Thursday, September 10, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept 10: Standardized testing is failing our students

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3750 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for September 10, 2015:
Standardized testing is failing our students

Make your voice heard at Education Action Day, Sept. 21
School directors and administrators from across the state will be converging on the State Capitol on Monday, Sept. 21 for Education Action Day – your opportunity to push for a state budget and pension reform. Join PSBA in the Main Capitol-East Wing under the escalators at 10 a.m. A news conference will be held from 11 a.m.-noon, and from 1-3 p.m. you may visit with legislators. There is no charge for participation, but for planning purposes, members are asked to register their attendance online below. We look forward to a big crowd to impress upon legislators and the governor the need for a state budget and pension reform now!

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

"The report notes that Pennsylvania has the widest funding gap in the nation between wealthy and poor school districts, a difference of 33 percent."
Pennsylvania education groups push for more school funding
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette September 9, 2015 11:03 AM
With the state budget still unresolved, the Campaign for Fair Education Funding today issued a report intended to draw attention to its call for increased basic education funding by at least $410 million.  The campaign is composed of more than 50 organizations, including A+ Schools, Allies for Children, Pennsylvania School Boards Association, PennCAN, Pennsylvania State Education Association, Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh.  The report -- titled "Lifting All Students: Why Pennsylvania Must Act Now to Fairly Fund Public Education and Secure Our Future" -- comes after the state missed its scheduled payment of more than $1 billion to school districts late last month because of the budget impasse.  The report notes that the bipartisan state Basic Education Funding Commission approved recommendations for a new formula, but that has not been enacted.

Campaign for Fair Education Funding report makes case for basic education increase of at least $410 million and a new funding formula
Campaign for Fair Education Funding Press Release HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept, 9, 2015 /PRNewswire/ --
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding today released its report, "Lifting All Students, Why Pennsylvania Must Act Now to Fairly Fund Public Education and Secure Our Future," demonstrating what is at stake if lawmakers do not act quickly to adopt a fair public school funding formula and begin making a significant, long-term and equitable investment in public education.  Read the report in full.
The Campaign – a diverse group of more than 50 organizations committed to improving public education in Pennsylvania – is calling on state lawmakers to adopt a budget that increases basic education funding by at least $410 million to help school districts recover from past funding cuts, targeted at bringing districts back to the 2010 funding level as a base year, and begin implementation of the new funding formula that was unanimously adopted by the state's Basic Education Funding Commission.  In late August, the state missed its scheduled payment of more than $1 billion to Pennsylvania school districts because of state lawmakers' failure to enact a state budget. With the impasse in its 71st day, the Campaign's report provides factual support and funding comparisons supporting the need for fair education funding now.   One proposal – contained in the Governor's proposed budget – increases basic education funding by $410 million in fiscal year 2015-16, while the other – included in the budget passed by the Legislature but vetoed by the Governor – proposes a considerably smaller increase of $100 million.  The report lists six examples of how the two proposals would affect disparate school districts across the state, and the appendix compares how the two scenarios would affect all 500 school districts.  "The Campaign's report shows how the education funding proposals being debated in Harrisburg play out on the local level," said Campaign spokesperson Charlie Lyons. "Whether it translates into smaller class sizes, a wider range of educational programs, or additional supports for struggling students, full and fair funding has a real impact on students' lives." 

Standardized testing is failing our students
Philly .com Opinion by ALISON MCDOWELL POSTED: September 9, 2015, 12:16 AM
STUDENTS, TEACHERS and parents deserve to savor the exciting possibilities of a new school year without the dark shadow of standardized testing hanging over their heads. Labeling nearly half the students in the state "failures" during the first weeks of school only discourages children from seeing themselves as capable, curious, engaged learners. What's surprising is not that nearly 50 percent of Pennsylvania students "failed" the new PSSAs, but that the percentage of failure wasn't even higher. In states where "rigorous" standardized tests aligned to the Common Core have been implemented - including New York, Washington and Connecticut - failure rates of around 70 percent have become routine.  Local administrators will feel pressured to boost PSSA and Keystone results that were manufactured via manipulated cut scores, questions on complex texts that sometimes required students to select multiple correct or incorrect answers, and questions covering content that may not have matched the curriculum that was being taught. Many districts will be expected to achieve improvements under austerity budgets caused by ongoing underfunding by the state. At the same time, Gov. Wolf's proposed budget allots $58.3 million for administering and grading state assessments, the same amount allocated by Gov. Corbett last year.

How do PA Cyber Charter SPP Scores compare with IU1 High School Scores?

State gives $5M to pay Chester Upland teachers
Chester Upland School District has received an infusion of nearly $5 million in state aid to keep paying teachers and staff while officials work to develop a financial recovery plan for the struggling school system.  At a hearing Wednesday, a district lawyer also told a Delaware County judge that officials will meet with charter school operators to discuss a new funding formula. He said they intend to submit the new plan by late next week.  The announcements came during a hearing in which district and state education officials gave Judge Chad F. Kenney an update on their efforts to slash charter school payments and crawl out of debt.  Chester Upland pays nearly $64 million to charter schools, which educate about half of the district's nearly 7,000 students.

Chester-Upland teachers paid for now; judge says state must do more
The past two weeks have been a roller coaster for the Chester-Upland School District outside of Philadelphia.   Today, a district official announced that debt relief from the state would give some temporary relief on a payroll crunch. A Delaware County judge ruled that the state has to ramp up its contribution.  "It just doesn't work," said Delaware County Court of Common Pleas judge Chad Kenney on the current system of funding schools primarily through local property tax dollars. "It's broken for Chester-Upland."  Judge Kenney has presided over years of hearings on Chester-Upland schools, which the state declared financially distressed over 25 years ago.  Charter schools now enroll about half of the district's 7,200 students. Tuition payments to the charter schools by local districts are mandated by state law, and the state-appointed receiver Francis Barnes as well as Governor Tom Wolf have argued that those payments are based on a flawed formula, diverting too many resources to the charter schools.  Two weeks ago, Judge Kenney rejected a financial recovery plan proposed by Barnes, that would have reduced payments to charter schools for special education students from $40,000 a student to $16,000.

"Charter school funding for special-needs students has been a point of contention in Louisiana, too. This summer, Gov. Bobby Jindal signed a law to alter the formula that gives money to charters for special needs students, so that schools will get funded based on their actual need. The Louisiana School Boards Association and others praised the move, saying it was fairer for charters and school systems."
Teachers work for free as Pa. schools go insolvent, newspaper says
By Jessica Williams, | The Times-Picayune  Follow on Twitter  on September 09, 2015 at 9:40 AM, updated September 09, 2015 at 9:41 AM
A Pennsylvania public school system is penniless, so the teachers are working for free. About 200 Chester Upland school system employees and teachers union members agreed to work without pay this school year, The Washington Post reports.  The school system faces a $22 million budget deficit and is not making payroll. Officials blame Chester Upland's near insolvency on the state's charter school funding law, which requires that conventional public school systems pay charter schools $40,000 per special-needs student, regardless of the actual cost of educating that child. A spokesman for Gov. Tom Wolf said the problem also stemmed from local mismanagement and state education spending cuts.

Here’s how to tell your state rep: ‘No budget, no pay’
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury POSTED: 09/08/15, 6:05 PM EDT
For 71 days, Pennsylvania has been waiting for a new budget to pass out of Harrisburg.
With no end in sight, some lawmakers have begun refusing their state paychecks as a signal that they want to speed up this process just as much as their constituents.  To support their efforts, The Mercury and its sister newspapers in Digital First Media have launched an initiative on social media called #NoBudgetNoPay.  Readers can post messages on the #NoBudgetNoPay Facebook page demanding legislators forgo their pay until a state budget has been approved. The Mercury will collect those messages and send them directly to lawmakers.  Posting selfie portraits along with messages will reinforce that the citizens of this region stand behind the message. And, posting on Twitter and Instagram, using the hashtag #NoBudgetNoPay, will spread the word.  There’s “ample precedent” among legislators to give up their pay during a budget standoff, according to one political observer and pollster.

Pa. is working harder to make sure schoolkids get healthy meals: Russell Redding and Pedro Rivera
By Russell Redding and Pedro Rivera PennLive Op-Ed on September 09, 2015 at 1:30 PM, updated September 09, 2015 at 7:27 PM
Russell C. Redding serves as the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Secretary. Pedro A. Rivera serves as the Pennsylvania Department of Education Secretary. Both secretaries were nominated to serve the commonwealth by Governor Tom Wolf in January 2015.
As parents and educators, one of simplest things we want for our children, is for them to grow up to be happy and healthy. Part of being healthy includes learning about proper nutrition and developing good eating habits.    We are grateful that the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 ensures that children have access to the healthy, nutritious foods they need to practice good eating habits in order to grow, learn, achieve academically, and thrive.  Thanks to updated standards for the national school lunch and breakfast programs implemented in 2012, healthier meals are rapidly becoming the norm for students across our state.  Over the past three years, we've learned that students and parents are appreciative of—and enthusiastic about—menu options that are both healthy and delicious. Health experts are also applauding.  With many kids eating up to half their daily calories at school, healthy school meals and snacks are a commonsense step to ensure all children, including those at high risk for obesity, grow up at a healthy weight. 

Erie School District in need of financial help By JESSICA DOUDRICK | Published 09/09 2015 10:23PM
As Pennsylvania awaits the approval of the state budget, local school districts are in need of financial help.  At Wednesday night's Erie School Board meeting, the board discussed taking out a loan to keep the district running as they await the approval of the state budget.  Superintendent Dr. Jay Badams says it's a guarantee that if the budget doesn't pass by the end of September, the district will need to borrow funds to operate.  "We have to pay the interest on the loan, so that's tax payer money," Dr. Badams said. "So rather than taxpayer money going to educate children, it's going to pay interest on a line of credit. "  Dr. Badams says the loan would be taken out as needed and would max out at $30 million. If the budget is settled before the end of September, a loan may not need to be taken out at all. 

Guest Column: GOP did its part on budget; when will Gov. Wolf step up?
By Scott Wagner , Times Guest Columnist POSTED: 09/09/15, 10:00 PM EDT 
State Sen. Scott Wagner is a Republican from York.
June 30 has come and gone, and while the Legislature met its obligation to pass a balanced budget by the constitutionally required deadline, here we are two months later without a budget. Are you still paying taxes? I certainly am.  The state is still receiving the revenue needed to fund state agencies, service providers, and our schools. Yet there is no authorization to spend that money because Gov. Tom Wolf chose to veto a budget that was balanced, did not raise taxes, and provided increased education funding. Notably, two-thirds of the line items were funded at or above the amount that the governor requested.  Gov. Wolf had the power to use what is called a line-item veto. This means that he could have chosen to strike out parts of the budget that he did not support, allowing the rest of the budget to become law. Instead, he has left organizations in our communities scrambling to stay afloat because he insists on a tax and spend budget that exacerbates the problem that I continue to call attention to – Harrisburg does not have a revenue problem, Harrisburg has a spending problem.

With Pa.'s NCLB Waiver Renewal, Half of States Have 'Paused' Accountability
Education Week By Alyson Klein on September 8, 2015 11:02 AM
And now there are 38 states, plus the District of Columbia—the U.S. Department of Education just renewed Pennsylvania's waiver from many of the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act, for one year.  The Keystone State is getting a one-year renewal only even though some other states have been eligible to hang onto their flexibility for up to four years. (No word yet on what Pennsylvania has to do to be eligible for a longer waiver. Watch for an update to this post.) UPDATE: Pennsylvania will need to submit information to the Education Department, showing that its teacher evaluation includes different levels for teacher performance. And it will need to show student growth is a significant factor in evaluations.  Pennsylvania is taking advantage of the accountability "pause" offered by the U.S. Department of Education. That pause allows states to freeze school ratings for one year if they're moving to new tests aligned to the common core. That officially brings the total of "paused" states to 25, or exactly half.
Every one of the 42 states that has a waiver applied for renewal, and most have already gotten the green light to hang onto their flexibility for at least one more year. Still waiting in the wings: Colorado, Louisiana, and Texas. (Illinois got its waiver late, so it's a special case, on a different timeline.)

Strike by Seattle Teachers Adds to School Turmoil in State
New York Times By KIRK JOHNSON SEPT. 8, 2015
SEATTLE — The union representing about 5,000 teachers and other workers in the Seattle public schools said Tuesday night that contract talks had broken down and that the first teachers strike here in 30 years would begin on Wednesday, which had been the first scheduled day of classes.  The union and the city had been far apart through a long holiday weekend of negotiations, but with the deadline looming for the opening bell of school, key questions over pay, staffing levels and student testing could not be resolved.  The strike promises to throw Washington’s public school system, which was already struggling with a huge fight over funding, into even further turmoil.  Washington State’s highest court declared last week that much of the law underpinning the new charter school system around the state was unconstitutional. The court set a 20-day clock, at which time the charter system could be dismantled — a step that legal experts said no other state court had ever taken. The State Supreme Court, the panel that struck down the charter law, last month began assessing $100,000 a day in fines on the state until the Legislature comes up with a plan to better fund the system as a whole.   So even before the strike, charter schools like Summit Sierra School here in Seattle were struggling to understand their legal status.

Left Behind: The Unintended Consequences Of School Choice
Once a powerhouse Class AAAA school, North Charleston High can barely field sports teams anymore. Half of its classrooms sit empty. Saddled with a reputation for fights, drugs, gangs and students who can’t learn, middle-class families no longer give it a chance.  This is the unintended consequence of school choice.  Two-thirds of students in its attendance zone now flee to myriad magnets, charters and other school choices that beckon the brightest and most motivated from schools like this one.  But not all can leave, not those without cars or parents able to navigate their complex options. Concentrated poverty is left behind. So is a persistent “At Risk” rating from the state.  The Post and Courier offers a five-part look at North Charleston High through the eyes of students tethered to a world of dwindling dreams. 

Help fund the statewide tour of a live documentary play about the struggle to save public education in Pennsylvania.
After standing-room-only shows at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center in April, we’re taking this compelling play about the precarious state of public education back to the people who lent us their voices and stories. This October, we’re traveling across the state, putting on free performances to spark conversations and engage citizens.  School Play is a work of grassroots theatre, woven from the narratives of hundreds of Pennsylvanians affected by our state’s school funding crisis. The play is entirely crowd-sourced; the script is derived from the words of students, parents, educators and legislators, and is available online for anyone to perform.  Artists Arden Kass, Seth Bauer and Edward Sobel created School Play out of our personal concern for our kids and our communities. The result is a funny, sad, straight-talking documentary theatre piece, told through the words of real people.  You can read more about School Play here, here, here and here.

Register Now for the Fifth Annual Arts and Education Symposium Oct. 29th Harrisburg
Thursday, October 29, 2015 Radisson Hotel Harrisburg Convention Center 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Act 48 Credit is available. The event will be a daylong convening of arts education policy leaders and practitioners for lively discussions about important policy issues and the latest news from the field. The symposium is hosted by EPLC and the Pennsylvania Arts Education Network, and supported by a generous grant from The Heinz Endowments.

The John Stoops Lecture Series: Dr. Pasi Sahlberg "Education Around the World: Past, Present & Future" Lehigh University October 8, 2015 6:00 p.m.
Baker Hall | Zoellner Arts Center | 420 E. Packer Avenue | Bethlehem, PA 18015
Free and open to the public!  Ticketing is general admission - no preseating will be assigned. Arrive early for the best seats.  Please plan to stay post-lecture for an open reception where you will have an opportunity to meet with students from all of our programs to learn about the latest innovations in education and human services.

Register now for the 2015 PASCD 65th Annual Conference, Leading and Achieving in an Interconnected World, to be held November 15-17, 2015 at Pittsburgh Monroeville Convention Center.
The Conference will Feature Keynote Speakers: Meenoo Rami – Teacher and Author “Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching,”  Mr. Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, Heidi Hayes-Jacobs – Founder and President of Curriculum Design, Inc. and David Griffith – ASCD Senior Director of Public Policy.  This annual conference features small group sessions focused on: Curriculum and Supervision, Personalized and Individualized Learning, Innovation, and Blended and Online Learning. The PASCD Conference is a great opportunity to stay connected to the latest approaches for innovative change in your school or district.  Join us forPASCD 2015!  Online registration is available by visiting <>

Slate of candidates for PSBA offices now available online
PSBA website July 31, 2015
The slate of candidates for 2016 PSBA officer and at-large representatives is now available online, including bios, photos and videos. According to recent PSBA Bylaws changes, each member school entity casts one vote per office. Voting will again take place online through a secure, third-party website -- Simply Voting. Voting will open Aug. 17 and closes Sept. 28. One person from the school entity (usually the board secretary) is authorized to register the vote on behalf of the member school entity and each board will need to put on its agenda discussion and voting at one of its meetings in August or September. Each person authorized to register the school entity's votes has received an email on July 16 to verify the email address and confirm they are the person to register the vote on behalf of their school entity. 

Register Now 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 is live at:

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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