Saturday, October 24, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 24: Excessive testing pendulum finally swinging back, even for Obama/Duncan

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup October 24, 2015:
Excessive testing pendulum finally swinging back, even for Obama/Duncan




HARRISBURG (OCTOBER 21, 2015) – The Campaign for Fair Education Funding today submitted a formal request to Gov. Tom Wolf and members of the General Assembly, urging them to promptly reach a budget agreement that enacts the funding formula adopted by the state Basic Education Funding Commission (BEFC) and increases basic education funding by at least $410 million.

Leaders from more than 50 organizations signed a letter delivered to state lawmakers, warning that failure to sufficiently fund public schools and correct glaring disparities in the way public education is funded will shortchange children and continue to hold back the state's economy.





Obama Administration Calls for Limits on Testing in Schools
New York Times By KATE ZERNIKE OCT. 24, 2015
Faced with mounting and bipartisan opposition to increased and often high-stakes testing in the nation’s public schools, the Obama administration declared Saturday that the push had gone too far, acknowledged its own role in the proliferation of tests, and urged schools to step back and make exams less onerous and more purposeful.  Specifically, the administration called for a cap on assessment so that no child would spend more than 2 percent of classroom instruction time taking tests. It called on Congress to “reduce over-testing” as it reauthorizes the federal legislation governing the nation’s public elementary and secondary schools.   “I still have no question that we need to check at least once a year to make sure our kids are on track or identify areas where they need support,” said Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, who has said he will leave office in December. “But I can’t tell you how many conversations I’m in with educators who are understandably stressed and concerned about an overemphasis on testing in some places and how much time testing and test prep are taking from instruction.

Study says standardized testing is overwhelming nation’s public schools
Washington Post By Lyndsey Layton October 24 at 12:00 PM  
The number of standardized tests U.S. public school students take has exploded in the past decade, with most schools requiring too many tests of dubious value, according to the first comprehensive survey of the nation’s largest school districts.
A typical student takes 112 mandated standardized tests between pre-kindergarten classes and 12th grade, a new Council of the Great City Schools study found. By contrast, most countries that outperform the U.S. on international exams test students three times during their school careers.  The heaviest testing load falls on the nation’s eighth-graders, who spend an average of 25.3 hours during the school year taking standardized tests, uniform exams required of all students in a particular grade or course of study. Testing affects even the youngest students, with the average pre-K class giving 4.1 standardized tests, the report found.

Students Take Too Many Redundant Tests, Study Finds
Review of 66 Urban Districts Gauges Scope of Practice
Education Week By Denisa R. Superville Published Online: October 24, 2015
Students across the nation are taking tests that are redundant, misaligned with college- and career-ready standards, and often don't address students' mastery of specific content, according to a long-awaited report that provides the first in-depth look at testing in the nation's largest urban school districts.  The comprehensive report by the Washington-based Council of the Great City Schools examines testing in 66 of the council's 68 member school districts, looking at the types of tests administered, their frequency, and how they are used. The findings are expected to add hard numbers and evidence to the fractious national debate around whether U.S. students are being overtested.

Too Much Testing?: Ed. Dept. Outlines Steps to Help States and Districts Cut Back
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog  By Alyson Klein on October 24, 2015 12:01 PM
The Obama administration, which spent its first six years in office arguably upping the ante on standardized tests by calling for them to be a part of teacher evaluations, has instead spent the past year encouraging states and districts to make sure that assessments are meaningful for student learning, of higher quality, and don't take up too much instructional time.  The shift in emphasis has come as many parents have decided to opt their children out of standardized assessments, states have sought to rein in testing time, and the Common Core State Standards have faced serious political pushback, in part because of concern about the tests that go along with them. (More on changes to the administration's testing rhetoric here.)   Now, the U.S. Department of Education has released some general principles for states and districts to help them figure out how to cut back on assessments and ensure that they're used to drive instruction. (These principles aren't musts, just suggestions.)

Education Department: Too much testing, partly our fault
Politico By CAITLIN EMMA 10/24/15 12:05 PM EDT
The Education Department took some of the blame for the sometimes stressful, excessive and time-consuming testing at many schools and said Saturday that it hasn't done enough to help states tackle the problem.  The Obama administration is responding to loud complaints from across the country about how much time students spend on testing and the dozens of consequences now associated with poor results on those exams for students and teachers — policies it had a hand in expanding. Schools have taken on a "test-and-punish" culture, advocates say, a movement that got underway with the 2002 No Child Left Behind law.  "In too many schools, there is unnecessary testing and not enough clarity of purpose applied to the task of assessing students, consuming too much instructional time and creating undue stress for educators and students," the plan says. "The administration bears some of the responsibility for this, and we are committed to being part of the solution."  The department issued a "testing action plan" with recommendations and proposals for cutting back on testing that include easing up on the widely criticized use of student test scores in a proposed rule about evaluating training programs for teachers.

Obama Calls for Cap on Class Time for Standardized Tests
TIme.com by Josh Lederman, Jennifer C. Kerr / AP October 24, 2015
(WASHINGTON) — Targeting one of education’s most divisive issues, President Barack Obama on Saturday called for capping standardized testing at 2 percent of classroom time and said the government shares responsibility for turning tests into the be-all and end-all of American schools.  Students spend about 20 to 25 hours a school year taking standardized tests, according to a study of the nation’s 66 largest school districts that was released Saturday by the Council of Great City Schools. But it’s not known how much class time students spend preparing for tests that became mandatory, starting in third grade, under the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind law and are a flashpoint in the debate over the Common Core academic standards.  “Learning is about so much more than just filling in the right bubble,” Obama said in a video released on Facebook. “So we’re going to work with states, school districts, teachers, and parents to make sure that we’re not obsessing about testing.”

'The next couple of weeks are critical,' for a #PaBudget deal, Pa. House Leader Dave Reed says
By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on October 23, 2015 at 8:21 AM, updated October 23, 2015 at 9:12 AM
As Pennsylvania's budget impasse closes in on its inconceivable 120th day in a couple of days, I had a chance to chat with House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, about where things stand with budget talks, his measure of Gov. Tom Wolf and whether lawmakers and the administration might ever get a deal.
Here's what he had to say about the key issues:

Budget impasse forces Erie charter to borrow
By Erica Erwin  814-870-1846 Erie Times-News October 23, 2015 08:17 AM
ERIE, Pa. -- School districts and charter schools are finding themselves united in a plea for the same thing as the state budget impasse continues: money.  Kathryn Olds, co-chief executive of Erie's Robert Benjamin Wiley Community Charter School, said Thursday the school is in the process of applying for a line of credit to help fund operations.  Without tuition payments from school districts that are waiting for their own state funding, the charter has been relying on cash reserves for three months, Olds said.  "We just think (opening a line of credit) is a prudent thing to do," she said. "We've let our families know we won't close school and will continue to pay our staff."  Exactly how much the school will borrow hasn't been decided, she said.  Olds' comments followed a decision by the Pennsylvania Treasury to halt payment of gaming revenue to charter schools. That decision came after Senate Democrats raised legal questions and some said charters should not be funded when school districts aren't.  "I don't think it's fair to satisfy the needs of a certain few when a greater number of students across the commonwealth are in jeopardy," said state Sen. Sean Wiley, of Millcreek Township, D-49th Dist.

Schools Rack Up Interest Costs As PA Budget Stalemate Drags On
WSKG By SOLVEJG WASTVEDT   October 23, 2015
School districts in Pennsylvania are running out of money. The state budget is nearly four months late, which means school funding hasn’t been distributed. Districts are taking out loans to keep their doors open, and school superintendents say the delay is only going to get more costly.  At Carbondale Area High School in northeastern Pennsylvania, fifth period just ended. Superintendent Joe Gorham stands in a patch of sun from a hallway skylight, handing out “hellos”. He moves to the side as students rush by. “The fishies are swimming,” he says.  “You don’t go against the stream, you follow the fishies. It’s much safer that way.”
Despite the jokes, there are creases of worry on Gorham’s forehead, and his voice is strained. Carbondale has big financial problems looming because of Pennsylvania’s late budget. The district always has tight finances – over half its students are considered economically disadvantaged. Now they’re missing over half their budget, because they haven’t received any state aid yet. Gorham says they took out almost a million dollars in loans back in June, and that money is nearly gone.

Inaugural cohort of PSBA Fellowship in School Governance recognized at PASA-PSBA conference
PSBA NEWS RELEASE October 23, 2015
Twenty school board directors from across the state were recognized at the 2015 PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 14 for their completion of the Fellowship in School Governance program. The program was started by The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) in early 2015 and is a capstone program for interested school board members who wish to go “above and beyond” in their commitment and professional preparation.  Program graduates received pins at the conference and delivered an education session outlining the findings of a team project.  The Fellowship program requires a time commitment over the course of a program year (January-October). Candidates are expected to actively participate and contribute to the work of the cohort for the entire program year.


Why Calling Slaves 'Workers' Is More Than An Editing Error
NPR.org by LAURA ISENSEE OCTOBER 23, 2015 6:33 AM ET
Coby Burren was reading his textbook, sitting in geography class at Pearland High School near Houston, when he noticed a troubling caption. The 15-year-old quickly took a picture with his phone and sent it to his mother.  Next to a map of the United States describing "patterns of immigration," it read that the Atlantic slave trade brought "millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations."  "We was real hard workers wasn't we," Coby texted, adding a sarcastic emoji.  Coby caught a textbook error that had been missed by several editorial layers, starting with mega publisher McGraw-Hill Education, followed by the official textbook reviewers and, finally, members of the Texas Board of Education who have the final say on materials like this.  Roni Dean-Burren, Coby's mother, is a former teacher pursuing her doctorate at the University of Houston. For her, "that word — 'workers' — was an attempt to erase that hard writing that slavery has had on the paper of our society." She points out that, while the book describes many Europeans immigrating as indentured servants, she found no mention of Africans forced to the U.S. as slaves.

Underfunded Schools Forced To Cut Past Tense From Language Programs
The Onion November 30, 2007 VOL 43 ISSUE 48   Education · Government
WASHINGTON—Faced with ongoing budget crises, underfunded schools nationwide are increasingly left with no option but to cut the past tense—a grammatical construction traditionally used to relate all actions, and states that have transpired at an earlier point in time—from their standard English and language arts programs.  A part of American school curricula for more than 200 years, the past tense was deemed by school administrators to be too expensive to keep in primary and secondary education.  "This was by no means an easy decision, but teaching our students how to conjugate verbs in a way that would allow them to describe events that have already occurred is a luxury that we can no longer afford," Phoenix-area high-school principal Sam Pennock said. "With our current budget, the past tense must unfortunately become a thing of the past."


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.

SCHOOL CHOICE: THE ROLE OF THE CONSTITUTION AND THE COURTS IN IMPROVING EDUCATION
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 www.pascd.org <http://www.pascd.org/>

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 www.nsba.org/advocacyinstitute for more information.

PASBO 61st Annual Conference and Exhibits March 8 - 11, 2016
Hershey Lodge and Convention Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania

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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