Tuesday, September 8, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept 8: Schools brace for impact of Pa. budget impasse

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for September 8, 2015:
Schools brace for impact of Pa. budget impasse

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

Schools brace for impact of Pa. budget impasse
WITF State House Sound Bites Written by Mary Wilson | Sep 7, 2015 6:20 PM
 (Harrisburg) -- The school year has already begun in many districts across the commonwealth, but stalled budget negotiations in Harrisburg mean there's no sign of when state funding will start flowing again.  State budget gridlock has ensnared funding for social services and schools.  For Chester-Upland School District in Delaware County, which has had money problems for years, the frozen funding has left teachers without paychecks.  Steve Robinson of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association says more schools may have problems depending on how long the impasse continues.  "We're starting to hear from some of the districts that probably have a higher state aid ratio that they're very concerned about being able to make payroll for staff in the near future if the budget isn't resolved soon," he says.  Robinson says other schools may soon find themselves in the same situation.

No breakthroughs in quiet talks means, for Pa. legislators, it's on to a stopgap budget
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on September 04, 2015 at 8:04 PM, updated September 04, 2015 at 10:33 PM
After two weeks of shuttle diplomacy on Pennsylvania's budget stalemate came up short on breakthroughs, Republican legislative leaders are starting to turn their attentions to a second track: a stopgap budget bill.  Top aides to House and Senate Republican leaders confirmed Friday they are working jointly on a new bill to get short-term funding to all manner of human service agencies, local governments and school districts that, in some cases, have been forced to do without anticipated state aid since July 1.  Aides stressed the effort is only preparatory at the moment, and any final decision to bring the measure to the floor will be contingent on progress in the ongoing negotiations with Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf.

"Besides safety net services, public schools also are weathering a loss of state aid during the stalemate, which is hitting particularly hard in one of Pennsylvania's poorest school districts.  Chester Upland School District, just south of Philadelphia, said it cannot meet a scheduled payroll Tuesday. Teachers and support staff, including bus drivers and secretaries, returned to school last week and voted to continue working if they are not paid."
Stopgap bill may ease Pennsylvania budget impasse
Morning Call By Marc Levy Of The Associated Press
HARRISBURG — Republicans who control the Pennsylvania Legislature have begun planning their next move in the 2-month-old budget stalemate with Gov. Tom Wolf, with no signs that the sides are nearing an agreement.  The Senate will be back in session in mid-September, and Republicans say if there is no light at the end of the tunnel in their talks with the Democratic governor, they will pass a stopgap budget plan.  One aim of the stopgap package would be to get money to counties and nonprofit organizations that deliver a broad swath of the state's safety net services but are now trying to do so without the state aid on which they normally rely.  To get by, some counties are dipping into cash reserves to front the money while nonprofits are taking out loans, putting off services or postponing bills to keep operating during the stalemate.  "If there is no end in sight for the budget being done in the short term, then we will go to what options are available to send a stopgap budget to the governor to fund important services," said Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson.

Wolf says Pa. stopgap funding 'extreme hypothetical'
Gov. Tom Wolf is mum on whether he would sign a short-term funding measure to get state money flowing again to Pennsylvania schools and social services providers that have been cut off since July.  State Senate Republicans have said they plan to be in session later this month, and could consider stopgap funding proposals. But on Friday, Wolf wouldn't say whether he would sign such a measure if it landed on his desk.  "I sort of avoid hypotheticals," said Wolf, "and this is the most extreme hypothetical I've heard in a long time."  His spokesman has said in recent weeks that the governor doesn't endorse the short-term funding approach because it doesn't solve the state's long-term funding problems.  Meanwhile, a recent report from rating agency Moody's notes "chronically late budgets" have socked Pennsylvania with a below-average credit rating, which means it faces higher borrowing costs than do other states.

"Pre-K for Pa., an advocacy group, is comprised of: Jodi Askins, Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children; Joan Benso, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children; Cara Ciminillo, Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children; Donna Cooper, Public Citizen's for Children and Youth; Bruce Clash, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids; Steve Doster, Mission Readiness - Military Leaders for Kids; Kevin Dow, United Way of Greater Philadelphia & Southern New Jersey; Blair Hyatt, Pennsylvania Head Start Association; Sharon Easterling, Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children, and Steve Wray, Economy League of Greater Philadelphia."
When they talk budget, Wolf and lawmakers can't forget early childhood education: As We See It
Penn Live By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on September 04, 2015 at 2:00 PM, updated September 04, 2015 at 2:04 PM
By The Members of Pre-K for Pa.
The sharp elbows of politics can sometimes be bruising, however unintentional the bump. As Pennsylvania's budget impasse stretches into its third month, across the commonwealth the impact of political gridlock is beginning to be felt.  As PennLive's Jan Murphy notes in "Cash flow woes: Schools feeling the pinch of the Pa. budget impasse" (PennLive, Aug. 31), small business owners and non-profits who operate high-quality Pre-K Counts and Head Start classrooms across the commonwealth are being forced to make a hard decision.  And that's this: Either take out loans (and pay the interest) to open their doors to eager young learners or close state-funded classrooms  We urge Gov. Tom Wolf and the Legislature to work together to craft a budget that resolves this hardship.  But their negotiations regarding pre-kindergarten funding can't only be about preserving state funding levels from last fiscal year for pre-k and getting those grants out the door.

Schools in Phila., dozens of towns face ratings cuts, higher costs if Pa. budget drags on
Inquirer by Joseph N. DiStefano POSTED: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2015, 2:56 PM
State-funded public schools and senior agencies face higher funding costs due to Pennsylvania elected officials' failure to settle on a budget. Moody's Investors Services warns it is preparing to downgrade the following debt:  - On Friday, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said it plans to cut bond ratings for Philadelphia, Bristol, Chester Upland, Coatesville, Morrisville and dozens of other struggling Pennsylvania school districts and community colleges unless the state's budget "impasse" between Gov. Wolf and Republican leaders is resolved with a new tax and spending plan by November. (See full list of districts below.)

Rivera on 'Radio Times': Education can 'build a village again around our children'
By the Notebook on Sep 4, 2015 03:09 PM Audio Runtime 48:57
Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro Rivera appeared on Radio Times (WHYY-FM)today to discuss budgets, equitable school funding, PSSA score drops, community (non)investment, and how rigorous academic standards like the Common Core and PA Core standards "are based on upper-class, middle-class values."

"The crisis of desperately deprived schools is shockingly clear on the crowd-funding website, donorschoose.org, where hundreds of Philadelphia classroom teachers personally beg the public to fund pencils, paper, books and other essentials because the school district stopped paying for bare-bones needs years ago."
Reborn music program nurtures souls of Waring School kids
SEATED IN A circle behind their 15 African drums last spring, the Laura Waring School kids smiled when Mary Schumacher, their music teacher, said, "OK, we're going warp speed, right?"  She set a blistering pace. Her young drummers stayed right with her. Then, each child took a turn on the lead, drumming out his or her own beats that the other kids echoed, call-and-response style.  The '50s-era public school classroom, on Green Street near 18th in Spring Garden, rocked with hard-driving rhythm, intense furrowing of young brows and satisfied grins all around at the end.  The little drummers of Waring are a big miracle at a time when chronically cash-strapped Philadelphia public schools have been stripped of their music and arts programs and turned into creativity deserts that offer no artistic stimulation to young minds hungering for it.

Excitement, but also funding concerns as kids return to Philly schools
LIKE CLOCKWORK, tens of thousands of students will descend on the city's public schools today, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after saying goodbye to summer.  But another all-too-familiar tradition is the lingering concern about the district's funding - this time, due to the fact state lawmakers have not adopted a budget, meaning it cannot dispense dollars to the commonwealth's 501 school districts.  Superintendent William Hite has said if the budget is not passed this month, the district could eventually run out of money.  For parents like Elizabeth Roberts, they can only hope saner heads prevail.  "[It is] very much a concern for the safety of the school, teachers, and students," said Roberts, whose son will attend Wilson Middle School in Northeast Philadelphia. "I know [lack of funding] really affects art and music and extracurricular activities. Those are the first things to get whacked."

A school year starts in Philly with unfamiliar optimism
Poised to enter his fourth year as superintendent Tuesday, William R. Hite Jr. said this back-to-school cycle feels different.  "This is the first year since I've been in Philadelphia that I'm excited about more things than I'm nervous about," said Hite.  Even with potentially bruising fights for funding in Harrisburg and City Hall still ahead, a newly decided court ruling that could allow for explosive, unplanned charter growth, and a tough two-plus years without a teachers' contract, the Philadelphia School District chief believes he can finally spend much of his time focusing, he said, "on the stuff that matters."  That is: getting students' reading levels on target by fourth grade, funneling more kids into Advanced Placement classes and readying them for college or career; and, above all for Hite, equity - ensuring pupils have "a great school close to home, no matter where they live."

EDITORIAL: The poster child for Pa.’s failed school funding
Pottstown Mercury Editorial POSTED: 09/06/15, 2:00 AM EDT |
They rang the bells and opened the doors to classrooms as 3,500 students went back to school in the Chester Upland School District in Delaware County.  They did so in large part thanks to the largesse of the troubled district’s dedicated teachers and staff. They reported to work despite the fact that they won’t be paid.  That’s the extent of the good news in Chester Upland. It’s an old story, one that’s been repeating itself for decades.  The district once again is broke, unable to pay its bills - or make payroll. Actually the district is beyond broke. They’re drowning in a sea of red ink. Again.  The district currently is staring at a $23 million deficit. Left unchecked, it is expected to grow to $40 million by the end of the school year.  Chester Upland did not get into this financial morass overnight; it is not going to claw out of it right away, either. The district, which has been under some form of state control since 1990, has endured decades of financial mismanagement.
No less than $75 million in additional state funding poured into the district in the last five years has failed to stop the hemorrhaging.

Judge calls Pa. back to court to account for Chester Upland's finances
The court has spoken, and the Chester Upland School District needs a roadmap toward financial stability.  In a 10-page order released Thursday, Judge Chad Kenney of the Delaware Court of Common Pleas asked Chester Upland receiver Francis Barnes and the Pennsylvania Department of Education to share information about an updated financial recovery plan.  He called for the state to account for why it had not already submitted an updated recovery plan, a timeline for submitting and implementing a new plan, and a status update. In 41 separate points, Kenney also asked for detailed historical information about the district and its budget, as well as for information about any old debts owed by the district.

“It’s long past time for both sides to come together,” said Lyons, “to enact a fair funding formula and to pass a budget that increases education funding by at least $410 million to address the impact of prior cuts and begin implementing the new formula so all students have an opportunity for success no matter where they live.”
Budget impasse leads to missed payments
Philly Trib by Damon C. Williams Tribune Staff Writer  Posted: Friday, September 4, 2015 12:00 am
 As the state capital budget impasse between Republican state lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf has dragged on throughout the summer, the impact on education funding will soon be felt, said officials with the Campaign for Fair Education Funding.  According to spokesman Charlie Lyons, the state has missed a $1 billion payment to public schools and districts throughout the state.  “Schools are now starting to feel the impact of the extended state budget impasse,” Lyons said. “If a budget had been enacted by now, Pennsylvania would have distributed more than $1 billion to the state’s public schools today, just in time for students starting the school year. Instead, that payment won’t happen, and it’s the children who will ultimately feel the pinch.”  Lyon said the “state’s delay in passing a budget only aggravates the current education inequities,” and the students with the greatest needs that are most affected by the failure to pass a budget. 

At school districts, turnover at the top
It's become a ritual as much a part of fall as the Eagles' opener and growing piles of leaves - a brand-new superintendent greets students on the first day of classes, often bearing big promises.  Some come with a flourish of pomp and circumstance, such as Council Rock School District's new chief, Robert Fraser, whose tenure started with a theatrically staged assembly centered on the theme of "hope and dreams."  Others promise a quiet transition, such as Samuel Lee at the Bensalem School District, who said, "If I wasn't here, things would have opened up exactly the same as if I was."  For all their different approaches, school superintendents have shared a common trait: They have tended not to stay very long - despite generous compensation packages.

Turnaround: A Year Inside a Strawberry Mansion Elementary School
WHYY Newsworks by Kevin McCorry September 7, 2015
In this three part series, Newsworks/WHYY education reporter Kevin McCorry documents a year he spent tracking the progress of James G. Blaine elementary school, a chronically low-performing school in the Strawberry Mansion section of North Philadelphia. With dozens of interviews and many hours  of observation at the school, he grapples with this pivotal question: Can the school district find a path to revitalize its neediest schools in the midst of an ongoing budget crisis?

Will there be enough teachers?
Fewer earn Pa. certificates, but expert says predictions of shortages miss the full picture
Lancaster Online by Tim Stuhldreher Staff Writer September 8, 2015
Over the past few weeks, as the start of the academic year approached, school districts across the nation scrambled to fill teacher vacancies, sparking warnings about shortages of qualified personnel.  Urban districts in Tennessee, Oklahoma and Kentucky were looking high and low, the New York Times reported last month.  California was trying to fill 21,500 vacancies, even as the number of people entering the state’s teacher preparation programs has dropped by more than half, the Times said.  In Pennsylvania, “we’re not hearing any widespread concern” regarding the supply of teachers, said Steve Robinson, spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.  But could that be about to change?
There are some statistics that might lead you to think so.

Educators can spot emotional baggage
By Clarece Polke / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette September 8, 2015 12:00 AM
An unlikely catalyst inspired Milton Lopez to go back to school to earn a GED diploma.
Mr. Lopez, now 40, of Coraopolis dropped out of high school in the 11th grade and has worked full time ever since. His young son inspired him to finish his diploma more than a decade after leaving school.  “Every day of my life, I regret the dumb mistakes I made back then,” he said, recalling his childhood growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y. “Education and school should’ve been my No. 1 interest, but I got caught up in the streets instead. How can I ask something of my son that I myself didn’t do? You’ve got to be a better person and set an example for your kids.”  He wants his son, Milton Andrew Lopez II, who is now 12 and attends Cornell Junior High School, to not only graduate high school with honors but also go on to the college of his choice.  The not-so-secret weapon educators agree can make every difference in a student’s academic achievement is not printed in a textbook or written on a whiteboard. An actively involved parent can be a tutor, cheerleader, enforcer and advocate wrapped into one.  Some public schools are encouraging parents to participate in their children’s learning and trying to remove long-standing barriers to involvement. Schools and agencies are seeking stronger relationships with families — some that have one parent in the household, others with parents working multiple jobs and some with little or no parental figures in the students’ lives at all.

School districts outsourcing substitute placements
Scranton Times Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL Published: September 8, 2015
Outsourcing substitute teaching jobs could save area school districts thousands of dollars this year.  Local districts, including Abington Heights, Lakeland, North Pocono and Valley View, will not employ their own substitute teachers and instead will rely on a staffing agency to fill vacancies. Riverside is also considering the option.  The move is not only expected to save money, but will ensure districts have the subs needed to fill classroom absences and meet provisions of the Affordable Care Act.  “Across the nation, this has been an emerging trend,” said Michael Mahon, Ph.D., Abington Heights superintendent.  The districts have entered into contracts with Kelly Services, which offers substitute teaching services across the country.  Instead of being employees of the school district, the subs work for Kelly. The districts will pay Kelly their daily sub rate, plus a service fee of between 30 and 40 percent. Kelly then pays the subs.  The change means districts no longer have to worry about tracking the number of hours a substitute works in a week. Under the Affordable Care Act, employees who work more than 30 hours a week must be offered health insurance. If substitute teachers work more than four days a week, they will work more than 30 hours. Tracking hours will now be the responsibility of Kelly. Last year, as districts prepared to meet the act’s provisions, substitutes were limited to how much they could work in a week, even though districts experienced shortages.

New details of tentative pact show how Saucon Valley teachers, district reached compromise
By Jacqueline Palochko Of The Morning Call September 7, 2015
New details of a tentative deal show the Saucon Valley School District and its teachers each made concessions that will increase salaries but still not make teachers the highest paid in the Lehigh Valley.  The two sides announced a tentative deal last week. The union voted Aug. 27 to accept it, and the school board is expected to vote on it at a meeting Tuesday. It looks likely the bitter, nearly four-year impasse could be over.  "Any solution after a long and stressful negotiation will leave both parties shorted on their expectations and goals," District solicitor Jeff Sultanik said in a news release. "Pending the Board's acceptance of the tentative agreement, both parties are committed to the opportunity to move the district forward."  Sultanik said Friday neither side would comment on the tentative agreement until Tuesday, but late Sunday he issued a press release detailing the tentative six-year deal, which shows the starting salary increasing from $44,232 in the first year to $50,882 in the last year of the contract.  While the tentative deal puts Saucon Valley near the top of the pay scale in the Lehigh Valley, it's still lower than what Parkland teachers will bring home.

15% starting salary hike: Proposed Saucon Valley teachers contract detailed
By Kurt Bresswein | For lehighvalleylive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on September 07, 2015 at 12:19 PM, updated September 07, 2015 at 4:18 PM
The starting salary for Saucon Valley School District teachers would increase 15 percent, while their maximum earnings would increase 5.4 percent, over the course of a proposed six-year contract.  School board labor attorney Jeffrey Sultanik on Monday issued a news release, approved by the board and Saucon Valley Education Association, detailing the proposal.  Any solution after a long and stressful negotiation will leave both parties shorted on ... expectations and goals."  The union approved the deal Aug. 27, and the pact goes before the school board for a vote Tuesday night.  Teachers in Saucon Valley have worked under an expired contract since July 2012. Word of the tentative agreement emerged Friday, and the board and union initially said no details would be released until Tuesday's board meeting.

Pennsbury, teachers agree on new contract
Philly.com by Chris Palmer LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, September 8, 2015, 1:08 AM
FALLS TOWNSHIP The Pennsbury School Board last week voted to approve a one-year contract with its teachers' union, according to an announcement from the district.  While officials had hoped to reach a longer-term pact, they said budget uncertainty in Harrisburg forced them to settle on a short-term agreement.  Still, negotiations for a longer deal were expected to continue now that the two sides have reached a stopgap agreement.  "With the passing of this contract, we've agreed to return to the bargaining table," Michael Clarke, the school board's solicitor, said in a statement.  The new deal will give members of the Pennsbury Education Association a 1 percent raise and offers a "new, more cost-effective health-care plan," the district said, though it did not specify those terms. The deal runs through the end of June.

A New Moment in Education
Huffington Post by Linda Darling-Hammond Posted: 09/03/2015 1:18 am EDT Updated: 09/03/2015 1:59 pm EDT
President & CEO, Learning Policy Institute, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education Emeritus at Stanford University
The annual back-to-school moment calls up recurring traditions of new moments for students: shiny new shoes and notebooks, yellow buses wending their way to scrubbed classrooms, new books and bulletin boards.  But there is another kind of new moment for education that needs to be acknowledged as well: The quantity of human knowledge is exploding. According to UC Berkeley researchers, between 1999 and 2002, there was more new knowledge created in the world than in the entire history of the world preceding.  The pace of knowledge growth accelerates every year, with technology information now doubling every 11 months. Our world is being transformed by these new technologies, as well as shifting demographics and the demands of a global economy. An estimated 65 percent of teens and 20-somethings will ultimately work in careers that don't exist today.  Our children need to be prepared for this new world and all its complex realities. And that requires new approaches to learning.

"Mayor Bill de Blasio and his schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, at the lectern, during a news conference in Manhattan on Aug. 12. Ms. Fariña has made parent engagement a key component of public schools’ annual ratings.  It is a marked contrast to the Bloomberg administration, which was more focused on trying to identify weak teachers, principals and even whole schools and then replacing them."
A Door-to-Door Push to Get Parents Involved at Struggling Schools
New York Times By KATE TAYLOR SEPT. 8, 2015
At Public School 298 in Brooklyn, where the principal invites parents to visit classrooms once a month, typically fewer than 10 percent of them will.  The New Millennium Business Academy Middle School in the Bronx spent much of the summer trying to track down the families of incoming sixth graders to invite them to an orientation. Just over half of the families turned up, which the principal considered a victory.  At DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, attendance at parent association meetings was so paltry that the school began raffling off Thanksgiving turkeys and supermarket gift cards to entice people to turn up.  With the second full school year of his administration beginning on Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio is already under pressure to show improvement at these schools, which are among 62 low-performing schools targeted by the state for possible takeover. One of the keys to transforming them, his administration believes, is to get parents to show up more by turning schools into one-stop community centers offering services like medical and dental clinics, adult courses and counseling.

Rep. John Kline Won't Seek Re-Election; Adds Pressure on ESEA Rewrite
Education Week By Lauren Camera on September 3, 2015 12:07 PM
Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., chairman of the House education committee, announced Thursday that he will not be seeking re-election in 2016.  "Strengthening our nation's classrooms and workplaces has been at the forefront of the committee's agenda since I was first selected to serve as chairman, and it will continue to be my leading priority in the months ahead," he said in a press release. "Whether it's replacing No Child Left Behind, holding the Obama administration accountable for its harmful policies, or strengthening higher education, there is a lot of work to do over the next 16 months."  Kline is the author of the Republican-backed Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization, which cleared the House on a party-line vote in July.  His forthcoming departure puts added pressure on lawmakers in both chambers to come to an agreement on their respective ESEA overhauls before the end of the year.

Washington State Supreme Court: Charter schools are unconstitutional
By John Higgins Seattle Times education reporter September 4, 2015 at 4:31 pm Updated September 5, 2015 at 12:43 pm
After nearly a year of deliberation, the state Supreme Court ruled late Friday afternoon that charter schools are not constitutional.
After nearly a year of deliberation, the state Supreme Court ruled 6-3 late Friday afternoon that charter schools are unconstitutional, creating chaos for hundreds of families whose children have already started classes.  The ruling — believed to be one of the first of its kind in the country — overturns the law voters narrowly approved in 2012 allowing publicly funded, but privately operated, schools.  Eight new charter schools are opening in Washington this fall, in addition to one that opened in Seattle last year.  It was not immediately known what would happen with the schools that are already running. The parties have 20 days to ask the court for reconsideration before the ruling becomes final.

Charter school law funded by Bill Gates in Washington state ruled unconstitutional
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss September 6, 2015
Washington’s charter school law, which narrowly passed in a 2012 referendum with financial support from Microsoft founder Bill Gates and other wealthy philanthropists, has been struck down as unconstitutional by the state’s Supreme Court.  As a new school year is starting with eight new charter schools opening, the Washington state high court ruled Friday that the law violates the state constitution, which says that public school funds can be used only to support “common schools.” The justices voted, 6 to 3, that charter schools — which are publicly funded but privately run — are not “common schools” because their governing boards are not elected but are appointed by the founders of the individual schools.

Test prep for 5-year-olds is a real thing. Here’s what it looks like.
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss September 2, 2015
It’s no secret that for some years now, kindergarten, once a time when youngsters spent the day learning through structured play, has become focused on academics, forcing young kids to sit in their chairs working for far longer than many are developmentally ready to handle. Along with that work has come tests and more tests, some standardized, some not. What you may not have heard much about is test prep for these youngsters.  Yes, test prep for 5-year-olds is a real thing. Phyllis Doerr, a kindergarten teacher in New Jersey, explains what it looks like in this post, a version of which appeared in the News Record, the local paper of South Orange and Maplewood, NJ.

Fight in Chicago: The all-too familiar story of school closures in America’s cities
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss September 5, 2015
A dozen people have been staging a hunger strike in Chicago for weeks to save a high school and have it transformed into a green technology school for students in the historic Bronzeville area on the city’s South Side. The city, under pressure from the activists, announced on Friday that Dyett High School would remain open as an arts school — but the hunger strikers were not impressed and are continuing their action. The city, which had scheduled a hearing this month to hear community proposals to transform Dyett, preempted itself with the announcement that ignored all of the plans on the table.  The fight over Dyett is, as Carol Burris, the executive director of the nonprofit Network for Public Education Fund, writes in this post, “part of the growing pushback against neighborhood school closures both within and beyond Chicago.” Here’s a post she wrote about what is happening to neighborhood schools in an era of school reform in which privatization of public education has been a central theme. Burris retired in June as an award-winning principal at a New York high school, and she is the author of numerous articles, books and blog posts (including on The Answer Sheet) about the botched school reform efforts in her state. She was named New York’s 2013 High School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. In 2010, she was selected as the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State.

Pittsburgh native McCullough sees Wright brothers as world-changers
Trib Live By Rege Behe Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015, 4:19 p.m.
A little more than 100 years ago, human flight was considered impossible. When Wilbur and Orville Wright, two staid, but determined, brothers from Dayton, Ohio, proved otherwise at Kitty Hawk on Dec. 17, 1903, their feat was deemed miraculous, even by the naysayers who said man would never fly.  Today, the Wrights should be universally acknowledged as brilliant aviation pioneers. But David McCullough, the Pittsburgh native, historian and author of “The Wright Brothers” (Simon & Schuster, $30), meets too many people who aren't aware of their contributions.  “I'm astonished by how many exceedingly well-informed, well-connected people have no idea who they were and what they did,” says McCullough, who visits the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District on Sept. 10. “They changed the world, they changed history, far more than Edison with his light bulb or Alexander Graham Bell with his telephone, or the telegraph or the elevator or any of those other things.”

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 www.pascd.org <http://www.pascd.org/>

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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