Thursday, February 4, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 4: Supremes: Jedi knights in the sky over Harrisburg?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup February 4, 2016:
Supremes: Jedi knights in the sky over Harrisburg?

Pa. high court might force school funding fix
With Democrats in control, the high court might force changes to property tax focused school funding.
York Daily Record Opinion by Charlie Bacas, Guest Writer12:47 p.m. EST February 3, 2016
Charlie Bacas retired as co-owner of a software tool company, was formerly chief of staff to the state House Majority Leader, has lived in York City for 50 years and is a Democrat. 
As Pennsylvania’s toxic state budget impasse, now more than 200 days old, careens into this 2016 election year, it is clear that the people of Pennsylvania are in need of a squadron of Jedi knights to come swooping in on their X-wing fighters to rescue them.  Hold that thought: only now picture those Jedi knights in the robes of Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justices, because I’m here to tell you that the X-wing fighters are already in the sky over Harrisburg and that there’s every likelihood that the funding of public schools in Pennsylvania – the crux of the on-going budget battle – could well feel the impact of a stunning Supreme Court decision sometime later this year.

"The legislation passed the General Assembly unanimously."
SB880: Pa. pushes back graduation-test requirement
Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis, HARRISBURG BUREAU. Updated: FEBRUARY 3, 2016 — 4:20 PM EST
HARRISBURG - Gov. Wolf signed a bill Wednesday that would delay for two years the use of high-school graduation exams, thus allowing time to study whether such tests should be a requirement.  The bill would make the 2018-19 school year the earliest the state could administer the so-called Keystone Exams, which have been marked by logistical and cost issues and criticized as being overly burdensome on school districts.  "While we should have high academic and educational standards in the commonwealth," Wolf said, the state needs to look at Keystone alternatives.  "My administration is currently engaging teachers, administrators and students, community leaders, stakeholders and advocates from around the state to develop a comprehensive school accountability system that will support schools and help Pennsylvania students succeed," he said.

Governor approves delay for Keystone exams in Pa.
The Keystone exams are officially on the back burner.
Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday signed into law a plan to delay the controversial high school requirement for Pennsylvania students.  The tests in algebra, biology, and literature were created in 2009.  They were intended to show colleges and employers that a Pennsylvania high school diploma is backed up by high academic standards. But critics say some schools didn't have the resources to prepare students for exams, re-dos, and cumbersome alternative assessments.
Wolf called the tests "flawed" and pointed to the Legislature's unanimous support for postponing the graduation requirement.

VIDEO: Wolf signs bill to delay the implementation of the Keystone Exams
The PLS Reporter Author: Alanna Koll/Wednesday, February 3, 2016 Video runtime: 1:54
Governor Wolf signed SB 880 into law which delays the state's end-of-course tests, known as Keystone Exams, until the 2018-19 school year. 

Keystone Exam graduation requirement delayed
Graduation requirements to be determined by district leaders, not state officials
Keystone Exams, however, will still be a part of district assessments
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO February 3, 2016
A bill signed by the governor Wednesday morning is taking weight off the shoulders of some local school district administrators, teachers, students and parents.  Superintendents said it’s allowing graduation requirements to be determined by school leaders, instead of state officials, and saving taxpayers money in the meantime.  Senate Bill 880 delays the graduation requirement associated with the Keystone Exams for two years, until the 2018-19 school year.  The Keystones are a set of tests for secondary school students that measure algebra, biology and literacy, and are intended to prepare students for college and the workforce.

Pennsylvania scores low on national report card
Doylestown Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer Posted: February 3, 2016 6:00 am
If Pennsylvania was a student, it would be held over for summer school.
The commonwealth received an overall grade of D in a report released Tuesday by the Network for Public Education titled "Valuing Public Education: A 50 State Report Card."  With a grade-point average of 1.5, Pennsylvania tied for 27th place with Delaware, Michigan and Utah in the bottom half of the rankings.  "We think the report is very comprehensive," said Mark Miller, a member of NPE's board of directors and the committee that put together the 31-page report. "The government is always looking to evaluate school teachers and everyone else. From our viewpoint, this report is what would be best for every student."  Iowa, Nebraska and Vermont had the highest GPA of 2.5, a solid C. Mississippi, with a 0.50, scored lowest, though seven other states also received an F.  The NPE, which has campaigned against high-stakes testing, the privatization of public education and charter schools, was started in 2013 by its president, Diane Ravitch.

Pennsylvania schools struggle to plan for 2016-17 without state budget
Trib Live BY ELIZABETH BEHRMAN  | Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
Bart Rocco, superintendent of the Elizabeth Forward School District, doesn't know how he's going to make payroll in April.  The district received about $7 million in emergency funds from the state in early January, but if legislators don't agree on a budget soon, Rocco predicts his district will be out of money again in about two months.  That prospect makes writing a budget for next school year more daunting than usual, he said.  “It's extremely challenging,” Rocco said. “It makes it extremely difficult to operate our business when the state legislature doesn't come to the table and give us some help.”  School districts are required under state law to submit their finalized budgets for the 2016-17 school year by June. But because the annual budgets are largely based on what districts received the previous year, the budget impasse has left district leaders with many unanswered questions as they attempt to make projections for next year.
“It's a double-whammy,” said Steve Robinson, spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. “They worked in the dark before. Now they're working in the pitch dark.”

Lawmakers need to breach party and mend public education woes
Delco Times Letter by Douglas Carney POSTED: 02/03/16, 9:58 PM EST 
Douglas Carney, AIA, MBA, School Board Member and Treasurer, Springfield School District; Public Citizens Concerned for Youth, Board Member;
To the Times:
Last Thursday evening my school board passed our budget for next year as required by ACT 1 in Pennsylvania. That is right; before the state has passed a budget for this year, we are compelled to pass our local budget for next year now! And believe it or not, my suburban district is one of the lucky ones.  Thanks to this seven-month budget stalemate, Pennsylvania state government begins 2016 without a full budget, leaving the short and long term needs of every school – and every student — in serious question.  In the short term, the partial spending plan recently signed by Gov. Tom Wolf will provide about 40-45 percent of the desperately needed FY 2015-2016 funding for schools and human services, but only enough to stave off closures and further cuts for a few months especially in the poorest districts. The deadlock has forced many districts to borrow emergency funds, sadly wasting money on interest payments.

Reed: Prospect of two budgets won’t put off rest of House GOP agenda
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, February 3, 2016
At a Tuesday press availability, House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) said a two-budget scenario won’t preclude his chamber from working on other important issues while fiscal issues remain unresolved.  There’s now less than a week before Gov. Tom Wolf gives his FY 2016-2017 budget address to a joint session of the General Assembly on February 9th and the prospects of the legislature working on completing two budgets at once are getting stronger and stronger with each passing minute.  “I think we now have to operate on a couple of different parallel tracks,” he said. “Obviously, we want to finish 15-16, if we want to get into 16-17, then we have a broader legislative agenda as well and we have a couple of things upcoming that are non-budget related that we’re going to be taking a look at.”  Rep. Reed noted one highest priority will be votes on the House floor to legalize medical marijuana, an event that could occur as soon as the House returns to session in March following its annual round of budget hearings.

Turzai: The compromise budget Gov. Wolf called 'garbage'
Inquirer Opinion By Mike Turzai Updated: FEBRUARY 4, 2016 — 3:01 AM EST
Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) is the speaker of the Pennsylvania House.
A more than $13 billion increase in state taxes over two years: That's what Gov. Wolf demanded of Pennsylvania families and businesses almost a year ago. His budget proposal would have increased the state income tax by 21 percent and the sales tax by 10 percent, while expanding the latter to include day care, senior care, and financial and legal services.  In contrast, the legislature presented its fifth straight on-time budget to the governor on June 30, calling for $30.2 billion in spending, a 3.3 percent increase over the 2014-15 budget. It included $370 million in additional spending on education yet did not raise taxes. Keep in mind that the general rate of inflation was less than 1 percent in 2015, so that level of spending growth was not easy to ask of many members of the legislature.  At the same time, the legislature passed historic public pension reforms to reduce long-term costs to the commonwealth as well as liquor privatization, which would have increased annual state revenues without raising taxes on people or businesses.

Gov. Wolf on Gov. Wolf
York Daily Record by  Flint L. McColgan, fmccolgan@ydr.com6:59 p.m. February 3, 2016
The Democratic Pennsylvania governor from York County reflects on his first year in office.
Gov. Tom Wolf had his share of frustrations in his first year as Pennsylvania's chief executive, but he also said he's had his share of accomplishments.  The Mount Wolf Democrat spoke with the York Daily Record editorial board, along with other editors from USA Today network newsrooms in central Pennsylvania, on Wednesday afternoon.  Here are the biggest takeaways.

"Sure, gridlock is unpopular -- which is why Wolf's approval rating is 33 percent. But most voters rightly blame the state's problems on the legislature, which has an approval rating of just 15 percent. That makes the governor arguably the most popular political figure in Harrisburg -- which is kind of like being the best player on the Phillies right now. Things can only get better. For both."
Attytood: #ConfessYourUnpopularOpinion: Wolf doing a good job
Philly Daily News Attytood Blog by by Will Bunch Updated: FEBRUARY 3, 2016 — 3:37 PM EST
There's a thing that pops up Twitter from time to time under the hashtag,#ConfessYourUnpopularOpinion....a way for folks to express their undying love for Nickelback or the movie Ishtar. Well, here's mine: I think Tom Wolf is doing a good job after one year as Pennsylvania's governor.  I know this is an unpopular opinion because the pollsters tell me that the first-term Democrat has a low approval rating -- pretty close right now to where it was for his predecessor Tom Corbett, who in 2014 was unceremoniously voted out of office by the people. With the state unable to pass a real working budget during 2015, and with school districts and non-profits facing continued uncertainty over how much money they'll get from Harrisburg and when it might come, that's hardly a surprise. According to one recent poll making the rounds, the governor's current approval rating is at 33 percent.  In that case, We...Are...The 33 Percent.  I've been thinking about Wolf and his performance as governor not just because of the new polls but because he came out this week and said he would call for a $200 million 2016-17 boost in state education aid -- even as Harrisburg continues to bicker over how much schools will ultimately get in the current year. Some would -- and did -- say it's a little nuts to call for increasing a budget you haven't fully passed in the first place. I prefer to call it chutzpah...and I like it.

Gov. Tom Wolf calls for $200 million more for schools next year; This year's funding still unresolved
Lancaster Online by Kara Newhouse Staff Writer February 3, 2016
Continuing a pro-education message that got him elected, Gov. Tom Wolf wants to give schools a $200 million funding increase next year.  But the amount of funding the increase would be added to remains unclear, as the Democratic governor and Republican-controlled Legislature have yet to agree on a final budget for the current school year.  In January, after a protracted budget stalemate, Wolf signed a partial state budget of $23.4 billion. The move brought temporary financial relief to school districts and other agencies that depend on state funds to operate.  In Lancaster Countytwo school districts were on the brink of using loans to keep doors open before the January payments arrived. No agreement on the rest of the current year budget has been reached since then.  Wolf announced his plan to add $200 million to basic education funding in 2016-17 during a school visit in Reading on Tuesday. He will give his full budget proposal next Tuesday, Feb. 9, in Harrisburg.

Like Wolf's taxes? Send the state a check for $1,420, Sen. Scott Wagner says: Wednesday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on February 03, 2016 at 8:24 AM, updated February 03, 2016 at 8:26 AM
Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Because we know you to be erudite, well-informed types, you've no doubt seenlast week's Franklin & Marshall poll, finding that a majority of Pennsylvanians (52 percent) blame the Republican-controlled General Assembly for the state's seemingly endless budget saga.
"Poppycock," says Sen. Scott Wagner.   Or at least that's what we'd imagine Wagner would say if he were a merely a figment of Charles Dickens' imagination - rather than an actual Dickens character come to life.  In an an email to supporters last week, the outspoken York County Republican says the F&M poll got it backwards: It's Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, not the Legislature, who is to blame for the impasse that now threatens to trample the roll out of the administration's next budget on Feb. 9.

Bill seeks to give schools options for making up lost days
York Dispatch by Jessica Schladebeck, 505-5438/@JessDispatch4:21 p.m. February 3, 2016
Many students who rejoiced in the wake of the recent blizzard that kept them out of school for days might find themselves stuck in a hot classroom at the end of the school year to make up for them.  A House bill sponsored by Reps. Stan Saylor, R-Red Lion; Seth Grove, R-Dover; and Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, among others, seeks to offer school districts more options when it comes to rescheduling cancellations forced on them by weather and other emergencies.  “The recent snowstorm brought back memories of the 2014-15 school year, which stretched into early summer because of the harsh winter that preceded it,” Saylor stated in a press release. “House Bill 158 would give school superintendents some flexibility as they try to avoid adding an inordinate number of days to the end of the school calendar.”

Kenney launches meetings with school principals
Mayor Kenney has placed education front and center in his administration
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer. Updated: FEBRUARY 4, 2016 — 1:08 AM EST
Todd Kimmel just pocketed something he never imagined he'd possess: the mayor's cellphone number and personal email address.  Kimmel, principal of Hackett Elementary in Kensington, was part of a group of city principals who sat down with Mayor Kenney after school Wednesday at City Hall, the first in a regular series of meetings Kenney plans to hold with school leaders.  During his mayoral campaign, Kenney said that if elected, he would regularly seek out the wisdom of rank-and-file educators who know their schools and communities best. He said he hopes to meet every Philadelphia School District principal, either hosting them at City Hall or meeting with them in the community.  Kenney has placed education front and center in his administration, vowing to move toward universal prekindergarten and to institute 25 community schools, packing buildings with social, emotional, and recreational resources.
After Wednesday's meeting, Kenney praised the principals, calling them "good, hardworking, committed public servants."

Study: Philly Support for Public Schools Is on the Rise
Residents pay an above-average portion of their income to keep schools in business.
Phillymag/Citified BY JOEL MATHIS  |  FEBRUARY 3, 2016 AT 3:49 PM
There is a perception in some circles that the City of Philadelphia has been less than generous when it comes to public schools. But maybe it’s time to rethink that view.
new report from Temple University’s Center on Regional Politics suggests the city has dramatically boosted its financial support for schools in recent years — and that the city’s oft-impoverished residents are carrying a heavier-than-expected tax burden as a result.
The study, "How Well Does Philadelphia Support Its Public Schools? A New Perspective," avoids concluding that the city "does more than it gets credit for doing." But it highlights important data:
  • Philadelphia's financial contribution to public schools grew by nearly 28 percent between 2011 and 2014. (Citified noted this dramatic boost last year.) The average Pennsylvania school district saw its local support rise just 7 percent during the same time period; only two of the state's 499 districts saw a bigger proportional increase.
  • In a comparison with 20 other big U.S. cities, Philadelphia ranked eighth in its share of local tax dollars dedicated to education — roughly 29 percent. "Memphis, Fort Worth, Nashville, and Chicago had rates very close to Philadelphia's," the study's authors wrote. "Dallas, Pittsburgh and Boston topped the list with rates around 34% or more."
  • Similarly, the city sits in the middle of the pack — 10th — in a comparison of per capita local spending on schools. The city spent $666 per citizen on public schools.
  • Thanks to the city's deep poverty, however, that spending was a bigger burden on local citizens: The city spent $30.87 on local schools for every $1,000 that its residents earned — ranking Philly fifth in that measurement.
What's more, those figures in the last three bullet points all come from 2011. They don't take into account the city’s efforts since then.

Ed Voters' Gobreski named to head mayor's push for community schools
the notebook by Dale Mezzacappa February 3, 2016 — 9:51am
Susan Gobreski, director of Education Voters PA, will join the Mayor's Office of Education as community schools director.  Mayor Kenney will make the announcement today.  Gobreski is a longtime public education advocate who, at Education Voters PA, has advocated for fair and adequate state education funding.   Kenney has said that he wants to create 25 community schools in Philadelphia -- schools that serve as neighborhood hubs, offering health, social, recreational, civic, and cultural services to families and children. Community schools rely heavily on establishing partnerships with organizations and service providers to operate within school buildings.  The concept has shown some success in other cities, including Cincinnati, and has been enthusiastically embraced by Kenney, City Council President Darrell Clarke, and the teachers' union as a counter strategy to closing traditional neighborhood schools and expanding charters.  But there is no single blueprint. Part of Gobreski's task will be to define exactly what a community school in Philadelphia looks like and how to make each one responsive to its particular neighborhood. 

Kenney taps education activist to lead development of community schools in Philly
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has appointed a second education activist to help implement his schools agenda.   On Tuesday, Susan Gobreski was named community schools director. It'll be her job to oversee the expansion of the concept, which aims to make school buildings neighborhood hubs for education, but also things such as medical care, social services and cultural programs.  Kenney wants to create 25 community schools by the end of his first term.  "Susan's longstanding commitment to improving our city's schools coupled with her expertise in community engagement made her an obvious choice for this role," said Kenney in a statement.  Before joining Kenney's team, Gobreski was executive director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania, a nonprofit created, in part, to push politicians to improve public schools.

Kenney picks activist to be his community schools director
Inquirer Staff Report Updated: FEBRUARY 3, 2016 — 8:41 AM EST
Mayor Kenney on Tuesday appointed public education activist Susan Gobreski to the new position of director of Community Schools in the Mayor's Office of Education.  In a statement, the mayor's office said Gobreski will oversee the expansion of community schools in Philadelphia.  Besides educating children, community schools are supposed to be hubs for a range of community services, including health care and social welfare.  In her most recent position, Gobreski was executive director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania and Education Voters Action Fund.  The mayor's office said Gobreski "has spent the last decade directing policy development, community outreach campaigns, and other initiatives to support and strengthen public education."  She also has served as president of Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania Advocates and was Pennsylvania state director and national campaign director for the League of Conservation Voters.  Gobreski, who is completing a master's degree in Urban Education Policy at Temple University, is married and has three children. One is in college and the other two attend Philadelphia public schools.

Philly Commission outlines $60M-a-year pre-K plan
Report: Philadelphia’s potential is held back without high-quality pre-K accessible to all.
the notebook by Fabiola Cineas February 3, 2016 — 3:54pm
The mayor’s commission on universal pre-kindergarten released a draft report that cites a $60 million annual price tag and makes it clear that unprecedented public and private cooperation will be necessary to reach a goal of providing a high-quality experience to all eligible students.  The 17-member commission, comprised of educators, early childhood education experts, and city officials, was tasked with drafting a plan for high-quality universal pre-kindergarten in Philadelphia.  The draft report comes after months of digging into scientific research on child development and the effects of high-quality early education. The commission, approved by voters last spring, studied similar pre-K expansion efforts across the country and spoke with parents, child care workers, and community members.  

"With the backing of the Turkish government, Amsterdam also has focused on a network of about 150 publicly funded U.S. charter schools started by Gulen's followers. State and federal authorities have probed some of the schools amid allegations of financial mismanagement and visa fraud, though no criminal charges have been filed."
Poconos-based Muslim cleric's lawyers want US suit backed by Turkey tossed
Morning Call by MICHAEL RUBINKAM February 3, 2016
Attorneys for a reclusive Muslim cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania asked a federal judge late Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit that claims he orchestrated human rights abuses in his native Turkey, denouncing it as “pure political theater” by the Turkish government.  Turkey is believed to be funding the U.S. civil suit against Fethullah Gulen as part of a crackdown on the cleric and his movement by President Recep Erdogan.  The suit contends Gulen ordered sympathetic police, prosecutors and judges in Turkey to target members of a rival spiritual movement critical of his teachings.  His lawyers called it a baseless accusation.  “This lawsuit is pure political theater and a misuse of American judicial resources. It is the brainchild of the Turkish government and part of a broad campaign to silence Mr. Gulen, one of the strongest voices for peace and moderation in the Muslim world,” the attorneys said in a filing Wednesday night.

"The results are, in a word, sobering. The CREDO study found that over the course of a school year, the students in virtual charters learned the equivalent of 180 fewer days in math and 72 fewer days in reading than their peers in traditional charter schools, on average.
This is stark evidence that most online charters have a negative impact on students' academic achievement. The results are particularly significant because of the reach and scope of online charters: They currently enroll some 200,000 children in 200 schools operating across 26 states. If virtual charters were grouped together and ranked as a single school district, it would be the ninth-largest in the country and among the worst-performing.  Funders, educators, policymakers, and parents cannot in good conscience ignore the fact that students are falling a full year behind their peers in math and nearly half a school year in reading, annually. For operators and authorizers of these schools to do nothing would constitute nothing short of educational malpractice."
Walton Family Foundation: We Must Rethink Online Learning
Education Week Commentary By Marc Sternberg & Marc Holley Published Online: January 26, 2016
Marc Sternberg is the director of education giving at the Walton Family Foundation. Marc Holley is the foundation's evaluation-unit director. Education Week receives grant support from the foundation for news coverage of issues related to school choice.
By its very definition, innovation will always lead to some failed starts. And when that innovation involves educating children, it's especially important to learn from mistakes and adjust quickly.
The Walton Family Foundation has invested more than $385 million in creating new charter schools over more than two decades to seed educational innovation and improve U.S. education at scale. The foundation has allocated a small fraction of that investment—about $550,000—to virtual charter schools, which teach full-time students exclusively online.  We remain strong believers in creating educational options and opportunities. We have provided startup dollars to about a quarter of the charter schools in the United States, all with the goal of creating opportunity for high-needs students, and we recently committed to investing another $1 billion over the next five years to expand access to high-quality educational choices. In recent years, we have hoped that online charter schools could provide a lifeline for some students. But while we were enthusiastic about supporting online education entrepreneurs, our first priority is always making sure that students are served well.

Nation’s charter schools aren’t growing as fast as once thought (but here’s where they’re growing fastest)
Washington Post By Emma Brown February 3 at 3:32 PM  
The National Alliance of Public Charter Schools estimates in a new report that 2.9 million children now attend U.S. charter schools, up 9 percent from the last school year.  Take that with a grain of salt: The same organization estimated a year ago that enrollment had already reached 2.9 million, a figure that turned out to be off by a couple hundred thousand students. So in 2015, charter school enrollment didn’t grow by 14 percent, as the National Alliance (and The Washington Post) reported, but by closer to 7 percent.

L.A. Times: How a Lincoln High teacher gets all his students to pass the AP Calculus exam
Lincoln High teacher Anthony Yom worked in virtual obscurity until the news last week that one of his students was among only 12 in the world to slay the Advanced Placement Calculus exam with a perfect score.
Los Angeles Times by Steve Lopez Contact Reporter February 3, 2016
Yom, as the students call their Lincoln High calculus teacher, is at the blackboard with marker in hand.  He can't be stopped.  Left to right he works, light on his feet, flicking out triangles, stacking towers of numbers, turning Room 754 into a gallery of cave art.  And here's the really impressive part:  Every student is locked in. There's no daydreaming or goofing.  Twenty-five youngsters watch and listen as a smiling Anthony Yom takes his pre-calculus class on a right-angle trigonometry thrill ride through a maze of sines and cosines, out to prove that three squared plus five squared is going to equal H squared, or the world is off its axis.  "I am done teaching," Yom finally says before starting students on their own problem-solving missions. "You need to get to work now."  As they dig pencils into paper, Alexis Pong, a sophomore, tells me it's challenging work, but fun, too. And she has this to say about Yom's way:  "He challenges us to the max, so we do better on tests."  Yom is 35, has been teaching at Lincoln since he was 24, and still looks young enough to run for class president.

Dad: My state now requires 11th graders to take the SAT. Not my daughter.
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss February 3 at 11:02 AM  
A number of states are now mandating that all high school juniors take a college admissions test — the SAT or the ACT, depending on the state — as the standardized exam used to meet federal “accountability” requirements. And it appears that more states will follow suit in what could be a big change in the nation’s standardized testing landscape.  Education Week reports that the U.S. Department of Education has given seven states permission to use the ACT or the SAT for federal accountability purposes, with Arkansas, Wisconsin and Wyoming using the former, and Colorado, Connecticut, Maine and New Hampshire using the latter. (Colorado had been using the ACT — which overtook the SAT as the most popular college admissions test in 2012 — but just changed to the SAT.)  There are several reasons driving the change.  Most states have in the past five years adopted the Common Core State Standards, or standards that are similar, and introduced new standardized exams that are used to evaluate students, teachers and schools. These newly designed Core-aligned standardized tests have been controversial in many places, and their online administration has been difficult. The ACT and the newly designed SAT, which is debuting in March, are said to be aligned to the Core.
Does it make sense to require juniors to take a college admissions test for federal accountability purposes? Proponents say yes, especially for states in which college readiness is an important marker of academic achievement. But critics say that not all high school students are aiming to go to college, and using a test for one purpose when it is designed for another is a bad idea.  Here’s a post from one father in Connecticut who is refusing to allow his daughter to take the SAT for federal accountability purposes. He is Jonathan Pelto, a former Democratic Party member of the Connecticut House of Representatives who now provides commentary on politics and public policy at his blog, “Wait, What?” A longer version of this post appeared on that blog, and I am publishing it with permission.

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 2-4-16

Testing Resistance & Reform News: January 27 - February 2, 2016
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on February 2, 2016 - 1:00pm 
Mounting grassroots pressure is beginning to force state and local policy makers to take advantage of their new flexibility under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act to roll back standardized exam overuse use and misuse.  FairTest's basic goals remain unchanged: many fewer tests; no high-stakes; support for better assessments.

Public Interest Law Center: Discipline, Truancy and More
Philadelphia, PA Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016 from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM
This seminar is designed to address disciplinary issues. The presentation will include disciplinary rights of students not yet identified for special education services or 504 plans; the disciplinary rights of students with IEPs and 504 plans, and an advocate’s view of assisting families with truancy issues.  Tickets range from $50 (webinar) to $200 (private attorneys), and there is a "Pay What You Can Option" so that no one is turned away from this important program. 
CLE credit is available for attorneys licensed in Pennsylvania that attend the seminar in person.
Questions? Contact Michael at or call 267.546.1303.

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.

PSBA call for volunteers: ESSA Study Group; Respond by Feb. 5th
On March 2 and 3, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association will convene an ESSA Study Group to examine the federal statute and provide recommendations on how best to implement the law in Pennsylvania. The group will include four workgroups to draft a white paper for submission to PDE and the General Assembly. The group will divide their work into the following areas:
  • Schools identified as falling in to the “bottom 5%”
  • Assessment
  • Teacher Evaluation
  • Charter school issues and solutions
The ESSA Study Group will be chaired by PSBA President Kathy Swope and each subgroup will be led by a team of co-facilitators.
Each subgroup will consist of:
  • 10 school directors
  • 3 superintendents (1 rural, 1 suburban and 1 urban)
  • 3 school principals (1 HS, 1 MS and 1 elementary)
  • 2 representatives from district staff (business manager, guidance, curriculum, etc.)
  • 2 representatives from other public education groups (EPLC, PASA, charter school, etc.)
  • Support/content experts as identified
Our two-day meeting will take place at the Harrisburg Hilton beginning at 10 a.m. on March 2 and concluding at approximately 2 p.m. on March 3. PSBA will provide all participants with a travel stipend, all meals and overnight accommodations.
Please send an email stating your interest in serving to PSBA Executive Director Nathan G. Mains ( by this Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. Selected group participants will be notified next week.

"Southeastern Region Forum Series"Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Networking and Coffee - 9:30 a.m. Program - 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Penn Center for Educational Leadership (5th Floor)
University of Pennsylvania - 3440 Market Street Philadelphia, PA 19104-3325
SUBJECT: Governor Wolf's Proposed Education Budget for 2016-2017
An Overview of the Proposed 2016-2017 State Budget and Education Issues Will Be Provided By:
Representative of The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
Ron Cowell, President, The Education Policy and Leadership Center
Statewide and Regional Perspectives Will Be Provided By:
Donna Cooper, Executive Director, Public Citizens for Children and Youth
Deborah Gordon Klehr, Executive Director, Education Law Center
Dr. George Steinhoff, Superintendent, Penn Delco School District
One or more representatives of other statewide and regional organizations are still to be confirmed.
RSVP for Southeastern Forum on-line at

"Capital Region Forum Series" Thursday, February 11, 2016
Continental Breakfast - 8:00 a.m. Program - 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Harrisburg Hilton Hotel - Two North Second Street Harrisburg, PA 17101
SUBJECT: Governor Wolf's Proposed Education Budget for 2016-2017
An Overview of the Proposed 2016-2017 State Budget and Education Issues Will Be Provided By:
Representative of The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
Ron Cowell, President, The Education Policy and Leadership Center
Statewide and Regional Perspectives Will Be Provided By:
Dr. Brian Barnhart, Executive Director, Lancaster-Lebanon IU #13
Thomas Gluck, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units
Representatives of other statewide and regional organizations are still to be confirmed.
While there is no registration fee, seating is limited and an RSVP is required.
RSVP for Harrisburg Forum on-line at 

PSBA New School Director Training Remaining Locations:
  • Scranton area — Feb. 6 Abington Heights SD, Clarks Summit
  • North Central area —Feb. 13 Mansfield University, Mansfield
PSBA New School Director Training
School boards who will welcome new directors after the election should plan to attend PSBA training to help everyone feel more confident right from the start. This one-day event is targeted to help members learn the basics of their new roles and responsibilities. Meet the friendly, knowledgeable PSBA team and bring everyone on your “team of 10” to get on the same page fast.
  • $150 per registrant (No charge if your district has a LEARN PassNote: All-Access members also have LEARN Pass.)
  • One-hour lunch on your own — bring your lunch, go to lunch, or we’ll bring a box lunch to you; coffee/tea provided all day
  • Course materials available online or we’ll bring a printed copy to you for an additional $25
  • Registrants receive one month of 100-level online courses for each registrant, after the live class

Save the Dates for These 2016 Annual EPLC Regional State Budget Education Policy Forums
Sponsored by The Education Policy and Leadership Center
Thursday, February 11 - 8:30-11:00 a.m. - Harrisburg
Wednesday, February 17 - 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. - Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania)
Thursday, February 25 - 8:30-11:00 a.m. - Pittsburgh
Invitation and more details in January

Attend the United Opt Out Conference in Philadelphia February 26-28
United Opt Out: The Movement to End Corporate Reform will hold its annual conference on Philadelphia from February 26-28.

Save the Date | PBPC Budget Summit March 3rd
Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
The 2015-2016 budget remains in a state of limbo. But it's time to start thinking about the 2016-17 budget. The Governor will propose his budget for next year in early February.
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center will hold our annual Budget Summit on March 3rd. Save the date and 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, the environment and local communities.  And, of course, if the 2015-2016 budget is not complete by then, we will also be talking about the various alternatives still under consideration.
As in year's past, this year's summit will be at the Hilton Harrisburg.  Register today!

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

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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