Friday, February 1, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb. 1: New York Joins Movement to Abandon Use of Student Tests in Teacher Evaluations

Started in November 2010, daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4050 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, superintendents, school solicitors, principals, charter school leaders, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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New York Joins Movement to Abandon Use of Student Tests in Teacher Evaluations

For 2016-17, 32,968 students were enrolled in Pennsylvania’s 14 cyber charter schools, which collected over $454 million in tuition from our 500 school districts (source: PDE). Total cyber charter tuition paid by PA taxpayers from 500 school districts for 2013, 2014 and 2015 was over $1.2 billion; $393.5 million, $398.8 million and $436.1 million respectively.

The chart below shows enrollment and total tuition received for each of the state’s cyber charters during 2016-2017.

New House Education Committee Majority Chairman Curt Sonney has previously proposed legislation that would require parents and guardians of cyber charter students to pay for the students’ educations — rather than having the local school district foot the bill — if the local district provides a cyber program of its own. 

This session, Senator Judy Schwank has introduced similar legislation, SB34, now in the Senate Ed Committee.

Cyber Charter Name
2016-17 Enrollment
2016-17 Revenue from other LEAs
Central PA Digital Learning Foundation CS
Commonwealth Charter Academy CS
PA Distance Learning CS
Reach Cyber CS
Susq-Cyber CS
Pennsylvania Virtual CS
21st Century Cyber CS
PA Leadership CS
Achievement House CS
Agora Cyber CS
Esperanza Cyber CS
ACT Academy Cyber CS
Pennsylvania Cyber CS
ASPIRA Bilingual Cyber CS
Statewide Totals

You can still sign up for PA Schools Work Community Meeting Saturday, Feb. 2nd 8:45-12 am at DCIU
Do you care about our public schools? Learn how to take action to get students the support they deserve. Join the PA Schools Work coalition and community members across Delaware County to work together to advocate for PA public schools, their students and the communities they serve. On February 2nd from 8:45am-12pm at the Delaware County Intermediate Unit, join the group to:
·         Hear stories about how funding affects students across the county
·         Learn how and take action in real time to approach your local legislators to advocate for the needs of our students
·         Connect on social media and grow your networks and influence stakeholders in your community
To RSVP contact Theresa Marsden at 610-938-9000 ext. 2058 or
The Facebook event can be found here: 

Crumbling school buildings? Philly charter operator offering to build them better
Inquirer by Maddie Hanna, Updated: 32 minutes ago
Charter school supporters generally talk about opportunities for children. But one Philadelphia charter operator says it has an opportunity for the school district.  String Theory Schools, which took out $55 million in bonds in 2013 to buy a Center City office tower and now runs the largest single charter school in the city, is applying to open a new dance-themed school in West Philadelphia. But it’s eyeing a bigger expansion: It wants to build schools to replace the district’s in some neighborhoods, a takeover it says would spare the district from having to make costly repairs on its aging structures. "I'm not ideological about charter schools," said Jason Corosanite, String Theory's chief innovation officer. "But I do think as an instrument, or a vehicle to address the facilities problems we have right now in the city of Philadelphia, I think it's a viable solution."

Lawsuit challenges Pa. school's policy about passing out Bibles
Morning Call by Associated Press January 31, 2019
A Pennsylvania district faces a federal lawsuit claiming officials improperly prevented a high school Christians in Action Club from passing out Bibles on school property during the school day. The lawsuit filed Thursday by the club and parents of club leaders names as defendants Mechanicsburg Area School District, its superintendent and its high school principal. It says the policy violates the U.S. Constitution's free speech and free exercise of religion protections. It argues that letting the students give out Bibles during lunch wouldn't interfere with educational activity. In a statement, Superintendent Mark Leidy calls the lawsuit a publicity stunt and says it contains inaccurate claims. Leidy says a formal request wasn't made to distribute Bibles at school. The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the district's policy on distributing literature.

Phoenixville schools' $96M preliminary budget has $2.2M deficit, may raise taxes above 2.3% cap
Mercury by Evan Brandt @PottstownNews on Twitter January 31, 2019
PHOENIXVILLE — The $96 million preliminary 2019-2020 school budget up for a vote Feb. 11 has a $2.2 million deficit even if taxes are raised by 2.3 percent. If adopted unchanged, it would translate into a $95 tax hike for owners of property assessed at $135,000, the district's median assessment, according to a presentation made to the school board Jan. 14. But taxes in the school district could go beyond the 2.3 percent cap set by Pennsylvania's Act 1. In a legal notice published in The Mercury, the district also announced that it may seek "exceptions" to the tax cap, which is called an "index." Under Act 1, school boards can adopt a budget that exceeds its annual index either by seeking voter approval in the spring primary, an extremely rare occurrence, or by seeking "exceptions" for a few specified reasons. One of those specified reasons is special education costs which, according to the presentation the state underfunded in Phoenixville by $3.7 million in the current school year.

North Coventry Elementary School takes national stage
Mercury by MediaNews Group January 31, 2019
NORTH COVENTRY — North Coventry Elementary School, a designated Title I School, has the honor of national Title I recognition. Two schools in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have earned the honor of 2018 National Title 1 Distinguished School. North Coventry Elementary School is one of up to 100 schools throughout the country that is being nationally recognized for exceptional student achievement in 2018. This week, a team from the school is spotlighting the school’s practices as part of the National Association of ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) Conference in Kansas City. This honor of presenting at the conference was achieved through a selection process of best practices. The ESEA provides additional resources for vulnerable students and federal grants to state educational agencies to improve the quality of public elementary and secondary education. North Coventry has worked to ensure that all students and families are provided the highest quality education. The students are the focal point of every decision.

“Local school districts and teachers’ unions in New York will now officially be allowed to decide together how educators should be evaluated, with some oversight from the state Education Department, and no requirement that standardized tests must play a role.”
New York Joins Movement to Abandon Use of Student Tests in Teacher Evaluations
New York Times By Eliza Shapiro Feb. 1, 2019
Four years ago, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo pushed through a plan to put New York at the forefront of a national movement to reshape American public education: He vowed that half of a teacher’s rating would be determined by student results on standardized exams. But his initiative met with immediate resistance from teachers’ unions and parents, especially those in New York’s wealthy suburbs and progressive urban pockets. They protested on the basis it would place undue stress on teachers and children, whose test scores are used for high-stakes admissions decisions and academic tracking. As a result, with Mr. Cuomo’s assent, the evaluation system was suspended only months after it had been adopted. Now, in a final capitulation to a yearslong backlash, Mr. Cuomo is set to sign a bill the Legislature just passed that essentially guts the testing component. The new measure will add New York to the growing rebellion against using testing to assess teachers that has also spread to Colorado and California.

Reprise: New education leaders in Pa. Legislature seek to reduce role of state tests, increase accountability for cyber charters
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent January 23, 2019
State Rep. Curt Sonney hails from just outside Erie, Pennsylvania, representing an ‘L’-shaped district jammed into the state’s northwestern corner. State Sen. Ryan Aument comes from the state’s heartland, and represents a chunk of fast-growing Lancaster County. But the two Republican lawmakers have something important in common: they will lead the education committees in their respective chambers this legislative session. Their appointments make them major players on an issue that tends to draw considerable attention in Harrisburg.

:Virtual-Charter Backlash: One of the biggest disrupters to charters in 2018 was self-inflicted. Ohio's largest full-time online charter school closed abruptly in the middle of the school year amid a scandal involving attendance records. The Ohio Supreme Court cleared the way for the state to force the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, or ECOT, to repay tens of millions of dollars to the state. The problem arose from the school overstating its enrollment and thus receiving substantial overpayment from the state. That situation highlights a potential problem with online charter schools when the state lacks proper oversight. Exstrom called it a "concern across all states" with online charters that goes beyond this one high-profile example. "Everyone is really trying to figure out a way to hold them more accountable because the research and information and reporting that's coming out on the student achievement and graduation rates for those students is pretty abysmal," said Exstrom. "So what do you do if you have an authorized online charter school that is only graduating 10 percent of its students? How do you handle that?"
Charter Debates Could Be Coming to State Legislatures
State policy debate now at 'granular level'
Education Week By Marva Hinton January 23, 2019
While funding, teacher pay and shortages, and school safety are prime K-12 issues in the state legislative sessions that get underway this month, charter schools are also likely to be hot topics on lawmakers' agendas. Among the potential flash points: how to make sure funding for charter schools is equitable and how to hold online charter schools accountable. Last year, 86 bills concerning charters were enacted in 27 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But Michelle Exstrom, the education group director at NCSL, points to the fact that charter schools are the law of the land in 44 states and the District of Columbia as proof that legislation around charters, in particular, is shifting. "The debate about [their existence] is over in most states," said Exstrom. "It's not really a should-we-shouldn't-we thing anymore. They're starting to really get more to the granular level of now that we have choice in place, how do we make sure it's actually working and doing what we intended for it to do?"

Blogger note: Cory Booker is now running for President…
5 Things Educators Need to Know About Cory Booker
Education Week By Alyson Klein October 29, 2013
New Jersey voters this month picked Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat, to fill the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, also a Democrat, who died in June. Mr. Booker already has a national profile on education issues. 1. 'Democrat for Education Reform': Mr. Booker was a galvanizing force in the past decade bringing together a cadre of high-powered, deep-pocketed Wall Street donors with an interest in education policy, to support his early races for city council and mayor. The group eventually became Democrats for Education Reform, now the signature political action committee for left-of-center politicians who are fans of less-than-traditional Democratic policies, including charter schools and teacher performance pay. The group's founders "knew each other before, but they got involved in politics together to support Cory Booker," said Joe Williams, the executive director of dfer. The pac poured some quarter-million dollars into Mr. Booker's Senate campaign, Mr. Williams estimated.
2. Voucher Supporter: Mr. Booker is among a handful of prominent Democrats nationally to support private school vouchers, and championed a proposed New Jersey law that would have created a voucher program in that state. He co-founded Excellent Education for Everyone, a nonprofit organization that sought to promote vouchers and charter schools in New Jersey. The push won backing from other well-known New Jersey Democrats but was ultimately unsuccessful.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis seeks to ditch Common Core, find new academic standards for public schools
Leslie Postal Contact Reporter Orlando Sentinel January 31, 2019
Gov. Ron DeSantis, fulfilling a key education campaign promise, said Thursday he had signed an executive order “eliminating Common Core and the vestiges of Common Core” from Florida’s public schools. Common Core is a set of standards spelling out what children should learn in language arts and math classes, from kindergarten to 12th grade. Florida, with Republicans in charge, first adopted Common Core in 2010 and then again in 2014, after making tweaks and renaming them Florida Standards. But the academic benchmarks have been controversial here and across the country, dividing some Republicans. Former Gov. Jeb Bush championed them, for example, but DeSantis, a Republican from northwest Florida, ran for office promising to get rid of them, buoying Common Core opponents. They argued Common Core represented the federal government’s illegal intrusion into public education, a push toward even more high-stakes testing and a move toward developmentally inappropriate lessons, among other problems. The federal government encouraged states to adopt the standards with its Race to the Top grant, a program that awarded Florida $700 million in federal money in 2010.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: January 23 - 29, 2019
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on January 29, 2019 - 2:37pm 
Anyone who thinks assessment reform campaigns (and victories) are confined to a few "liberal" states, should check out this week's stories from places such as Mississippi, Oklahoma and Wyoming.  The movement to roll back standardized exam overuse and misuse is truly national, cutting across traditional partisan and ideological lines, and it is accelerating rapidly.

Open Board Positions for 2019 PA Principals Association Election
Thursday, January 10, 2019 9:05 AM
Margaret S. (Peg) Foster, principal, academic affairs, in the Crestwood School District, has been appointed by President Michael Allison to serve as the chairperson of the 2019 PA Principals Association Nominations Committee to oversee the 2019 election. Her committee consists of the following members: Curtis Dimmick, principal in the Northampton Area School District; Jacqueline Clark-Havrilla, principal in the Spring-Ford School District; and Joseph Hanni, vice principal in the Scranton School District.   If you are interested in running for one of the open board positions (shown below) in the 2019 election, please contact Stephanie Kinner at or (717) 732-4999 for an application. Applications must be received in the state office by Friday, February 22, 2019.

Pennsylvania schools work – for students, communities and the economy when adequate resources are available to give all students an equal opportunity to succeed.
Join A Movement that Supports our Schools & Communities
PA Schools Work website
Our students are in classrooms that are underfunded and overcrowded. Teachers are paying out of pocket and picking up the slack. And public education is suffering. Each child in Pennsylvania has a right to an excellent public education. Every child, regardless of zip code, deserves access to a full curriculum, art and music classes, technical opportunities and a safe, clean, stable environment. All children must be provided a level chance to succeed. PA Schools Work is fighting for equitable, adequate funding necessary to support educational excellence. Investing in public education excellence is the path to thriving communities, a stable economy and successful students.

Indiana Area School District Safety & Security Symposium March 15, 2019
Indiana Area School District Website
Background: It’s 2019, and school safety has catapulted as one of the top priorities for school districts around the country. With an eye toward providing educators with various resources and opportunities specific to Pennsylvania, the Indiana Area School District -- in collaboration with Indiana University of Pennsylvania, PA Representative Jim Struzzi, and as well as Indiana County Tourist Bureau-- is hosting a FREE safety and security symposium on March 15, 2019. This safety and security exchange will provide information that benefits all stakeholders in your education community: administrators, board members, and staff members alike. Presenters offer valuable resources to help prepare your organization to continue the discussion on safety and security in our schools.  Pre-registration is required, and you will be invited to choose the breakout sessions that you feel will have the most impact in your professional learning on these various topics, as well as overall impact on your District’s systems of operations. Please take time to review the various course breakout sessions and their descriptions.  Don’t miss this opportunity to connect and learn.
How to Register: Participants attending the Safety Symposium on March 15, 2019, will have the option to select a maximum of 4 breakout sessions to attend on this day.  Prior to the breakout sessions, attendees will hear opening remarks from former Secretary of Education - Dr. Gerald Zahorchak.  We want to empower the attendees to exercise their voice and choice in planning their day!  Please review the various break out session descriptions by clicking on the "Session Descriptions" on the right-hand side of this page.  On that page, you will be able to review the sessions offered that day and register for the symposium.

Annual PenSPRA Symposium set for March 28-29, 2019
Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association Website
Once again, PenSPRA will hold its annual symposium with nationally-recognized speakers on hot topics for school communicators. The symposium, held at the Conference Center at Shippensburg University, promises to provide time for collegial sharing and networking opportunities. Mark you calendars now!
We hope you can join us. Plans are underway, so check back for more information.

2019 NSBA Annual Conference Philadelphia March 30 - April 1, 2019
Pennsylvania Convention Center 1101 Arch Street Philadelphia, PA 19107

Registration Questions or Assistance: 1-800-950-6722
The NSBA Annual Conference & Exposition is the one national event that brings together education leaders at a time when domestic policies and global trends are combining to shape the future of the students. Join us in Philadelphia for a robust offering of over 250 educational programs, including three inspirational general sessions that will give you new ideas and tools to help drive your district forward.

PSBA Members - Register for PSBA Advocacy Day at the Capitol in Harrisburg Monday April 29, 2019
All PSBA-members are invited to attend Advocacy Day on Monday, April 29, 2019 at the state Capitol in Harrisburg. In addition, this year PSBA will be partnering with the Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units (PAIU) and Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) to strengthen our advocacy impact. The focus for the day will be meetings with legislators to discuss critical issues affecting public education. There is no cost to attend, and PSBA will assist in scheduling appointments with legislators once your registration is received. The day will begin with a continental breakfast and issue briefings prior to the legislator visits. Registrants will receive talking points, materials and leave-behinds to use with their meetings. PSBA staff will be stationed at a table in the main Rotunda during the day to answer questions and provide assistance. The day’s agenda and other details will be available soon. If you have questions about Advocacy Day, legislative appointments or need additional information, contact  Register for PSBA Advocacy Day now at
School directors can register online now by logging in to myPSBA. If you need assistance logging in and registering contact Alysha Newingham, Member Data System Administrator at or call her at (717) 506-2450, ext. 3420

Save the Date:  PARSS Annual Conference May 1-3, 2019
Wyndham Garden Hotel, Mountainview Country Club
Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools

Any comments contained herein are my comments, alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or organization that I may be affiliated with.

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