Friday, October 4, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup for October 4, 2019 PSBA Training: Navigating Charter Authorization; Hershey Lodge Oct 15, 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM

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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PA Ed Policy Roundup for October 4, 2019

What: AAUW Informal discussion on cyber charter schools
When: 9 a.m. refreshments, 9:30 a.m. panel, Oct. 7
Where: Central PA Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, 800 E. Park Ave., State College

Hershey Lodge & Convention Center OCT 15, 2019 • 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM
As the local authorizing body, the school board is responsible for approving and evaluating brick-and-mortar charter schools. This day of training allows district leadership to learn from experienced Pennsylvania school solicitors as well as others familiar with authorization, application review and renewal processes. Attendees will be provided with actionable steps and useful tools for leading their district through review processes and charter negotiations to ensure district dollars are being used to offer high-quality educational options to students.
Space is limited, so register today! To register, please log in to
If this is your first time registering for a PSBA event, please contact PSBA Registrar Janelle Hoch. She will respond within 24 hours during the business week to ensure you are able to successfully register for this event. (717) 506-2450, ext. 3437

“The framers believed democracy requires an informed citizenry. Thomas Jefferson observed that “wherever the people are well-informed they can be trusted with their own government.” Sadly, civics is not taught comprehensively in our schools. Basic knowledge that is crucial to the preservation of our democracy has been shoved aside in favor of subjects on the state-mandated standardized test. While Pennsylvania recently passed a law requiring schools to test students’ civics knowledge at least once in middle or high school — a step in the right direction — students do not have to pass the test, and it is unclear how effectively the curricula will imbue an understanding of our government, rights, and responsibilities.”
Judge Marjorie Rendell: Civics education is failing | Opinion
Opinion by Marjorie Rendell, for the Inquirer Updated: October 3, 2019 - 12:33 PM
Marjorie Rendell is Senior Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and a former first lady of Pennsylvania.
I attended a conference several years ago at which retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter told a story of a Russian lawyer who visited the Supreme Court. The lawyer asked Souter what he thought was the most important opinion of the modern Supreme Court. He replied, as many of us would, that it was Brown v. Board of Education. Souter could tell that his answer disappointed the lawyer, so he asked which case the lawyer would have chosen. The lawyer cited the Nixon tapes decision, in which the Supreme Court ordered President Nixon to turn over tapes of conversations he had secretly recorded. The Russian lawyer remarked that, in his country, a court could never tell the head of state what to do. Souter said that, upon hearing this, he had “an epiphany”: We don’t teach our children civics, or how special our system really is. At that moment, I, too, had an epiphany. I resolved to spend my judicial career — and my bully pulpit as first lady of Pennsylvania — trying to educate our children about ways in which the framers crafted a form of government that has been the envy of the world and, indeed, has been emulated by many nations over the years.

New funding boosts Philadelphia School District bond rating
The Bond Buyer By Andrew Coen Published October 03 2019, 3:55pm EDT
Increased financial pledges from city and state sources triggered a two-notch upgrade for the long-struggling Philadelphia School district to a higher speculative-grade rating ahead of a more than $600 million bond deal that will also benefit from state credit support. Fitch Ratings upgraded the system’s issuer default rating to BB-plus from BB-minus Thursday, citing positive fiscal improvements achieved after recent funding increases from Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. 

Anita Faas | For 1 in 5 local kids, next meal an uncertainty
Johnstown Tribune Democrat By Anita Faas
It’s hard to imagine that there are children in our community who leave school on Fridays not knowing if there will be food for them to eat at home over the weekend. According to the leading hunger-relief organization Feeding America, one in five – or 5,330 – children in Cambria County live with the uncertainty of where their next meal is coming from. For those children, meals at school get them through the week. But what about the weekends? The Johnstown Backpack Project formed in 2012 as a collaboration. Several youth-serving nonprofit organizations in the Johnstown area, most operating as out-of-school-time programs, served children in the Greater Johnstown School District. The need was undeniable – children stealing food, hoarding snacks and hiding food at home for safekeeping. With seed money from Lee Initiatives and a shared commitment to alleviate child hunger, the group held its first packing and distribution in March 2013. Sadly, the demand for this critical weekend food assistance program didn’t lessen; it grew. Over the past six years, the outreach tripled the number of participants and expanded from the City of Johnstown to include parts of southern and central Cambria County. It also improved in its operations and efficiency.

Head of the Class: Marple Newtown teacher earns 'Oscar' as Milken top educator
NEWTOWN — Thursday was a gold star day like no other for Marple Newtown High School biology teacher Elizabeth Landes. The teacher was the surprised recipient of the Milken Family Foundation’s 2019 Milken Education Award during a special schoolwide assembly. Landes is the only Pennsylvania teacher to be named an honoree for 2019-20 and the first ever for the Marple Newtown School District in the program’s more than 30-year history noted as the “Oscars” of education awards. Along with the title Landes will be awarded $25,000 at a March conference in Indianapolis with all of the year’s other awardees. Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro Rivera was present at the assembly as a ruse to get all of the teachers and students to witness the surprise announcement that Landes was an award-winning educator. Rivera and Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Jane Foley, Ph.D. presented Landes with the award and a ceremonial check.

Editorial | It’s time for Penn to pay PILOTs
Penn has been a part of the city of Philadelphia for several centuries. The University has played a fundamental role in the growth and evolution of the city, both because of the longevity of its existence and the outsize role that Penn’s money and prestige allows it to play in the community. But Penn’s actions have hurt the rest of Philadelphia, particularly through rampant gentrification. To this day, Penn fails to engage with the Philadelphia community in a constructive or collective manner, and instead uses its status as a nonprofit to avoid paying desperately needed property taxes. It’s time for Penn to step up and finally pay Payments in Lieu of Taxes. Paying PILOTs is a fairly common practice among elite institutions. In fact, Penn and Columbia University stand alone in the Ivy League as the only schools that do not contribute to their respective communities through voluntary payment of property taxes. Despite the fact that the University’s roughly $14 billion endowment and aggressive building projects have led to massive land accumulation, that land is held nearly completely tax-free.

Cyber charter school students get away from computer screens to meet
PA HomePage  by: Cody Butler Posted: Oct 3, 2019 / 08:24 PM EDT
SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Going from behind a computer into a classroom. Cyber-charter school students are meeting their virtual classmates to complete activities that can only be done offline. It’s Back to School celebration for these K through 12 Reach Cyber Charter School students and their parents. Each year it’s a night to meet their teachers and fellow cyber peers. “I like that because you’re sort of restricted to your home really, but when you come here, you can meet all your friends and talk to them and meet them in real life,” cyber school student Jude Assih said. Assih used an airzooka to knock down cups, developing science, technology, engineering, and math or STEM skills with his peers. “So we’re stacking cups up and then we’re going to shoot them down like my sister just did,” Assih said. Other students and parents were supporting collaborative learning by pushing air through a straw to levitate a ping-pong ball all while enjoying what the night has to offer. “You get to play games and do crafts and eat,” cyber school student Jordan Reid said. The charter school incorporates STEM into their curriculum by using STEM to build apps, design home-built cars, and more all throughout the school year. “So having kids here and allowing them to be able to get that hands-on build,” Reach Cyber Charter School Director of Data and Student Assessment Kelley McConnell said.

“The Massachusetts Senate Thursday night unanimously passed an education reform bill that would invest a new $1.5 billion in the state’s public K-12 education system over the next seven years with a focus on providing resources that will help low-income students.”
Mass. State Senate passes ed reform bill
Boston Globe By STATE HOUSE NEWS, October 3, 2019, 11:11 p.m.
The Massachusetts Senate Thursday night unanimously passed an education reform bill that would invest a new $1.5 billion in the state’s public K-12 education system over the next seven years with a focus on providing resources that will help low-income students. The bill aims to funnel additional money into the state’s public education system in a way that would boost every district without reliance on new or increased taxes to pay for the investment. The Student Opportunity Act, which passed 39-0, “modernizes K-12 education funding” according to a statement from Senate President Karen E. Spilka’s office.

As Others See It: Classroom technology doesn't make the grade
Schools are spending billions on digital tools but students have little to show for it
At least since the invention of the blackboard two centuries ago, educators have used technology to enhance classroom instruction. The digital revolution has accelerated that trend, with the market for educational tech in the U.S. and Europe exceeding $100 billion. What's less clear is whether these investments are doing any good. Advances in educational software, particularly applications that aim to "personalize" learning, have the potential to help students, support teachers and make academics more engaging. But a good deal of the technology pouring into schools remains unproven, untested and — due to inadequate teacher training — poorly applied. To avoid squandering further time and tax dollars, policymakers should limit spending on new technologies until more schools demonstrate they're able to use them effectively. In many wealthy countries, digital technology has become a fixture in classrooms. The number of computers in U.S. public schools tripled between 1995 and 2008, the most recent year for which national data is available. More than eight in 10 students in the U.S. in grades four through 12 do at least some of their school work on laptops, and almost 60% use tablets for learning. Yet there's little evidence that this technology improves student performance — and excessive use may even have negative effects. A 2015 study of 38 countries found that those that made large investments in educational technology showed "no appreciable improvements in student achievement" on international assessments of math, science and reading.

Blogger note: the Thomas B. Fordham Institute is an ideologically conservative American nonprofit education reform think tank. It is not affiliated with Fordham University.
Charter Schools Ace Another Test
Minority students do better overall as charters gain market share.
Wall Street Journal By The Editorial Board Oct. 3, 2019 7:02 pm ET
Is the success of charter schools an illusion? Critics claim charters merely skim the best students, whose parents care enough to apply, while pushing out troublemakers. So it’s worth noting a new study showing that often test scores improve for all students when charters increase their market share. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute examined 21 urban school districts with at least 2,500 black students per grade from 2009-2015. As the “black charter market share” rises in the study to 50% from zero, the associated educational gain is 0.8 grade level in English and 0.7 in math. This bump is for all black students in the district, whether they attend a charter or not. Results are similar for the 27 urban districts with at least 2,500 Hispanic students per grade. As the “Hispanic charter market share” rises to 35% from zero, it’s associated with a gain of 0.7 grade level in English and 0.7 in math. For comparison, the overall racial achievement gap is roughly “two to three grade levels,” the study says. Other results in the paper aren’t as dramatic. After adding more than 200 smaller urban districts, those with at least 100 minority students per class, the gains are 0.3 or 0.4 grade level, although Hispanics show no bump in English. In large suburban districts, the data show mostly null results for minority pupils.

Betsy DeVos Tests a Rhetorical Twist on 'School Choice'
Recent speeches twin 'education' with 'freedom'
Education Week By Evie Blad October 1, 2019
When one of the nation's highest-profile and most divisive supporters of school choice went on an interstate, back-to-school tour last month, she largely steered clear of using the phrase "school choice" at all. Instead, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who used school visits in six states to promote her federal tax-credit scholarship proposal, referred to "education freedom," a rebranding that suggests options that go beyond being expected to choose a school—options like mixing and matching components to build an educational experience from scratch. Amid polarizing debates over school choice, can new language move the needle on public opinion, especially among critics who've called for more attention to the needs of traditional public schools? As candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination and lawmakers in states like California have engaged in debates over charter schools—the publicly funded, independently run schools that typically have been seen as a more broadly supported choice option—DeVos has continued to cast a more dramatic vision that aims further out on the horizon.
In addition to district-run public schools, DeVos's recent tour included several charters with innovative approaches, multiple private faith-based schools that enroll students who rely on public voucher programs to help fund their educations, and even a meeting with a Christian home-school alliance in Pennsylvania. That's in contrast to education secretaries from previous administrations, who largely traveled to public schools.

(PA) 2019 Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools Annual Conference October 9 - October 11 Harrisburg
The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools invites charter school leaders, board members, new school developers, educators, support staff, and advocates to our second annual conference focused on educating, inspiring, and connecting the charter movement in Pennsylvania on October 9-11, 2019 in Harrisburg, PA!

Register now for PSBA’s Sleep & Student Performance Webcast OCT 31, 2019 • 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Our students face many issues today, but who would have imagined sleep deprivation could be a significant issue? The Joint State Government Commission established an advisory committee to study the issues, benefits and options related to school districts instituting later start times in secondary schools. Register now to hear from the executive director of the Commission, Glenn Pasewicz, commission staff and David Hutchinson, PSBA’s appointee to the commission, on the results of their study and work.

According to state law, all school directors must complete training. How many hours are required if you are a new school director? What about if you’re re-elected? Get the answers to these and other related questions in this episode of PSBA’s #VideoEDition

Information about the education sessions for the 2019 @PasaSupts @PSBA School Leadership Conference are now live on our website! We hope to see you there! #PASLC2019

What: Informal discussion on cyber charter schools
When: 9 a.m. refreshments, 9:30 a.m. panel, Oct. 7
Where: Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, 800 E. Park Ave., State College
AAUW State College Branch invites you to attend an informational panel discussion to learn more about background and issues connected with cyber charter schools. Join us on Oct. 7, at the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800 E. Park Ave., State College (visitor center off Porter Road). Refreshments, 9 a.m.; panel discussion, 9:30 a.m.
The American Association of University Women State College Branch is part of a nationwide network of about 1,000 branches that are dedicated to advancing equity for women and girls.

Adolescent Health and School Start Times:  Science, Strategies, Tactics, & Logistics  Workshop Nov 13, Exton
Join school administrators and staff, including superintendents, transportation directors, principals, athletic directors, teachers, counselors, nurses, and school board members, parents, guardians, health professionals and other concerned community members for an interactive and solutions-oriented workshop on  Wednesday, November 13, 2019 9:30 am to 3:00 pm 
Clarion Hotel in Exton, PA
The science is clear. Many middle and high school days in Pennsylvania, and across the nation, start too early in the morning. The American Medical Association, Centers for Disease Control, American Academy of Pediatrics, and many other major health and education leaders agree and have issued policy statements recommending that secondary schools start no earlier than 8:30 am to allow for sleep, health, and learning. Implementing these recommendations, however, can seem daunting.  Discussions will include the science of sleep and its connection to school start times, as well as proven strategies for successfully making change--how to generate optimum community support and work through implementation challenges such as bus routes, athletics, and more.   Register for the workshop here: Thanks to our generous sponsors, we are able to offer early bird registration for $25, which includes a box-lunch and coffee service. Seating is limited and early bird registration ends on Friday, September 13.
For more information visit the workshop website  or email

WHERE: Hershey Lodge and Convention Center 325 University Drive, Hershey, PA
WHEN: Wednesday, October 16 to Friday, October 18, 201
Registration is now open!
Growth from knowledge acquired. Vision inspired by innovation. Impact created by a synergized leadership community. You are called upon to be the drivers of a thriving public education system. It’s a complex and challenging role. Expand your skillset and give yourself the tools needed for the challenge. Packed into two and a half daysꟷꟷgain access to top-notch education and insights, dynamic speakers, peer learning opportunities and the latest product and service innovations. Come to the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference to grow!

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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