Wednesday, September 9, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept 9: Pennsylvania gets to pause on using PSSA test scores

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for September 9, 2015:
Pennsylvania gets to pause on using PSSA test scores

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

Quiet Capitol preludes busy session weeks to come
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, September 8, 2015
As budget meetings between Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative Republican leaders continue in private out of Pennsylvania’s capital on the day following the extended Labor Day weekend, the Capitol’s main rotunda took on a hush reminiscent of the first few days post-budget veto.
To the outward observer, not much would appear to be going on at Pennsylvania’s seat of government.  Tuesday morning, a group representing the Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania even took advantage of the hushed atmosphere and moved rotunda press conference chairs into a circle for a prayer session.  Despite its outward appearance, those in the Capitol were working behind the scenes to prepare for a ramp up in legislative action as the Senate returns to session next week and the House the following week.

Pa. Budget Stalemate Squeezes Districts as Schools Open
Education Week By The Associated Press Published Online: September 8, 2015
Pennsylvania's budget impasse continued to put pressure on local schools last week, with some districts leaning on loans and reserves to fund their schools without money from the state, and with teachers and support staff in one poor district heading back to work without any assurance they would be paid.  A new state budget was due July 1. But Republicans who control the state legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf remained at odds last week over issues including how to cut property taxes that provide the biggest source of public school revenues, and over public pensions and liquor sales.  Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, the state's elected fiscal watchdog, on Sept. 1 cited a survey by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials that showed many school districts are considering tapping their reserves, delaying vendor payments or taking out short-term loans as the 2015-16 school year begins with state subsidies frozen.  "It is somewhat ironic that the fight over more funding for education is actually costing school districts money," DePasquale said.  The House and Senate are not set to return to the Capitol until later this month. In the meantime, Wolf shifted strategy last week, holding private meetings Sept. 1 with top Republican lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman and House Majority Leader Dave Reed.

Pa. lawmakers considering stopgap budget
By Kate Giammarise / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau September 8, 2015 11:36 PM
HARRISBURG — With the state budget more than two months late, and no sign of an agreement between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican legislators in sight, legislative leaders said they will attempt to pass a stopgap budget to fund state government for several months while negotiations continue.  It’s not clear how long government functions would be funded under the measure Republicans plan. It’s also not clear if it would fund government at last fiscal year’s budget levels, or the levels proposed in the Republican-crafted budget vetoed by the governor June 30.  Those details are still being worked out, said Jennifer Kocher, a spokeswoman for the Senate Republican majority.  Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai, in a meeting with Post-Gazette editors Tuesday, said he expects the Legislature to pass a stopgap budget in the next few weeks.  “I can’t tell you if the governor is on board or not because he hasn’t told us yet,” he said.

Pennsylvania's Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Waiver Receives Federal Approval Allows for one-year pause in School Performance Scores
PDE Press Release HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 8, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire
Governor Tom Wolf announced Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has approved Pennsylvania's Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waiver which allows for a one-year pause in the use of the state's School Performance Profile (SPP). Governor Wolf and Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera had requested the waiver in using the 2015 PSSA scores to calculate SPP and teacher effectiveness ratings due to sweeping changes to the assessment that took effect in the 2014-15 school year.   "Fixing our schools is my top priority, and part of improvement is having fair and consistent accountability standards," Governor Wolf said "We must prepare students to be college and career ready in the 21st century, and we need accountability measures that ensure we are on track to do so, but we cannot over burden our students and teachers with measures that do not fairly account for performance or improvement." 
The SPP is a significant part of Pennsylvania's obligations under the federal accountability system established by the ESEA. The SPP was first used in the 2012-13 academic year to provide students, families, school districts, and the general public with information to review the performance of Pennsylvania schools using a common measure. The SPP relies heavily on student scores on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA), measuring both achievement and growth. The PSSA, administered in grades 3 through 8 in English Language Arts and math, was fully-aligned to the more rigorous PA Core Standards for the first time in 2015, and the results on the most recent assessment cannot fairly be compared to those in previous years.  The waiver means schools that administer Keystone Exams will continue to receive SPP scores. That means the only schools that administered PSSAs in 2015 that will have SPP scores will be those that also administered Keystone Exams. The Keystone Exams will be the only test used to help establish the SPP scores.

"A NewsWorks analysis found an average 35-percentage-point drop in math and a 9-percentage-point drop in reading proficiency scores from 2014 to 2015. The state Department of Education has not yet released the full 2015 results."
Waiver means no ratings for many Pa. schools this year
The state got federal permission not to grade all schools, in view of changes to the PSSA exam that resulted in a sharp drop in scores.
the notebook By David Limm on Sep 8, 2015 05:15 PM
After steep statewide drops in test scores that resulted from overhauled PSSA exams, Pennsylvania has been granted a one-year break from giving all schools an annual performance grade.   Gov. Wolf and his education secretary, Pedro Rivera, said Tuesday that the U.S Department of Education approved a one-year waiver so that schools with only K-8 students do not have to be assigned School Performance Profile (SPP) scores. Schools serving high school grades, where students take Keystone exams, will still receive SPP scores.  Since 2013, each Pennsylvania public school has received an annual SPP score, an overall performance rating based on measures including standardized test results, attendance, and graduation rates.  “While it is critically important to hold our schools and educators accountable for student success, we must take care to do so with indicators that are fair and accurate,” said Rivera in a statement. “This year’s PSSA scores establish the new baseline from which we can most effectively measure student progress in future years.”  A NewsWorks analysis found an average 35-percentage-point drop in math and a 9-percentage-point drop in reading proficiency scores from 2014 to 2015. The state Department of Education has not yet released the full 2015 results.

Pa. schools given more time to adapt to rigorous standardized tests
Penn Live By Wallace McKelvey | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on September 08, 2015 at 5:00 PM, updated September 08, 2015 at 7:09 PM
Pennsylvania will have another year to adapt to more rigorous standardized tests that could lead to poor performance ratings for many schools across the state.  The U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday that it would waive the use of a new assessment standard for the state's public schools for one year while they transition to more stringent college- and career-readiness requirements.  That delay came after sharp decrease in the number of Pennsylvania students who scored "proficient" or "advanced" on the 2015 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) test, the first year since more stringent requirements were adopted in 2013. Statewide, average math and language arts scores for elementary and middle school students dropped by 35 percent and 9 percent, respectively, according to a WHYY analysis.  "We've known that since July and have been saying we can't compare new student scores against old scores," said Nicole Reigelman, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education.  Reigelman said the one-year pause will allow schools to make the necessary changes to their curriculum to meet the new standards.

"State Education Secretary Pedro Rivera said in a news release, “While it is critically important to hold our schools and educators accountable for student success, we must take care to do so with indicators that are fair and accurate.”
Pennsylvania gets to pause on using PSSA test scores
By Eleanor Chute and Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette September 8, 2015 11:53 PM
Just weeks before the state is expected to deliver bad news about test results, the U.S. Department of Education has given the state permission to pause for a year in the way it uses the results of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests.  The PSSA results won’t be used for computing School Performance Profile academic scores — which give school buildings throughout the state a rating of 0 to 107 — nor will they be used in teacher evaluations during the pause, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Tuesday. Without the federal permission, Pennsylvania would have had to calculate the SPPs, which likely would have been lower than those for the prior year, potentially affecting whether teachers were considered proficient and causing image problems for schools.  State officials later this month plan to release school-by-school results, which are expected to show that districts throughout the state have fewer students who are considered proficient or advanced on the PSSA tests in math and English language arts in grades 3-8.

"Scores from the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment won't be used to measure school performance or teacher evaluations due to a one-year waiver from the U.S. Department of Education that the state received."
PSSA scores won't be used to rate school performance this year
By Jacqueline Palochko Of The Morning Call Septeember 8, 2015
This year's sagging state test scores won't be used to rate elementary and middle schools — or to evaluate their teachers — under a one-year waiver from the U.S. Department of Education.  Gov. Tom Wolf announced the moratorium Tuesday, saying the state sought the waiver out of a sense of fairness to teachers and students.  Pennsylvania System of School Assessment scores are used to determine a school's annual report card, known as a School Performance Profile. They are also used to evaluate teachers.  The test was aligned with the rigorous Pennsylvania Core Standards — the state's version of Common Core — in the spring.  In July, the state Department of Education acknowledged a significant drop in 2015 PSSA scores from 2014.  "We must prepare students to be college and career ready in the 21st century, and we need accountability measures that ensure we are on track to do so," Wolf said in a statement. "But we cannot overburden our students and teachers with measures that do not fairly account for performance or improvement."

State learns a tough lesson about harder standardized tests
Meadville Tribune By John Finnerty CNHI News Service Friday, September 4, 2015 3:46 pm
HARRISBURG — The formula seems basic enough: Make a test harder, and scores will tumble.  School leaders across the state are facing that cause-and-effect dynamic as they review scores from standardized tests, given last spring, which were far more difficult than previous editions of the test.  Parents will find out for themselves in coming weeks.  The number of eighth-graders who took the state tests in April and rated proficient or advanced in language arts is down 26 percent from the previous year, according to the state Department of Education.  The number of students rated as proficient or advanced in math is down almost 60 percent.  The drop-off comes as students are now tested on standards spelled out in Pennsylvania’s version of the Common Core, a set of education benchmarks promoted by groups including the National Governors Association.  The standardized test, the Pennsylvania System of State Assessment, is given to students in third- through eighth-grades. Parents will receive their children’s scores on Sept. 14.
School leaders say many parents are in for a shock, and they are upset that the state hasn't softened the blow.

Frequently Asked Questions about the new 2014-2015 PSSA results
Education Voters PA September 2015
Over the summer of 2015, the PSSA results from the 2014-15 school year were released with scores that are significantly different than the previous year. Read about the changes .PSSA_FAQs.pdf
PSSA scores dropped statewide. What happened?
In March of 2014, as part of a nationwide movement to create new standards (called the Common Core), the PA Board of Education replaced PA’s academic standards with new “PA Core Standards,” the first revision in 10 years.  These are very rigorous standards, which significantly changed the content that students in PA are to learn in public schools.  At the end of the 2014-2015 school year, Pennsylvania students in grades 3-8 took new PSSA tests that were based solely on the new PA Core Standards. The 2014 PSSAs are very different from the PSSAs that students had taken in previous years.  The format and content of the tests were new and some content was tested a full grade or more earlier than on previous PSSAs.  Statewide, scores on the new PSSA s declined sharply. On average, in grades 3-8, the number of students scoring Advanced or Proficient dropped by 9.4% in Language Arts and by 35.4% in Math.

Partial delay in charter school payments on tap for Harrisburg School Board
Penn Live By M. Diane McCormick | Special to PennLive on September 08, 2015 at 8:10 PM, updated September 08, 2015 at 8:11 PM
In case of a lingering state budget standoff, Harrisburg School District should be able to draw from savings through mid-December to finance operations, district officials said Monday.  And to help ease cash flow, the school board could consider halving its payments to charter schools during the stalemate.  The district has $33.24 million in savings and liquid assets that could help offset the lack of state funds for now, Interim Chief Financial Officer William Gretton told the board's Budget, Finance, and Facilities Committee.  Typically, the district receives about $70 million in state funds, toward a budget of about $140 million, in six payments during the school year, Gretton said.  While the 2015-16 state budget remains in limbo, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association has assured districts they can legally shave charter school payments by the same ratio that the state pays toward their budgets, Gretton said. Districts could delay payment of the rest until a budget is passed, PSBA has said.

"Marjorie Neff, chairwoman of the School Reform Commission, also couldn't help bringing up the unresolved funding when it was her turn at the podium: "I wish I didn't have to say it because this is a celebratory day, but unfortunately, this is the kind of thing that really affects us greatly: This is the 69th day that our state government is without a budget. I ask that as you start your school year, you take a moment to contact your state representatives and tell them about the year ahead for you and to ask for a budget for Philadelphia schools that allows us to provide a world-class education where all students have access to a great school."
Unresolved Pa. budget looms over start of Philly schools
OUTSIDE OF G.W. Carver High School of Engineering and Science in North Philadelphia, towers of black and gold balloons greeted students yesterday for their first day of school.  Looming large over the well wishes and jokes about homework, though, were tensions over the unresolved state budget.  "It doesn't impact us today, but it will impact us in the long run," Superintendent William Hite told reporters before he addressed a few dozen students and parents gathered at Carver to mark the first day, along with Mayor Nutter and other local dignitaries. "We only can spend the cash we have on hand, and at some point, we will run out of cash, without the historical $413 million we generally get from Harrisburg between July and August. That has not come this year. It will not come until they approve a state budget. And so like every other entity and agency that depends and relies on the state, we're concerned about that."  If the budget is still unresolved by the end of October, the district will have to take steps to reduce spending, Hite said. District officials are asking vendors to take reduced payments and charter schools to see if they can operate with less until state funding comes through.

A back to school night for homeless students at Eliza Shirley House
Philly Daily News by HELEN UBIÑAS POSTED: Tuesday, September 8, 2015, 12:18 AM
TODAY BEGINS another school year in Philadelphia where students are asked to make do with little or less. For thousands of students - 3,652 according to the school district - making do starts way before the first bell rings.  The Eliza Shirley House is an emergency homeless shelter in Center City for women and children run by the Salvation Army.  The shelter is full every night. Inside are families in survival mode. But between trying to make sense of how they got here and what they need to get out, preparations are made for the first day of school.

Optimism, theme of equity emphasized at Philly first day of school ceremony
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Sep 8, 2015 07:04 PM
As the familiar yellow buses crisscrossed the city in an unmistakable sign that summer is over, Superintendent William Hite continued to sound a theme of optimism and hope Tuesday morning at the ceremonial bell-ringing to open the new school year.  The site he chose for the first-day festivities was Carver High School of Engineering & Science, which accepts students from around the city for a highly selective program focused on preparing them for jobs in a high-tech economy.  This year, the school is adding 7th and 8th grades to better prepare students for the academically rigorous high school.  In addition, with a grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, it is creating a Saturday STEM Scholars program that will recruit students from its North Philadelphia neighborhood near Temple University.   Despite the school's location, North Philadelphia – one of the city's poorest neighborhoods with some of its most troubled elementary schools – is not heavily represented in Carver's student body.

Chester Upland goes back to court today
By Vince Sullivan, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 09/08/15, 10:03 PM EDT
MEDIA COURTHOUSE >> President Judge Chad F. Kenney will press leaders of the Chester Upland School District for information about how they plan to address the school system’s funding crisis during a heating this morning.  Kenney sent an order last week seeking information from Chester Upland Receiver Francis V. Barnes and leaders from the Pennsylvania Department of Education about when he can expect a new plan and what the time frame for its implementation will be.  Barnes submitted an amended financial recovery plan on Aug. 18 to address the district’s structural deficit, which stands at about $22 million. The plan called for alterations in the way charter schools are reimbursed, the postponement of a loan repayment, the hiring of a financial turnaround specialist and the performance of a forensic audit. Kenney denied the bulk of the plan, which called for charter school tuition reimbursements for special education students to be lowered from about $40,000 to $16,000 and for cyber charter tuition rates to be capped at $5,950.  In explaining his decision, Kenney said that the plan didn’t address nearly $9 million in money already owed to charter schools that hadn’t been paid. He said the proposal failed to wholly address the district’s financial problems.

First charter school opens in William Penn School District
Delco Times By Nick Tricome, Times Correspondent POSTED: 09/08/15, 10:05 PM EDT
LANSDOWNE >> Tuesday marked the grand opening of Vision Academy Charter School, a K-8 school that is the first of its kind in the William Penn School district, and one that board members said was three years in the making.  Adam Oz, the CEO of Vision Academy, said talks about the possibility of creating a charter school began in 2012. From there, local community members began meeting on a regular basis, working together on the project and eventually forming the school’s board of directors.  “We all came together under the vision of developing a charter school in the William Penn School District,” Vision Academy’s fundraising chair Carletta Mason said. “We didn’t know one another, we just all met up through mutual friends from “I know this person, I know that person in the community that would love to start up a charter school.”  “That is how we all came about,” Mason added. “We didn’t know each other from a can of paint, but we just all worked diligently together for the last three years, like a family.”

Beaver County students increasingly choose charter schools
Beaver County Times By Daveen Rae Kurutz |2 comments Posted: Tuesday, September 8, 2015 4:00 am
The number of Beaver County children attending a charter school has increased by 25 percent during the past four years, a Times analysis has found, despite local districts’ attempts to keep more students in house.  Four districts -- Beaver Area, Blackhawk, Central Valley and Western Beaver -- have seen a decrease in the number of students leaving for charters. Officials credit that change with an onslaught of new program offerings in-house.  “We’ve done a good job of keeping kids here at Central Valley,” said Superintendent Nick Perry. “”A lot of that has to do with the fact that kids are looking for more choice, and we took it upon ourselves to provide more choice to our kids.”  Like many other local districts, Central Valley began its own cyber program that allows children to take classes online. Perry said that students have the opportunity to take every class in person or as an online offering in grades six through 12.

Thackston Charter School makes changes after audit
Officials have been addressing audit issues, working on improvements
York Daily Record By Angie Mason @angiemason1 on Twitter UPDATED:   09/08/2015 10:45:20 PM EDT
A York charter school criticized by the state auditor general a few months ago made changes this summer, including a major staff overhaul, and is billing itself as new and improved as the school year begins.  At the end of June, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released an audit covering 2010 to 2013 that blasted Helen Thackston Charter School for problems with accountability, transparency and other mismanagement issues.  School officials have been taking steps to address many items raised in the report, including a need to more clearly define the separation between Thackston and its sister school, Lincoln Charter. The school also made numerous staffing changes over the summer, causing the start of its school year to be pushed back by nearly a month.

Saucon Valley teachers, school district finally agree on a contract
By Jacqueline Palochko Of The Morning Call September 8, 2015
It's finally over.  After almost four years of bitter negotiations, the Saucon Valley School District and teachers union have settled on a contract for the district's 180 teachers. The school board Tuesday night approved the deal on a 5-4 vote.  While not everyone agreed with the six-year contract, which the teachers union had approved 12 days earlier, most were thankful the long nightmare was done.  "I'm tired of these negotiations," Director Ed Inghrim said. "Even though I don't necessarily like the details of the contract, I think this district has to move on."  Union President Vivian Demko, who declined to say how many teachers voted in favor of the contract Aug. 27, said she was glad a deal had been reached in the district, which has 2,300 students in three schools.  "I'm very pleased that the leadership found the courage to reach a compromise," Demko said after the school board's vote.  Under the new contract, teachers will have a one-year retroactive pay freeze, then retroactive raises for two years. For the duration of the contract, the starting salary will increase from $44,232 to $50,882, and top pay from $93,072 to $98,097.

School volunteers deal with new background-check requirements
Changes to state law require unpaid helpers to obtain background clearances
York Daily Record By Angie Mason @angiemason1 on Twitter UPDATED:   09/05/2015 10:18:29 AM EDT
Planning to help out with cafeteria duty at your second-grader's school, or tag along on the fifth-grade field trip? Then recent changes to state law matter to you.  A host of changes to state laws regarding the reporting and investigation of child abuse included the expansion of groups required to get various background checks, extending that requirement to volunteers who work with children.  Schools, most of which already required some checks on their own, are working to make sure the volunteers that help make their schools hum are in compliance with the new laws.
Which volunteers need checks?
The new requirements say that volunteers in schools, child care centers or other programs who are responsible for a child's welfare or have "direct volunteer contact" with children must obtain three background checks: state child abuse and criminal history checks, and an FBI criminal history check. The FBI check can be skipped if you're a volunteer who has lived in Pennsylvania for 10 years and can swear you have not been convicted of certain crimes.  Tina Phillips, director of training for the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, said the language was changed to try to clarify exactly which volunteers would be affected. "Direct volunteer contact" is defined as the care, supervision, guidance or control of children, and routine, regular interaction with children.
It's really up to school districts to make a determination as to who fits the state's definition of volunteer, she said. And the law sets out the minimum, so they can go above and beyond that.

Blogger note: Archdiocese schools receive significant diverted PA tax dollars through the EITC and OSTC tax credit programs.  Public schools are required to accept all students, no pledge required.
Archdiocese: School parents must sign pledge
KATHY BOCCELLA, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, September 9, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Tuesday, September 8, 2015, 6:26 PM
Parents of children attending Archdiocese of Philadelphia schools are now being required to sign a document pledging support for the schools' "Catholic identity" and recognizing that in all questions involving church law, "the final determination rests with the archbishop."  The archdiocese is asking all its schools to include the one-page "Memorandum of Understanding" in entrance applications and school handbooks, said spokesman Ken Gavin.  The purpose "is to simply inform parents that we are Catholic schools, that we will teach the doctrine of the church, and have them sign that they understand and are in agreement," he said.  The document requires parents or guardians "to uphold all principles and policies that govern the Catholic school."

Newsweek ranks Garnet Valley, Haverford high schools as among best in the country
Delco Times By Kevin Tustin, on Twitter POSTED: 09/04/15, 10:09 PM EDT
Garnet Valley and Haverford Senior high schools will be starting the 2015-16 school year with the distinction of being classified two of the best public high schools in the country.  Newsweek ranked the Delaware County schools at 168 and 440, respectively, in its America’s Top High Schools 2015 list published on Aug. 19, taking a broad range of criteria to compile a list of the 500 best secondary education institutions across the country.  Schools were ranked by a weighted college readiness index based on six indicators: College enrollment rate (25 percent); graduation rate (20 percent); weighted Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate/dual enrollment composite (17.5 percent); weighted SAT/ACT composite (17.5 percent); student retention [change in student enrollment between 9th and 12th grades] (10 percent); and counselor-to-student ratio (10 percent).  The only county schools to rank, Garnet Valley placed seventh among the 22 Pennsylvania schools on the list, with Haverford taking the 22nd spot. They earned respective college-readiness scores of 82.1 and 77.

The new charter school scheme: This is how GOP and privatizers have bled Pennsylvania schools
Teachers work for free in a school district bled by charter schools and state government neglect by JEFF BRYANT TUESDAY, SEP 8, 2015 08:00 AM EDT
As schools across Pennsylvania open their doors for the new school year, there’s one district in the state where teachers will be hard at work even though they’re not likely to get paid.
The teachers are actually already on the job, having reported for work a week early as originally expected. But when the district’s administration announced it could not meet a scheduled payroll on September 9, a week after classes start, the teachers – along with janitors, nurses, and other school personnel – held an impromptu meeting and voted to temporarily forego pay.  The teachers are employed by the financially strapped school district of Chester Upland, located about 20 miles west of Philadelphia. Years of deliberate under-funding by the state, coupled with policies that favor the rapid expansion of publicly funded but privately operated charter schools, are bleeding the district. The dedication of committed and caring educators seems to be one of the few forces binding the shattered school community together.  “We aren’t broken,” says Dariah Jackson, one of the teachers working for no pay tells Salon in a phone interview. Jackson, a Special Education and Life Skills Support teacher in grades 3-5, says, “I’m in my classroom, as are my colleagues, ready for the students to walk through the door next week.”  When asked how long is “temporary” in their resolve to work with no pay, Jackson says, “No one has set a time limit for now. We have to be here for our students. They need a place to go.”  But while Jackson and her colleagues show their determination to meet the needs of the students, there are forces acting in Chester Upland, and across Pennsylvania, focused on anything but that.

"Russakoff’s story, in brief, is that Zuckerberg, knowing little about education reform, naïvely put his faith in the charismatic Booker, a champion of the reform movement. Booker advocated the usual things: more teacher accountability, more charter schools and new agreements with the teachers’ union that would allow for the best teachers to be rewarded — and the worst to be fired."
Zuckerberg’s Expensive Lesson
New York Times Opinion by Joe Nocera SEPT. 8, 2015
It’s just hitting bookstores, but Dale Russakoff’s new book, “The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?,” has already become a source of enormous contention, both in Newark, where the story takes place, and among education advocates of various stripes.  The plotline revolves around what happened to the Newark school system after Mark Zuckerberg, the young founder and chief executive of Facebook, donated $100 million in 2010 to transform the city’s schools, a sum that was matched by the prodigious fund-raising of Cory Booker, Newark’s former mayor (now the state’s junior senator). The stated goal of the grant, according to Zuckerberg at the time, was to turn Newark’s schools into a “symbol of educational excellence for the whole nation.” Five years later, with the money basically gone, I think it is fair to say that hasn’t happened.

The Waltons’ War Against Public Schools and How Regular Folks Beat Them in Their Own Backyard
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch September 8, 2015 //
Learn how the Waltons–the billionaires who own Walmart–are trying to replace public schools with privately managed charters and vouchers and to eliminate teachers’ unions. Learn how the people of Arkansas said no and defeated them in the state the Waltons think they own.
This article, by Kali Holloway, describes how the billionaires got beaten in their attempt to privatize all of Arkansas’s public schools.
This past January, nearly 60 years after Arkansas’ first desegregation efforts, the state board of education dissolved Little Rock’s democratically elected local school board, the most racially inclusive and representative of its majority-black constituency in nearly a decade. In making the decision, the state overruled widespread public outcry to take control of the largest school district in the state. Two months later, Walton Family Foundation-backed lobbyists launched a brazen legislative push to allow for broader privatization — or put bluntly, “charterization” — of schools across Arkansas. It was a move many believed revealed a carefully orchestrated effort, begun months prior, to undermine the state’s public school system, destroy its teachers unions and turn public funds into private profits.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: September 2- 8, 2015
Fairtest Submitted by fairtest on September 8, 2015 - 1:40pm 
With school doors now opening across the U.S., FairTest kicks off its 30th Anniversary of advocacy for assessments that are valid, open and educationally useful. Working with grassroots activists across the country, we are currently making great progress to roll back test misuse and overuse in both the K-12 and university admissions arenas, as our weekly new clip summaries demonstrate.

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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