Sunday, May 1, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 1: NYT: Money, Race and Success: How Your School District Compares

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3900 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 May 1, 2016:
NYT: Money, Race and Success: How Your School District Compares

Rally in Harrisburg with the Campaign for Fair Education Funding on May 2nd 12:30 Main Rotunda!  We're rallying for a permanent fair funding formula + increases to basic education in 2016-17 budget
Public schools in Pennsylvania are a far cry from the “thorough and efficient” system of education promised guaranteed under our state constitution. That’s why we want YOU to join Education Law Center and members of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding in Harrisburg on May 2nd! Buses of supporters are leaving from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia - please register below so we can help you arrive on time for the 12:30 press conference in the Main Rotunda! Questions? Email for more details.

Wishing a long hot shower to all those running Broad Street or the Pittsburgh Marathon in the rain this morning……

Our Opinion: Ensure your vote counts; push for election reforms in Pennsylvania
Times Leader Editorial April 30, 2016
To promote voting and preserve confidence in the process, Pennsylvania better revamp its election rules.  Observers of last week’s presidential primary found plenty of flaws and much about which to be disillusioned, and, no, we’re not talking about the candidates. From a confusing delegate-selection process, which conceivably can render meaningless the will of average voters, to the lack of modern conveniences, such as early voting, the Keystone State sticks out among its peers like a horse-drawn buggy at a NASCAR starting line. Ill-suited. Archaic. A total letdown.  Is it any wonder, aside from a presidential-year Trump-like bump, that voter participation continues to edge lower?  Pennsylvania only last year made the leap to online voter registration. Next, voters in both major political parties, and others, should insist that party officials as well as the state’s elected lawmakers act to bring the rest of the voting process into the 21st century. Make it modern. Make it transparent. And most of all, make it fair.

Money, Race and Success: How Your School District Compares
Sixth graders in the richest school districts are four grade levels ahead of children in the poorest districts.
We’ve long known of the persistent and troublesome academic gap between white students and their black and Hispanic peers in public schools.  We’ve long understood the primary reason, too: A higher proportion of black and Hispanic children come from poor families. A new analysis of reading and math test score data from across the country confirms just how much socioeconomic conditions matter.  Children in the school districts with the highest concentrations of poverty score an average of more than four grade levels below children in the richest districts.  Even more sobering, the analysis shows that the largest gaps between white children and their minority classmates emerge in some of the wealthiest communities, such as Berkeley, Calif.; Chapel Hill, N.C.; and Evanston, Ill. (Reliable estimates were not available for Asian-Americans.)  The study, by Sean F. ReardonDemetra Kalogrides and Kenneth Shores of Stanford, also reveals large academic gaps in places like Atlanta and Menlo Park, Calif., which have high levels of segregation in the public schools.

Achievement Gaps and Racial Segregation: Research Finds an Insidious Cycle
Education Week By Sarah D. Sparks on April 29, 2016 8:54 AM
Fifteen years of new programs, testing, standards, and accountability have not ended racial achievement gaps in the United States.
The Stanford Education Data Archive, a massive new database that allows researchers to compare school districts across state lines has led to the unwelcome finding that racial achievement gaps yawn in nearly every district in the country—and the districts with the most resources in place to serve all students frequently have the worst inequities.   "I think we like to think, 'Here we have this problem, but it's fixable. We know we could figure it out.' It's not clear we've figured it out," said Sean Reardon, a professor of poverty and inequality in education at Stanford University. "There's some deep ... problems that we as a society haven't faced up to yet."  This morning, Reardon and his Stanford colleagues Demetra Kalogrides and Kenneth Shores released the first in an ongoing series of studies based on the new data. The new studies shine a light on how racial disparities in education differ throughout the country—and how school segregation widens the gaps among students.`  The Stanford researchers and Harvard University education professor Andrew Ho linked state tests' scale scores to the scales for National Assessment of Educational Progress in the same grades and subjects, and used it to compare average achievement gap trends for 3rd-8th grade students in more than 11,000 districts across the country from 2009 to 2013.

“DePasquale said the nearly nine-month stalemate that stretched into 2016 drove school districts to borrow a total of just under $1 billion, at an estimated cost of as much as $50 million dollars in interest payments.”
DePasquale warns of costs of stalemate
WITF Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Apr 28, 2016 10:06 PM
The state's top fiscal watchdog says another budget impasse would lead to a "backdoor tax increase" in Pennsylvania.  Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Thursday that if lawmakers and the governor allow another lengthy budget stalemate to take place without "dealing" with the state's projected structural deficit, the commonwealth will receive another credit downgrade, hiking the cost of borrowing.  "Every road project, every school construction project, every time a school district or the state want to take out a loan... that money will not go as far," said DePasquale at a press conference in the Capitol.   Pennsylvania has received multiple credit downgrades over the past few years. Rating agencies have cited the state's growing pension debt, the use of one-time money sources to balance its budget, and, more recently, partisan gridlock.  The auditor general's office plans to monitor the cost of any 2016-17 budget impasse for schools as well as county human services that rely on state funding.

PA Chamber CEO: Final state budget must address the pension crisis
Philadelphia Business Journal by Gene Barr Guest Columnist Apr 29, 2016, 2:01pm EDT
Over the past year and a half, Pennsylvania’s fiscal landscape has been marred by protracted budget battles, repeated credit downgrades and the threat of multi-billion dollar tax increases. Unfortunately, in his 2016-17 budget address Gov. Tom Wolf continued his calls for many of the same tax and spend policies that played a central role in the nine-month 2015-16 budget impasse. In addition to policies that will increase labor costs for Pennsylvania employers, the governor’s budget plan includes $2.7 billion in new and increased taxes on Pennsylvania’s working families and businesses. What it doesn’t include are any significant reforms to address the Commonwealth’s growing cost drivers.  The governor’s proposed $33.29 billion budget calls for a multitude of tax increases, including: a retroactive 11 percent increase in the Personal Income Tax; a retroactive increase in the Bank Shares tax; an additional 6.5 percent tax on the natural gas industry; an expansion of the sales tax base; an increase in the waste removal tax; a monthly cap on the vendors allowance for sales tax; and a new tax on property, casualty and fire insurance; among other tax increases. In a slow-growth economy, these proposals hurt Pennsylvania’s competitive edge and create new barriers to building a better future.

SRC approves 3 Renaissance charters, postpones vote on non-renewals
At the meeting, two charter schools were renewed, and three Mastery charter renewals were withdrawn to work out legal issues.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa April 29, 2016 — 7:59am
The School Reform Commission voted Thursday to turn over three more low-performing District elementary schools to charter operators as part of its Renaissance turnaround initiative -- Jay Cooke in Logan to the Great Oaks Foundation, John Wister in Germantown to Mastery, and Samuel Huey in West Philadelphia to Global Leadership Academy.  At the end of a nearly five-hour meeting, at which more than 60 members of the public spoke, the SRC delayed voting on four existing Renaissance charters recommended for non-renewal: Olney High School and Stetson Middle, run by ASPIRA; and Audenried High and Vare Middle, run by Universal Companies.  The three charter conversions elicited both cheers and jeers from a room packed with both supporters and opponents of the District's policy of using charter operators to turn around low-performing District schools.  

SRC moves forward on 3 Renaissance schools
Inquirer by Mensah M. Dean, Staff Writer Updated: APRIL 29, 2016 — 7:37 AM EDT
The School Reform Commission moved forward Thursday night with plans to turn over three struggling elementary schools to charter operators as part of the Renaissance reform program, but postponed taking action on seven existing charter schools that were seeking renewal agreements.  The decisions came at the end of a five-hour meeting during which audience members at times shouted out their frustrations and suffered having their microphone cutoff when they spoke too long.  The district's five-year-old Renaissance Schools initiative, which aims to transform academically struggling schools by turning them over to charter operators, was front and center at the meeting. The three schools that will become Renaissance schools this fall are Wister, Cooke and Huey Elementary Schools.

The office of Councilwoman Helen Gym reviewed the in-catchment and out-of-catchment data of the six Renaissance charters currently under review. Our findings are as follows:

Commentary: Pa. charters' authorizers need authority
Inquirer Commentary by David Lapp Updated: MAY 1, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
David Lapp is the director of policy research at Research for Action, a Philadelphia-based education organization (
A good charter school law must ensure that authorizers have actual authority over their charter schools.  That's the conclusion to be gleaned from a recently released "performance" audit of the School District of Philadelphia's Charter School Office by state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.  The report finds the district compliant with state law "in all significant respects" on charter authorization, but suggests changes are needed to ensure quality.  DePasquale said three of his four main findings were "beyond the control" of the district and primarily attributable to weaknesses in the state charter school law, which he called "simply the worst" in the nation.

 “When comparing the cost of tuition to Penn State, Bellefonte students with qualifying scores saved in total last year about $250,000, Bellefonte Area High School Principal Jen Brown said.  In the past five years, Bellefonte Area students scored a 3 or higher on 365 AP Exams for a total college savings of about $756,645, based on the Penn State rate, Brown said.” 
Advanced Placement classes help students get head start on college
  • Taking Advanced Placement classes could save families hundreds of dollars before their children head to college
  • AP credits can be transferred to universities for college credit
  • Bellefonte Area awarded for its AP program
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO APRIL 30, 2016 6:42 PM
When Julia Stone attends Purdue University in the fall, she could enter her freshman year with enough credits to graduate early.  Classmate Chauncey Blakeslee is in a similar situation.  And it all has to do with participating in Bellefonte Area School District’s Advanced Placement program.  They said taking AP classes was hard work, but when it comes to the costs-saving aspect, it was all worth it.  After all, the cost to take an AP exam is $92.  Many colleges and universities accept AP class credits to be transferred as college credits as long as the student has an eligible test score per university requirements.  At Penn State in the 2015-16 academic year, the cost per credit for in-state residents is $691 up to 12 credits, Undergraduate Admissions Marketing and Communications Director David Gildea said.

Chester County Student Forum lobbying for more sleep
Delco Times By Eric Devlin, on Twitter
POSTED: 05/01/16, 5:55 AM EDT
Downingtown >> Matthew Daniels and Chris Arencibia are among a group of Chester County students who may be well on their way to helping tackle a nationwide problem. Across the country, millions of teens are not getting the recommended amount of sleep they need, due in large part to the early start times at their schools. They’re trying to fix that.  “We’re supposed to get over nine-and-a-quarter hours of sleep,” said Daniels, a junior at Unionville High School. “Our students sometimes don’t even get four or five.”  “It’s a growing problem,” said Arencibia, a senior at Avon Grove High School.  Fewer than one in five middle and high schools in the U.S. began the school day at the recommended 8:30 a.m. start time or later during the 2011-2012 school year, according to data published in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality report. Too-early start times can keep students from getting the sleep they need for health, safety and academic success, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

A revealing new twist in the Common Core state standards controversy
Washington Post By Valerie Strauss April 30 at 4:10 PM 
And now we come full circle in the academic standards debate.
A committee in the Michigan Senate has approved a bill that would require the state to drop the Common Core state standards, a move that a number of other states have already made. What’s different with this legislation is what comes next: It requires that the state adopt the standards that Massachusetts used to implement before it adopted the Common Core in 2010. Those old standards were widely considered the best in the country at the time.  Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, Core critics are scrambling to get a referendum on the 2016 ballot asking voters to return to the standards that used to be in place.

Media Matters: Reporting on Corporate Reform and Omitting Walton, Gates, and Broad
Deutsch29 Blog by Mercedes Schneider April 30, 2016
Pam Vogel is the education program director of the nonprofit, Media Matters. She has been with Media Matters since August 2015. Her previous experience includes four months in 2014 as an intern in the office of Vice President Joe Biden. For another six months in 2014, Vogel interned at the Clinton Foundation. Vogel graduated from Whitesboro High School (NY) in 2008; Vasser College in 2012, and Teachers College in 2014.  On April 27, 2016, Vogel published this piece for Media Matters, entitled, “Here Are The Corporations And Right-Wing Funders Backing The Education Reform Movement: A Guide To The Funders Behind A Tangled Network Of Advocacy, Research, Media, And Profiteering That’s Taking Over Public Education.”  Now, from the title, it sounds like Vogel’s piece is exhaustive– “a guide to the funders.” However, as one continues reading, one finds this summation:  Media Matters outlines the many overlapping connections in an echo chamber of education privatization advocacy groups, think tanks, and media outlets that are increasingly funded by a handful of conservative billionaires and for-profit education companies — often without proper disclosure.  Interestingly enough, Vogel’s “many overlapping connections” fails to include the Big Three corporate-reform-purchasing philanthropies: Gates, Walton, and Broad.

Rally in Harrisburg with the Campaign for Fair Education Funding on May 2nd 12:30 Main Rotunda!
Public schools in Pennsylvania are a far cry from the “thorough and efficient” system of education promised guaranteed under our state constitution. That’s why we want YOU to join Education Law Center and members of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding in Harrisburg on May 2nd! Buses of supporters are leaving from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia - please register below so we can help you arrive on time for the 12:30 press conference in the Main Rotunda! Questions? Email for more details.

Join the Pennsylvania Principals Association at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, June 21, 2016, at The Capitol in Harrisburg, PA, for its second annual Principals' Lobby Day.
Pennsylvania Principals Association Monday, March 21, 2016 9:31 AM
 To register, contact Dr. Joseph Clapper at by Tuesday, June 14, 2016. If you need assistance, we will provide information about how to contact your legislators to schedule meetings.
Click here for the informational flyer, which includes important issues to discuss with your legislators.

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:

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC), a statewide children's advocacy organization located in Harrisburg, PA has an immediate full-time opening for an Early Learning and K-12 Education Policy Manager.  PPC's vision is to be one of the top ten states in which to be a child and raise a child. Today, Pennsylvania ranks 17th in the nation for child well-being. Our early learning and K-12 education policy work is focused on ensuring all children enter school ready to learn and that all children have access to high-quality public education. Current initiatives include increasing the number of children served in publicly funded pre-k and implementing a fair basic education formula along with sustained, significant investments in education funding.

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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