the six original ASD schools, two now have lower scores, two have about the same scores, and two have improved scores."
Follow The Yellow Brick Load
Gary Rubenstein's Blog Posted on May 26, 2015by garyrubinstein
Tennessee’s Achievement School District (ASD) is the golden child of the reformers.  The mission of the ASD is to take schools in the bottom 5% of the state and, within five years, propel them into the top 25% in the state.  Like the Recovery School District (RSD) in Louisiana, the primary turnaround strategies used in the ASD is to convert the schools into charter schools.  Throughout the country it is being touted as a successful model to be replicated in numerous states including Nevada and Pennsylvania.  So far there have been two years of data and, by any objective standards, the experiment is floundering.  Of the six original ASD schools, two now have lower scores, two have about the same scores, and two have improved scores.  Of the two that have improved scores, one of them, Brick Church College Prep, is, supposedly, proving what’s possible and, according to ASD superintendent Chris Barbic, on track to get into the top 25% a year ahead of schedule — after just four years.

RTK requests were filed with 177 schools on May 15th.  If I counted correctly, as of this morning 7 PA charter schools have provided the requested records; 74 have invoked the 30-day extension, leaving 96 schools that have not yet responded.
Charter Schools: Tracking PSBA's Right-to-Know Requests
PSBA filed a Right-to-Know request with Pennsylvania charter and cyber charter schools on May 15, 2015. PSBA is tracking the response from each charter in the table below and updating it on a weekly basis. According to Right-to-Know Law, public entities have five days from receipt of an open records request by the agency’s open records officer to either 1) provide the requested records (indicated by a green check); 2) deny the request and give reasons for the denial (indicated by a red X); or 3) invoke a 30-day extension for specific legal reasons (indicated by an (E)).

Update from the Campaign for Fair Education Funding
On June 10th the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission, made up of state legislators and representatives from the Governor's Office, is expected to release its recommendations for a new funding formula.

Chesco superintendent is against particular tests by  Justine McDaniel LAST UPDATED: Thursday, May 28, 2015, 1:08 AM
WEST CHESTER The superintendent of a top-performing Chester County school district is fighting state testing requirements as schools finish the year's standardized exams.
Testing mandated by the state and federal governments have created a burden that stifles teaching and learning, Jim Scanlon, West Chester Area School District superintendent, said in a letter to parents last week.  He asked parents to write to their legislators about testing and said he was gathering stories to show lawmakers that the tests were having a negative effect on students and staff.  The letter acknowledged the usefulness of testing but said the time required for preparations had become "extreme."  The district, which ranked fifth of 500 in the statewide School Performance Profile, starts testing April 13 and continues through May 27, Scanlon said.

York students don't have 10 years to wait for a high-quality education (letter)
York Daily Record Letter By Tim Eller UPDATED:   05/26/2015 02:14:47 PM EDT
Tim Eller is executive director of the Keystone Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Parents, imagine sitting at the dinner table with your child, who is a third-grader in York City School District, and telling her that she will have to stop attending school for the next 10 years while the district works on turning things around to improve its academic performance. You explain to your daughter that in 10 years — at the age of 18 years old — she can pick up where she left off in third grade, which means she will not graduate until the age of 28.  Sounds kind of ridiculous, doesn't it? However, that's exactly what York City School District's new Chief Recovery Officer, Dr. Carol Saylor, told ABC 27 News' reporter Steven Fisher, who reported that Dr. Saylor explained that the "district's recovery won't happen overnight. It could take up to 10 years."  Ten years! York City School District parents: Do your children have 10 years to wait for the district to focus on improving student achievement and providing students with opportunities to be successful? I imagine they do not.

Hey, big spender: Harrisburg pays more legal fees than nearly every school district in state
Penn Live By Christine Vendel | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 27, 2015 at 7:00 AM, updated May 27, 2015 at 10:11 PM
HARRISBURG - The Harrisburg School District paid more than $1.1 million in attorney fees last year making it among the biggest spenders in Pennsylvania for legal expenses.  In fact, the school district's consistently high legal fees over the past decade rank second in the state despite being the 28th largest school district, according to financial and enrollment data submitted to the state Department of Education through 2013. The school district has 6,320 students this year.
To put Harrisburg's $1.1 million legal tab last year in perspective, consider the Cumberland Valley School District – with a 20-percent larger enrollment – paid out a fraction of that amount, about $155,000, on legal fees in 2014.

Editorial: It's right and fiscally sound to pay for pre-K now instead of paying prison costs later
Lancaster Online by The LNP Editorial Board Posted: Thursday, May 28, 2015 6:00 am
THE ISSUE: Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget calls for $256.5 million for preschool education funding for the 2015-16 school year, up from $136.5 million this school year. Pennsylvania’s Pre-K Counts, a state program for at-risk and low-income kids, would receive $100 million more, so it could serve an additional 11,600 children. Head Start, a federal preschool program for children of families living in poverty, would receive $20 million more, so it could serve an additional 2,400 children.  If you’re a fiscal conservative, concerned by the billions of dollars spent annually on incarceration, you should support increased funding for  preschool education.  “The choice is simple: Pay for early education programs delivered with high quality to Pennsylvania kids now, or pay far more later for the costs of crime in Pennsylvania.”

Public schools and your money
TODAY'S TOPIC, an annual one for me, is how your tax dollars enter the maw of public education and to a significant extent just sit there.  That's right.  Despite cutbacks, layoffs and the "education crisis," especially in Philly, a vast majority, as in 97 percent, of Pennsylvania's 500 school districts hold interest-bearing "reserves" to be used, or not, for anything they want.  The statewide total, according to state Education Department data, now tops $4.4 billion.  I write about this counterintuitive condition every year because it strikes me as flat-out wrong.

Philly school employee charged with steering $1 million contract to friends and family
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY MAY 27, 2015
A Philadelphia grand jury has recommended criminal charges against Priscilla Wright, 50, who until January was the Philadelphia School District's manager of small business development.  In 2013, as the city reeled from the closure of 23 public schools, the grand jury alleges Wright used her influence to take advantage of the situation.  In an elaborate orchestration, she allegedly pushed a $900,000 contract to a mom-and-pop trucking vendor tasked with transporting supplies and furniture from the closed schools to storage facilities.

"Stuart Whiteleather, the district’s business administrator, said the increase in PSERS contributions from 2014-2015 to 2015-2016 went from $9,109,366 to $10,979,198."
Methacton adopts $101M proposed final budget with no tax increase
By Brendan Wills, The Times Herald POSTED: 05/27/15, 2:33 PM EDT
WORCESTER >> The Methacton school board approved a $101,207,570 proposed final budget with a 0 percent tax increase Tuesday night in a 8-0 vote.  Board member Maria Shackelford was not present at the meeting.  The $101,196,624 in expenditures outstrips the predicted $100,217,187 in revenues. The hole left in the budget will be filled by utilizing $979,437 of the district’s fund balance.  The use of the fund balance coincides with a little more than $2 million windfall the district experienced in 2014-2015 through various one-time revenue sources, including the sale of the bus fleet to First Student, which accounts for $1.8 million in extra revenue, said board President Christian Nascimento.

BREAKING: State Sen. Matt Smith Resigning
PoliticsPA Written by Nick Field, Managing Editor May 27th, 2015 
State Senator Matt Smith, a Democrat representing the 37th district, is set to resign his seat in the legislature.  Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa announced Smith will be stepping down to take over as President of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce.  Smith’s district consists of Allegheny and Washington Counties. He has served since as State Senator since 2013. Before that, he represented the 42nd district in the PA House from 2007 to 2012.

DN Editorial: Cursives! Foiled again
If Council doesn't get serious about school funding, that's all she wrote
Daily News Editorial May 277, 2015
WE KNEW we were being naïve when we imagined that City Council would come back from the last week's campaigning and roll up its sleeves to address the hard issues of school funding in Philadelphia. Any one of the issues would have been fine: how to come up with the $105 million the district requested of the city, how to fill the $85 million deficit, the erosion of essentials like school nurses and books, or maybe the discouraging disparity - 33 percent, according to a recent study - between funding for rich districts vs. poor ones like ours.  Oh, were we naïve. Yesterday, City Council devoted a large part of the school-budget hearing on what it thinks is the problem facing the schools: the decline of cursive writing as part of mandatory curriculum in Philadelphia public schools.

Phila. City Council hears more pleas for increasing school funding
One day after a heated hearing between City Council and School District officials, on Wednesday, parents, teachers, and advocates had their turn and delivered a straightforward message to Council: We need more funding.  "I will stand with City Council and ask those tough questions of the district about what they're planning to do with our money," said Susan Gobreski, executive director of the nonprofit Education Voters Pennsylvania. But "I am here to say to City Council: Please let's pay that bill that we've been sent."  In the audience at the hearing, a group of students held large, brightly colored signs that read, "$105 M" - a nod to the $105 million Mayor Nutter's proposed property-tax increase would potentially haul in for the School District.

The Ongoing Struggle of Teacher Retention
Getting experienced educators to work in the highest-need schools requires more than bonus pay.
The Atlantic May 2015 by PAUL BARNWELL
Standing in front of my eighth-grade class, my heart palpitated to near-panic-attack speed as I watched second hand of the clock. Please bell—ring early, I prayed. It was my second day of teaching, and some of my middle-school male students were putting me to the test.
In a span of three minutes, the group in room 204 had morphed from contained to out of control. Two boys were shooting dice in the back of the room, and as I instructed them to put their crumpled dollar bills away, several others took off their shoes and began tossing them around like footballs. Before I could react, one boy broke into my supply closet. He snatched handfuls of No. 2 pencils and highlighters and sprinted out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

Why failure is crucial for a student’s success
PBS Newshour BY JOHN MERROW  May 27, 2015 at 3:47 PM EDT
If you’re at all like me, somewhere in your home you have at least one can of WD-40®, because the stuff works wonders. If you teach science, I believe that you ought to have a large WD-40 poster on your classroom wall. Not to advertise the product but to teach a basic lesson about learning: failure is an essential part of succeeding.  You may know the story of WD-40. More than 60 years ago the three employees of the San Diego-based Rocket Chemical Company were trying to develop a product that would prevent rust, something they could market to the aerospace industry. They tried, and, being methodical, they kept careful records. They labeled their first effort Water Displacement #1, or WD-1.  I’ll bet you have figured out how many times they failed before they were finally successful.  Students need to know that adults try and fail and fail and fail — and keep on trying. More than that, they need to experience failure. While I am a big fan of both project-based learning and blended learning, I believe the most critical piece of the pedagogical puzzle is what we ought to call “Problem-based learning.”

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Campaign for Fair Education Funding website
Our goal is to ensure that every student has access to a quality education no matter where they live. To make that happen, we need to fundamentally change how public schools are funded. The current system is not fair to students or taxpayers and our campaign partners – more than 50 organizations from across Pennsylvania - agree that it has to be changed now. Student performance is stagnating. School districts are in crisis. Lawmakers have the ability to change this formula but they need to hear from you. You can make a difference »

Saturday, May 30, 2015 9:00 am
St. Bernard Hall, Friendship Circle Senior Center - First Floor
1515 Lansdowne Avenue Darby, PA 19023.
East Campus of Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital
Please RSVP to by May 25

Northwestern PA School Funding Forum
May 28, 2015 7:00 PM Jefferson Educational Society 3207 State St. Erie, PA 16508
Conneaut School District
Mr. Jarrin Sperry, Superintendent, Ms. Jody Sperry, Board President
Corry School District
Mr. William Nichols, Superintendent
Fort LeBoeuf School District
Mr. Richard Emerick, Assistant Superintendent
Girard School District
Dr. James Tracy, Superintendent
Harbor Creek School District
Ms. Christine Mitchell, Board President
Millcreek School District
Mr. William Hall, Superintendent Mr. Aaron O'Toole, Director of Finance and Accounting
Keynote Speaker
Mr. Jay Himes, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials

PILCOP: Adequately and Fairly Funding Pennsylvania Schools: What are the Needs and Where Does the Money Come From? (Live Webinar)
June 8, 2015, 12:00 — 2:00 P.M.
Staff attorney Michael Churchill will speak about what schools need and where the money comes from in this Pennsylvania Bar Institute (PBI) webinar on June 8. Click here to register.
Governor Wolf has proposed $500 million in new funding for public schools starting this July. He has proposed as shale extraction tax and increases in personal income and sales taxes to pay for this.  This Philadelphia Bar Association Education Law Section and PBI are hosting a webinar that will focus on how much public schools need and differing proposals on how state funds should be distributed this year and in the future. Other focuses will include the current local tax burdens for public schools and issues concerning how the state should raise revenues to pay for these programs.  The program will also provide information about the components of a good funding formula and look at the work of the Basic Education Funding Commission and the state-wide Campaign for Fair Education Funding, of which we are a leading member.

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