Tuesday, August 16, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 16: It’s poverty, not teacher quality

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup August 16, 2016:
It’s poverty, not teacher quality

“When researchers control for the effect of poverty, American students score near the top of the world on international tests.  Our overall scores are unspectacular because of our unacceptably high child poverty rate, now around 25%. The problem is poverty, not teacher quality.     Poverty means food deprivation, lack of health care, and lack of access to books. Each of these has a strong negative influence on school performance.”
It’s poverty, not teacher quality
Schools Matter Blog by Stephen Krashen Sent to the Washington Post, August 12  
Melinda Gates still thinks that teacher quality is the problem in American education (“Gates Foundation to ‘stay the course’ as it seeks to help shape state education policies,” August 12).     Of course we should always be trying to improve teaching, but there is no teacher quality crisis in the US: When researchers control for the effect of poverty, American students score near the top of the world on international tests.  Our overall scores are unspectacular because of our unacceptably high child poverty rate, now around 25%. The problem is poverty, not teacher quality.     Poverty means food deprivation, lack of health care, and lack of access to books. Each of these has a strong negative influence on school performance. Let’s forget about developing new ways of evaluating teachers, fancy databases, and the other Gates ideas that have no support in research or practice. Instead, let’s invest in making sure no child is left unfed, no child lacks proper health care, and all children have access to quality libraries.

School officials sound off on new funding formula
Herald Standard by Eric Morris emorris@heraldstandard.com August 15, 2016
A new funding formula used to allocate state education dollars based on the need of a district is a step in the right direction, say several area school officials.  Approved by state legislature in May and signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf June 1, the Basic Education Funding Formula, also known as the “fair funding formula,” applies weights to certain socioeconomic factors that influence how school districts operate.  The formula allows the state to allocate funds accordingly based on the need of a district, ultimately favoring school districts in high poverty areas.  Charleroi Area School District Superintendent Ed Zelich strongly favors the new fair funding formula.  “Absolutely it’s an improvement,” Zelich said. “Right now, it’s based on zip codes. The fair funding formula makes it a more level playing field, especially in districts which are challenged like in the Valley.”  In determining the amount of funding to allot each district, the fair funding formula takes into consideration student enrollment, poverty measures, school district wealth and a district’s capacity to generate local revenue.  Zelich said the fair funding formula “equalizes learning opportunities for all children” by taking socioeconomic factors into consideration.  Uniontown Area Superintendent Dr. Charles Machesky called the switch to a new formula a “very positive” one that benefits school districts in rural areas.

Blogger note: At the gym this morning I saw a couple ads by K12, Inc. for “tuition-free” cyber education in Pennsylvania.  Here’s a significant piece on cybers’ lack of performance from October 2015…

“The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, an advocacy group based in Washington, said the findings were so troubling that the report should be "a call to action for authorizers and policymakers."  Pennsylvania's 14 cyber schools, which enroll more than 35,000 students, were among those studied. Pennsylvania, Ohio, and California account for half the nation's 200,000 students who were enrolled in approximately 200 cyber schools in 2011-12.”
Reprise October 2015: Study: Cyber charter schools failing their students
By Martha Woodall, Inquirer Staff Writer POSTED: October 28, 2015
A massive national study of online charter schools has found that 70 percent of students at cyber schools are falling behind their peers at traditional public institutions.  The study, released Tuesday by three policy and research centers, found the online schools have an "overwhelming negative impact."  Stanford University researchers said their analysis showed severe shortfalls in reading and math achievement. The shortfall for most cyber students, they said, was equal to losing 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days in math during the typical 180-day school year.  "While the overall findings of our analysis are somber, we do believe the information will serve as the foundation for constructive discussions on the role of online schools in the K-12 sector," said James Woodworth, senior quantitative research analyst at Stanford's Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO).  Another scholar, Brian Gill, a researcher at Mathematica Policy Research in Cambridge, Mass. cautioned, "I don't think we should view these findings as saying that online education does not work."

“Luetkehans, dean of Indiana University of Pennsylvania's College of Education and Educational Technology, said it's hard to attribute the decrease to a single factor.  “As we think back, there were a lack of employment possibilities, and that was affecting students and their interest. Part of it was due to demographics in Pennsylvania where school districts are shrinking. And there has been a national and community dialogue around educators and education.  “Sometimes, teachers become scapegoats for problems in the American education system. That all made people think twice about teaching and education,” Luetkehans said.
It adds up to some shocking numbers for college administrators.”
Fewer college students opt to pursue career as teachers
Trib Live BY DEBRA ERDLEY  | Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016, 4:51 p.m.
Abbie Yasika is part of a rare breed of college students who want to be teachers.
The 22-year-old from Greensburg discounted comments from friends and classmates who warned she would never find a teaching job.  She graduated from college in May, and this month she's launching a career as a kindergarten teacher in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
But she's among a rapidly shrinking pool of students opting to teach.  The trend is apparent at local colleges where enrollment in teacher prep programs has declined dramatically.  And statistics from the state Department of Education show a steep drop in the overall number of teaching certificates issued: from a 15-year high of 18,590 in 2013 to 7,280 last year.  Lara M.

Why are fewer students interested in becoming teachers?
Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane August 15, 2016 Audio runtime 48:59
Guests: Richard Ingersoll, Claudine Keenan, Yaasiyn Muhammad, Danielle Kovach
The number of college students entering the teaching profession has been dropping, particularly in Pennsylvania. This hour, why are fewer students interested in becoming teachers?  And we’ll look at reports of teacher shortages and high teacher turnover.  Mary Cummings-Jordan talks with RICHARD INGERSOLL, professor of education and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, CLAUDINE KEENAN, Dean of Education at Stockton University, and YAASIYN MUHAMMAD, a social studies teacher at Central High.  We’ll also hear from DANIELLE KOVACH, a special education teacher at Tulsa Trail Elementary School in Hopatcong, New Jersey.

State Supreme Court rules in favor of PFT in contract case
It upheld a lower court's decision that the SRC could not unilaterally cancel the teachers' contract. The union's leader says he hopes the ruling helps restart contract negotiations.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa August 15, 2016 — 3:57pm Updated 8:45 p.m.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has upheld a lower court ruling that the School Reform Commission did not have the power to unilaterally cancel its collective bargaining agreement with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.  The decision is a victory for the union in its ongoing battle with the SRC, primarily over benefits and working conditions for teachers. Members of the PFT have been working without a contract for nearly four years, and teachers haven’t had raises during that time.  The SRC claimed the right to cancel the contract under special powers granted by the state when it declared the District academically and financially distressed and took it over, installing the SRC in place of a nine-member Board of Education.  The decision appeared to rest on the fairly narrow grounds of what a “teachers’ contract” is – whether it refers to the individual contract signed by each teacher regarding their rights under tenure provisions that predate even the advent of collective bargaining or the collective bargaining agreement reached by a District and its unions.  The court sided with the PFT on that point – that the relevant law and case law support the interpretation that the phrase refers to collective bargaining agreements.

Pa. high court says SRC can't cancel Philly teachers contract
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Monday that the Philadelphia School Reform Commission broke state law when it canceled its contract with the city’s teacher’s union.
The unanimous decision upholds two lower court rulings and marks the end of a legal battle that began in October 2014 when the SRC made the stunning decision to scrap its existing contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and impose changes to union health benefits.  Monday’s decision, penned by Chief Justice Thomas Saylor, is a decisive victory for the union — one that removes at least some of the uncertainty surrounding union negotiations with the district over a new contract.

State Supreme Court agrees: SRC can't cancel teacher contract
Inquirer by Mensah M. Dean, Staff Writer Updated: AUGUST 16, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
The Philadelphia School Reform Commission's nearly two-year battle to cancel the city teachers' union contract and impose new work rules to save money was soundly defeated again Monday. The state Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision last January that blocked the five-member commission from forcing terms on the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.  Union leaders called the ruling a rebuke of a power grab, and a spokesman for the commission and Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said no further legal action would be taken.  "We hold, at least insofar as teachers are concerned, that collective bargaining agreements are 'teachers' contracts' which are excepted from a school reform commission's cancellation powers," five justices wrote in an opinion.

Pa. Supreme Court Sides With Teachers in Contract-Cancellation Case
Education Week Teacher Beat Blog By Emmanuel Felton on August 15, 2016 10:01 PM
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled against the School Reform Commission, the board in charge of overseeing Philadelphia schools, in a case stemming from a 2014 decision by that body to unilaterally cancel teachers' collective-bargaining agreement.    The SRC was founded in 2001 to turnaround the district, which had long struggled academically and financially. This was three years after the Pennsylvania General Assembly crafted a bill, called Act 46, that would allowed the state secretary of education to declare a school district in "distress," and replace its school board with a five-member "School Reform Commission." The new board was given special powers under the state's constitution. But today, the justices unanimously ruled that when the SRC cancelled its contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) and altered members' healthcare benefits it had overstepped the bounds of those extraordinary powers. 
According to state law, the SRC can "cancel or renegotiate any contract other than teachers' contracts to which the board or the school district is a party, if such cancellation or renegotiation of contract will effect needed economies in the operation of the district's schools." 

Penn Hills school district to share services with charter school
Post Gazette By Tim Means August 15, 2016 9:25 PM
A shared services agreement between Penn Hills school district and the Imagine Penn Hills Charter School of Entrepreneurship is under review by the district’s finance committee. According to a draft of the agreement the school district will provide services including landscaping, snow removal, basic maintenance, one custodial position and two food service positions. The charter school will pay $140,000 per year for the services provided by the district. Employees performing services under the proposed contract will be school district employees and the district will be responsible for benefits and insurance.  Earlier this year, the Imagine charter school signed a five year lease with the district to use the former Washington elementary school building. The school board is expected to vote on the shared services agreement at the regularly scheduled board meeting on Monday August 22nd.

Inquirer editorial: No drama expected to begin school year in Philly
Inquirer Editorial Updated: AUGUST 16, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes made waves in 1977 with their hit record, "This Time It's For Real." Superintendent William H. Hite Jr. may be humming a similar tune when Philadelphia schools open in three weeks. He's much more certain that the district won't have to beg for another large infusion of cash to make it through the school year.  "While we continue to have work to do, the Philadelphia School District begins the 2016-17 school year more optimistic than we have been in years as we work toward our goal of great schools close to where children live," Hite told the Inquirer Editorial Board. "After years of difficult choices and smart fiscal management, not only has our budget stabilized, we are making $440 million in investments over the next five years."  The district will begin the school year with a fund balance, or surplus, of $129 million. State funding will include $1.1 billion for basic education and $137 million for special education. Total city funding is expected to reach about $1.2 billion. But even at that level, officials say the district's $2.7 billion budget could fall $7 million short.

Science Leadership Academy set to open third school
Philly Trib by Wilford Shamlin III Tribune Staff Writer Posted: Saturday, August 13, 2016 12:00 am
Science Leadership Academy will expand its inquiry-driven, project-based schools, with a new middle school on Drexel University’s campus.  A Philadelphia public school will occupy space in a renovated mansion at the West Philadelphia university on school days.  In an interview Friday, founding principal Timothy Boyle said a school design committee is working with an architectural firm, an educational consultant, and Drexel staff, on designs for a new school site, adapting the best parts of its school model for the younger middle school enrollment.  “My job is to take what’s wildly successful at SLA Center City and SLA Beeber and bring an inquiry-driven school model to a neighborhood school level,” Boyle said. SLA’s Center City school, at 55 N. 22nd St., and the Beeber campus, at 5925 Malvern Ave., are both configured for grades 9 to 12.  Last spring, the middle school was approved by the School Reform Commission as part of the school district’s effort to offer innovative schools as an alternative to traditional public schools.

City schools to get water hydration stations this fall
Inquirer by Mensah M. Dean, Staff Writer Updated: AUGUST 16, 2016 — 12:16 AM EDT
HYDRATION STATIONS have arrived in the School District of Philadelphia.
The stations - water fountains equipped with filters and separate faucets from which to fill water bottles - will be up and running at 43 schools when classes start next month, school officials announced Monday.  Each school is receiving at least three hydration stations, and plans call for the remainder of the district's more than 170 schools to receive stations by the end of the school year, spokesman Kevin Geary said.  The $1 million initiative is part of the district's recently announced GreenFutures sustainability plan, which is designed to provide a framework to conserve resources, decrease consumption and waste, and create green school settings and healthy indoor environments for students.

For school nurses, job is more than scrapes and bruises
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO bmilazzo@centredaily.com AUG 15, 2016 7:50 PM
Karen Truesdale knows how to save lives.  It’s something the Bellefonte Area School District certified school nurse has done before.  And when it comes to school nurses, she, alongside fellow certified school nurse Val Fulton, and a group of aides prove the job is more than bandaging up students with scraped knees, and sending sick kids home.   “We’re almost like the first responders to health problems when kids come to school,” Truesdale said.  But health education and keeping up with new medical advances are also part of the job.

Why American Schools Are Even More Unequal Than We Thought
New York Times By SUSAN DYNARSKI  AUG. 12, 2016
Education is deeply unequal in the United States, with students in poor districts performing at levels several grades below those of children in richer areas.  Yet the problem is actually much worse than these statistics show, because schools, districts and even the federal government have been using a crude yardstick for economic hardship.  A closer look reveals that the standard measure of economic disadvantage — whether a child is eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch in school — masks the magnitude of the learning gap between the richest and poorest children.  Nearly half of students nationwide are eligible for a subsidized meal in school. Children whose families earn less than 185 percent of the poverty threshold are eligible for a reduced-price lunch, while those below 130 percent get a free lunch. For a family of four, the cutoffs are $32,000 for a free lunch and $45,000 for a reduced-price one. By way of comparison, median household income in the United States was about $54,000 in 2014.  Eligibility for subsidized school meals is clearly a blunt indicator of economic status. But that is the measure that policy makers, educators and researchers rely on when they gauge gaps in academic achievement in schools, districts and states.

In Utah, schools can now hire teachers with no training whatsoever
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss August 15 at 4:13 PM 
Utah has a severe teacher shortage, so it decided to do something about it. Under a new rule, schools can now hire people to teach who have no training in the profession. None whatsoever.  This is just the newest piece of evidence that the supposed national initiative started by the 2001 No Child Left Behind law to ensure “highly qualified” teachers in every classroom is at best unsuccessful and at worst a sham.  In June, the Utah Board of Education approved a new rule that would make it easier for schools to fill teaching vacancies by allowing them to hire people who can meet some minimum criteria, including having a bachelor’s degree, paying the applicable licensing fee and passing a test. Veteran teachers are supposed to mentor the new teachers for a few years, though how many will want to take on that responsibility is unclear.

Blogger note: Jamie Casap is the PSBA/PASA School Leadership Conference Keynote Speaker · Sat., Oct. 15, 9:30 a.m.
Jaime Casap: From Tough Childhood to Google's Global Education Evangelist
NBC News by ESTHER J. CEPEDA August 11, 2016
NAME: Jaime Casap; AGE: 48
HERITAGE: My mother is from Argentina and my father is from Syria
HOMETOWN: Hell's Kitchen, NY now living in Phoenix, AZ
OCCUPATION/TITLE: Global Education Evangelist at Google, Inc.
At Google, Casap evangelizes the power and potential of the web, technology, and Google tools. During his eight years at Google, Casap has been part of the original team that launched Google Apps for universities, launched Google Apps into K through 12 schools, and helped get Chromebooks off the ground and into schools. Today Casap is responsible for working across all internal teams that impact education, and he works with educational organizations around the world, helping them find ways to improve the quality of education through the use of technology.

2016 National Anthem Sing-A-Long - September 9th
American Public Education Foundation Website 
The Star-Spangled Banner will be sung by school children nationwide on Friday, September 9, 2016 at 10:00am PST and 1:00pm EST. Students will learn about the words and meaning of the flag and sing the first stanza. This will be the third annual simultaneous sing-a-long event created by the APEF-9/12 Generation Project. The project aims to bring students together – as the world came together – on September 12, 2001.

Registration for the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 13-15 is now open
The conference is your opportunity to learn, network and be inspired by peers and experts.
TO REGISTER: See https://www.psba.org/members-area/store-registration/   (you must be logged in to the Members Area to register). You can read more on How to Register for a PSBA Event here.   CONFERENCE WEBSITE: For all other program details, schedules, exhibits, etc., see the conference website:www.paschoolleaders.org.

PSBA Officer Elections Aug. 15-Oct. 3, 2016: Slate of Candidates
PSBA members seeking election to office for the association were required to submit a nomination form no later than April 30, 2016, to be considered. All candidates who properly completed applications by the deadline are included on the slate of candidates below. In addition, the Leadership Development Committee met on June 24 at PSBA headquarters in Mechanicsburg to interview candidates. According to bylaws, the Leadership Development Committee may determine candidates highly qualified for the office they seek. This is noted next to each person’s name with an asterisk (*).  Each school entity will have one vote for each officer. This will require boards of the various school entities to come to a consensus on each candidate and cast their vote electronically during the open voting period (Aug. 15-Oct. 3, 2016). Voting will be accomplished through a secure third-party, web-based voting site that will require a password login. One person from each member school entity will be authorized as the official person to cast the vote on behalf of his or her school entity. In the case of school districts, it will be the board secretary who will cast votes on behalf of the school board.
Special note: Boards should be sure to include discussion and voting on candidates to its agenda during one of its meetings in September.

PA Supreme Court sets Sept. 13 argument date for fair education funding lawsuit in Philly
Thorough and Efficient Blog JUNE 16, 2016 BARBGRIMALDI LEAVE A COMMENT

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