Thursday, September 29, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept 29: US DOE Releases Another $245M for Privatization of Public Schools

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup September 29, 2016
US DOE Releases Another $245 Million for Privatization of Public Schools

Accountant pleads guilty to conspiracy to divert Pa Cyber school funds
TribLive BY BRIAN BOWLING  | Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016, 1:18 p.m.
The accountant for former Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School CEO Nick Trombetta admitted Wednesday in federal court that he helped Trombetta illegally divert about $8 million in public money from the Beaver County school.  Neal Prence, 61, of Koppel pleaded guilty to a charge of tax conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti scheduled his sentencing for Jan. 6.  Prence had been set to plead Sept. 19 but backed out at the last minute because of some legal technicalities connected with his plea agreement, said his lawyer, Stanton Levenson.

Former PA Cyber accountant pleads to tax conspiracy
Beaver County Times By Kirstin Kennedy September 28, 2016
PITTSBURGH -- A Koppel accountant federally indicted along with Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School founder Nick Trombetta pleaded guilty Wednesday to tax conspiracy, according to online court records.  Neal Prence was indicted in August 2013 alongside Trombetta, was also was charged with mail fraud, theft and bribery concerning a federal program, tax conspiracy and filing false tax returns.  Trombetta pleaded guilty to tax conspiracy in August.  The sole charged brought against Prence was tax conspiracy for assisting Trombetta in a tax fraud scheme which prosecutors allege siphoned millions of taxpayer dollars through the Rochester-based National Network of Digital Schools (NNDS), now known as Lincoln Learning Solutions, and Avanti Management Group in Koppel.  Prence is scheduled for sentencing in January, according to federal officials. Initial reports indicate he could face up to five years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both.

“While it is admirable that legislators are concerned that high school students don’t know enough about civics, it’s unfortunate that they think the solution is another standardized test.
The Measure of Citizenship isn’t an Exit Exam – It’s Participating in Our Democracy
Gadfly on the Wall Blog September 29, 2016  by stevenmsinger , 
Pennsylvania legislators just flunked civics – big time.  Once again, instead of offering real solutions to eradicate the ignorance of the coming generation, they clothed themselves in their own.  A bi-partisan group of 47 state lawmakers is proposing forcing all public school students to   pass a test on citizenship in order to qualify for a diploma.  House Bill 1858 would require all K-12 schools receiving tax dollars — including charters schools and cybercharters — to give their students the same 100-question test that immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship will have to pass starting in 2020. Any student who doesn’t get a sufficient score will not receive a diploma or GED equivalency. 

Could you pass a basic civics quiz? Answer these 10 questions
Morning Call September 28, 2016
A bill in Harrisburg would require Pennsylvania high school students to pass a civics test to graduate. The exam would be the same one immigrants must pass to earn naturalized U.S. citizenship.  Here are 10 sample questions. How many answers do you know?

Editorial: Civics exam should be required for graduation
Wilkes Barre Citizens Voice by THE EDITORIAL BOARD / PUBLISHED: SEPTEMBER 28, 2016
For all the furor about immigration in this particularly mean election season, the sad irony is that many immigrants know far more about U.S. history and government than native citizens. Unlike natives, immigrants must prove it on a test when they choose to become citizens.  Survey after survey shows that high percentages of Americans are ignorant of basic civics, the structure and functions of the government and the meaning of the Bill of Rights.  Yet in Pennsylvania, the cradle of American democracy, the state government does nothing to ensure that citizens of the commonwealth have at least a rudimentary understanding of how that democracy works.  The legislature has taken up a bill to require high school seniors to demonstrate very basic civics literacy to qualify for graduation. A pending bill would require seniors to pass a 100 question test derived from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services test for naturalized citizens. Passing would require a score of just 60, and students would be able to take it until they passed. The objective, after all, is for them to depart school with some understanding of civics. It is not a punitive process.

Many Americans know nothing about their government. Here’s a bold way schools can fix that.
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss September 27 
You probably didn’t notice, but Sept. 17 was Constitution Day. What is that, you ask?
It’s a day that commemorates the signing of the final version of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787, by 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention who created a new U.S. government — about which most Americans know embarrassingly little. Congress created Constitution Day in 2004, requiring all schools that receive federal funding to offer some type of “educational program” on the U.S. Constitution on or close to Sept. 17 every year.  A single day is not anywhere nearly enough — certainly not at a time when the country is facing ocean-deep political divisions and when the Republican presidential candidate,Donald Trump, has stoked racial fears and encouraged violence while displaying profound ignorance of how the government that he wants to lead works.  How little do Americans know about the workings of their own government? And does it really matter to the continued workings of that government?

“Penn Alexander has been a closely watched experiment since its inception 15 years ago. The school was conceived as a partnership between the School District of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and the University of Pennsylvania.  Penn provides supplemental staff and extra funding to the school on the order of $1,330 per child. The project is part of Penn’s ongoing efforts to reach beyond the ivory tower and into the largely low-income swaths of Philadelphia that extend beyond its borders.  The teachers union, meanwhile, helped plan the school and agreed to staff work rules that — at the time — were unusually flexible. “
Penn Alexander in Philadelphia wins major national education award
The Penn Alexander School in West Philadelphia has been called many things since it opened in 2001: success story, ground breaker, gentrifier.  Now it can add a new label: national award winner  The K-8 school — located on the western edge of University of Pennsylvania’s campus — was named a National Blue Ribbon School Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Education.  First awarded in 1982, the honor goes to schools that are extraordinarily high achieving or — as in Penn Alexander’s case —  have done a notable job closing the achievement gap. Just 11 public schools in Philadelphia have earned the distinction, and Penn Alexander is the only district winner this year.  Penn Alexander is also a notable recipient in one other regard — it’s a neighborhood elementary school. Of the 10 prior district schools to win the National Blue Ribbon prize, eight are special-admission schools. The list includes perennial top performers Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School, Central High School, and the Philadelphia High School for Girls.

York Suburban named Blue Ribbon School
York Dispatch by Alyssa Jackson, 505-5438/@AlyssaJacksonYD12:40 a.m. September 29, 2016
On Wednesday, York Suburban High School was named a Blue Ribbon School by the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program.  According to a news release sent out by the school district, the school is among 279 public schools and 50 private schools that received the award this year.  According to the U.S. Department of Education website, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes private and public schools based on overall academic excellence or their work in closing the achievement gap. So far, more than 7,500 schools have become Blue Ribbon Schools since the start of the program in 1982.

“Across the nation, 329 schools were singled out for excellence. Schools win the honor either for strong academic performance or for work in narrowing the achievement gap among groups of students.”
10 Philly, suburban schools win national honor
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham and Martha Woodall, STAFF WRITERS SEPTEMBER 29, 2016
Confetti cannons rained blue paper on 550 eager boys and girls as Principal Michael Farrell trumpeted the news Wednesday: Penn Alexander, a West Philadelphia K-8, had been named one of the best schools in the nation.  U.S. Secretary of Education John King designated Penn Alexander and nine other local schools as "shining examples" for others around the country, winners of the 2016 National Blue Ribbon.  For Penn Alexander, a Philadelphia School District elementary that operates in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania, it was especially sweet.  "We talk about collaboration and group work with our kids all the time," Farrell said. "They see that this school is different, and it's unique. And now it's being celebrated because of its collaboration - that's a big takeaway."

Pennsylvania 2016 Blue Ribbon schools are listed on pages 25-26
2016 National Blue Ribbon Schools All Public and Non-Public
US Dept. of Education September 28, 2016

Gerald Zahorchak | Pennsylvania has pressing need for teachers
Johnstown Tribune Democrat By Gerald Zahorchak September 28, 2016
Gerald Zahorchak of Johnstown is interim chairman of Pitt-Johnstown’s education division. He formerly was superintendent of Greater Johnstown School District and Pennsylvania Secretary of Education.  How many students were in your English or history classes in eighth grade? Imagine twice that many. How much attention could the teacher have given to you? How would this have impacted your grades? We very well could be facing this reality as a teacher shortage is upon us.  Pennsylvania needs teachers, especially in the areas of math, science, world languages, special education, speech and language, and bilingual education, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s “Teacher Shortage Area Nationwide Listing, 2016-17.”  Parents of high school students should be sharing real career facts with their children. This message is intended to help parents and high school students steer toward the field of education, a most promising place for tomorrow’s young professionals.

Western Pa. schools' $20K STEAM grant creations put on display
Trib Live BY ELIZABETH BEHRMAN  | Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016, 10:21 p.m.
Stephanie Bonifield stroked her dog Marvin under the chin, and he wagged his tail.
The orange pooch, made of duct tape and cardboard, also blinked his light bulb eyes and shook paws with people who stopped to greet him.  “He's got a gimpy leg, but it works,” said Bonifield, 17, a senior at Carlynton Junior-Senior High School. Marvin is her second robot — she also made Fred, a dinosaur.  She and other Carlynton students showed off their work at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit's annual STEAM Showcase this week. Twenty-eight school districts from Western Pennsylvania sent students to the event to show off what they did with their $20,000 STEAM grants from the AIU in the past year.

“OJR becomes the third district in Chester County to consider altering start times. Unionville-Chadds Ford and Phoenixille Area districts are looking at the logistics of changing start times for the next school year.”
OJR to study altering school start times
Daily Local By Nancy March, For Digital First Media POSTED: 09/28/16, 11:43 AM EDT
SOUTH COVENTRY >> Answering the concerns of some parents and a Chester County-wide study, Owen J. Roberts School District is forming a committee to consider early school start times at the middle and high schools.  Several parents had addressed the board in May to raise the issue of sleep deprivation in teens caused by early school start times. Currently, high school and middle school classes begin at 7:30 a.m. and end at 2:15 p.m.  The speakers in May, including three parents, a doctor and one teen, suggested changing to a start time no earlier than 8:30 a.m., based on a 2014 recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  Superintendent Michael L. Christian told the school board Monday night that a committee is being formed to study the issue. He said the students who completed a study last year for the Chester County Intermediate Unit will make a presentation at the next board committee-of-the-whole meeting Oct. 10.  Christian said after the meeting that an email went out to parents inviting their participation in the committee. Board members, school staff and members of student government will also participate.

U.S. Department of Education Awards $245 Million to Support High-Quality Public Charter Schools
U.S. Department of Education Press Office September 28, 2016
The U.S. Department of Education announced today new grants totaling approximately $245 million under its Charter Schools Program (CSP), which funds the creation and expansion of public charter schools across the nation. Today’s grants are being awarded to state educational agencies and charter management organizations.  The CSP supports the creation of high-quality public charter schools by providing start-up funds for new charter schools, strengthening accountability for charter school performance, sharing leading practices that enable school success, and ultimately, improving educational outcomes for students from high-need communities. The CSP has invested over $3 billion since the program’s inception in 1995 to states and charter school developers. In the past decade, CSP investments have enabled the launch of over 2,500 charter schools, serving approximately one million students. Through the CSP, the Department is committed to supporting the continued growth of excellent public charter schools that are closing equity gaps and improving student outcomes, and these schools’ community engagement and public accountability. ….. Please see below for the list of grantees, first year grant amounts, and total recommended funding (contingent on future Congressional appropriations).

US Department of Education Releases Another $245 Million for Privatization of Public Schools
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch September 28, 2016 //
John King awards $245M to charters incl $8M to the Uncommon Schools charter chain, a chain he previously ran that is known for outrageously high suspension rates. Jersey Jazzman called him the King of Student Suspensions. (His own children never attended a no-excuses charter school; when he lived in New York, they were enrolled in a Montessori school.)
Research accumulates that charters don’t necessarily outperform public schools. That they drain resources from public schools, thus harming the great majority of children who attend public schools. That they fail to be accountable or transparent. That their sponsors and advocates are funded by billionaires and hedge fund managers. That even the best of them, according to a new study by Dobbie and Fryer, have no long-term effects. That they open and close with alarming frequency. That many are abject failures.  Yet John King is using his brief tenure to hand over hundreds of millions to continue the Public School Demolition Derby.

Why California’s charter school sector is called ‘the Wild West’
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss September 28 at 12:06 PM 
This is the second of four posts on the state of the charter school sector in California.
The charter school sector has grown over the last few decades amid a debate about its virtues and drawbacks — and even whether the publicly funded schools are actually public. Some charters do a great job, but even some advocates (though not all) are finally admitting that too many states allowed charters to open and operate without sufficient oversight.  Ohio and Utah have vied for the distinction of having the most troubled charter sector, along with Arizona, where there are no laws against conflicts of interest and for-profit charters do not have to open their books to the public. There’s also Michigan, where 80 percent of the charters are for-profit. And Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale recently issued a report and declared his state’s charter school law the “worst” in the nation.  It’s a race to the bottom.

An education reform civil war in the Black community?
Cloaking Inequity Blog September 28, 2016 by Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig in Charter Schools
I have begun thinking about the education reform dispute as a civil war in the Black community.  Incidentally, at my uncle funeral in Saginaw Michigan this past weekend, I met a fourth cousin who told me that our great great great grandfather fought in the US Civil War for the Union Army in the 110th colored. I learned he was captured at Fort Henderson in Athens, Alabama by General Nathan Bedford Forrest and was a POW until his escape 8 months later. Probably one of the most, most profound things that has happened to me this year.  Returning to the civil war that is occurring in 2016. I spoke at a Journey for Justice Alliance conference at SUNY Old Westbury on Monday before the first presidential debates. I discussed my perspective on the education reform civil war in the Black community. A draft of my remarks is below the video.

Basic Education Funding workshops coming to your area
PA now has a permanent Basic Education Funding formula. Learn more about how it works, what it measures and why it's important. Workshops sponsored by PASA, PSBA, PAIU, PARSS, PA Principals Association and PASBO are coming to an area near you.
Register and see more details and dates here.

Thursday, September 29, 2016 at 5:30 PM
The Crystal Tea Room, The Wanamaker Building
100 Penn Square East, Philadelphia, PA
Honoring: Pepper Hamilton LLP, Signe Wilkinson, Dr. Monique W. Morris
And presenting the ELC PRO BONO AWARD  to Paul Saint-Antoine & Chanda Miller
of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP

The Public Interest Law Center invites you to its 2016 Annual Event: “Of the People, By the People, For the People.” Thursday, Oct 6, 2016 at 6:00 PM
FringeArts 140 N. Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia, PA
Honoring: Soil Generation, Nicholas Chimicles, and Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP

PENNSYLVANIA EDUCATION POLICY FORUM  Wednesday, October 12, 2016  SUBJECT:  EPLC's 2016 Report:  High School Career and Technical Education: Serving Pennsylvania's Workforce and Student Needs
Coffee and Networking - 9:30 a.m.  Program - 10:00 a.m. to Noon   

Technical College High School (Brandywine Campus) - 443 Boot Rd., Downingtown, PA 19335
 RSVP by clicking here. There is no fee, but a RSVP is required. Please feel free to share this invitation with your staff and network. 
An Overview of the EPLC Report on High School CTE will be presented by:
Ron Cowell, President, The Education Policy and Leadership Center
Statewide and Regional Perspectives Will Be Provided By
Dr. Lee Burket, Director, Bureau of Career & Technical Education, PA Department of Education
Jackie Cullen, Executive Director, PA Association of Career & Technical Administrators
Dan Fogarty, Director of Workforce Development & COO, Berks County Workforce Development Board
Kirk Williard, Ed.D., Director of Career, Technical & Customized Education, Chester County Intermediate Unit 

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   (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

The Sixth Annual Arts and Education Symposium – October 27, 2016
The 2016 Arts and Education Symposium will be held on October 27 at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg Convention Center.  Sponsored by the Pennsylvania Arts Education network and EPLC, the Symposium is a Unique Networking and Learning Opportunity for:
·         Arts Educators
·         School Leaders
·         Artists
·         Arts and Culture Community Leaders
·         Arts-related Business Leaders
·         Arts Education Faculty and Administrators in Higher Education
·         Advocates
·         State and Local Policy Leaders
Act 48 Credit is available.
Program and registration information are available here.

REGISTER NOW for the 2016 PA Principals Association State Conference, October 30 - November 1, at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College.
PA Principals Association website Tuesday, August 2, 2016 10:43 AM
To receive the Early Bird Discount, you must be registered by August 31, 2016:
Members: $300  Non-Members: $400
Featuring Three National Keynote Speakers: Eric Sheninger, Jill Jackson & Salome Thomas-EL

SAVE THE DATE LWVPA Convention 2017 June 1-4, 2017
Join the League of Women Voters of PA for our 2017 Biennial Convention at the beautiful Inn at Pocono Manor!

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