Monday, November 13, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov. 13: Every PA Cybercharter Fails to Meet State Standards, for Fifth Year in a Row

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov. 13, 2017: Every PA Cybercharter Fails to Meet State Standards, for Fifth Year in a Row

Do you have newly elected board members? Have them register for PSBA’s new school director training sessions to be held throughout the state in December and January.
An additional session has been scheduled in southeastern PA on Saturday, January 6th in the Haverford School District.

Federal judge orders PA GOP to show redistricting documents
Morning Call by MARK SCOLFORO Of The Associated Press November 10, 2017
The Pennsylvania Legislature's two highest-ranking Republican leaders were ordered Thursday to turn over documents related to development of the state's latest congressional districts map, which a lawsuit claims has given the GOP an unconstitutional edge in elections. A federal judge in Philadelphia gave the leaders a week to produce communications they or aides had with the Redistricting Majority Project, or REDMAP, the party's national redistricting effort after the 2010 census, as well as information used to develop the map. House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati had fought disclosure, citing legislative privilege and other claims. Neither they nor their lawyers responded to requests for comment. The order concerns one of two pending legal challenges to the congressional maps, a federal case that argues Republicans improperly used their role in administering elections to achieve partisan objectives. It is scheduled to go to trial on Dec. 4.

"When you look at these three tests, for two of them, Pennsylvania is the worst in the country and the other it's the third worst state. So that's a really strong indication that someone put the thumb on the scale in Pennsylvania and produced an unnatural result," Li said.”
Why Pennsylvania is home to some of the nation's 'worst' gerrymanders
Penn Live/WITF By Emily Previti Updated 6:43 AM; Posted 5:45 AM November 13, 2017
 Editor's note: This story is the first in a collaboration between PennLive and WITF to examine the issue of gerrymandering -- drawing legislative districts to favor one political party -- and how it affects the people who live and vote in those districts. WESA, WHYY and WPSU also contributed to the project. 
In most states, the legislature is in charge of designing Congressional and state voting districts. Pennsylvania isn't unique in that respect. But some say the commonwealth is home to some of the nation's starkest examples of gerrymandering -- where the shape of a district is manipulated to produce the outcome desired by the party in charge. The term is more than  200 years old. It was coined by a Boston newspaper's coverage of maps produced in Massachusetts in 1812 during the term of Gov. Elbridge Gerry, which featured salamander-shaped district loosely coiled around Boston. To this day, politicians on both sides of the aisle seem to be doing their best to make it an immortal turn of phrase. Pennsylvania's most recent congressional map, drawn in 2011, is known as a particularly egregious example.

New voting districts for Pa. in 2018? It's possible | Editorial
By Express-Times opinion staff Updated Nov 12, 7:08 AM; Posted Nov 12, 7:00 AM
Gerrymandering is alive and well in Pennsylvania, but that could change in a matter of months, following the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's surprising decision to fast-track a constitutional challenge of the state's congressional district maps. Last week, in a 4-3 vote, justices ordered a lower court to hear the case and render a decision by Dec. 31. If you're thinking this could throw a wrench into next year's elections, you're correct -- assuming, of course, the Commonwealth Court tosses the current congressional map and directs the Legislature to create a new one. That's a pretty big "if," but we say: Bring it on. A constitutional wrench should have been tossed into this uber-partisan machinery years ago. It is critical that both Pennsylvania and the United States have a fair, democracy-protecting standard in place.

Pennsylvania: Every Cybercharter Fails to Meet State Standards, for Fifth Year in a Row
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch November 12, 2017 //
For the fifth year in a row, not one cybercharter in Pennsylvania achieved a passing school performance score of 70. When will these scams be held accountable for their poor performance? When will the State close down these failing schools? These “schools” drain hundreds of millions of dollars away from real schools and get poor results, year after year. Two different cybercharter operators were indicted for stealing millions from state taxpayers. One was convicted, the other was tried but the trial ended in a hung jury.

Movement in Pennsylvania to slash school property taxes and Congress' bid to cut federal taxes could pack a nasty one-two punch to some taxpayers.
US News By MARC LEVY, Associated Press Nov. 12, 2017, at 11:20 a.m.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Movement in Pennsylvania to slash school property taxes and Congress' bid to cut federal taxes could pack a nasty one-two punch to some taxpayers.
Both seem sure to produce winners and losers, tax analysts say. Some income taxpayers in Pennsylvania could even lose twice, in a sort of double-whammy, if Pennsylvania shifts a bigger school funding burden to income taxes and Congress eliminates the federal deduction for state taxes. Each effort took a big step last week. Pennsylvania voters approved a referendum Tuesday to allow the Legislature to exclude up to the full value of residents' homes that they own from property taxes. It replaces what had been a 50 percent cap, the latest step in a yearslong quest by some to eliminate school property taxes paid by homeowners. That has propelled a new discussion over finding roughly $7 billion necessary to make the dollar-for-dollar tax shift. Before the referendum, eliminating homeowners' school property taxes was a nearly $13 billion question since it would have to include business properties. In the meantime, a U.S. House committee advanced legislation Thursday that, as part of its broad overhaul of federal tax laws, would eliminate the state income tax deduction that Pennsylvanians used to shield $11.3 billion from also being taxed by the federal government in 2015. 

Both GOP Tax Plans Could Jeopardize School Funding, Teachers' Pocketbooks
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa November 10, 2017
Proposed changes to the federal tax code unveiled by Republican lawmakers at the start of this month would affect teachers' tax burden, private and charter schools, and significant amounts of funding for public schools. Two different versions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act were introduced in the House and Senate this week. The bills don't represent a direct increase or decrease for federal spending on schools. However, it could affect both K-12 funding systems and educators' pocketbooks in several ways. If the bill passes Congress and is signed into law by President Donald Trump, it would be the biggest shift to the federal tax system since 1986. Republicans are aiming to pass the legislation by the end of the year, and the House Ways and Means Committee passed its version of the legislation this week. But the proposals face a long and potentially difficult road ahead in Congress.

GOP Tax Plan Offers Subsidy to Wealthy Private School Parents
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch November 12, 2017 //
The latest GOP Tax Plan Offers a generous break for wealthy families that send their children to private schools, worth up to $30,000 a year in tuition. What happened to the middle class? Forgot about them. This tax break will cost taxpayers up to $600 Million. “That number is the potential net new tax savings, under the House tax plan, for parents who deposit a large amount of money when their kids are born. They would get that benefit by using the money for children starting private school in kindergarten and attending through high school. “Buried in Section 1202 of the tax bill are a number of proposals to consolidate and simplify various tax breaks for education savings. Part of the section in effect would neuter something called a Coverdell account, which families have used for years to save for both private school and college…. “But then comes the big change: Elementary and high school expenses of up to $10,000 per year would become “qualified” expenses for 529 plans. Translation? You could pull $10,000 each year out of your 529 account for private school and avoid paying taxes on any previous growth. There are no income limits on who can use 529 plan

“Even so, there are people in Washington who seem to feel that education is a worthy place to make cuts to shore up the country’s bloated budget. According to preliminary reports about the proposed Republican tax bill, the $250 educator-expense deduction, which K-12 teachers can claim for out-of-pocket spending on anything from supplies to professional development courses and computer equipment and software, is on the chopping block.”
Esther Cepeda: Targeting teacher tax credit hurts students
Beaver County Times By Esther J. Cepeda / Washington Post Writers Group Posted at 12:15 AM
CHICAGO — Last week, I spent about $2 on a tube of ChapStick lip balm for one of my students who showed up to school with a mouth so dry and cracked that his bottom lip was bloody. The week before that, I witnessed Halloween classroom celebrations at my elementary school — where 98 percent of students come from low-income homes — in which students ate cupcakes, candy (the good stuff, like Hershey’s bars, Skittles and Twix) and got such favors as pencils and stickers. All of this was provided by teachers, out of their own paychecks. For many of our students, this was their only Halloween activity, as some live in neighborhoods where gang activity made trick-or-treating an impossibility. So, yes, the teachers brought in their own party supplies. This was in addition to the list of provisions that teachers — especially those who teach in poorly resourced, high-poverty districts — routinely bring in for their students so that kids don’t miss out: books for classroom libraries, dry-erase markers for small-group work, bulletin board decorations, nameplates, crayons and colored pencils, snacks for the hungry, and, with the weather changing, extra coats, scarves and mittens for recess and walking home. No one requires teachers to provide for their students. We do it because we care about offering the best possible educational experience under tremendously difficult circumstances. This is another way of saying that we don’t do it for the tax break.

Editorial: Congress needs to find a way to fund Children's Health Insurance Program and community health centers
Lancaster Online by The LNP Editorial Board November 13, 2017
THE ISSUE - Congress recently took a step toward reauthorizing federal support for community health centers. The bill, which the U.S. House of Representatives passed Nov. 3, would fund the centers for two years, in addition to funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, for five years. But as LNP reported, community health center leaders in Lancaster County are concerned funding issues could cause thousands of patients to lose care. There are some issues that should be bipartisan slam dunks. Of course, and sadly, there’s no such thing anymore. But this is about as close as it gets. The House passed the bill, but there is disagreement about how to pay for the programs. Democrats are concerned that the legislation, the way its currently written, would take money from a preventive care fund that’s part of the Affordable Care Act. The fund sets aside money for prevention programs that help battle Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, diabetes and stroke, among other things.
Locally, as LNP’s Heather Stauffer reported Nov. 4, health center leaders are worried about losing 70 percent of their funding.

For a better Pennsylvania: Part 1 - money
Philly Daily News by John Baer, STAFF COLUMNIST Updated: NOVEMBER 13, 2017 — 5:00 AM EST
(This is first in a series of weekly columns, each dealing with one aspect of state politics and government that, if changed, could make Pennsylvania better.)
Few connect the dots. Few appreciate links between the underpinnings of Pennsylvania politics and government, and routinely disappointing results from both. Why, for example, can’t budgets get done on time, or well? Why does the state rank 45th in fiscal health, per recent data from George Mason University? Why does U.S. News & World Report, using metrics such as health care, infrastructure, and integrity of state government, put us 30th among states, lowest of any northeastern state? And why are we nationally known for corruption? I’d argue it’s because the framework of our politics – long in place and never improved – is flawed and weak, all but assuring poor performance. This column looks at just one part of that framework: our campaign-finance laws. They’re bad. Among the nation’s worst.

So here's what you voted for in that property tax question | Charlie Gerow
Penn Live By Charlie Gerow Opinion Contributor Updated Nov 12, 8:15 AM
As we went to the polls last week, most of the advertising was focused on elections statewide appellate judges and local municipal officials. However, Pennsylvanians also voted for a Constitutional amendment that could pave the way for property tax elimination or reduction. Voters approved, by a relatively narrow margin of less than eight points, a ballot question on a Constitutional amendment to the homestead property tax assessment Exclusion. For the past two decades, local taxing authorities (school districts, local and county governments) have been allowed to exclude from taxation up to 50 percent of the median assessed values of individual homes. Under the provisions of the amendment passed on Tuesday, that number could become 100 percent.

What's that? No idea what you voted for in that Constitutional amendment? You're not the only one | Kirstin Snow
Penn Live Guest Editorial By Kirstin Snow Updated Nov 12, 8:06 AM; Posted Nov 12, 8:00 AM
Pffffft ... Squeak, squeak, squeak ... turn, turn, twist, and bingo! A cute balloon animal. 
Assuming you've actually watched someone make one of these childhood wonders, you have also noticed that when the long, skinny balloon is grabbed in the center, or on an end- the remaining trapped air moves to another spot in the balloon, causing a bulge to appear in the opposite direction. It does not release the internal pressure, unless of course you hear a 'Pop!' and the subsequent chorus of moans.  Then you must start over. On Tuesday at the polls, many Pennsylvanians were intrigued by the balloon animal placed in front of them, in the form of a referendum giving them the chance to vote on the first step of eliminating their property taxes. Much like a real circus balloon, the passage of the referendum meant that following the election, a tight squeeze was being placed on taxes altogether. The resulting bulge created by squeezing property taxes out of the equation must be made up with something else. And that something else has potentially severe ramifications. Cheesy metaphor aside, the referendum language wasn't exactly clear to the average voter, which is nearly always the case.

“When public school students leave for charter schools, their home districts must pay tuition dollars to the charter schools. Quakertown pays about $2 million a year in charter tuition, with more than $280,000 going to the charter arts high school this school year. ….But in the age of competition with charter schools, Harner sees the dance studio as worth it. “We’ve already brought back enough students and kept enough students from leaving for charter schools that it already paid for itself,” Harner said, noting that he loves competition.”
Quakertown builds dance studio to compete with charter schools
In an age of competition with charter schools, Quakertown Community High School has opened a dance studio for students.
Jacqueline Palochko Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call November 12, 2017
In middle school and for the first two years of high school, Julia Mayer took a dance class daily. When she attended first the Arts Academy Charter Middle School in Salisbury Township and then the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts in Bethlehem, dance was part of her curriculum. In 11th grade, she switched to Quakertown Community High School because it was closer to her home and she thought the academics were stronger. But she missed dancing daily for class. Now, Julia, 17, can take dance every day at Quakertown, and wants to major in dance in college. “It’s really exciting,” Julia said. The district this year opened a $370,374 dance studio at the high school after Superintendent Bill Harner asked for one to boost the arts program at the high school. Harner sees it as money well spent if it keeps student dancers from opting for the arts charter school in Bethlehem. Quakertown’s new studio also includes a “black box” theater, a bare-bones performance space, for theater students to use.

“The idea of community schools is to make school buildings into neighborhood hubs for services in health, recreation, and social services. It's a model that is growing in popularity nationally. Ultimately, each school will look different after assessing the community’s unique needs, building partnerships, and developing a plan. The theory is that reaching the “whole child” and aiding families in primarily low-income neighborhoods creates a better learning environment. It is an accepted “intervention” for struggling schools in the national Every Student Succeeds Act, as well as the ESSA plan developed by Pennsylvania.”
First community schools progress report released
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa November 10, 2017 — 6:46am
The first nine schools in Mayor Kenney’s community schools initiative are mostly on track to effectively implement the model, according to a new report by Research for Action that uses national benchmarks to measure progress. The report was done in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office of Education, which is overseeing the project, and funded by the Ford Foundation. In addition to evaluating each of the schools, the report also rated the Mayor’s Office on its management. Evaluators judged elements including whether the Mayor’s Office had built staff capacity, gathered local input, studied similar initiatives in other cities, and collected data on each school and its neighborhood. Schools were judged on whether they created school committees that were representative of the community, held regular meetings, established goals and a vision, built local partnerships, and created a plan for moving forward. Some schools hit most benchmarks and others fell short on some, but all the schools were moving forward, said Mark Duffy, one of the report’s authors. “I can’t overemphasize the complexity of the model,” Duffy said. “The majority of the elements are on track, and this represents a lot of work.”

A final report card for schools: ‘Performance’ scores to be replaced in 2018
Johnstown Tribune Democrat By David Hurst November 12, 2017
Pennsylvania’s School Performance Profile scores probably should have included an asterisk since the first results were compiled nearly five years ago. This year, they include an obituary. The Department of Education has, for the final time, released the statewide profile scores, which originally were unveiled as a standardized test-based report card to see how schools across the state measure up. After a five-year span that saw the state introduce – and then back away from – passing grade-style results, and saw overall scores climb and fall due to major changes to the standardized tests themselves, Pennsylvania is scrapping the School Performance Profile for a more “holistic” measuring stick that many poor and rural schools have been seeking. For now, Pennsylvanians are able to compare schools one last time through this month’s School Performance Profile scores, which use a 100-point scale that relies heavily on standardized test results, including Pennsylvania’s Keystone Exam, and year-to-year academic growth.

Our view: Erie schools move forward from crisis
GoErie By the Editorial Board Posted at 2:01 AM November 11, 2017
For the better part of a decade, Erie School District leaders have spent endless time and energy fixating on money, specifically how to keep the system running without enough cash coming in to pay its bills and adequately meet its obligations to students. Now that it will receive an annual infusion of additional state cash as a result of the recently completed budget process in Harrisburg, schools Superintendent Brian Polito and the Erie School Board must turn to putting that money to the best possible use. They’ll do that with the state looking over their shoulders. A condition of the $14 million in additional funding is oversight by a state-appointed financial administrator who will develop a financial improvement plan for the district. The administrator will develop that plan, without required input from the School Board, to submit to the state secretary of education for approval. The administrator will not oversee educational policy. That fiscal oversight is a reasonable trade-off for the extraordinary relief coming from Harrisburg. We hope the administrator, while holding the district financially accountable, will be respectful of the work done to date and open to input from and collaboration with Polito and the School Board.

“Thanks to the monumental efforts of Sen. Dan Laughlin, Gov. Tom Wolf and Reps. Pat Harkins, Flo Fabrizio, Ryan Bizzarro and Curt Sonney, on Oct. 25 our state Legislature passed House Bill 674, which provides for an annual increase of $14 million in education funding to Erie’s public schools. While this increase will not be the silver bullet for all of the district’s challenges, it does provide a level of stability and fiscal security that we haven’t seen in nearly 10 years. “
Schools crisis response shows Erie’s resolve: Brian Polito
GoErie Opinion by Brain Polito November 11, 2017
Brian Polito is superintendent of the Erie School District.
We all know Erie is a great place to live. It boasts beautiful sunsets, a low cost of living and is a stable place to raise a family. But the real thing Erie has going for it — the thing I think we sometimes underestimate — is our sense of community. When there is a need, big or small, people in this community step up to help. Charles Buki described this trait in the transmittal letter accompanying Erie’s comprehensive plan last year where he wrote that “in the community itself, we found a willingness to do what’s required, if asked, and if mobilized.” His letter and subsequent remarks at the Metro 100 conference were a call to action. Since then, there has been a lot of debate about whether or not Erie can heed that call, and whether we have what it takes to turn the region around. Based on the overwhelming support the Erie School District has received since we began our quest for fair funding in 2015, the answer to these questions seem obvious. Put simply, I have no doubt that Erie is moving in the right direction and that, together, we can make Erie a competitive, thriving, future-focused community.

“It amazes me, the difference between public school in other parts of the state compared to public school in Philadelphia,” said Sambra Townsend, a member of Parents United. “We as the people of Philadelphia need to hold whatever body comes out of this accountable, whatever that board looks like … and there needs to be a parent voice on that board.” And that point — that board members need to be community members with a personal stake in the outcome — was echoed by practically everyone who spoke.”
Philly Residents want elected school board members with skin in the game
Councilwoman Bass is holding town halls on replacing the SRC.
The notebook by Greg Windle November 12, 2017 — 5:43pm
Parents and activists at a town hall last week — held by councilwoman Cindy Bass at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia — offered opinions about the kind of school board they want to replace the School Reform Commission, which has run the city’s school system since 2001. First and foremost, they want board members with skin in the game, especially people who have children in public schools. Bass answered some questions, but mostly collected concerns to relay to Mayor Jim Kenney. The town hall was the first of five Bass is holding in her district, largely consisting of Northwest Philadelphia.  The most prominent topic Wednesday was an elected school, which most participants favored, versus an appointed school board — the next step in the process after the SRC is gone.

Will the new school board reflect the kids who go to Philly schools? | Opinion
Inquirer Letter Updated: NOVEMBER 10, 2017 — 3:01 AM EST by
Tomanel Williams, mother and grandmother, Mastery Cleveland Elementary
Laura English, parent, Mastery Prep Middle School and Mastery Clymer Elementary
Dahn Dennis, parent, Mastery Hardy Williams Academy
Leslie White, parent, Mastery Clymer Elementary
Vanika Henderson, parent, Gratz High School
Millicent Williams, parent, Mastery Cleveland Elementary
Dear Mayor Kenney,
We’re not sure you saw us.  We were sitting up in the balcony of the City Council Chambers when you laid out your vision for education in Philadelphia. Hopefully, you heard us.  We were the ones applauding when you said your goal was “ensuring that every child has access to quality schools no matter where they live or no matter what they look like.” We share your vision.  We believe every child matters.  Our children matter. We are mothers and fathers and grandmothers.  We live in North Philadelphia and Southwest Philadelphia.  Our kids go to their local neighborhood schools – Cleveland, Clymer, and Gratz Prep.  Just a few years back, these schools were all considered some of the worst schools in the city.  They were the “chronically failing” schools and, in some cases, the “persistently dangerous” ones.  Not anymore.  In fact, they are now some of the best neighborhood schools in the city.  This change happened when Mastery Charter Schools started to run and manage them.  They are still our neighborhood schools, but now they are excellent, safe schools, with amazing teachers and classrooms filled with love.

“Joseph Neubauer, whose family foundation underwrites the fellowship, is a former top executive at Aramark. He explained that coming back from an overseas trip and catching up on the news a few years ago, he was appalled to learn that two of the city’s flagship public schools were losing their librarians to budget cuts. In trying to do something about that, he visited schools and began to realize how crucial leadership is to making them work.”
Academy is training Philly principals to be stronger leaders
The Neubauer Fellowship in Educational Leadership has trained 62 city principals from District, charter, and faith-based schools.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa November 10, 2017 — 2:52pm
We have all heard about a dynamic principal who singlehandedly transforms a school from chaos to order, from malaise to excitement, from mediocre performance to stunning academic gains. Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan knows those stories, too. But personal dynamism is not enough, he says — great leadership is necessary at scale. “Leadership matters,” said Duncan, who spoke Thursday night at an event sponsored by the Philadelphia Academy of School Leaders. “If you are going to make Philadelphia the fastest-improving city, it won’t happen with just one great principal. I want to hear stories of 100 great principals.” That is the idea behind the Academy of School Leaders, whose Neubauer Fellowship in Educational Leadership has so far trained 62 Philadelphia principals from District, charter, and faith-based schools. During the fellowship, the principals spend two years learning the best leadership techniques, while also creating a professional support network.

How the city improved high school graduation rates is a lesson for the future | Editorial
by The Inquirer Editorial Board Updated: NOVEMBER 11, 2017 — 10:37 AM EST
The high school graduation rate for Philadelphia public schools used to be so disappointing that the district tried to hide it. The words “about 50 percent” were typically used by various official spokesmen, as if that softened the reality that half the children in city high schools didn’t graduate in four years, if at all. That history fueled the celebration Thursday when Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. announced the city’s graduation rate, now 67 percent, had gone up for the third straight year. The announcement was made at Lincoln High School, which has been in the vanguard of schools making significant academic progress. Lincoln’s graduation rate jumped 12 points to 79 percent. The biggest increase, 16 percent, was at Strawberry Mansion High, but that gave it only a 52 percent graduation rate, which serves as testimony to the challenges to education that students and teachers face in that North Philadelphia neighborhood just east of Fairmount Park.

From chaos to calm at one North Philly elementary school
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag | Updated: NOVEMBER 12, 2017 — 5:27 AM EST
Kenderton Elementary was in full-blown crisis at the beginning of last school year: There were frequent fights, students roaming the school, walking out of the building. Teachers quit, and parents said they feared for their children’s safety and worried they weren’t learning much. “It was just bad,” said Aliyah Alexander, who was in fifth grade at the time. “Students weren’t listening, they were running the hallways, having attitude, slamming doors, ripping stuff down.” These days, Kenderton is on the rise, thanks to a back-to-basics approach — consistency, a proven principal, and a host of investments and extra supports provided by the Philadelphia School District. Kenderton illustrates much about the challenges and promise of urban education, and what the shifting sands of school reform can mean to a neighborhood: The school at 15th and Ontario has been frequently tagged in Philadelphia school-reform efforts that have not panned out. For nearly two decades, periodic upheaval has been the norm for the school. In the early 2000s, the district gave Kenderton  to Edison, a for-profit education company, to run. That relationship did not last; eventually the struggling school was given to Young Scholars, a charter company, to administer. But the charter company abruptly abandoned Kenderton in June 2016, citing the high cost of educating its large special-education population.

Central Bucks, Neshaminy among area school districts using ALICE active shooter program
Intelligencer By Chris English  Posted at 5:00 AM November 13, 2017
The program for active school shooters developed by a former Texas cop and his wife advocates actions like evacuating the scene whenever possible and, as a last resort, throwing objects at or rushing a shooter. Central Bucks is the latest area school district to adopt a program supporters call a more proactive and less passive approach to dealing with an active shooter. In deciding to participate in ALICE, a program started by former Texas cop and SWAT team member Greg Crane and his wife, Lisa, Central Bucks joins the Neshaminy and Pennridge among the school districts using the program in Bucks County. Officials in the Centennial School District said they are considering it. The acronym stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. Started by the Cranes soon after the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999, the protocol is now in place in 4,200 school districts across the country, ALICE spokeswoman Victoria Shaw said. In contrast to the “lockdown, shelter in place” approach still used at many schools, ALICE recommends steps like looking for every opportunity to escape if it can be done safely. Also, as a last resort and depending on the grade level of students, the program advocates things like throwing things at and rushing a shooter, Shaw said.

The $1m school-board race
Despite the spending, most voters continue to ignore them
The Economist Nov 9th 2017| LOS ANGELES
A FEW weeks ago, flyers appeared around Denver in anticipation of a school-board election that was held on November 7th. At first glance, they appeared typical, bearing the smiling face of the candidate next to a short explanation of why she deserved to win. “Jennifer Bacon is the only candidate who has actually taught in public schools,” it read. But above that ordinary proclamation was a more surprising claim. Next to an image of an open safe containing stacks of $100 bills the flyer blared: “Rachel Espiritu’s campaign is funded by dark money from groups outside Colorado tied to Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos.” Elections to choose school boards, which shape education policy at the local level, have historically been sleepy, low-turnout affairs. But in recent years they have become contentious, serving as proxies for the rancorous debate between advocates of education reform and teachers’ unions. The reformers champion increasing access to charter schools and expanding educational options in general; the unions oppose such an agenda on the grounds that it could attract students away from districts that bargain with teachers collectively.

Why Are Parents Afraid of Later School Start Times?
A new paper argues that using behavioral economics to ease families’ fear of change could help convince them to switch up their children’s routines.
The Atlantic by ISABEL FATTAL  NOV 12, 2017
All of my high-school memories, even the best ones, are tinged with exhaustion: the full-body ache of dragging myself into bed at midnight at the end of a long day of school and homework, the terror of staring down traffic lights in the hope they’d change as I raced to arrive by our 7:10 AM start time. My friends and I talked incessantly about how tired we were, and our parents talked about it, too, but no one ever seemed to float the idea that we should be making a change. It was just the way things were. Research has shown that early school start times (7:30 a.m., for example) don’t square with adolescents’ sleep needs, and that later ones have positive effects on mental and physical health, as well as academic performance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have even urged policymakers to move toward later start times—scientists tend to recommend pushing the bell to 8:30 a.m.—for middle and high-school students. Still, many school districts have been mired in years-long debates over the issue.

From a swastika in Pennsylvania to a Snapchat post from Virginia, schools react to racial incidents
Post-Gazette by SOPHIA TAREEN Associated Press 7:00 AM NOV 13, 2017
CHICAGO — Maryland students using their shirts to spell a racial slur used against black people at a rally. Pennsylvania students posing with swastika-carved pumpkins. A Montana student photographed with a gun accompanied with a racial epithet. Racial incidents are appearing to pop up at an alarming rate in the nation’s public schools. There were roughly 80 incidents in October alone, by one expert’s count, including a Chicago-area student who was charged with a hate crime for racially charged posts on social media. Many educators note a spike anecdotally, and social media can give such incidents wider and faster exposure. But it’s far trickier to assess whether there’s an increase numerically, with no organization or agency consistently tracking the issue over time. School officials acknowledge the incidents are more visible and brazen, fueled by a polarizing presidential administration, divided public and “meme culture.” As a result, schools have responded more publicly and intensely than before.

Breaking News: California NAACP calls for investigation of ALL Gülen charters
Cloaking Inequity Blog Posted on November 10, 2017 by Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig
Did you know that Muhammed Fethullah Gülen Hocaefendi (pictured), an Imam that was kicked out of Turkey and is sequestered in rural Pennsylvania, is operating the second largest network of charter schools in the United States? (Yes, this is the same Gülen that Michael Flynn allegedly was trying to have extradited from the United States) In the past I have blogged about the Gülen-affiliated charter schools in the posts Bad Charters, Bad Charters, “Whatcha gonna do when they come for you” and Gulen-affiliated charter schools are bad apples? and Empire of Deceit says charters squandering taxes and violating immigration laws. When I watched the film Killing Ed, I was skeptical, as I am paid to be. So when I was in Houston to give a talk at Rice University, I ran into a former Gülen Harmony student and asked a few questions.
Q: Was it true that the Gülen schools were populated with many teachers from Turkey who had difficulty speaking English
A: Yes
Q: Was it true that some students didn’t actually do their own science projects as alleged in the film Killing Ed.
A: Yes
I spent more time confirming with the student some of the other allegations about lack of playgrounds, self-dealing, and aberrant behavior from administrators. I was shocked their behavior was being allowed in Texas. So, I am announcing today, in addition to getting the negative attention they deserve from law enforcement and the media, the California NAACP has now stepped up to the plate with a resolution to call for an investigation of ALL the Gülen charter schools.

Turkey denies report of plan to kidnap cleric Gulen from U.S.
Morning Call by Zeynep Bilginsoy Associated Press November 12, 2017
Turkey has dismissed as "utterly false, ludicrous and groundless" a report that Turkish officials may have discussed paying millions of dollars to have a U.S.-based Muslim cleric kidnapped.
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was investigating an alleged plot involving former U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and his son to hand Fethullah Gulen over to Ankara for as much as $15 million. Turkey blames the cleric and his supporters for a July 2016 military coup attempt that killed 250 people. Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, has denied being behind it. The Turkish Embassy in Washington reiterated demands late Saturday for the United States to extradite Gulen so he can stand trial. The embassy in a statement rejected "all allegations that Turkey would resort to means external to the rule of law" to get Gulen back on Turkish soil.

November School Leader Advocacy Training
PASA, PASBO, PSBA, the Pennsylvania Principals Association, the PARSS and PAIU are offering five, full-day School Leader Advocacy Training sessions at the following locations:
Wednesday, November 15 – Berks County I.U. 14 (Reading)
Thursday, November 16 – Midwestern I.U. 4 (Grove City)
Friday, November 17 – Westmoreland I.U. 7 (Greensburg)
Take advantage of this great opportunity – at NO cost to you!

Cyber Charter School Application; Public Hearing November 20
Pennsylvania Bulletin Saturday, October 14, 2017 NOTICES - DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
The Department of Education (Department) has scheduled one date for a public hearing regarding a cyber charter school application that was received on or before October 2, 2017. The hearing will be held on November 20, 2017, in Heritage Room A on the lobby level of 333 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17126 at 9 a.m. The hearing pertains to the applicant seeking to operate a cyber charter school beginning in the 2018-2019 school year. The purpose of the hearing is to gather information from the applicant about the proposed cyber charter school as well as receive comments from interested individuals regarding the application. The name of the applicant, copies of the application and a listing of the date and time scheduled for the hearing on the application can be viewed on the Department's web site at Individuals who wish to provide comments on the application during the hearing must provide a copy of their written comments to the Department and the applicant on or before November 6, 2017. Comments provided by this deadline and presented at the hearing will become part of the certified record. For questions regarding this hearing, contact the Division of Charter Schools, (717) 787-9744,

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Education Cyber Charter School Application for Commonwealth Education Connections Cyber Charter School 2017
Charter School Application Submitted: September 27, 2017

Support the Notebook and see Springsteen on Broadway
The notebook October 2, 2017 — 10:57am
Donate $50 or more until Nov. 10, enter to win – and have your donation doubled!
"This music is forever for me. It's the stage thing, that rush moment that you live for. It never lasts, but that's what you live for." – Bruce Springsteen
You can be a part of a unique Bruce Springsteen show in his career – and support local, nonprofit education journalism!  Donate $50 or more to the Notebook through Nov. 10, and your donation will be doubled, up to $1,000, through the Knight News Match. Plus, you will be automatically entered to win a pair of prime tickets to see Springsteen on Broadway!  One winner will receive two tickets to the 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24, show at the Walter Kerr Theatre. These are amazing orchestra section seats to this incredible sold-out solo performance. Don't miss out on your chance to see the Boss in his Broadway debut. Donate to the Notebook today online or by mail at 699 Ranstead St., 3rd Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19106.

Register for New School Director Training in December and January
PSBA Website October 2017
You’ve started a challenging and exciting new role as a school director. Let us help you narrow the learning curve! PSBA’s New School Director Training provides school directors with foundational knowledge about their role, responsibilities and ethical obligations. At this live workshop, participants will learn about key laws, policies, and processes that guide school board governance and leadership, and develop skills for becoming strong advocates in their community. Get the tools you need from experts during this visually engaging and interactive event.
Choose from any of these 10 locations and dates (note: all sessions are held 8 a.m.-4 p.m., unless specified otherwise.):
·         Dec. 8, Bedford CTC
·         Dec. 8, Montoursville Area High School
·         Dec. 9, Upper St. Clair High School
·         Dec. 9, West Side CTC
·         Dec. 15, Crawford County CTC
·         Dec. 15, Upper Merion MS (8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m)
·         Dec. 16, PSBA Mechanicsburg
·         Dec. 16, Seneca Highlands IU 9
·         Jan. 6, Haverford Middle School
·         Jan. 13, A W Beattie Career Center
·         Jan. 13, Parkland HS
Fees: Complimentary to All-Access members or $170 per person for standard membership. All registrations will be billed to the listed district, IU or CTC. To request billing to an individual, please contact Michelle Kunkel at Registration also includes a box lunch on site and printed resources.

Save the Date! NSBA 2018 Advocacy Institute February 4-6, 2018 Marriott Marquis, Washington D.C.
Registration Opens Tuesday, September 26, 2017

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