Tuesday, August 2, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup August 2: Cyber Schools Slammed by Charters (Again)

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PA Ed Policy Roundup August 2, 2016:
Cyber Schools Slammed by Charters (Again)


Commentary: Let's get serious about paying for quality pre-K
Inquirer Opinion by Della Jenkins and Kate Shaw Updated: AUGUST 1, 2016 — 8:20 PM EDT
Della Jenkins is a policy analyst and Kate Shaw is executive director of Research for Action, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit education research organization. Read RFA's latest policy brief on early-childhood education, and learn more about the organization at www.researchforaction.org.
IF YOU LIVE in Philadelphia and watch the news, you've probably heard about the newly approved sugary-drink tax, and you likely heard that most of this new revenue will go to fund more slots for children to attend public prekindergarten programs.  While there was much debate in Council and the press about the benefits and costs of the tax for consumers and the economy, there was little, if any, debate over the worthiness of this cause. Even at the national level, political figures ranging from Ivanka Trump to Hillary Clinton espouse the value of pre-K.  In part, that's because no other topic in education has been studied as extensively, or as rigorously, as pre-K. Beginning with the Perry Preschool project in the 1970s, we have amassed decades of evidence that unequivocally points to the importance of access to early childhood education. Studies have shown that high-quality pre-K closes nearly half the achievement gap that exists in children up to age 5. Long-lasting effects on social skills, health outcomes and later school success also have been documented.  Research is equally clear that not all early-education programs are created equal. So, as the city embarks on this effort to expand access to pre-K, it is essential that policymakers focus on supporting strong implementation and quality improvement. 

Cyber Schools Slammed by Charters (Again)
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Tuesday, August 2, 2016
The Thomas Fordham Foundation releases a report today looking at cyber charters in Ohio, and the cover of the report signals pretty clearly where we're headed.  Ouchies! Stock Photo Lad is clearly not prepared to sing the joyous praises of his virtual school, and that bored and contemptuous face pretty much sets the tone for the report (presumably he is a cyber charter student, and not someone who has just tried to read the report).   We should note right up front that Fordham has skin in this game; they have several bricks-and-mortar charters of their own in Ohio. And the bricks-and-mortar wing of the charter school industryhas been getting pretty rough with their cyber-siblings lately. So, let's see how they made out this time.  The report strikes a pair of notes over and over again-- e-learning can be awesome, but cyber schools, not so much. Right off the bat, in the foreword, we get this: To be certain, the Internet has opened a new frontier of possibilities for America’s K–12 students. Much less sure, however, is whether these new opportunities are actually improving achievement, especially for the types of students who enroll in virtual schools.

Pottstown School Board calls for less standardized testing
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 08/01/16, 2:00 AM EDT | UPDATED: 10 HRS AGO
POTTSTOWN >> Weary of the time, expense and energy consumed by high-stakes standardized testing in public education, the Pottstown School Board Thursday voted unanimously in support of measures which would reduce it.  Signed into law in December by President Obama, and replacing the No Child Left Behind law, the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act gives states the right “to diminish the overuse of high-stakes standardized resting to evaluate students, educators and schools,” according to the resolution the school board adopted.  Recognizing that “standardized testing is only one measure of student learning” and that such testing “may have the greatest negative impact on students with special needs who often demonstrate proficiency through alternative forms of assessment,” the resolution calls on the state legislature minimize standardized testing and “develop an accountability system that is not ‘one size fits all.’”  More specifically, the board resolution also calls on Harrisburg to “permanently separate Keystone exams from high school graduation requirements.”  Currently, Keystones are set to become graduation requirements in the 2018-19 school year.

In Erie, the school integration plan that could fast-track equity
Keystone Crossroads/WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY JULY 22, 2016
In the waning days of the school year, a group of students at Strong Vincent High School in the city of Erie sat around a large wooden table in the library, discussing how they feel their school is perceived out in the suburbs.  Nathan Stevens, a white junior, was one of the first to chime in.  "We're a city school and the surrounding districts are higher income and they always think that they're better than us," he said. "That's just how it works around here."  Whitney Henderson, an African-American sophomore, spoke next.  "Everybody thinks it's a ghetto school, or that the people that go here are dumb, or bad," she said.  Based on what?  "Stereotypes," said Henderson.  This conversation has become especially pertinent.  In the face of systemically inequitable state funding, the superintendent of Erie Public Schools has proposed the possibility of shutting down all city high schools and busing students to the better-resourced suburban districts.  Superintendent Jay Badams has floated this idea as a way to ensure that the kids get a fair education in the midst of chronic budget shortfalls.

As grading system changes, an A is less of a stretch
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer Updated: AUGUST 1, 2016 — 8:11 AM EDT
High school students in the Lower Merion School District will be catching a bit of a break this coming year: It will be easier to ace tests, and not as easy to flunk them.  Under a new grading policy, a score of 90 will be enough for an A, down from the traditional cutoff of 92. At the other end of the measuring stick, a failing grade now will be 59 and under, instead of 64.  What's behind the grade-point pick-me-up?  Some Lower Merion parents complained that the decades-old system of eight points per letter grade - falling out of favor nationwide as districts adopt the more forgiving 10-point scale - could cast their children in an unfair comparative light when they apply for colleges and merit scholarships.  Despite little solid evidence that it made a difference, and the assurance of college officials that it didn't, the change was approved in June for the district's two high schools, Harriton and Lower Merion.

In dueling campaign swings, Clinton, Trump make very different plays for Pa. voters:
Penn Live By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 01, 2016 at 9:41 PM, updated August 01, 2016 at 11:21 PM
(*This post has been updated to clarify crowd estimates and the source of the data.)
MECHANCISBURG -- What plays better in the Rust Belt - hope or despair?  Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump bet on the latter during a stop at a suburban high school here Monday, painting a picture of a Pennsylvania economy decimated by the collapse of its manufacturing sector and the death of coal mining.  In a fiery, hour-long speech that conjured up the Pennsylvania of years past, the Manhattan real estate mogul told a capacity crowd at Cumberland Valley High School that "the Harrisburg area is not doing too good."  "We're going to get it back. The destruction of manufacturing in Pennsylvania was caused by Hillary Clinton's policies," he said, pointing to President Bill Clinton's support for the North American Free Trade Agreement in the 1990s.  Over the last 20 years, manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania dropped from about 950,000 to about 565,000 statewide, David Taylor, the president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, said.  "Of course, job losses were/are due to gains in productivity, new technology, jobs moving to other states and international competition," Taylor said Monday. "Not just a single factor."  But whatever the reason, the Manhattan real estate mogul kept up his drumbeat, highlighting the potency of the issue in a state proud of its lunchpail past.  Trump's campaign swing through one central Pennsylvania's richest and fastest-growing counties was also intended to counter one by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who barnstormed the state over the weekend.

PA Charter Schools: $4 billion taxpayer dollars with no real oversight
Not much has changed since we published this post in May of 2012


A Fifth of New York Students Opted Out of This Year's Common Core State Exams
Education Week State Ed Watch By Daarel Burnette II on August 1, 2016 3:36 PM
Earlier this year, weeks before students were to take the state's standardized test, New York Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia traveled around touting the state's exams as a reliable way to measure students' progress on New York's learning standards, gave teachers a chance to vet the questions, and then tossed out time limits on the test. It was all an effort to tamper down on the number of students who opted out of the state's exams.   In the end, more students— 21 percent— in grades 3-8 ended up opting out of the Empire State's common core-aligned standardized test in the spring, according to the department and local media, up from the 20 percent, or 900,000 students who opted out last year.   The state's rowdy opt-out movement has caused several problems for the department which has wrapped the exam's results up with its teacher evaluations and school accountability system.   So many students not taking the exam has the potential to delegitimize to many parents the state's accountability system, which punishes schools with test scores that languish at or near the bottom. 

Why some billionaires are trying to defeat a state Supreme Court chief justice
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss August 1 at 2:30 PM 
Why would wealthy charter school supporters be spending big bucks to defeat the chief justice of the Washington state Supreme Court?  In September, the court ruled that charter schools are unconstitutional because they are governed by appointed — rather than elected — boards and therefore are not “common schools” eligible for state education funds. The chief justice, Barbara Madsen, wrote that “money that is dedicated to common schools is unconstitutionally diverted to charter schools.”  Now, charter supporters, including some who don’t even live in Washington, are backing a candidate who is trying to oust her.

Sen. Patty Murray, ESSA Architect, on Clinton, Trump, and Sanders
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on August 1, 2016 9:37 AM
Philadelphia  Sen. Patty Murray D-Wash, is "just ecstatic" about the prospect of working with a possible President Hillary Clinton on expanding access to early-childhood education, she said in an interview here during the Democratic National Convention.  The two share a passion for the policy. Murray, a former preschool teacher and the top Democrat on the Senate education committee, pushed hard for the inclusion of the Preschool Development Grant program in the Every Student Succeeds Act. But it sounds like she's optimistic that she might be able to go even further, or get more money for the program, in a potential Clinton administration.  "I just say the words to her, 'early childhood education.' And she says,  'What do we need to do?' This is a passion for her."   Murray said the differences between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Clinton on education policy couldn't be more stark. "They're night and day," she said. "Throughout her career Secretary Clinton has made this a top priority. She knows the policies inside and out. ... Donald Trump would roll back all the progress we've made."  Murray served on the Senate education committee with Clinton, and from the sounds of it, Clinton's reputation as a policy wonk is earned. "She showed up for work every day," Murray said. "She did the back work to understand the policies."

Where Clinton and Trump Stand on Education
The convention dust has settled, and it’s back to the chalkboard.
The Atlantic by EMILY RICHMOND   JUL 30, 2016
When compared to Donald Trump’s single education policy-related sentence in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention, Hillary Clinton’s remarks on the subject Thursday night were certainly more extensive, as she sought to emphasize a track record of making schools, teachers, families, and students her political—and personal—priorities.  In accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, Clinton touched repeatedly on education, from her work years ago supporting legislation on educating students with disabilities to her recently announced plans to make college “tuition-free” for low- and middle-income families at public universities. She also vowed to work toward a future where “you can get a good job and send your kids to a good school no matter what zip code you live in.”  Trump said much less much about education in his Cleveland address, although he did manage to fit a handful of buzzwords into one sentence: “We will rescue kids from failing schools by helping their parents send them to a safe school of their choice,” he said.  How the Republican presidential nominee will accomplish this, or what he would use as the barometer for a failing school, isn’t clear. His campaign, so far, has been very short on policy details. (In the meantime, the Obama administration continues to work on regulations and guidance to flesh out the Every Student Succeeds Act, the legislative successor to No Child Left Behind.)


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.

“EdPAC empowers education advocates to strengthen public education in the commonwealth through its dedication to supporting the election of pro-public education leaders to the Pennsylvania General Assembly.”
EdPAC: Imagine the impact of a pro-public education legislature!
EdPAC is a newly formed political action committee whose membership is comprised of school directors, school administrators, parents and public education advocates who want to support state- level candidates that do what’s right for our students and schools.  Pennsylvania school districts are directly impacted by the actions of our elected officials. Every year, the state legislature spends months considering proposed legislation that affects how public schools in the commonwealth are funded and the rules by which they must operate. EdPAC supports those elected officials who promote local control in education, oppose mandates, and support the work of our school districts. EdPAC is organizing the efforts of individual and school district advocates across Pennsylvania, to raise funds for more effective political action, and to make contributions from those funds for the benefit of the candidates that help our students the most.

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.

Appointment of Voting Delegates for the October 15th PSBA Delegate Assembly Meeting
PSBA Website June 27, 2016
The governing body boards of all member school entities are entitled to appoint voting delegates to participate in the PSBA Delegate Assembly to be held on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. It is important that school boards act soon to appoint its delegate or delegates, and to notify PSBA of the appointment.
Voting members of the Delegate Assembly will:
1.     Consider and act upon proposed changes to the PSBA Bylaws.
2.     Receive reports from the PSBA president, executive director and treasurer.
3.     Receive the results of the election for officers and at-large representatives. (Voting upon candidates by school boards and electronic submission of each board’s votes will occur during the month of September 2016.)
4.     Consider proposals recommended by the PSBA Platform Committee and adopt the legislative platform for the coming year.
5.     Conduct other Association business as required or permitted in the Bylaws, policies or a duly adopted order of business.
The 2016 Delegate Assembly will meet on Saturday, Oct. 15, at the conclusion of the regularly scheduled events of the main PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference.

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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