Wednesday, May 4, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 4: NAEP: “a decade of test-driven school “reform” resulted in no academic progress.”

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup May 4, 2016:
NAEP: “a decade of test-driven school “reform” resulted in no academic progress.”

See guest PA Sec of Education Pedro Rivera next Sunday May 8 at 3:00 pm on EPLC's "Focus on Education" on PCN

Broken Pa. charter-school law must be fixed | Opinion
Express-Times guest columnist  By James Roebuck Jr. on May 03, 2016 at 12:00 PM, updated May 03, 2016 at 12:07 PM
Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale recently said our state has the nation's worst charter school law. As Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, I agree. I have introduced legislation to reform this nearly 20-year-old law and bring much-needed accountability in performance and finances to these tax-funded, privately run schools.  The state law that authorized charters hasn't been reformed since it passed in 1997. It's just common sense to revisit a major law, especially when significant problems are apparent.  Some Pennsylvania charter schools are doing a good job of educating children and managing taxpayer dollars, but it's hard to miss the evidence of the need for reforming others.

Educators Call for Permanent Funding Formula
Advocates are asking for $400 million in new school funding.
Public News Service May 4, 2016
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Education advocates traveled to Harrisburg this week to tell lawmakers that schools need to be fully funded in the next state budget.  In the budget that was finally adopted for the current fiscal year, the Legislature did apply the bipartisan funding formula educators have requested for years. But Deborah Gordon Klehr, executive director of the Education Law Center, said the formula is only as good as the money that goes into it, "which is why we now need the General Assembly to take the next step and appropriate more dollars to go through the basic education funding formula in the next year."  The funding formula, which was put in place through the state's fiscal code, only applies to the current budget year, which ends June 30, but advocates want the formula to be made permanent.

Lawmakers: Schools should receive state funds in case of budget stalemate
Lancaster Online by SAM JANESCH | Staff WriterMay 4, 2016
If two Lancaster County lawmakers have their way, Pennsylvania schools will not suffer in the event of another budget deadlock in Harrisburg.  In 2015, when the state budget battle was just starting, a pair of Lancaster County lawmakers saw the writing on the wall and penned legislation to keep schools funded even if a state budget is delayed.  One year later — including nine months of starving public schools of most funding — that legislation is starting to make moves in the Capitol.  State Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Landisville, and state Rep. David Hickernell, R-West Donegal, introduced identical bills last spring that would allow schools to be funded at the same level as the previous year if a state budget is not passed by Aug. 15, a month and a half after the annual budget deadline.  Hickernell, whose bill was approved by a House committee this week, said schools would receive a first batch of emergency funds as the Legislature and the governor negotiate final spending numbers.  “We would not have to worry about schools closing, school districts having to borrow money when their subsidies are basically sitting in the state Treasury,” Hickernell said.  The idea faces opposition from Democrats who say keeping education funding flat is not realistic when payroll expenses and construction costs increase annually, said House Democrats spokesman Bill Patton.  “The school funding question is front and center every year, but this plan would make it harder to find common ground, not easier,” Patton said, adding that “the dynamic tension and urgency that occurs in budget talks usually leads to a resolution rather than a stalemate.”

Bethlehem Area looks at breaking down barriers for poor and minority students
Daryl Nerl Special to The Morning Call May 3, 2016
Bethlehem Area schools aim to achieve "excellence through equity."
BETHLEHEM — Race and family income should not be a predictor of how well a child performs in school, yet administrators in the Bethlehem Area School District understand that black, Hispanic and poor students often lag behind their peers.  A new report discussed Monday during the school board's Curriculum Committee meeting lays out a plan to address the issues that hold back students because of their socioeconomic status.  Among the suggestions is to evaluate the system of transportation that serves the district, which might hinder some students' ability to participate in before-school, after-school and weekend activities.  Another is to analyze fees and other costs that might be a barrier for economically disadvantaged students to participation in clubs, sports and other school-based activities and work to eliminate them.  Other suggestions include encouraging more students to stretch their abilities and personalize their academic experience by providing more support for them to do so, and making district schools more welcoming environments for minority and economically disadvantaged parents.  The 18-page report on the "Excellence through Equity" plan was the culmination of an effort launched a year ago by Superintendent Joseph Roy and Assistant Superintendent Jack Silva, who put together a committee of community and district stakeholders to research, debate and make recommendations.

Shenandoah Valley writes letter to governor, legislators on education funding
Republican Herald BY JOHN E. USALIS Published: May 4, 2016
SHENANDOAH — The Shenandoah Valley school board and district administration will send a message to Harrisburg that it is time to adequately fund education.  The need for proper funding of education programs, operations and other costs is something that rears its head at this time of the year when school districts are preparing their budgets for the next fiscal year, with the next one beginning July 1. Acting Superintendent Anthony P. Demalis, who is also the district’s business manager, knows all about deficits and watches them grow from year to year.  On April 27, the school board tentatively adopted the budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year with a real estate tax increase of 2.08 mills, which will bring in more than $140,000. Even with the increase, it will still be necessary to tap the fund balance, which Demalis said cannot continue forever.  At the beginning of the April meeting, Demalis read in its entirety a four-page letter that will be sent this week to Gov. Tom Wolf and members of the state legislature. The letter begins with an invitation to visit the school district.

The single-biggest increase in 2016-17 spending is the district's share of pension contributions, a rate that will jump from 25.84 percent this year to 30.03 percent next year. That equates to a roughly $1 million increase in district-paid, state-mandated benefits.
Franklin Regional to vote on budget that calls for tax increase
Trib Live BY PATRICK VARINE  | Tuesday, May 3, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
Franklin Regional school board members will vote May 16 on a proposed 2016-17 budget that includes a 0.75-mill tax hike.  A proposed budget developed at a school board workshop in March included a 0.83-mill hike.  Since then, a reduction in the district's contribution to the Northern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center, a $60,000 reduction in expected health care premiums, and a $320,000 boost in revenue from the 2015-16 state budget that became law in late March has improved the district's finances.  Finance Director Jon Perry estimated that the district will have a roughly $11 million general fund balance at the end of June. Of that, $2.7 million is expected to be put into a capital reserve fund and $1.2 million will go into a technology fund when the board votes on those measures in two weeks.

Chesco schools ranked in nationwide education analysis
By Adam Farence, Daily Local News POSTED: 05/03/16, 7:41 PM EDT 
Of the nation’s 21,000- plus high schools reviewed by U.S. News & World Report, nine from Chester County received medals with Conestoga High School leading the way.  Partnering with the California based nonprofit, RTI International, schools meeting certain criteria based on items, such as academic performance and graduation rates, had the chance to earn a bronze, silver or gold medal.  Out of the nine high schools in the county to receive a medal, only Conestoga High School received gold.  Of the remaining eight, Bayard Rustin, West Chester East, Henderson, Avon Grove, Unionville, Great Valley and Kennett high schools received silver.
The Downingtown STEM Academy received bronze.

Soda tax again draws heat from Philly City Council
Philadelphia's proposed sugary drinks tax again bubbled up for discussion today during a City Council budget hearing.  Addressing the city's health commissioner, City Council President Darrell Clarke said he doesn't believe a tax on soda and other sugary drinks will generate enough money to support pre-K and other initiatives of the Kenney administration.  "If there are declining revenues, then we will ultimately get to the point where we will have to raise another tax to maintain particularly the level of service that you are proposing which is quite significant," Clarke said.  Councilman Al Taubenberger says he's afraid people will travel outside the city to stock up on sugary drinks.  "We don't live on an island," he said.  "People will actually go to Delaware County, to Montgomery County, to Bucks County, to Gloucester County to Kent County in Delaware to avoid this."  The debate continues with another round of public testimony later this week. City Council is expected to bring up the proposed tax before the end of June.

In the soda-tax fight, money's flowing from Big Soda like a Big Gulp
by Mike Newall, Inquirer Columnist Updated: MAY 1, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
Let's do the math.
In San Francisco, in 2014, the beverage industry spent $10 million to defeat a popular soda tax put in front of voters to raise money for city schools, health programs, and parks.
That comes out to about $11 spent by Big Soda for each resident of the Golden City.
In Philadelphia, the beverage industry, according to the latest spending numbers obtained by the Inquirer, has already poured more than $2.6 million into the avalanche of misleading ads (it's not a grocery tax!) blanketing our airwaves against the tax designed to fund universal pre-K programs, build community schools and repair crumbling recreation centers.
Here's the catch - this time around, the beverage barons only have to win over City Council. There are 17 Council members, so that comes out to about $152,000 in ad dollars each.

Push for sugary drinks tax in Philadelphia gets boost from Bloomberg
An effort to pass a tax on soda and other sugary drinks in Philadelphia is getting a boost from Michael Bloomberg.  The wealthy former mayor of New York City is chipping in for an ad campaign to promote the proposed 3-cents-per-ounce tax as a way to pay for early childhood education and other initiatives.  Philadelphians for a Fair Future, the pro-tax nonprofit, will not disclose how much Bloomberg is giving to the effort, but said the total ad buy is worth $825,000. A second funding source is the Action Now Initiative, a nonprofit bankrolled by Texas philanthropists Laura and John Arnold.   The commercial (which can be seen here) will run on broadcast television for at least the next three weeks starting Thursday. The campaign will also run radio ads.   It's far less than the more than $2.6 million the soda industry has shelled out so far for ads against the tax, but there could be more cash coming.

Bloomberg joins the sugary-drink-tax campaign
Inquirer by Julia Terruso, Staff Writer Updated: MAY 3, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is backing a campaign to pass a sugary-drinks tax in Philadelphia.  Bloomberg, who tried to ban over-sized sodas in New York as mayor, and provided millions of dollars to support successful soda-tax initiatives in Mexico and Berkeley, Calif., has contributed to the pro-tax nonprofit Philadelphians for a Fair Future, said the group's spokesman, Kevin Feeley.  The nonprofit is launching a $825,000 ad campaign starting Thursday on behalf of Mayor Kenney's plan to enact a three-cents-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks.  Feeley declined to say how much money Bloomberg has contributed.  The ad campaign was also being supported with funds donated by the Action Now Initiative, a nonprofit focused on antiobesity and education issues funded by Houston billionaire couple John and Laura Arnold.  "It's wonderful to have the support of a nationally respected business leader," Kenney said in a statement, referring to Bloomberg. "I'm hopeful these ads will correct the misinformation that the soda industry is spending millions to spread."

Opposition spends big to block sugary-drinks tax
How much have groups for and against the soda tax spent so far on the fight?
Inquirer by Tricia L. Nadolny and Julia Terruso, STAFF WRITERS Updated: MAY 4, 2016 1:08 AM
The American Beverage Association poured $1.5 million into the fight against Mayor Kenney's proposed sugary-drinks tax during the month after the plan was introduced in early March, lobbying reports released Tuesday show.  And that was before the association took its message to television.  "We have and will continue to take the steps necessary to inform Philadelphians about the truth of this grocery-tax proposal," said Anthony Campisi, spokesman for the No Philly Grocery Tax Coalition, using the opposition's shorthand for Kenney's tax on sugary drinks.  The coalition has been largely funded by the beverage association.  The lobbying disclosures were released on the same day it was reported that Philadelphians for a Fair Future, a nonprofit supporting the proposed three-cents-per-ounce tax, is being backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  The group did not file a lobbying report for the first quarter of the year because it made no expenditures during that time, according to spokesman Kevin Feeley. It has since spent $825,000 on advertising that will run on broadcast TV, radio, and online starting Thursday and continuing for three weeks, Feeley said.
The antitax coalition has spent $2.6 million on airtime.

Commentary: Funding pre-K doesn't solve problem of underfunded schools
Philly Daily News Opinion by George Bezanis Updated: MAY 4, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
George Bezanis is a social studies teacher at Central High School and serves as the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers' representative at the school. He is a leader of the union's Caucus of Working Educators.
AS A CAREER educator dedicated to improving our schools and ensuring that children in our poorest communities get the chance to succeed, I applaud Mayor Kenney for kicking off his term in office by seeking to expand educational opportunities for Philadelphia's most vulnerable children.  I have serious concerns, however, that the mayor's plan to expand universal pre-kindergarten to every Philadelphia child will not achieve what it is designed to do: putting tens of thousands of our poorest children on the path to academic success.  Kenney's proposal would effectively reinvent the wheel. Instead of providing additional resources for the Philadelphia School District's nationally recognized pre-K program (the largest in the city, serving about 9,000 3- and 4-years-olds) the administration wants to expand the use of private providers. This approach does a disservice both to students and to teachers.

Commentary: Pre-K now will mean benefits later
Inquirer Opinion By Tom Lengel Updated: MAY 4, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
Tom Lengel is head of Holy Child School at Rosemont.
I applaud Mayor Kenney's efforts to establish universal prekindergarten for all children in the School District of Philadelphia. Although the costs of this program are significant, the mayor seems to realize in ways that others can't or won't that investing in children at this initial stage of their formal schooling will pay for itself many times over.  There is abundant research supporting the notion that prekindergarten introduces and reinforces school readiness skills, such as learning to share, to wait one's turn, to identify letters by sight (a critical pre-reading skill), and, even more fundamentally, to make friends and interact with others of one's own age. Research also strongly supports the notion of early intervention: The sooner we identify learning, attentional, or emotional issues in children, the sooner we can remedy those issues and help each child meet his or her potential.

Commentary: Charters seek to fulfill promise to city's children
Inquirer Opinion By Naomi Johnson-Booker Updated: MAY 4, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
Naomi Johnson-Booker is the CEO of Global Leadership Academy Charter School in West Philadelphia.
Charter education in Philadelphia is a volatile business. Each day, the public perception of charter schools is clouded by the opposition hurling unfounded accusations and vocalizing in protest.  
There will always be opposition to change, that much is certain, but when change puts communities on a better path, why must the opposition be so fierce? In the bestselling book Who Moved My Cheese?, the author says that "if you do not change, you can become extinct."  When something is consistently broken, at some point, intervention must occur. Sadly, many of Philadelphia's public schools fall into this category.  With more than 70,000 students in charter schools and 20,000 on waiting lists to enroll, how can you deny the overwhelming demand for change? Philadelphia parents who are looking for educational choice aren't viewing charter management as an assault on the public school system. Instead, they are viewing this as an opportunity for their children to enjoy smaller class sizes, better teachers, and a safe learning environment.

“Much of the country still treats racially segregated schools and schools dealing with a high share of disadvantaged students as if they are simply part of the natural order of things, but that’s simply not the case, King said.  “The reality is that segregation is the result of policy choices, policy choices around schooling and around housing,” King said.”
Education Secretary John King Talks Integration, Diversity at EWA National Seminar
Education Writers Association Educated Reporter Blog MAY 2, 2016 ANDREW UJIFUSA OF EDUCATION WEEK FOR EWA
Racial diversity and the socioeconomic integration of schools can be powerful tools to help improve educational opportunities for students, but much depends on whether states and local communities prioritize them, Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. stressed in remarks here on Monday.  Speaking at the Education Writers Association National Seminar, King also highlighted what he said results from the “systematic lack of investment in high-needs communities” and how that impacts not just school funding, but also how communities tackle problems such as subsets of schools educating an extremely high share of students in poverty.  “There’s a new sense of urgency in the country of talking about race and class,” King told education writers.

In Wealthier School Districts, Students Are Farther Apart
Black and Latino students in economically prosperous cities are grade levels behind their white peers.
The Atlantic by EMILY DERUY  MAY 3, 2016
Some of the wealthiest, most-educated towns in the United States have the biggest academic-achievement gaps between white students and their peers of color. That is one of the depressing facts emerging from a wide-ranging new analysis of more than 200 million test scores of 40 million students from around the country between 2009 and 2013 by Stanford University researchers.  Comparing district-level data across states is complicated because not all students take the same tests. The researchers created a database that allows these comparisons, providing what they say is the most in-depth look at academic disparities across the country. They found wide disparities in prosperous university towns like Berkeley, California, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Evanston, Illinois—cities often heralded for driving economic development and opportunity. On average, black students score two grade levels lower than white students in their districts, while Latinos score one-and-a-half grade levels lower. The most and least socioeconomically disadvantaged districts are four grade levels apart.

 “There’s a huge need out there,” Knifong said, sitting in his office. “If you look outside my door here, we have our job board. We currently have six jobs for every student.”
Kitchens — it's where the jobs are
Marketplace By Bill Zeeble May 03, 2016 | 5:00 AM
With about 20 students in chef whites, it’s time to begin afternoon class at El Centro Community College in Dallas, Texas.  “You guys ever eat cold soup?” asked Chef James Knifong, instructor and apprenticeship coordinator. Some of his students — ranging in age from their early 20s to retirement — said “Yes.” Others, “No.”  “Like I mentioned yesterday,” Knifong said, “the big deal on cold soups — you’re going to need to adjust your seasoning, because when it’s cold, the flavors aren’t popping out like they will when it’s hot.”  Knifong, a CIA graduate – that’s the Culinary Institute of America – said what’s hot these days are chef and restaurant jobs. Government statistics show industry jobs will grow 12 percent in the next decade.  “There’s a huge need out there,” Knifong said, sitting in his office. “If you look outside my door here, we have our job board. We currently have six jobs for every student.”
Twenty-three-year-old Charlotte Zuber is one of the school’s 400 students. Thanks in part to her enrollment here, she’s in demand in different sections of a trendy downtown restaurant kitchen.

“Today’s twelfth graders have spent nearly their entire education under No Child Left Behind’s test-nearly-every-kid-every-year requirements.  Most states and districts piled on their own exam mandates to the point that a recent survey found that a typical urban student was administered 112 standardized tests in her public school career.  Yet, the newly released National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores for twelfth graders found that reading results, a measure that has remained consistent over the years, were the same in 2015 as they were in 2002. NAEP math scores are flat compared with 2005, the earliest reported date for that exam.  That means that a decade of test-driven school “reform” resulted in no academic progress.”
What the new NAEP test scores really tell us
Washington Post By Valerie Strauss May 3 at 11:45 AM 
Newly released 2015 results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, for high school seniors paints a dismal picture of student progress, assuming you put stock in test scores as a true measure of achievement. Seniors made no improvement in reading achievement and their math performance has dropped since 2013 — and there has been stagnation in the results for many years. As my colleague Emma Brown wrote here, scores on the 2015 reading test have dropped five points since 1992, the earliest year with comparable scores, and are unchanged in math during the past decade.  NAEP is sometimes referred to as the nation’s report card because it is seen as the most consistent measure of U.S. student achievement since the 1990s. It is administered every two years to groups of U.S. students in the fourth and eighth grades, and less frequently to high school students  What does this all mean? Here’s a post explaining it by Monty Neill, executive director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, known as  FairTest, a nonprofit organization that works to end the misuses of standardized testing and to ensure that evaluation of students, educators and schools is fair, open, valid and educationally sound.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: April 27 - May 2, 2016
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on May 3, 2016 - 1:46pm 
With news reports from fully half the 50 states, including the predictable collapse of yet another new, computerized exam administration system, it is clear that the assessment reform movement is spreading across the country as testing season peaks.

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 5/4/2016

Education Writers Association Report May 1, 2016

When: September 9, 2016, 10:00 am PST/1:00pm EST
Where: Schools across America
Sponsor: American Public Education Foundation (APEF)
The National Anthem “Sing-A-Long” is a movement to teach K-12 students the words, meaning,
music and history of the Star-Spangled Banner. This annual event is held each year on the
second week of September to honor 9/11 families, victims and heroes and celebrate the historic
birthday of the National Anthem on September 14. Those who join the “Sing-A-Long” are singing in unison at the exact same time at multiple sites across the U.S. The APEF has also created a robust, companion curriculum recognized by numerous State Departments of Education, available online at (see the “Educate” tab) for free download.
The Foundation hopes to have the support of the Alabama Department of Education as we
commemorate the 15th Anniversary of 9/11 this year. Teachers are encouraged to sign up
before the end of the school year at Also online is a "how-to" guide on
holding an event at your school and sample press release. If you do not wish to hold a full
ceremony at the school, your students can simply stand up and sing at 10 am PST/1:00pm EST.
The Star-Spangled Banner Movement is a simple, elegant way to honor 9/11 while also teaching students how the world came together in the days, weeks and months after the September 2001 terrorist strikes. The APEF also offers a host of other free educational material on its website, including polls, contests and grant information.

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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