Monday, February 29, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 29: Calls to opt-out of school testing on the rise

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3850 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup February 29, 2016:
Calls to opt-out of school testing on the rise

PSBA Advocacy Forum & Day on the Hill APR 4, 2016 • 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM

"The Erie Times-News asked people with a stake in the state budget process the following question: "What does an incomplete state budget mean?"
Here is what they said."
8 Months of impasse
By KEVIN FLOWERS Feb 2016 — Erie Times-News
While Gov. Tom Wolf recently unveiled a new, multibillion-dollar budget plan for Pennsylvania's legislators to consider, his previous state spending proposal lingers.  The first-term Democrat on Feb. 9 announced a $33.3 billion budget proposal for 2016-17 that includes proposals for multimillion-dollar tax increases to fund a variety of programs and initiatives.  However, the state still has no complete budget in place for the fiscal year that began July 1.  Wolf in late December did sign a $30.3 billion 2015-16 state budget plan backed by the GOP-controlled state Legislature. But he also vetoed portions of the plan, which included $500 million less than what Wolf had sought for education and social services.  During a joint session of the House and Senate on Tuesday morning, Wolf argued that billions of dollars in funding for prisons, hospitals and schools are in flux, and tax increases are necessary to close a massive budget gap.

"State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D., Chester), who cosponsored the bill delaying the Keystones, said he has watched a surprising bipartisan consensus emerge as parents in more affluent suburban districts complain about the number of days devoted to testing, while poverty-stricken communities say they lack the money to implement the changes.  "It wasn't helping anyone," Dinniman said of the Keystone requirement. "All we were doing was stamping failure on the backs of students in impoverished areas where there weren't any resources to pass these exams."
As protests rise over high-stakes tests, more students likely to opt out
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer. Updated: FEBRUARY 28, 2016 — 6:53 AM EST
Last year, a small, angry band of parents and teachers in the Lower Merion School District took on a big challenge: convincing their neighbors that the intensifying emphasis on high-stakes standardized tests was harming their children's education.  This year's challenge: coming up with enough yard signs so converts to the cause can broadcast their displeasure with the coming Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSA, tests given in grades three through eight. Their opt-out message - "Our kids & schools are more than a score" - has popped up on curbsides around the affluent Main Line suburb.  Danielle Arnold-Schwartz, a Lower Merion teacher and local chapter leader of the national education activist group Parents Across America, said about 100 yard signs were snapped up for $1 each after a recent Villanova University screening of a documentary critical of high-stakes testing.  "There are people still asking for more," she said, "and it's not fully testing season yet."  The protest signs are a leading indicator that across the region, the parent-led push to opt out of standardized tests - whether the PSSAs, or Pennsylvania's controversial Keystone Exams, or New Jersey's year-old PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) - may be nearing a tipping point.

YouTube videos from United Opt Out Conference held in Philly this past weekend

Did you catch our weekend postings?
PA Ed Policy Roundup February 28, 2016:
30 million word gap; To overcome the effects of poverty on student achievement, we have to begin reaching children before they even arrive at school

Art Museum a critical resource for arts-deprived schools
the notebook by Andre Dienner February 26, 2016 — 2:02pm
As arts education in Philadelphia public schools continues to suffer, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is looking to fill the void by offering a wide array of arts programs, from afterschool clubs to workshops for teachers.  Students don’t receive enough exposure to arts without school programs, said Ah-Young Kim, manager of school visits for the museum. “Most students don’t visit the museum with their families, so school is a critical resource for that exposure,” she said. “We want to inspire kids to be creative and make art.”   Kimberly Gavin, a teacher at Overbrook High School, said the museum’s education department is a big help for teachers and students. “They have tapped into a new paradigm for education, a new way of thinking,” she said. “Not just about art, but about learning as well.”

Blogger note: Mr. Paul correctly identifies pension payments as the biggest cost driver and points to pension reform legislation that would reduce those costs "in the future".  Unfortunately, that "future" is 20 or 30 years away, coincidentally about the time that implementation of the pending Basic Education Funding Formula will adequately address the underfunding of high poverty districts (assuming that hold harmless stays in place and the formula, as is being proposed, applies only to new money).
No, we're not underfunding public schools: James Paul
PennLive Op-Ed  Opinion By James Paul on February 28, 2016 at 12:00 PM
James Paul is a senior policy analyst for the Commonwealth Foundation, a conservative think-tank in Harrisburg.
Are Pennsylvania's public schools underfunded?
That's been the central question in Pennsylvania politics for a half-dozen years. But from Gov. Tom Corbett's first budget to Gov. Tom Wolf's election—and since—myths have dominated the debate.  During his campaign, Wolf ran on the myth that his predecessor "cut $1 billion" from public schools. The reality, however, is federal funding always known to be temporary expired. Those funds were never designed to be included in the permanent education budget.  Late last year, Wolf claimed the legislature cut $95 million from education, when lawmakers actually voted to increase funding by $400 million.  Most recently, the governor threatened that 23,000 teachers will be laid offunless his budget is enacted. PolitiFact PA rated this claim "mostly false."  Looming over the five-and-a-half hours of discussion was the empty memory of the agreement many thought they had reached in mid-December.  But what about the big question: Are we underfunding public education?

In Philadelphia's education crisis, who is harmed?
Bessam Idani is the head staff writer for (One Miracle at at Time), a nonprofit and arts media group.
For years now, an ongoing budget crisis has plagued the Philadelphia School District, with disastrous repercussions to students and faculty. In the continued insolvency of the District can be heard echoes of this efforts in our nation's history to deny education and opportunity to poor and African-American communities.  Two years ago, 23 Philadelphia public schools, or 10 percent of all public schools in the city, were shut down in response to a crippling budget deficit. The New York Times reported that police arrested 19 protesters at the contested sites.  That same year, I followed the story of the severe cutbacks in departmental fundingin the remaining schools, nicknamed “the doomsday budget.” These cuts included mass faculty layoffs, reduction of materials and athletics programs, and the complete elimination of arts and music programs.  Despite these cuts, and despite the allocation of an increased cigarette tax to education last year, the budget problem persists. In December, Superintendent William Hite announced that because of the state budget gridlock, the district would only be able to make payroll until the end of January, after which city schools faced shutdown.  In any such crisis, it is worth examining the exact effect upon the citizens. Who ultimately pays for these shortages in funding?

Editorial: Pennsylvania's looming teacher shortage and current substitute teacher shortage must be addressed
Lancaster Online The LNP Editorial Board Feb 28, 2016
THE ISSUE - The number of Pennsylvanians who want to become teachers has fallen to alarmingly low levels, an LNP analysis shows, and a teacher shortage now looms. Lancaster County school districts already have experienced a lack of substitute teachers. But educators say they expect to feel the full impact of a teacher shortage in about a year and a half. The number of in-state residents seeking teacher certifications has plummeted 62 percent since 2012, Pennsylvania Department of Education data show. In 2015, only 6,215 sought certification, down from 16,361 three years earlier.
The comments on LNP’s Facebook page and about last Sunday’s LNP story on the looming teacher shortage conveyed all the usual sentiments about the teaching profession.  Teachers have summers and weekends off; teachers spend countless hours doing paperwork and spend their summers planning. Teachers are overpaid and have lavish pensions; teachers are underpaid and spend a lot of their own money on their students and classrooms.  And that’s just a sampling.  Few professions inspire the kind of public debate that teaching does, but there’s a reason for this: Teacher salaries and benefits are paid for with taxpayer dollars, so taxpayers have a stake in that debate.

"Community-school directors like Guevara play a key role in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to revitalize 94 of New York City’s low-performing schools—including M.S. 50, where just one in 10 students passed last year’s state English tests, and 40 percent of students are considered chronically absent. The mission of community schools is to treat students’ physical or emotional ailments so they can focus on learning. Each director is responsible for coordinating the activities, social services, and parent workshops that the mayor is hoping will help set the schools on a different path."
Community Schools: Why Non-Academic Needs Matter, Too
A day in the life of a new kind of educator who’s tasked with revitalizing one of New York City's campuses by supporting kids' health, attendance, and family lives
The Atlantic by Patrick Wall February 26, 2016
Around 4 p.m. on a recent Friday, Fiorella Guevara got around to eating her lunch. Then she leaned back in the student-sized chair where she was sitting in an empty classroom and let out a long sigh. “Oh man, I’m tired,” said Guevara, the new community-school director at M.S. 50 in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. “This is why I never sit down for too long.”  Instead, she bounds from room to room, checking on the classes she oversees, meeting with the principal or calling up parents, pausing just long enough to hug one of the students whose affection she’s earned in her few months on the job.  “She is a fireball,” said Franklin Tapia, the parent of an eighth-grader at M.S. 50, whom Guevara recently hired to work as a mentor and soccer coach. “I don’t know how she does it. She’ll come in 9 o’clock in the morning sometimes. and she won’t leave until 9:30, 10 o’clock at night.”

Scott Kelly poised to set NASA record for consecutive days in space
Post Gazette By Kenneth Chang / The New York Times February 29, 2016 12:23 AM
In less than a week, Scott Kelly will once again feel weight.
On Tuesday, he is to turn over command of the International Space Station to his fellow NASA astronaut Timothy Kopra and climb into a Russian Soyuz capsule. A few hours later, he will land in Kazakhstan, ending 340 consecutive days in space — a record for a NASA astronaut.  The previous record was 215 days, reached by Michael Lopez-Alegria during a trip to the space station in 2006 and 2007. Counting his three previous trips to space, Mr. Kelly will have spent a total of 520 days in orbit.   “We’ll learn a lot about longer-duration spaceflight,” Mr. Kelly said during a news conference Thursday broadcast on NASA Television. “I’d like to think this is another of many steppingstones to landing on Mars sometime in our future.”  Some of the memorable sights from space included auroras and Hurricane Patricia in October, Mr. Kelly said.  “The more I look at Earth, at certain parts of Earth, the more I feel more of an environmentalist,” Mr. Kelly said. “There are definitely areas where the Earth is covered with pollution almost all the time, and it’s not good for any of us.”  Until now, astronauts have spent six months, give or take, on the International Space Station. By studying Mr. Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko — a Russian astronaut who is also part of this nearly one-year mission and who will be one of two Russians riding back with Mr. Kelly this week — scientists hope to gain a better understanding of what health issues astronauts might encounter during the six to eight months a trip to Mars would take.

Yes! I would like to be part of the March 1, 12:30 pm conference call to learn more about the school funding lawsuit.
Education Voters PA
Attorneys from the Education Law Center and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia will provide an update on the status of the lawsuit, Education Voters will share resources that can be used to increase awareness of the lawsuit, and callers will have time for Q & A with the attorneys.

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center will host its Annual Budget Summit on Thursday, March 3, 2016 9:00 - 3:30 at the Hilton Harrisburg.
PA Budget and Policy Center website
Join us for an in-depth look at the Governor's 2016-17 budget proposal, including what it means for education, health and human services, and local communities. The Summit will focus on the leading issues facing the commonwealth in 2016, with workshops, lunch, and a legislative panel discussion.  Space is limited, so fill out the form below to reserve your spot at the Budget Summit.
Thursday, March 3, 2016 Hilton Hotel, Harrisburg Pennsylvania
The event is free, but PBPC welcomes donations of any size to help off-set costs.

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

PA Legislature Joint public hearing-on Federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
PA House and Senate Education Committees
03/14/2016 10:30 AM Hearing Room #1 North Office Bldg

PSBA Advocacy Forum & Day on the Hill
APR 4, 2016 • 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Join PSBA and your fellow school directors for the third annual Advocacy Forum on April 4, 2016, at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. This year’s event will have a spotlight on public education highlighting school districts’ exemplary student programs. Hear from legislators on how advocacy makes a difference in the legislative process and the importance of public education advocacy. Government Affairs will take a deeper dive into the legislative priorities and will provide tips on how to be an effective public education advocate. There will be dedicated time for you and your fellow advocates to hit the halls to meet with your legislators on public education. This is your chance to share the importance of policy supporting public education and make your voice heard on the Hill. Online advanced registration will close on April 1, 4 p.m. On-site registrants are welcome.

PenSPRA's Annual Symposium, Friday April 8th in Shippensburg, PA
PenSPRA, or the Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association, has developed a powerhouse line-up of speakers and topics for a captivating day of professional development in Shippensburg on April 8th. Learn to master data to defeat your critics, use stories to clarify your district's brand and take your social media efforts to the next level with a better understanding of metrics and the newest trends.  Join us the evening before the Symposium for a “Conversation with Colleagues” from 5 – 6 pm followed by a Networking Social Cocktail Hour from 6 – 8 pm.  Both the Symposium Friday and the social events on Thursday evening will be held at the Shippensburg University Conference Center. Snacks at the social hour, and Friday’s breakfast and lunch is included in your registration cost. $125 for PenSPRA members and $150 for non-members. Learn more about our speakers and topics and register today at this link:

The Network for Public Education 3rd Annual National Conference April 16-17, 2016 Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Network for Public Education is thrilled to announce the location for our 3rd Annual National Conference. On April 16 and 17, 2016 public education advocates from across the country will gather in Raleigh, North Carolina.  We chose Raleigh to highlight the tremendous activist movement that is flourishing in North Carolina. No one exemplifies that movement better than the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, who will be the conference keynote speaker. Rev. Barber is the current president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the National NAACP chair of the Legislative Political Action Committee, and the founder of Moral Mondays.

2016 PA Educational Leadership Summit July 24-26 State College
Summit Sponsors: PA Principals Association - PA Association of School Administrators - PA Association of Middle Level Educators - PA Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development 
The 2016 Educational Leadership Summit, co-sponsored by four leading Pennsylvania education associations, provides an excellent opportunity for school district administrative teams and instructional leaders to learn, share and plan together at a quality venue in "Happy Valley." 
Featuring Grant Lichtman, author of EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education, Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera (invited), and Dana Lightman, author of POWER Optimism: Enjoy the Life You Have... Create the Success You Want, keynote speakers, high quality breakout sessions, table talks on hot topics and district team planning and job alike sessions provides practical ideas that can be immediately reviewed and discussed at the summit before returning back to your district.   Register and pay by April 30, 2016 for the discounted "early bird" registration rate:

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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