Wednesday, June 10, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 10: Basic Ed Funding Commission extends report deadline by one week; Senate Ed Cmte moves bill that could delay Keystones' Grad Requirement

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 10, 2015:
Basic Ed Funding Commission extends report deadline by one week; Senate Ed Cmte moves bill that could delay Keystones' Grad Requirement

Berks County IU June 23, 7:00 - 8:30 pm

Come to Harrisburg on June 23rd for an All for Education Day Rally!
Education Voters PA website June 1, 2015

Gov. Tom Wolf, GOP leaders meet on budget, related issues
By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on June 09, 2015 at 2:45 PM, updated June 09, 2015 at 4:06 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf and senior Republican legislative leaders closeted themselves for more than an hour in a Capitol conference room Tuesday in a sign that state budget talks are starting to intensify.  Outward signs of progress were hard to define, and from the public statements made by participants afterward it seemed like it's still too early for the parties to significantly change their opening positions.

"In an email, Charlie Lyons of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding said, “It’s important that the commission produces a solution to fix Pennsylvania’s broken basic education funding system. The commission should take some extra time if that’s what it takes to get it right.”  The campaign is a coalition of about 50 organizations."
Pennsylvania education funding commission extends report deadline
By Eleanor Chute and Karen Langley / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 10, 2015 12:00 AM
The state Basic Education Funding Commission, which is charged with developing a fair funding formula for Pennsylvania, needs more time to finish its report.   According to the legislative action that created it, the 15-member commission was to have produced a report by today. But Tuesday afternoon, the commission said it was extending the deadline a week.  In a phone interview, state Rep. Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery, a co-chair of the panel, said commission members have been working together, but it has proved challenging to synthesize information gathered amid the transition from the administrations of former Gov. Tom Corbett and current Gov. Tom Wolf.  “We’re going to take another week,” he said. “We’re going to give every effort to get there.”  He continued, “All the members of the commission have been working fluidly together. We all understand the goal is to provide for a fair funding formula for the commonwealth.”  The report will be a recommendation, not a final decision. The final formula will be up to the Legislature and Mr. Wolf.

Deadline Extended for Education Funding Formula
WeAreCentralPA from PA Senate Republican Communications Office 06/09/2015 05:46 PM
HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY - The Basic Education Funding Commission has extended the deadline one week for the release of the commission’s final report on a new formula for distributing basic education funding to Pennsylvania schools.   This allows members of the commission the necessary time to continue to build on the positive and productive conversations taking place based on information gathered during the year-long hearings to reach a final consensus on a product that generates a fair distribution formula before making a recommendation to the General Assembly.  The 15-member commission has undertaken a comprehensive study of a number of factors and listened to a wide-range of testimony from experts and advocates in the education field over the past 11 months and 15 hearings throughout the state before arriving ultimately at a new formula.   The Basic Education Funding Commission was established through Act 51 of 2014. The recommendations of the commission will not go into effect, however, without legislation approved by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor. 

School funding panel wants more time to issue report  byTHE ASSOCIATED PRESS POSTED: Tuesday, June 9, 2015, 2:03 PM
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A 15-member commission created to produce an objective formula to distribute state aid to Pennsylvania's public schools is not going to meet its deadline.  Members said Tuesday they need more time beyond Wednesday's one-year deadline to come up with recommendations.  Commission members, including Sen. Lloyd Smucker, say they believe a unanimous agreement on recommendations is possible.  The commission includes 12 lawmakers, split between Democrats and Republicans, and three senior aides to Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat who took office in January.  The recommendations can't take effect unless they win support from the Republican-controlled Legislature and Wolf. A law signed last June by then-Gov. Tom Corbett created the commission and gave it a year to develop recommendations.

SB880: Graduation testing requirement could be delayed
By Madison Russ | on June 09, 2015 at 4:09 PM
The Senate Education Committee moved a bill Tuesday that would delay the use of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement and project-based assessment until 2018-2019.  "Changes will need to be made to the graduation requirement. There are unintended impacts, or consequences, of the graduation requirement as it's currently laid out" said the bill's sponsor, committee Chairman Lloyd Smucker, who voiced concerns that some students who failed to pass their Keystone Exams were held back in remediation classes until they do.   "The project-based assessment is not working," said Smucker, a Lancaster County Republican.  Sen. Andy Dinniman, the ranking Democrat on the committee who supports the bill, said he was "astounded" at the opposition that came from the school districts.  "They felt 26 hours of testing is destructive to education and destroying the curriculum," said Dinniman, D-Chester County.

"I don't think at that point it time it was clear what kinds of resources might be required in order for school districts and charters to meet the Keystone graduation requirements," said Kate Shaw, executive director of Research for Action.  The Philadelphia-based nonprofit published an analysis Wednesday showing that, based on last year's pass rates, a quarter million Pennsylvania students would need help with project based assessments."
Schools in 40 Pa. counties would struggle with Keystone graduation requirement
Pennsylvania students in the class of 2017 are the first who will be required to pass standardized Keystone exams in Algebra, literature and biology tests in order to graduate high school. A new brief details how complicated it could get to help students graduate who can't pass those exams.  State law passed under Gov. Ed Rendell and implemented under Gov. Tom Corbett says that if students can't pass the tests after two tries, schools must help them to complete a project-based assessment.  As written, though, the law provides zero additional resources for schools to do this work. 

Officials Prepare for Drop in Grad Rate
Philly officials say Keystone Exams will prove an insurmountable obstacle.
Philly Mag BY JOEL MATHIS  |  JUNE 8, 2015 AT 6:43 AM
We’ve long known that state and local ed officials are concerned about 2017, when a new standardized test — the Keystone Exams — are to be added as a graduation requirement. Now, NPR says, there’s a real fear those tests will drive down the graduation rates in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia. Statewide, the passage rate so far has been just 54 percent:
Philadelphia, especially, is bracing for a drop in the graduation rate once the testing requirement takes effect.  Right now, the graduation rate in the city is 65 percent. But based on the current scores on these tests, four out of five students in Philadelphia would need to take an alternative route in order to graduate.  That "alternative route" is a project-based assessment that reportedly takes more than 10 hours to complete. The Pennsylvania Department of Education has a FAQ on those assessments, outside-the-classroom activities that let students show they've mastered the materials needed to graduate — but do it without taking the test. Students will have to apply by Jan. 15 of a school year in order to do a PBA and have it considered as the graduation requirement.

Letter to the Editor:Standardized tests in Pa. are excessive and harmful
Delco Times Letter by Joanne Yurchak, East Goshen POSTED: 06/09/15, 11:01 PM
To the Times:  It is crucial that our state legislators and the Pennsylvania Department of Education immediately address the numerous problems created by the excessive testing that is currently inflicted on our public school students – the PSSAs for grades 3-8, and the three Keystones for the higher grades (Algebra I, Literature and Biology, which students in classes of 2017 and beyond must pass to graduate from high school). The deleterious educational and fiscal impacts of the Keystone graduation requirement leave no doubt that it must be removed ASAP, but that is a discussion for another day. The purpose of this current letter is to clarify issues related to the PSSAs – the testing procedures, the makeup of the tests, and how they are used.

SB6: Pa. Senate panel passes school improvement bill
CHRIS PALMER, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, June 10, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Tuesday, June 9, 2015, 3:03 PM
A state Senate committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would create a state-run system to take over low-performing Pennsylvania schools, sending to the full chamber a measure that Philadelphia's superintendent said could be devastating to city schools.
Modeled after similar legislation in states such as Louisiana and Tennessee, Senate Bill 6 mandates that the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools - as defined by the state's school performance profile - transform themselves within three years, either by contracting with outside providers or converting to charters. The bottom 1 percent would have only two years to improve.  Schools that failed in turnaround efforts could be placed into a state-run district, the Achievement School District, which would be able to close schools and authorize new charters.

SB6: Senate panel advances bill to turnaround poor performing schools
Penn Live By Madison Russ | on June 09, 2015 at 6:46 PM, updated June 09, 2015 at 8:49 PM
The Senate Education Committee passed a bill on Tuesday that is aimed at turning around schools with consistently bad academic track records.  "We have some schools that have been persistently failing our kids and the way to really improve our system overall is to focus on these schools," said the bill's sponsor,committee Chairman Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster County.   Under the bill, elementary and secondary schools in the bottom five percent measured by the School Performance Profile would be forced to improve. If a school continues to underperform, it could risk falling under state control.  Schools that fall in the bottom one percent would be moved to the "Achievement School District" (ASD), which would be run by a executive director and state-appointed board to manage the school directly.

Dean introduces legislation to alleviate background-check fees for volunteers
Rep. Madeline Dean Press Release June 8, 2015
HARRISBURG, June 8 – State Rep. Madeleine Dean has drafted a House bill that would grant free background checks every three years to all current and future volunteers in Pennsylvania.  As a result of changes to the state’s child abuse laws this year, volunteers who work directly with children are now required to undergo multiple background checks every three years, which can total as much as $48. Her bill, which has broad bipartisan support, seeks to alleviate some of those costs.  “All across Pennsylvania, volunteers work diligently to improve our commonwealth and the lives of its citizens,” said Dean, D-Montgomery. “This legislation would ensure that the measures intended to protect our children do not create an undue burden for volunteers and the organizations they serve. It also ensures that the fees associated with clearances do not deter interested individuals from volunteering.”  The legislation would allow a volunteer to obtain one free clearance from the Pennsylvania State Police and another from the Department of Human Services every three years.

Bring on the fiscal scrutiny, Hite says
Inquirer Philly School Files Blog by Kristen Graham POSTED: TUESDAY, JUNE 9, 2015, 4:37 PM
Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. heard City Council clearly - they're skeptical of how the millions they've provided over the past several years have been spent.  Council's concerns were raised anew in the past few weeks, as they consider Mayor Nutter's proposal to hike property taxes to give the schools an additional $105 million. That plan appears dead in the water, with Council officials saying they are more likely to enact a plan that includes a more modest tax hike, coupled with a raise in the Use and Occupancy tax and possibly a jump in parking-lot taxes.  Hite and his team say they've provided every detail Council wants. But the Philadelphia School District chief had an idea: what if the state's top auditor would help give city officials assurances, too?  Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is currently in the middle of a routine performance audit of the district's operations, so Hite reached out to him.  As a result, Council has an open invitation to contact DePasquale directly. Any concerns they bring to the auditor general will now be investigated and included in DePasquale's audit.

Saucon Valley School Board gives final best offer for nonbinding arbitration
By Christina Tatu Of The Morning Call June 9, 2015
As the Saucon Valley School Board and teachers union prepare for nonbinding arbitration, the board voted Tuesday to stick with an October 2014 contract proposal as its final best offer.  The board and teachers union must post their final best offers by the end of the day Wednesday. Both will appear on the school district's website. Neither had been posted as of late Tuesday.  Rich Simononis, chief negotiator for the Saucon Valley Education Association, which represents the district's 180 teachers, did not respond to an inquiry for comment.  The public will have a 10-day window to submit comments on each offer. The comments will be considered during a private hearing July 29 before the arbitrator, attorney Timothy Brown. They will give Brown a sense of where the public stands.

"As American classrooms have focused on raising test scores in math and reading, an outgrowth of the federal No Child Left Behind law and interpretations of the new Common Core standards, even the youngest students have been affected, with more formal lessons and less time in sandboxes. But these days, states like Vermont, Minnesota and Washington are again embracing play as a bedrock of kindergarten."
Kindergartens Ringing the Bell for Play Inside the Classroom
PASADENA, Md. — Mucking around with sand and water. Playing Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders. Cooking pretend meals in a child-size kitchen. Dancing on the rug, building with blocks and painting on easels.  Call it Kindergarten 2.0.  Concerned that kindergarten has become overly academic in recent years, this suburban school district south of Baltimore is introducing a new curriculum in the fall for 5-year-olds. Chief among its features is a most old-fashioned concept: play.  “I feel like we have been driving the car in the wrong direction for a long time,” said Carolyn Pillow, who has taught kindergarten for 15 years and attended a training session here on the new curriculum last month. “We can’t forget about the basics of what these kids need, which is movement and opportunities to play and explore.”

Come to Harrisburg on June 23rd for an All for Education Day Rally!
Education Voters PA website June 1, 2015
On June 23 at the Capitol in Harrisburg, Education Voters will be joining together with more than 50 organizations to send a clear message to state lawmakers that we expect them to fund our schools in this year’s budget. Click HERE for more information and to register for the June 23 All for Education Day in Harrisburg.  Join us as we speak up for the importance of funding our schools fairly and at sufficient levels, so that every student in PA has an opportunity to learn.  Community, parent, education advocacy, faith, and labor organizations will join together with school, municipal, and community officials to hold a press conference and rally at 12:00 in the main rotunda and to make arrangements to meet with legislators before and after the rally.  We must send a strong message to state lawmakers that we are watching them and expect them to pass a state budget that will fund our schools this year. Please come to Harrisburg on June 23 to show broad support for a fair budget for education this year.

Register Now – PAESSP State Conference – Oct. 18-20 – State College, PA
Registration is now open for PAESSP's State Conference to be held October 18-20 at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College, PA! This year's theme is @EVERYLEADER and features three nationally-known keynote speakers (Dr. James Stronge, Justin Baeder and Dr. Mike Schmoker), professional breakout sessions, a legal update, exhibits, Tech Learning Labs and many opportunities to network with your colleagues (Monday evening event with Jay Paterno).  Once again, in conjunction with its conference, PAESSP will offer two 30-hour Act 45 PIL-approved programs, Linking Student Learning to Teacher Supervision and Evaluation (pre-conference offering on 10/17/15); and Improving Student Learning Through Research-Based Practices: The Power of an Effective Principal (held during the conference, 10/18/15 -10/20/15). Register for either or both PIL programs when you register for the Full Conference!
REGISTER TODAY for the Conference and Act 45 PIL program/s at:

Apply now for EPLC’s 2015-2016 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program
Applications are available now for the 2015-2016 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP).  The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC).  With more than 400 graduates in its first sixteen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants.  Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, charter school leaders, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders.  Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization.  The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 17-18, 2015 and continues to graduation in June 2016.
Click here to read about the Education Policy Fellowship Program.

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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 »

Berks County IU June 23, 7:00 - 8:30 pm
Date:  Tuesday, June 23, 2015  Time:7:00 – 8:30 p.m. | Registration begins at 6:30 p.m.
Location: Berks County Intermediate Unit, 1111 Commons Boulevard, Reading, PA 19605
Local school district leaders will discuss how state funding issues are impacting our children’s education opportunities, our local taxes, and our communities. You will have the opportunity to ask questions and learn how you can support fair and adequate state funding for public schools in Berks County.  State lawmakers who represent Berks County have been invited to attend to learn about challenges facing area schools.

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