Wednesday, October 28, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 28: Cyber Charters Have 'Overwhelming Negative Impact,' CREDO Study Finds

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PA Ed Policy Roundup October 28, 2015:
Cyber Charters Have 'Overwhelming Negative Impact,' CREDO Study Finds

"Literally as though the student did not go to school for the entire year" - new cyber charter report

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.

Cyber Charters Have 'Overwhelming Negative Impact,' CREDO Study Finds
Education Week Digital Education By Benjamin Herold on October 27, 2015 12:00 PM
Students who take classes over the Internet through online charter schools make dramatically less academic progress than their counterparts in traditional schools, according to a sweeping new series of reports released today.  The National Study of Online Charter Schools represents the first comprehensive national look at the roughly 200 schools in the publicly funded, independently managed cyber-charter sector. Such schools enroll about 200,000 full-time students across 26 states.  Reports jointly released by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, the Center on Reinventing Public Education, and Mathematica Policy Researchfound that: 
  • More than two-thirds of online charter schools had weaker overall academic growth than similar brick-and-mortar schools. In math, 88 percent of online charters had weaker academic growth than their comparison schools.
  • On average, online charter students achieved each year the equivalent of 180 fewer days of learning in math and 72 fewer days of learning in reading than similar students in district-run brick-and-mortar schools.
  • As a group, online charters are characterized by high student-to-teacher ratios, low student engagement, and high student mobility.
  • Online charters frequently offer limited opportunities for live contact with teachers and a relative paucity of supports for families, despite high expectations for parental involvement.
  • From funding to enrollment to oversight, states are failing to keep up with the unique policy challenges that online charters present.
Just about any way the data were sliced—by racial and ethnic subgroups, for students in poverty, by instructional and management model, compared to brick-and-mortar charters—the story of weak academic growth in online charters was largely the same.

Full CREDO 2015 Charter Study Report here:
Center for Research on Education Outcomes Online Charter School Study 2015

Study: Cyber charter schools failing their students
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, October 27, 2015, 10:59 PM POSTED: Tuesday, October 27, 2015, 6:36 PM
A massive national study of online charter schools has found that 70 percent of students at cyber schools are falling behind their peers at traditional public institutions.  The study, released Tuesday by three policy and research centers, found the online schools have an "overwhelming negative impact."  Stanford University researchers said their analysis showed severe shortfalls in reading and math achievement. The shortfall for most cyber students, they said, was equal to losing 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days in math during the typical 180-day school year.  "While the overall findings of our analysis are somber, we do believe the information will serve as the foundation for constructive discussions on the role of online schools in the K-12 sector," said James Woodworth, senior quantitative research analyst at Stanford's Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO).

"The online charter sector is dominated two for-profit companies, which manage around two-thirds of all cyber charter schools. The two largest such companies are K12 Inc., a publicly traded education company, and Connections Academy, which is owned by Pearson, the world’s largest education company. The CREDO study found no particular correlation between how schools were managed and the outcomes of online charter students."
Online Charter Schools Have An “Overwhelming Negative Impact,” Study Finds
More than 200,000 students are enrolled in the online schools, but evidence suggests they are getting a very bad education in return.
Molly Hensley-Clancy BuzzFeed News Reporter posted on Oct. 27, 2015, at 3:30 p.m.
Online charter schools, which enroll 200,000 students nationwide, have an “overwhelming negative impact” on the academic outcomes of students by almost every measure, according to a series of sweeping national reports released today by three different policy and research centers.  Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, or CREDO, found that students at online charter schools saw dramatically worse outcomes than their counterparts at traditional, brick-and-mortar schools. Over the course of a year, cyber school students lost out on the equivalent of 180 days of learning in math and 72 days reading, the center said.  In the most comprehensive examination to date of online charters, CREDO found that more than two-thirds of online charter schools had academic growth that was worse than traditional schools. James Woodworth, a research analyst for CREDO, called the study’s overall findings “somber” in a statement.

"Overwhelming Negative Impact" doesn't necessarily percolate up to the folks receiving your public tax dollars…..
Morningstar Executive Compensation for K12, Inc. (LRN)

Morningstar Executive Compensation for Pearson (PSORF)

And, as with Commonwealth Connections, Advance plans to contract with Connections Academy of Pennsylvania L.L.C., for management, curriculum, technical support, and other services. The for-profit company is a subsidiary of Connections Education L.L.C., which is based in Baltimore and is involved with 30 public online schools in 26 states.  Connections Education is owned by Pearson P.L.C., a multinational corporation with headquarters in London.
New group with old connections applies for cyber charter
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, October 23, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, October 22, 2015, 5:04 PM
After rejecting all new cyber charter applications in the last three years, the Pennsylvania Department of Education received just one cyber proposal this fall.  And the founding group is led by a former board president of one of the state's 14 existing cyber schools.  David N. Taylor last month submitted the application for the Advance Cyber Charter School, an online school that would launch next fall with a focus on science, technology, engineering, and math.  Taylor, president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association, is a past board president of Commonwealth Connections Academy Charter School, a K-12 cyber based in Harrisburg that opened in 2002 and enrolls 8,800 students statewide.  Advance also would be based in Harrisburg, and its six-member board also includes Gail Hawkins-Bush, a veteran charter educator who is also a former member of Commonwealth Connections' board.

"The National Alliance is disheartened to learn of the large-scale underperformance of full-time virtual charter public schools. While we know that this model works for some students, the CREDO report shows that too many students aren’t succeeding in a full-time online environment. It is a call to action for authorizers and policymakers."
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Responds to CREDO’s Virtual Charter Schools Report
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools 10/27/2015
Washington, D.C. – Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, released the following statement in response to the CREDO report about full-time virtual charter public schools:  “The National Alliance is disheartened to learn of the large-scale underperformance of full-time virtual charter public schools. While we know that this model works for some students, the CREDO report shows that too many students aren’t succeeding in a full-time online environment. It is a call to action for authorizers and policymakers.  “We firmly believe that individual charter public schools that are failing their students should be closed. This is an essential piece of the charter public school model in which schools are given more flexibility to innovate in exchange for a higher level of accountability for student achievement. Therefore, we call on authorizers of full-time virtual charter public schools to dramatically improve oversight of their schools, which, in some cases, will mean closing them.  “Though serving only six percent of the students in charter public schools, the breadth of this underperformance convinces us that states may need to change the parameters within which full-time virtual charter public schools can operate. 

"Pennsylvania has 14 cyber charter schools that enroll 36,000 students. Bob Fayfich, executive director for the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, said there are some issues with cyber charter schools that need to be addressed, such as the low math and reading scores the study pointed out.
Fayfich said cyber schools should look more indepth into math and reading score. But he said it's also hard to track progress, as most students only attend a cyber-charter school for one year.  "The CREDO/Mathematica/Center for Reinventing Public Education report released today on virtual education contains some good observations and some data that deserves a deeper understanding, but there are also some overly-simplistic conclusions and recommendations," he said."
Study: Cyber charter schools in Pa., across country failing students
Jacqueline Palochko Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call October 27, 2015
Students who take online classes through cyber charter schools, including those in Pennsylvania, perform significantly less than their peers attending traditional schools, a national study found.  The study, which said cyber charters have an "overwhelming negative impact" on students, found some key findings comparing cyber charter schools to traditional district-run brick-and-mortar schools, such as cyber schools seeing fewer learning days in math and reading, having a higher student-teacher ratio and limited opportunities for live-contact with teachers.  The study was jointly released Tuesday by the National Study of Online Charter Schools, the Center for Research on Education outcomes at Stanford University, the Center on Reinventing Public Education and Mathematica Policy Research. It used data from online students in Washington D.C. and 17 states, including Pennsylvania.

State senators will bug out for two weeks starting Wednesday - should they stay and get a #PABudget deal?
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on October 27, 2015 at 3:31 PM, updated October 27, 2015 at 5:09 PM
If you weren't paying attention to the Pennsylvania Cable Network this Tuesday afternoon as the state Senate went through its paces, then you probably missed this one:  As is so often is the case, the 50-member chamber adopted a resolution authorizing it to go into a recess from voting sessions -- this time from Oct. 28 until Nov. 16.  In general, these votes tend to be pretty pro forma exercises and are passed with nary the bat of an eyelash.  But with the state budget nearly four months late, minority Democrats offered an amendment that would have kept the chamber continuously in session during that two-week window.  It didn't happen. The motion was tabled. And the recess resolution, as it's known, was approved along party lines Tuesday afternoon. 

"Senate GOP leaders were encouraged Tuesday when one Democratic senator, Andy Dinniman of Chester County, voted with the GOP on a procedural measure to set-up Wednesday's vote.  But Dinniman said later that he's not a definite 'yes' on the override.  His vote to put the override on the calendar for Wednesday, he said, was intended more as a signal to the Wolf Administration of his frustration with the impasse, and that he needs reassurance about the governor's plan."
Pennsylvania's legislative Republicans are back at the drawing board in stalled state budget talks
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on October 27, 2015 at 9:27 PM, updated October 27, 2015 at 10:16 PM
The next big pitch in Pennsylvania's stalled state budget negotiations appears to be coming from the majority Republican caucuses in the House and Senate.  But while that continues to bake over the next week or so, legislative leaders will take one last, pre-election recess stab at loosening what would amount to hundreds of millions of dollars for cash-starved school districts and social service agencies.  Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County, said he will call for an override vote Wednesday on Gov. Tom Wolf's Sept. 29 veto of a stopgap funding measure.  Republicans hold a 30-19 majority in the Senate at present. If they can win three Democratic votes on an override attempt, which requires a two-thirds majority, it would move to the House for final action. 

Is compromise budget possible in Harrisburg? POSTED: Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 1:08 AM
With the Pennsylvania budget four months overdue, is compromise still possible in Harrisburg?
Alan Novak is a former chairman of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania
T.J. Rooney is a former chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party
Novak: We might be closer than some people think. Republican leaders in the House feel that they have anywhere from 15 to 17 Democrats willing to vote on a legislatively created budget. That would probably be enough to override a veto. 
Rooney: What Alan describes is the fundamental problem in Harrisburg. It represents more of the same. Unfortunately, where we are now doesn't reflect a better budget. Rather, it's about making a parochial deal with a handful of Democrats while leaving the rest of Pennsylvania behind. Somebody gets a shiny new fire truck and the rest of Pennsylvania gets hosed. I still believe that there is a pathway through negotiation that will do better for everyone.

Their view | Break budget impasse with charter school reform
Centre Daily Times Opinion BY REP. JAMES ROEBUCK October 28, 2015 
James Roebuck represents the 188th Legislative District in Pennsylvania. He is the Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee.
You wouldn’t pay $10 for an apple or a loaf of bread. So why should you overpay for tax-funded, privately run charter schools?  The urgency of passing strong charter school reform in Pennsylvania has only grown in recent weeks, due to two major news stories:
•  the state budget impasse and
•  revelations that charter schools in Philadelphia alone have racked up nearly $500 million in debt, all of which could ultimately be the responsibility of taxpayers.
I recently issued my third annual report on charter schools, outlining the problems and potential solutions. You can read it at  The good news is that the $160 million or more in potential savings from passing strong charter school reform could help fill the gap that has left Pennsylvania without a budget for more than three months. It would be a sizable step toward closing the structural deficit and restoring school funding. It would also amount to at least six times more than the savings from a Republican bill (H.B. 530) the House passed on party lines in March.

In Harrisburg, everybody gets paid
JOHN BAER, DAILY NEWS POLITICAL COLUMNIST Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 12:16 AM
IF THERE ARE any pluses to Pennsylvania's budget stall, now headed toward its fifth month, one might be that ordinary voters (for a change) are asking questions about state government.  And that can raise basic issues, help explain the stall and, in a more perfect world, even lead to reforms.  For example, a recent email from Joe B. asks if the folks who can't get 'er done in the Capitol are still getting paid.  He notes, "People seem to care more when it affects them."  Joe, of course they're still getting paid, except for Gov. Wolf, who donates his salary to charity. Which means his salary's still being paid, just not to him.  See, all tax dollars are being collected even though not all tax dollars are being spent.
Democrats dominate spending in $9 million Pa. Supreme Court race
By the time they cast ballots next Tuesday, Pennsylvania voters will have been bombarded with more than $9 million in TV advertising for and against the seven candidates for the state Supreme Court, according to an analysis of media spending.  Three of the seven posts on the seven-member court are up for grabs, meaning that the election could determine the partisan balance of the court for years.  Democrats and their allies account for more than three-quarters of the spending. Roughly a third of those funds comes from independent groups supporting one party or the other.

Mayor Nutter calls for dissolution the School Reform Commission [updated]
In a major education policy speech this morning, Mayor Nutter called for the dissolution of the School Reform Commission and the return of a local board of education.
"Of all the policy recommendations I make today, none will have a bigger impact on Philadelphia than a return to local control," he told an audience of invited guests at WHYY.
After 15 years, Nutter said, "It's time for the experiment to end."
In addition to shifting power to a nine-member, mayorally appointed board, Nutter called for school advisory councils at every neighborhood school.
"While I believe that the SRC and its many members have functioned to the best of their abilities and with good intentions, we Philadelphians deserve to govern our own schools," Nutter said. "A return to local control would give us real authority over the education of our children."  He laid out a plan that would complete the transfer of power in September 2018. Conditions for the changeover would include "full funding for public education" by the state and a "student-weighted" education funding formula. This would allow the district, he said, to "adhere to its five-year financial-stability planning process that demonstrates the district's structural balance."  Then there would be a year of "public hearings on governance, debates, and forums on how best to improve education," said Nutter. "Only then will we be in the right place to govern our schools locally."

Nutter on SRC: 'Time to go'
MAYOR NUTTER yesterday called for an end to the School Reform Commission, the state-mandated board created to oversee the Philly school district.  "It is now time to end the School Reform Commission in the city of Philadelphia. It's time for it to go," Nutter told an audience of education leaders during an education-policy speech at WHYY studios.  The SRC was established when the state took over management of the district under a state law known as Act 46. Nutter has proposed that the process of returning control to the city begin in 2017 and that by September 2018 the locally controlled school board should be in place.  "While I believe that the SRC and its many members have functioned to the best of their personal and professional abilities, there's no question about that, and with the best of intentions, we Philadelphians deserve to govern, oversee and manage our own schools," the mayor said.

Domb, Gym deserve endorsements
Inquirer Letter by Brian M. Villa Posted: Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 1:08 AM
Mayor Nutter's exclusion of Democratic primary winners Allan Domb and Helen Gym in his endorsement of City Council candidates ("Nutter's backing hits a nerve," Oct. 21) illustrates the paradox of his using reform rhetoric while practicing preservationist politics.  Domb and Gym, through their respective business, education, and community endeavors, have established records of leading by example and creating new kinds of politics and public policies in the areas of local taxes, public schools, and jobs. Such freely given public-service efforts helped to establish credibility in the minds of many, resulting in their candidacies for at-large seats.

"The prize comes with $10,000 for Jackson and $10,000 for Kaplan personally. She won't see a dime of that money. She's donating it to Jackson, of course. How could she not? she asked.  "We're using older textbooks that I don't want to be using," she said. "We need anything we can get."
National principal of the year from Phila.
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Monday, October 26, 2015, 11:42 PM POSTED: Monday, October 26, 2015, 4:06 PM
One of the buses for the kindergartners' field trip was late. No one could locate an interpreter to translate for a Chinese-speaking parent. And a first grader smashed his head on the playground - with no nurse on staff, was it a 911 call?  At the center of all this was the woman named the best principal in the country Monday - Lisa Ciaranca Kaplan, the high-energy leader of Andrew Jackson Elementary, a neighborhood public school at 13th and Federal Streets.  Kaplan handled the crises like a triage surgeon: locate the bus and a another parent who spoke Chinese, assess the first grader, then call 911 to be on the safe side. (The little guy has a nasty bruise but will be OK.)  And then, she gave herself a minute to bask in having captured the 2015 Escalante-Gradillas Prize for Best in Education.

Peters Township teachers will strike after failing to reach agreement
Trib Live By Tony Raap Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015, 10:33 p.m.
Teachers in the Peters Township School District will walk off the job at 7 a.m. Wednesday after failing to reach a contract agreement Tuesday with negotiators for the district.  “I am very disappointed with the union leadership's decision to strike,” district Superintendent Jeannine French said. “This will not bring us any closer to resolution, and the decision to strike will only hurt our children and families.”  Paul Homer, a staff representative for the Peters Township Federation of Teachers, confirmed that the union's 200 teachers, counselors, librarians and nurses would strike, but declined to comment further.  The teachers' contract expired Aug. 31.
The district and the union have met 17 times since they began contract negotiations in March.

NAEP:U.S. student performance slips on national test
Washington Post By Emma Brown October 28 at 12:01 AM  
Fourth-graders and eighth-graders across the United States lost ground on national mathematics tests this year, the first declines in scores since the federal government began administering the exams in 1990.  Reading performance also was sobering: Eighth-grade scores dropped, according to results released Wednesday, while fourth-grade performance was stagnant compared with 2013, the last time students took the test.  And the tests again show large achievement gaps between the nation’s white and minority students as well as between poor and affluent children, an indication that the nation’s disadvantaged students are not gaining ground despite more than a decade of federal law designed to boost their achievement.  Researchers have long cautioned that it is difficult to identify the cause of any fluctuation in scores on this testing program, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is also known as the Nation’s Report Card. But many people look to NAEP scores as an important barometer of U.S. student achievement because they are the only exams that have been given nationwide over a long period of time, capturing the performance of rich and poor children of all ethnicities in urban, suburban and rural communities.

NAEP: Nationwide Test Shows Dip in Students’ Math Abilities
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH OCT. 28, 2015
For the first time since 1990, the mathematical skills of American students have dropped, according to results of a nationwide test released by the Education Department on Wednesday.  The decline appeared in both Grades 4 and 8 in an exam administered every two years as theNational Assessment of Educational Progressand sometimes called “the nation’s report card.”  The dip in scores comes as the country’s employers demand workers with ever-stronger skills in mathematics to compete in a global economy. It also comes as states grapple with the new Common Core academic standards and a rebellion against them.

"This is the tragedy. It has distracted policymakers’ attention away from the extensive research showing that, in a very meaningful way, achievement is caused by opportunities to learn. It has diverted them from the truth that the achievement gap is caused by the opportunity gap. Those advocating for today’s policies have pushed policymakers to disregard the reality that the opportunity gap arises more from out-of-school factors than inside-of-school factors."
NAEPscuses: Making Sense of Excuse-Making from the No-Excuses Contingent
A commentary from NEPC Director Kevin Welner October 28, 2015
BOULDER, CO (October 28, 2015) – This morning’s release of results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reports a dip in scores, according to multiple sources. These lower grades on the Nation’s Report Card are not good news for anyone, but they are particularly bad news for those who have been vigorously advocating for “no excuses” approaches — standards-based testing and accountability policies like No Child Left Behind. Such policies follow a predictable logic: (a) schools are failing; and (b) schools will quickly and somewhat miraculously improve if we implement a high-stakes regime that makes educators responsible for increasing students’ test scores.  To be sure, the sampling approach used by NAEP and the lack of student-level data prohibit direct causal inferences about specific policies. Although such causal claims are made all the time, they are not warranted. It is not legitimate to point to a favored policy in Massachusetts and validly claim that this policy caused that state to do well, or to a disfavored policy in West Virginia and claim that it caused that state to do poorly.
However, as Dr. Bill Mathis and I explained eight months ago in an NEPC Policy Memo, it is possible to validly assert, based in part on NAEP trends, that the promises of education’s test-driven reformers over the past couple decades have been unfulfilled. The potpourri of education “reform” policy has not moved the needle—even though reformers, from Bush to Duncan, repeatedly assured us that it would.

Turkey Retains Robert Amsterdam on Expansion of Gülen Investigation
YouTube by Robert Amsterdam Published on Oct 26, 2015
The international law firm of Amsterdam & Partners LLP held a press conference on Monday, October 26, 2015 at the National Press Club in Washington DC to announce their engagement on behalf of the Republic of Turkey to assist in the global investigation into the activities of the U.S. based Gülen Global Network.

Charter schools and their networks desperately need a HALL OF SHAME.  What’s more, the push to create it should be coming from the charter school community.
I have been observing what is called the ‘charter school movement’ from Day One, a historic meeting at the headwaters of the Mississippi River in 1988 that I moderated. Back then, the dream was that every district would open at least one ‘chartered school,’ where enrollment and employment would be voluntary and where new ideas could be field-tested.  Successes and failures would be shared, and the entire education system would benefit.
That naive optimism would be laughable if it were not for the harm that has befallen many students and the millions taken from public treasuries by some charter school operators (regardless of whether their schools are ‘for-profit’ or ‘non-profit).’
As I see it, the term is in danger of becoming toxic, and I think the blame falls squarely on the leadership in the charter school movement, and on politicians who are indifferent to the needs of children but responsive to constituents motivated by ideology or greed.
Of course, the movement has a HALL OF FAME, to pat each other on the back and share success stories, so why not establish a HALL OF SHAME?
Who’s ripping off the system?  Who belongs on a Charter School HALL OF SHAME?  Here’s a smattering of stories from a few states.

No Child Left Behind: What Worked, What Didn't by CORY TURNER Morning Edition OCTOBER 27, 2015 4:29 AM ET
Cross your fingers.  Congress is trying to do something it was supposed to do back in 2007: agree on a rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It's not controversial to say the law is in desperate need of an update.  The ESEA is hugely important, not just to our nation's schools but the social fabric. It pours billions of federal dollars each year into classrooms that serve low-income students. When President Lyndon Johnson first signed it in 1965, he declared the law "a major new commitment of the federal government to quality and equality in the schooling that we offer our young people."  The ESEA is supposed to be updated every few years but hasn't been rewritten since 2001, when another Texan, President George W. Bush, famously renamed it No Child Left Behind. Bush took Johnson's original vision, to help states level the playing field for students living and learning in poverty, and added teeth.

This Just In: A Commercial Network News Show Airs a Report on Education Policy
Education Week Education and the Media Blog By Mark Walsh on October 27, 2015 9:38 AM
Earlier this month, when President Barack Obama held a press conference to acknowledge U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's intention to step down, I gently chided the White House press corps for showing absolutely no interest in the news of Duncan's departure or of education policy in general.  (Although, I did note that Obama gave reporters an out, since headdressed other news of the day before opening up the press conference to questions.)  So fairness probably calls for recognition of a report on the "NBC Nightly News" Monday about school testing by the network's senior White House correspondent, Chris Jansing. The report was tied to the Saturday announcement from the White House and the Education Department urging schools to consider ways to cut back on testing, which Education Week's Alyson Klein reported in the Politics K-12 blog.  "Now the Obama administration is saying, 'Enough,' calling on schools to cut back testing to no more than 2 percent of classroom time," Jansing says in her report. "It's a major reversal, to fix a problem they admit they helped create."  Since it's rare for any kind of serious education policy topic to make it onto the commercial networks' (ABC, CBS, and NBC) evening news shows these days, NBC News gets an A for effort.

In a conservative corner of Arkansas, schools welcome immigrants
Graduation rate for English language learners rises to 94 percent, as all students improve
The Hechinger Report by MEREDITH KOLODNER October 23, 2015
ROGERS, Ark. — More than a dozen Spanish-speaking parents gathered at New Technology High School one night last fall to talk about college options with the high school’s guidance counselor.
“A parent asked a question,” recalled teacher Martin Resendiz, who was there to translate. “‘I know you’re telling me that she’s the counselor, but what is a counselor?’ And right there I just froze. That simple question, what is a counselor, what does she do?”  In that moment, Resendiz, 23, understood that language was only one barrier among many for the hundreds of families who had recently come to Rogers from other countries.  Host to Walmart’s world headquarters, a cluster of chicken processing plants and a growing local economy, northwest Arkansas has gained a reputation as a place where new immigrants can get jobs.
With the influx of workers from Mexico and Central America, the Rogers school district has become 44 percent Latino, up from 31 percent, in the last decade. Of its 15,000 public school students, the percentage of those who aren’t fluent in English has grown to 35 percent from 25 percent over the same period. And because the jobs that have attracted so many people are mostly low wage, the number of students living near the poverty line has more than doubled since 2000.  But in this deeply conservative corner of Arkansas — where no Democrat has been elected to Congress since 1966 — whites have not fled the public schools. No angry billboards have cropped up. Even as some Americans applaud presidential candidate Donald Trump’s denunciations of Mexican immigrants as gang members and rapists, Republican Rogers has taken a different approach.  The schools have welcomed and integrated the wave of immigrants, legal and undocumented alike  and graduation rates have soared, for all students.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: October 21 - 27, 2015
Fairtest Submitted by fairtest on October 27, 2015 - 1:20pm 
To understand why President Obama and Secretary Duncan were compelled to admit that there is too much standardized testing in U.S. public schools, scan this week's news clips with stories from fully half the 50 states. Across the country, parents, teachers, education administrators, school boards and community leaders have built powerful campaigns to roll back test overuse and misuse. Growing support for assessment reform is forcing politicians to act. Even if their first moves are largely symbolic, more tangible victories will follow if political pressure continues to escalate. (Back issues of these weekly updates are archived at:

WESA Public Forum: Equitable Education Funding Nov. 9, 7 pm  Pittsburgh
WESA By EBAISLEY  October 27, 2015
Governor Tom Wolfe has proposed spending 6.1 billion dollars on basic education, yet Pennsylvania is one of just three states that does not use a formula to distribute funding to local school districts. What is the best and most equitable way to allocate state education funding? How can educators and lawmakers ensure a fair education for all students?
90.5 WESA will convene a "Life of Learning" community forum November 9 at the Community Broadcast Center on the south side.  to discuss the Basic Education Funding Commission’s proposed funding formula as well as strategies used in the state’s history.  Doors open at 6:30; forum starts at 7. It will be recorded for later broadcast. The event is free, but space is limited; registration is recommended.Register online to attend.
Panelists include State Senator Jay Costa, member of the Basic Education Funding Commission; Ron Cowell, President of the Education Policy and Leadership Center;  Linda Croushore, Executive Director of the Consortium for Public Education; and Eric Montarti, Senior Policy Analyst for the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy; and Linda Lane, superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools. 90.5 WESA’s Larkin Page-Jacobs will moderate.
WHAT: Community Forum on Equitable Education Funding
WHEN: November 9, 2015, 7 PM
WHERE: Community Broadcast Center, 67 Bedford Square, Pittsburgh PA 15203
COST: Free. Register to attend.

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.

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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