Thursday, July 30, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 30: Testing under scrutiny in Pa. House hearing

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 30, 2015:
Testing under scrutiny in Pa. House hearing

Interested in letting our elected leadership know your thoughts on education funding, a severance tax, property taxes and the budget?
Governor Tom Wolf, (717) 787-2500
Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai, (717) 772-9943
House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, (717) 705-7173
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Joe Scarnati, (717) 787-7084
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jake Corman, (717) 787-1377

Education Voters of Pennsylvania, local school officials urge lawmakers to fairly fund schools in state budget
Campaign for Fair Education Funding/Education Voters PA  July 29, 2015
 BETHLEHEM (July 28, 2015) – Education Voters of Pennsylvania and local school officials today held a press conference at Liberty High School to urge state lawmakers to put students first by making fair funding for education their top priority in the state budget. "We send lawmakers to Harrisburg not to do the least they can do, but to do what needs to get done," said Susan Gobreski of Education Voters of Pennsylvania. "It is time for our lawmakers to go back to Harrisburg. They must pass a budget that includes not only a way to divide up money, but also includes enough money to begin to get school funding back on track in the Commonwealth. "If we want Pennsylvania's economy to grow, it will only grow if we invest in education," she said. Parents, educators and school officials want legislators to take action right away to enact a state budget that increases basic education funding by at least $410 million to help restore past funding cuts, targeted at bringing districts back to the 2010 funding level as base year. In addition, they want lawmakers to begin implementation of the new funding formula unanimously adopted by the Basic Education Funding Commission, cochaired by Sen. Pat Browne (R-16th District), who also co-sponsored a bill that would implement the new formula.

Lawmakers 'put drillers before our students,' official says at education rally
By Sara K. Satullo | For  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on July 29, 2015 at 2:59 PM, updated July 29, 2015 at 4:17 PM
Education advocates and Lehigh Valley school officials Wednesday urged lawmakers to return to Harrisburg and put students first.  Almost a month into the fiscal year, Pennsylvania remains without a state budget.  "We send lawmakers to Harrisburg not to do the least they can do, but to do what needs to get done," said Susan Gobreski, of Education Voters of Pennsylvania. "It is time for our lawmakers to go back to Harrisburg."  The Bethlehem Area School District passed its budget June 15 with no knowledge of its state funding and it still has no idea today, said Michael Faccinetto, board president. Ironically, school districts would normally be starting to receive their state funding right now, he said.  "Quality education costs money," Faccinetto said. "We cannot play political games with out children's future."

Testing under scrutiny in Pa. House hearing
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau July 30, 2015 12:06 AM
HARRISBURG — Concerns about the statewide testing of students in Pennsylvania dominated an hours-long hearing Wednesday before the House Education Committee.  During testimony from educators, panel members heard worries that testing is detracting from the quality of education while adding to its cost.  Officials from the state Department of Education described the tests that Pennsylvania students take. They focused on two: the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSA, which is taken in math and English language arts in grades 3 through 8 and in science in grades 4 and 8; and the Keystone Exams, end-of-course assessments in algebra 1, literature and biology that are scheduled to serve as a high school graduation requirement, though one with exceptions, beginning with the class of 2017.

"A panel from the Pennsylvania Department of Education said while the curriculum implementation from Pennsylvania CORE varies across the state, the assessments cost Pennsylvania around $55 million annually: $30 million devoted to the PSSA exams, $20 million for Keystone exams, and $5 million for classroom diagnostic tools."
Educators, administrators pan state assessments at House hearing
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, July 29, 2015
The House Education Committee held a marathon hearing Wednesday getting input on state education assessments from frontline players who deliver and develop the tests. Most testifiers panned the state assessments as costly, unnecessary, and misapplied.  The committee’s aim was not to take testimony on any specific bill, but to get a ground-level understanding of what the tests do, how they’re viewed, and whether students are prepared for them.  “What we wanted to hear today is what exactly we Pennsylvania are required to do in terms of testing as far as the federal government requirements are concerned, what’s been going on at PDE and the Board of Education, but also to hear from different teachers, ssuperintendents and board members as to exactly what’s going on in each of the districts,” said Chairman Stan Saylor (R-York). “Let’s hear from individuals who are involved in the testing day in and day out to give us an explanation.”
It was noted the topic of state assessments has drawn a lot of interest lately, particularly in terms of preparedness for the exams after the adoption of Pennsylvania CORE standards in 2013.
“Testing assessments has become a focal point of interest across the Commonwealth,” said Minority Chairman James Roebuck (D-Philadelphia). “I think it’s important we get the input from those on the frontlines of the discussion and implementation.”

Educators criticize PSSAs, Keystone Exams in Harrisburg
By Jacqueline PalochkoOf The Morning Call July 29, 2015
Educators from across the state vent to lawmakers over PSSAs, Keystones.
HARRISBURG — Educators across Pennsylvania blasted the state's standardized exams as time-consuming, stressful for students and not an accurate gauge of what students learn.
School administrators, teachers and school board members testified Wednesday before the state House Education Committee on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams, which students in Grades 3-8 take every spring, and the Keystone Exams that high school students take at the end of a course.  District leaders also criticized the state's graduation requirement that says high school students, starting in 2017, must pass three Keystones — algebra, English and biology — to graduate.  Jack Silva, assistant superintendent of the Bethlehem Area School District and a vocal critic of the state tests, testified the PSSAs aren't useful.  "I have never met a leader of a university or the owner of a business who asked me for a student's PSSA score," Silva said. "I propose that the state allow districts to establish a menu of more meaningful data indicators to meet accountability standards."  Lawmakers also showed concern about the standardized tests, asking about the costs, time and anxiety they bring on.  The hearing came just a few weeks after the state Department of Education admitted this year's PSSAs scores plummeted. The tests were more rigorous this year because they were aligned with the Pennsylvania Core Standards, so a dive in scores was expected.  Results for the Keystone Exams, also aligned with the Core Standards, are not yet out.

Local educator blasts Keystone Exams mandate in state hearing
By Sara K. Satullo | For  Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on July 29, 2015 at 6:03 PM, updated July 29, 2015 at 7:06 PM
A Lehigh Valley educator testified in Harrisburg Wednesday about the harm he says state graduation mandates and high stakes testing are causing Pennsylvania children.  He wasn't alone in that sentiment.  Wednesday the state House Education Committee held a public hearing on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests, which students in grades three through eight take each year, and the high school end-of-course Keystone Exams.  Educators blasted the state's standardized tests during the hearing and on Twitter, tweeting with the hashtag PAassessments.

Four unintended consequences of using student test scores to evaluate teachers
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss July 29 at 12:45 PM  
As any even semi-regular reader of this blog knows, the practice of using student standardized test scores to evaluate teachers is riddled with problems. I’ve written before about some of the more ridiculous consequences, such as teachers being evaluated by students they don’t have and/or by subjects they don’t teach. (See here and here.) There are other consequences as well, some of them likely unintended. Here’s a post on the subject by Susan Moore Johnson, Jerome T. Murphy Research Professor in Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Johnson directs the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers, which examines how best to recruit, develop, and retain a strong teaching force. This appeared on the the Shanker Blog, the voice of the Albert Shanker Institute,  a nonprofit organization established in 1998 to honor the life and legacy of the late president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: July 22 - 28, 2015
Fairtest Submitted by fairtest on July 28, 2015 - 2:43pm 
As the assessment reform movement monitors Capitol Hill where a congressional conference committee will soon take up the rewrite of "No Child Left Behind," pressure to cut back testing volume and reduce high-stakes consequences continues to build at the grassroots. Be sure to check out the excellent new public education resources available for your local campaigns listed at the end of the news clips.

Wolf meets with Republican leaders about Pennsylvania budget by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS POSTED: Wednesday, July 29, 2015, 3:23 PM
YORK, Pa. (AP) - There's been another meeting aimed at resolving Pennsylvania's state budget standoff, but participants aren't reporting any breakthroughs.  Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf met Wednesday at the Yorktowne Hotel in York with the Republican floor leaders, Rep. Dave Reed and Sen. Jake Corman.  Reed spokesman Steve Miskin says they talked about proposals to cut public sector pensions, privatize the liquor system, add money for public education and reduce local property taxes.  Miskin says negotiators are making progress, but it's slow and there were no developments to make him think a deal will be reached in the next week or two.

Gov. Wolf and state GOP 'making progress' on budget talks
Penn Live By Candy Woodall | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on July 29, 2015 at 4:55 PM, updated July 29, 2015 at 4:58 PM
A month into the state budget impasse, Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday morning met with Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County, and House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, to hash out what have seemingly been irreconcilable differences.   "We're making progress," Wolf said.  The governor said he has been meeting with Republican leaders since the previous budget expired on June 30.  He enters these conversations respecting the other side, hoping to make some movement in a direction toward agreement, he said.  "I'm continuing to work on that. They're continuing to work on that. We're going to get to a good place," Wolf said.

Call for compromise on property tax relief in budget impasse
WITF Written by Mary Wilson | Jul 29, 2015 3:56 AM
 (Harrisburg) --  In a state budget stalemate with few compromises, a left-leaning think tank says focusing on property tax relief could prompt some bipartisan agreement.  Democratic Governor Tom Wolf made his pitch to offer property tax relief central to his proposed budget.  In May, the state House passed a GOP-crafted proposal with bipartisan backing.  It included the kind of broad-based tax increases Republican leaders now say they can't support.    The liberal Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center compared the two plans.  Stephen Herzenberg, a co-author of the report, says they're similar enough to suggest common ground is within reach.
"This should be an area ripe for bipartisan compromise. Republican champions for property tax relief do have a once in a generation opportunity to achieve what has been their top priority in many cases for a decade or more," he says. "This is the area where if we're going to manage to escape the partisan kabuki play, this is an area that might begin that."

Gov. Tom Wolf pushes budget plan in front of hometown crowd
York Daily Record By Ed Mahon UPDATED:   07/29/2015 09:49:09 PM EDT
Gov. Tom Wolf returned to familiar territory Wednesday.
He spoke at The Yorktowne Hotel — a property his former business used to partially own. The host was the Rotary Club of York — a group that his father used to be the president of.  State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, one of the local politicians in the crowd, said Wolf was probably personal friends with two-thirds of the people in the room, if not more.  At the start of the Rotary Club of York meeting, the club's president, Dr. Marsha Bornt, gave him an honorary membership and invited him to speak at another event for the group's centennial year celebration.  "It is really good to be home again," Wolf, a York County Democrat, told the crowd.
Here are four things to know about Wolf's visit.

Neshaminy teachers ratify contract; it’s the board’s turn
Inquirer by Ben Finley LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, July 29, 2015, 7:18 AM
LANGHORNE Following its approval by the teachers’ union, the Neshaminy school board is expected to vote on a teachers’ contract at an Aug. 6 meeting.  The Neshaminy Federation of Teachers voted Monday to ratify the one-year deal, which will apply retroactively from July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2016.  The tentative agreement has no base salary increases. Union members will continue to make contributions of 16 percent toward their health insurance premiums.  Elementary specialists and special education teachers, however, will get a total of 160 minutes per week of preparation time, ending a lawsuit the union filed in Bucks County Court.

Addressing childhood trauma takes a village
Support our campaign to distribute our documentary to schools and child advocates.
the notebook By Lauren Wiley on Jul 29, 2015 10:45 AM
Have you watched the Notebook documentary,Glen’s Village? Were you moved by the story of Glen’s journey from the streets of West Philadelphia to the University of Pennsylvania?
The Philadelphia Public School Notebook is seeking to bring Glen's Village to a wider audience – particularly to education professionals and advocates who work with children affected by trauma. We are raising funds to distribute the film by launching our first crowd-funding campaign at’s Village, produced by the Notebook and 5th Borough Films, immerses viewers in Glen's West Philadelphia neighborhood and the nearby Penn campus in University City. Although just a few blocks apart, the two communities might as well be separated by oceans. Glen's journey from being a 9th-grade troublemaker dealing crack cocaine on the streets to attending an Ivy League institution is filled with bumps, bruises and redemption.
The film's message needs to be heard: that there are many Glens out there whose behavior may be misunderstood and who aren't getting the support they need.

GSE NEWS: PBS’s NewsHour features Penn GSE’s Richard Ingersoll
July 24, 2015 — Education Policy professor Richard Ingersoll’s work around the teaching workforce is the gold standard in education in research nationally. He’s featured in a recent PBS NewsHour story examining the state of the teaching workforce, and the career outlooks for recent teacher education graduates. Ingersoll adds insights about the rising percentage of female teachers in the classroom, efforts to recruit and retain minority teachers, and why 40 percent of teachers leave the field in the first five years.  “The biggest set of reasons has to do with the quality and the caliber of the job,” Ingersoll said. “It’s the amount of support, the amount of student discipline and behavioral problems in the building, how much say teachers have in the decisions in the building that affect their job. Do they have input and voice?”

IB: Schools With Tough Tests Send More Low-Income Kids to College
Education Writers Assoc. Educated Reporter JULY 28, 2015 MIKHAIL ZINSHTEYN
Schools that that teach low-income students a notoriously demanding curriculum are almost twice as likely to see those students enroll in college, a new report shows.  This news comes on the heels of growing research suggesting that challenging assessments, which are a staple of the International Baccalaureate program featured in the report, help students develop a deeper understanding of key subjects like math and history. That “deeper learning,” in turn, may lead to more college opportunities.   The International Baccalaureate, a nonprofit organization that sellsits stable of intensive coursework for various subjects to schools around the world, released the study last week, calculating that more than half of the 1,650 schools in the United States that use IB material fit the federal designation of Title I schools, which means they enroll a large low-income student population. In fact, the number of Title I schools offering IB programming increased by 50 percent between 2009 and 2013, the report said. 

A low-income Brooklyn high school where 100 percent of black male students graduate
One motivating factor is a student-founded, student-sustained “fraternity”
Hechinger Report by MEREDITH KOLODNER July 14, 2015
NEW YORK — Last fall, a Howard University sophomore was fielding dozens of phone calls between midnight and 3 a.m. from seniors at Brooklyn College Academy.
The young men had a million questions about applying to college, and as a leader of the Sophisticated Well Articulated Gentlemen’s Group (SWAGG) to which they all belong, Jude Bridgewater had pledged to always answer their calls.  Bridgewater, 20, says one of his best days of the year came this spring, when a member named Turel Polite, who had clashed early and often with high school administrators, was accepted into his top choice college — the Academy of Art University in California. Polite credits high school staff members who stayed on his case, and the close-knit network of SWAGG.

Traveling the path least taken successfully requires preparation
Center for Public Education The EDifier July 29, 2015
Nearly two-thirds of employers believe that our public schools are not adequately preparing recent high school graduates for the workforce, according to a new survey from our friends over at Achieve. However, this percentage would likely drop significantly if recent high school graduates were properly prepared in high school, according to CPE’s most recent report The Path Least Taken: Preparing non-college goers for success.  While much of the rhetoric surrounding education reform has centered on the phrase ‘college and career ready,’ much of the discussion and policies have focused on the former rather than the latter. So CPE decided to take a closer look at what high schools could do to prepare their graduates who don’t go onto college for success after high school. Not surprisingly we found that on-average high school graduates who go onto college are more likely to see success in terms of getting a good job than their fellow graduates who never attended college. Yet, when we took a closer look at the preparation non-college goers received in high school and beyond, a much different picture emerged. A picture that showed non-college goers were more likely to find career success if they were properly prepared in high school.

"In contrast, they acknowledge, the foundation’s investments in education here in the United States haven’t paid off as well.  “There’s no dramatic change,” Bill acknowledged. “It’s not like under-5 mortality, where you see this dramatic improvement.”  But both Bill and Melinda insist that they aren’t dispirited by the lack of transformational progress in education. “We’re still very committed,” Bill says.  One giant leap: Bill and Melinda say the foundation is now going to further expand beyond K-12 to also invest nationwide in early childhood programs. I’m thrilled, for I’m a believer that helping children aged 0 to 5 (when the brain is developing rapidly) is crucial for the most at-risk children."
Bill and Melinda Gates’s Pillow Talk
New York Times Opinion  by Nicholas Kristof JULY 18, 2015
WHAT do Bill and Melinda Gates argue about?
Not whose turn it is to wash the dishes or take out the garbage, it seems, but headier stuff. The prospects for eradicating polio. The utility of empowering women. The best ways to save lives.
Oh, and maybe how much to acknowledge to a prying columnist that they sometimes do argue.
It has been 15 years since Bill and Melinda Gates created what is now the largest foundation in the world. This milestone seemed the right moment to ask them what they have learned from giving away $34 billion, what mistakes they have made, and what they disagree about.
But first, just a reminder of how historic this foundation has been. It has played a central role in a campaign to transform health and nutrition for the world’s poor.

School Funding Fight Back in Hands of Washington State's Supreme Court
Education Week State Ed Watch Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on July 28, 2015 11:07 AM
After a tumultuous special legislative session this year that saw a boost for K-12 spending, Washington state officials are telling the state's highest court: Stop holding us in contempt. But advocates who believe lawmakers are still falling short are instead telling the court to either levy sanctions or walk away.  If the court ends up agreeing with those advocates, sanctions against the state could follow, including a ban on spending state funds on budget areas other than public education.  A quick review: Last year, the state's supreme court held the state in contempt for failing to adequately respond to a 2012 ruling in the McCleary v. Washington case. That ruling found the state to be delinquent in its constitutional duty to make providing for a public education its "paramount duty" by not providing enough money for schools. Lawmakers responded by boosting school spending by roughly $1 billion in its 2013-15 biennial budget, but that didn't prevent the supreme court's 2014 contempt ruling.   This year, lawmakers had to head to special session to finalize a deal to increase spending on K-12 for the 2015-17 budget, with Democrats and Republicans advocating for different approaches. According to a report filed by lawmakers with the supreme court July 27, the final 2015-17 budget deal, combined with the funding increase from 2013-15, has increased education spending by about $4.8 billion (up to $18 billion in the biennial budget) from where state spending stood in 2012, when the court issued its McCleary ruling.

Nominations for PSBA's Allwein Advocacy Award now open
PSBA July 7, 2015
The Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award was established in 2011 by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and may be presented annually to the individual school director or entire school board to recognize outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students that are consistent with the positions in PSBA’s Legislative Platform.  The 2015 Allwein Award nomination process will close on Aug. 28, 2015. The 2015 Allwein Award Nomination Form is available online. More details on the award and nominations process can be found online

Save the Date for PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 14-16, 2015 Hershey Lodge & Convention Center
Save the date for the professional development event of the year. Be inspired at more than four exciting venues and invest in professional development for top administrators and school board members. Online registration will be live soon!

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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