Monday, October 19, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 19: NAEP scores of white students, black students, Hispanic students, Asian students at their highest point in history

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PA Ed Policy Roundup October 19, 2015:
NAEP scores of white students, black students, Hispanic students, Asian students at their highest point in history

Wolf, Republicans talking budget, but not with each other
HARRISBURG - Gov. Wolf stood before a group of reporters Friday at a township building about six miles from the Capitol and implored them to provide an example of when Republican legislators had agreed to compromise during the state's prolonged budget impasse.  "I've made a lot of compromises and offers, and what have I gotten in return? Nothing," Wolf said, reiterating his call to enact major financial reforms to plug the state's multibillion-dollar deficit.  His remarks were similar to those the governor had delivered during at least 16 other stump-style appearances at schools, municipal buildings, and other settings statewide since July - from Downingtown to Pittsburgh, from Bellefonte to Phoenixville.  But speaking to a small roomful of reporters and staffers, Wolf clearly seemed frustrated Friday - and for obvious reasons.

Gov. Wolf: “I’d certainly be willing to talk to anything that would close that budget deficit in a real way”
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Friday, October 16, 2015
Gov. Tom Wolf Friday continued his push for closing Pennsylvania’s structural deficit, going to Susquehanna Township to call on Republican lawmakers to present him with a plan that closes the deficit in what he calls “a real way.”  While he said he would still like to see the revenue plan he put forward last week—closing what he anticipates is a $1.27 billion deficit for the current fiscal year and what he has said will be a $2.289 billion deficit in FY 2016-2017—the governor was open to other suggestions.  “I’d certainly be willing to talk to anything that would close that budget deficit in a real way, absolutely” he told reporters. “I want to hear it, I haven’t heard it, I haven’t gotten the proposal, but if there is something out there that I’m not aware of I want to hear it.”

Tom Wolf's paradise lost
LET'S TAKE a look at Gov. Wolf's political paradise lost.  There was a time when the Democratic businessman could have cemented a place in state history. It was right after he made history by ousting an incumbent.  Riding a wave of goodwill from a campaign well-waged and won, he could have struck a deal with the Republican Legislature to bring the state real change.  Knowing (and he had to know) GOP aversion to big new taxes, he could have traded for some new taxes by agreeing to phase out state liquor stores and put new state and public-school workers into 401(k) retirement plans.

Did you catch our weekend postings?
Surprise: McKeesport Area SD expected $1.2M in gaming funds next week; it will get just $41K- the rest diverted to charter school tuition
PA Ed Policy Roundup October 19, 2015:

"That map has been gathering dust in the glove compartment for more than a decade.  Although the law requires the board to do a new master plan every five years, the most recent one dates back to 1999.  A lot has happened in the past 16 years in public education. To name one, the federal "No Child Left Behind" law, which was passed in 2001. For another, the entire charter-school movement. (In 1999, the state had 41 charter schools. Today, there are 174.)"
DN Editorial: Mark state Board of Education absent
Philly Daily News POSTED: Monday, October 19, 2015, 12:16 AM
IF YOU ever wondered what the Pennsylvania Board of Education does, the answer is . . . not much. Not much at all, according to a critical report by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.  The 21-member board is tasked with creating and updating the Commonwealth Master Plan for education. It's independent of the state Department of Education, which has the job of implementing and overseeing the policies set by the board.  The Board of Education has regulatory power over an array of educational issues: school performance, staff certification, school finance and transportation, to name a few. As DePasquale's report put it last week, the board is supposed to provide a "road map" for education policy in Pennsylvania.

PPG Editorial: Safeguards for students: Two state bills offer necessary cybersecurity
Post Gazette By the Editorial Board October 19, 2015 12:00 AM
Schools know a lot about the children they teach: what time they go to school, what time they get home, what they eat for lunch, their preference of sport, sometimes even what’s in the emails they send.  That’s valuable information to marketers and criminals, making student-data collection a growing concern among educators and parents — and now state lawmakers, too. A pair of bills before the Legislature propose to end what’s been called “open-hunting season” on student data. They should be swiftly adopted.  Basic student information — such as their names, dates of birth, health, grades and test scores — are already protected under a law known as the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act. But many school districts hire cloud-computing firms for data storage without sufficient safeguards written into the contracts.  An investigation by the Post-Gazette’s Rich Lord found that the majority of third-party vendors did not pledge to delete information on former students and had no system to notify victims of data breaches. These failings would be corrected under legislation proposed by state House Reps. Dan Miller, D-Mt. Lebanon, and Tedd Nesbit, R-Grove City.

"Years of cuts, combined with a higher-than-usual number of retirements and other staffing challenges, have resulted in an unprecedented problem for the Philadelphia School District: Three city schools have no nursing coverage at all. Sixteen more have no regular coverage."
Concerns deepen over Philly school nursing shortage
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Sunday, October 18, 2015, 1:08 AM
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, Rachel Dodek can remain relatively calm about her 6-year-old Alex, newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.  But Tuesdays and Thursdays, when John Hancock Elementary doesn't have a nurse on duty, are excruciating.  An agency nurse is supposed to visit those days to check the first grader's blood sugar and administer his insulin - but someone doesn't always show, and even when someone does, the care is inconsistent, his mother said.  "I'm on edge from the time I wake up on days when I know the regular nurse isn't there," Dodek said.

Schools turning to staffing agencies for substitute teachers
Trib LiveBy Elizabeth Behrman Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, 6:25 p.m.
A few Western Pennsylvania school districts are among a growing number nationwide that are opting to “outsource” their substitute teachers.  Kelly Services, the staffing solutions company known for its “Kelly Girls” who started filling temporary office jobs in 1946, contracts with five school districts in Allegheny County — Plum, Woodland Hills, Pine-Richland, Montour and Fox Chapel Area — and a combined 16 districts in Beaver, Butler and Lawrence counties. Kelly doesn't contract with any districts in Westmoreland County.  Allowing an outside company to hire substitutes makes it easier for some districts to manage the cost and the constant chore of getting them into classrooms where and when they are needed, supporters of the process said. But critics say it raises questions about how the subs are vetted.

Public getting a rare look at Pottsgrove contract proposals
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 10/17/15, 8:56 AM EDT
LOWER POTTSGROVE >> Normally, public labor contracts are negotiated behind closed doors.  In fact it is one of only four areas of public business the state’s open meetings laws allow to be conducted outside the public view.  That is not the case these days in the Pottsgrove School District.  In a series of increasingly public disclosures, the school board side of the table has revealed information about contract talks with the Pottsgrove Education Association, culminating with last week’s posting of a comparison between the district’s proposal and the union’s.

Pottsgrove calculates $1M difference between contract proposals
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 10/17/15, 8:56 AM EDT
LOWER POTTSGROVE >> The proposal by the Pottsgrove teachers union could cost taxpayers about $1 million more than the district’s proposal, according to a side-by-side comparison the district made public last week.  The comparison was attached to a district-wide letter issued by Superintendent Shellie Feola and School Board President Justin Valentine and posted on the district web site.  “The board believes the public needs to be aware of the salary and benefits demands of the (Pottsgrove Education Association) as well as the good faith proposal of the board, and the impact these demands may have on the financial stability of the district,” Feola and Valentine wrote.  Reaction from the Pottsgrove Education Association was swift and disputed the district’s conclusions.

Strike 'likely' as contract talks fail between teachers, Peters school district
By Janice Crompton / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 19, 2015 5:54 AM
The Peters Township School District and the union representing teachers could not reach an agreement despite meeting for more than three hours Sunday night.  The Peters Township Federation of Teachers Local 3431 has notified the district it plans to strike on Oct. 28 if no agreement is in place. The district's 285 teachers, along with counselors, librarians and speech therapists, have been working without a contract since the previous five-year pact expired Aug. 31.  A press release from the union said a strike "looks more likely now" because the district reneged on previous agreements reached this summer and offered new proposals that were "insulting."

Nazareth teachers strike delayed with news of potential agreement
Sarah M. Wojcik Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call October 16,2015
Nazareth Area School District may have just avoided a strike
The nine hours behind closed doors Thursday were productive enough to postpone next week's planned teachers strike in the Nazareth Area School District, according to Superintendent Dennis Riker.  Riker announced Friday afternoon that the teachers and district had come to "an agreement in principle."  "While the information will be presented and discussed with teachers next week, the negotiations teams from both the district and association have derived a fair package that will be presented for ratification," Riker said in a statement.  The superintendent said details of the agreement won't be presented to the public until both sides have a look at the proposed agreement. The next school board meeting is Monday.  A teacher walkout planned for Tuesday has been postponed, Riker said.  The district's more than 330 teachers have been working without a contract since Aug. 31 and have been negotiating with the district for the last year.

Erie educator brings back lessons from Finland
Erie Times-News By Erica Erwin  814-870-1846 October 18, 2015 12:18 PM
ERIE, Pa. -- The government of Finland this spring passed a law requiring all children to attend kindergarten.  What changed? Not much.  Before the law's passage, 97 percent of all Finnish children attended kindergarten.  "They place a high value on education," said Cheryl Dix, science coordinator for the Erie School District. "There's a recognition that early education is useful, and people already had structured their lives to include it."   Dix was one of 43 people nationwide selected for the Fulbright Distinguished Teaching Award in 2014, an honor that allowed her to take a one-year sabbatical in which she is studying Finnish teaching strategies and instructional practices. She spent six months in the country, from January to June.

Lewisburg woman becomes PSBA governing board president
Shamokin New Item Published: 10/18/2015 10:05 AM
HERSHEY— Members of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) elected new officers and a new at-large representative for 2016 at their delegate assembly Tuesday at The Hershey Lodge & Convention Center.  The new officers and at-large representative will take their offices Jan. 1, as part of the 11-member PSBA Governing Board. As 2015 president-elect, Kathy Swope, Lewisburg Area School District, automatically assumes the office of the president.  Swope, a PSBA master school board director, has been a member of the Lewisburg Area School District School Board since 1999, serving as president since 2007. She served as vice president from 2001 to 2007. Since 2008, she has been a member of PSBA’s governing board, serving six years as Susquehanna River Region 6 director, and a year as the at-large representative. She was the chair of the PSBA regional directors’ coordinating council transition team in 2013.
Other officers and at-large representatives elected at the delegate assemby are, Mark B. Miller, Centennial School District, Bucks County, president-elect; Michael Faccinetto, Bethlehem Area School District, Northampton County, vice president; Larry Feinberg, Haverford Township School District, Delaware County, at-large representative, east; and William LaCoff, of Owen J. Roberts School District, Chester County, immediate past president.

Pa. considers creating a turnaround school district by EMMANUEL FELTON, THE HECHINGER REPORT October 19, 2015, 1:08 AM
This is some of the hardest work in education.  That was Chris Barbic's message in July when he said he'd be stepping down as superintendent of a special Tennessee school district responsible for fixing the state's worst schools.  Barbic's resignation comes as legislators in states across the country - including Pennsylvania - consider creating similar special districts for their lowest performers. So-called turnaround districts are already up and running in three states: Louisiana, Michigan, and Tennessee. They share many strategies: converting some schools into charters; replacing teachers and administrators; giving staff more freedom when it comes to curriculum, hiring and budgeting; and, in some cases, pumping in more money.  But, more than a decade after the first such district was founded in Louisiana, the results remain mixed. Turning around high schools - where the stakes are arguably highest as students prepare to head out into the real world - has proven to be particularly frustrating for reformers.

TODAY'S QUESTION: Should the state provide money to charter schools but not public schools during the budget impasse?
Charter schools, but not public schools, have been receiving funds from the state during the budget impasse.
MORNING CALL October 16, 2015

"What she should know, but doesn’t, is that on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the scores of white students, black students, Hispanic students, and Asian students are at their highest point in history.
What she should know, but doesn’t, is that none of the world’s top-performing nations on international tests have privatized their schools. They have instead strived to make them equitable for all children What she should know, but doesn’t, is that privatization does not decrease inequality, it increases inequality and segregation."
Campbell Brown Calls for Elimination of All Public Schools
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch October 17, 2015 //
In a column in the Daily Beast, ex-TV journalist Campbell Brown praised David Cameron of the United Kingdom for his proposal to eliminate all traditional public schools and replace them with private academies. The column was reprinted on her website “The 74.”‘

As Charter Schools Become Divisive, Two Parents Give Their Take by RACHEL MARTIN OCTOBER 18, 2015 9:32 AM ET
It used to be a given: When your kids reached school age, they'd strap on their backpacks and head for the neighborhood elementary school. Or, you'd pay a hefty tuition to send them to private school.  In the last two decades, a third option has emerged. Today, there are more than 6,000 charter schools in the country. And lately, they've been the subject of passionate and often acrimonious debate about the right way to fix public education in America.  Charters are publicly funded and privately run; they're a place for educational innovation. But with lawsuits underway in 45 states, they're also the subject of resentment from public school workers and parents who say they're siphoning resources.  The whole thing underscores the difficult decisions parents have to make.  In Baltimore, where more than a dozen charter schools are suing the city over funding, we hear from two parents facing two different choices.  This week on For the Record: the personal choices in public education.

Are charter schools about education or profit?
Palm Beach County challenges Florida's coddling of for-profit charter schools
Sun Sentinel Opinion by Randy Schultz October 10, 2015
Randy Schultz is the former editorial page editor of The Palm Beach Post. He also blogs for Boca Raton Magazine.
Charter schools began in Florida two decades ago with the idea of helping at-risk students. Instead, state politicians have helped for-profit charter companies enrich themselves while putting the public at risk. Palm Beach County is challenging that arrangement.  In December, the school board denied Fort Lauderdale-based Charter Schools USA's application for a K-8, nearly 1,200-student school west of Delray Beach. The company appealed. In April, the Florida Board of Education — without stating its reason — overturned the denial. The school board is challenging that ruling, and just filed its brief with the 4th District Court of Appeal.  The board could have rejected Charter Schools USA's application based on lack of need; West Delray has plenty of schools. Charter-friendly rules, however, don't allow that.  But the law does state that charter schools should "encourage the use of innovative learning methods." The board concluded that the company would offer nothing distinct from public schools in that area.  In an interview, Palm Beach County School Board attorney JulieAnn Rico said the challenge centers on the original role of charter schools. "The legal framework," Rico said, "still rests on that statutory purpose" of helping struggling students.

Ohio Charter School reform arrives at last
Columbus Dispatch Editorial Columbus, Ohio • Oct 17, 2015
Ohio, a national laughingstock for the weak oversight and conflicts of interest that have dogged its charter schools, finally has embraced serious reform with the passage of House Bill 2 on Wednesday.  This law is a game-changer. It makes leaps toward ending mediocrity, blatant self-dealing by charter-school profiteers and mismanagement and secrecy by charter-school operators soaking up hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.  “This bill puts Ohio’s charter-school community on the road to respectability,” state Auditor Dave Yost said.

What are Bill and Melinda Gates talking about?
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss October 19 at 4:00 AM  
Bill Gates is the leader of education philanthropy in the United States, pouring a few billion dollars over more than a decade to promote school reforms that he has championed. They include the Common Core State Standards, a small-schools initiative in New York City that he abandoned after deciding it wasn’t working, and controversial new teacher evaluation systems that use student standardized test scores to determine the “effectiveness” of educators. Such philanthropy has sparked a debate about whether American democracy is well-served by wealthy people who pour part of their fortunes into their pet projects — regardless of whether they are grounded in research — to such a degree that public policy and funding follow.  Bill and his wife Melinda Gates recently sat down with PBS journalist Gwen Ifill at the U.S. Education Learning Forum to discuss the reforms they support. This post, by Carol Burris, the executive director of the nonprofit Network for Public Education Fund, looks at what they said and explains what it actually means.  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.

An Admissions Surprise From the Ivy League
New York Times Opinion by Frank Bruni OCT. 17, 2015
AS the country struggles to address extreme income inequality and inadequate social mobility, the most venerated colleges are increasingly examining their piece of that puzzle: How can they better identify and enroll gifted, promising students from low-income families, lessening the degree to which campuses perpetuate privilege and making them better engines of advancement?  That discussion just took an interesting turn.  About three weeks ago, a group of more than 80 colleges — including all eight in the Ivy League and many other highly selective private and public ones — announced that they were developing a free website and set of online tools that would, among other things, inform ninth and 10th graders without savvy college advisers about the kind of secondary-school preparation that best positions them for admission.
What’s more, these colleges plan to use the website for an application process, in place by next fall, that would be separate from, and competitive with, the “Common App,” a single form students can submit to any of more than 600 schools.

The remarkable thing that happens to poor kids when you give their parents a little money
Washington Post By Roberto A. Ferdman October 8, 2015
Twenty years ago, a group of researchers began tracking the personalities of 1,420 low income children in North Carolina. At the time, the goal was simple: to observe the mental conditions of kids living in rural America. But then a serendipitous thing happened.  Four years into The Great Smoky Mountains Study of Youth, the families of roughly a quarter of the children saw a dramatic and unexpected increase in annual income. They were members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and a casino had just been built on the reservation. From that point on every tribal citizen earned a share of the profits, meaning about an extra $4,000 a year per capita.  For these families, the extra padding was a blessing, enough to boost household incomes by almost 20 percent on average. But for the fields of psychology, sociology and economics, it has been a gold mine, too. The sudden change in fortunes has offered a rare glimpse into the subtle but important ways in which money can alter a child’s life. The dataset is so rich that researchers continue to study it to this day.

Back to School Special Education Seminar October 20th
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Join us on October 20, 2015, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for our first special education conference of the 2015-2016 school year!
Building on last year’s successful Back to School seminar, this year you will hear about the current state of special education law and engage in dialogue about today’s most pressing matters.
  • Early Intervention
  • Inclusion
  • Assistive Technology
  • General update on the state of special education, both in Philadelphia and nationally
  • HUNE
  • The PEAL Center
  • Sonja Kerr
Our “Know Your Child’s Rights” Special Education workshops aim to educate parents, educators, attorneys and advocates so that they can advocate for the rights of children with disabilities. CLE credit is available for attorneys in Pennsylvania that attend the seminar in person.  Questions? Email or call 267.546.1303.

Registration is open for the 19th Annual Eastern Pennsylvania Special Education Administrators’ Conference on October 21-23rd in Hershey. 
Educators in the field of special education from public, charter and nonpublic schools are invited to attend.  The conference offers rich professional development sessions and exceptional networking opportunities.  Keynote speakers are Shane Burcaw and Jodee Blanco.  Register at

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.

Constitution Center, Philadelphia Monday, November 2, 2015 at 4 p.m.
Free for Members • $7 teachers & students • $10 public
Become a Member today for free admission to this program and more!
Click here to join and learn more or call 215-409-6767.
Does the Constitution guarantee an “equal education” to every child? What do the U.S. and Pennsylvania Constitutions say about school choice, teacher tenure, standardized testing, and more? The Constitution Center hosts two conversations exploring these questions.
In the first discussion, education policy experts—Donna Cooper of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, Mark Gleason of the Philadelphia School Partnership, Deborah Gordon Klehr of the Education Law Center, and Ina Lipman of the Children's Scholarship Fund Philadelphia—examine the state of Philadelphia public education, what an "equal education" in Philadelphia would look like, and their specific proposals for getting there. They also explain what, if anything, the Pennsylvania state constitution says about these questions, and how state government interacts with local government in setting education policy.
In the second discussion, James Finberg of Altshuler Berzon and Joshua Lipshutz of Gibson Dunn—two attorneys involved in Vergara v. California, a landmark dispute over the legality of teacher retention policies—present the best arguments on both sides and discuss what's next in the case. They also explain what the U.S. Constitution and major Supreme Court cases like Brown v. Board of EducationSan Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez and Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 say about education and our national debates.

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 <>

NSBA Advocacy Institute 2016; January 24 - 26 in Washington, D.C.
Housing and meeting registration is open for Advocacy Institute 2016.  The theme, “Election Year Politics & Public Schools,” celebrates the exciting year ahead for school board advocacy.  Strong legislative programming will be paramount at this year’s conference in January.  Visit for more information.

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

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