Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What Works: Parent Involvement

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What Works: Back to school: How parent involvement affects student achievement (At a glance)
The Center for Public Education Posted August 30, 2011
It may be one of the least controversial statements in American education: Parent involvement can make a difference in a child's education. The conflict can come, though, on how to define that involvement. Do all the PTA meetings, take-home flyers and Back to School nights actually generate increases in student achievement? The Center for Public Education examined the research and found that creating a partnership between parents and schools focused on academics truly does have significant impact on student achievement.


Posted at 04:00 AM ET, 08/31/2011

A different kind of parent involvement — in school policy

Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss
This was written by Idette B. Groff, a member of the Conestoga Valley school board for 12 years and a member of the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. Conestoga Valley School District serves more than 4,000 students in Lancaster County, PA.
By Idette B. Groff
The relationship most parents have with their child's school is through teachers or principals to deal with an issue affecting their child. Most parents never have an issue that needs to be taken farther up the chain of command. But have you ever been in a situation where you wished you had a voice in policy decisions made at the district level? Or even been in a position to help contribute to the agenda of the policymakers?


PO EDITORIAL: A very early look at Pa.'s budget for 2012-13

Public Opinion Online
We have to say we appreciate Gov. Tom Corbett's early willingness to float the assumptions and priorities that will drive Pennsylvania's next budget season.
Corbett this week sent new budget policy guidelines to administration departments. They emerged as a template for broad policy goals about six months before he will submit a 2012-13 budget to the Legislature.



Impasse continues as school resumes

Bucks County Courier Times Posted: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 6:00 am
By Christian Menno  Staff writer
In 2008, Neshaminy students arrived for the first day of school as their teachers were entering into a contract dispute with the school board.
Three years later, the impasse continues and its shadow looms over schools throughout the district, which opened their doors Tuesday for the start of the new year.

PA School Board Advocate: Grant story not so simple
WHYY Newsworks August 26, 2011 By Mary Wilson
Secretary Ron Tomalis says he was disappointed only 26 of the 141 lowest performing schools got federal grant money for which they were eligible.  
But Tom Gentzel, executive director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, says the application process takes time and staff--things in short supply at many schools, especially among the smaller, rural districts. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Want to know who’s setting education policy in Pennsylvania?

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Want to know who's setting education policy in Pennsylvania?

If you only read one article from these daily postings this year, this is the one not to miss.  Philadelphia Magazine's September issue features a piece on Vahan Gureghian.  Now if we could just get them to take a similar look at the main liners behind the Students First PAC…..


Here's Benjamin Herold's piece for the Notebook that is cited in the above article:

Two of Pa.'s largest charters part of test score probe

by Benjamin Herold  July 21, 2011 for the Notebook/NewsWorks
Two of the largest charters in Pennsylvania, Chester Community Charter School (CCCS) and the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber), are among the 89 schools across the state that are to be investigated for statistical irregularities on 2009 standardized tests.


More background and a detailed list of contributions:

Follow the Money: Contributions by Vahan Gureghian 1/1/07 - 5/31/11



State Senate considers charter school regs
State panel would approve programs
Friday, August 26, 2011
By Laura Olson, Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau
HARRISBURG -- A proposal to update the state's rules for charter and cyber schools could bring more oversight to those institutions, but critics said Thursday that it still wouldn't resolve issues with how those schools are funded.
Among provisions to lift enrollment caps and disclose more school data, the measure from Senate Education Committee Chairman Jeffrey Piccola, R-Dauphin, also would create an independent state commission to regulate and authorize charter schools.

Read more:


Schools try to do more with less

Luzerne County Citizen's Voice BY ERIN MOODY (STAFF WRITER)
Published: August 28, 2011
First-day of school jitters aren't reserved for students.
As school districts across Luzerne County are undergoing serious makeovers, officials are working to stay within reduced budgets, provide better facilities and improve education.

Read more:


Vouchers prompt Ind. school exodus

Boston Globe Associated Press / August 29, 2011
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Weeks after Indiana began the nation's broadest school voucher program, thousands of students have transferred from public to private schools, causing a spike in enrollment at some Catholic institutions that were recently on the brink of closing.
It is a scenario public school advocates have long feared: Students fleeing local districts in large numbers, taking with them vital tax dollars that often end up at parochial schools. Opponents say the practice violates the separation of church and state.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Vouchers could take another billion away from these kids

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School districts must make do after funding cuts of $1 billion
Sunday, August 28, 2011
By Mary Niederberger, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
As school starts across the region, the full impact of the approximately $1 billion in state cuts to education funding is becoming apparent.

Back to school with less

The 2011-12 school year opens with fewer teachers and programs in many districts but also new ideas amid a national debate on money's impact on education in the 21stcentury.

By Steve Esack, Of The Allentown Morning Call
11:00 p.m. EDT, August 27, 2011
Perhaps not since the 1980s has this financial yin and yang of education been more evident than in the 2011-12 school year, which begins for some students Monday and for others next week.

Back to the drawing board: A Promise Academy struggles to move forward

Thenotebook by Dale Mezzacappa on Aug 25 2011
The Promise Academy program directs extra resources and attention to the lowest-achieving schools and the most disadvantaged children. Under the model, teachers have to reapply for their jobs, and no more than half can be rehired, on the theory that these troubled schools needed to clean out dead weight and start with a new, cohesive team. They get an infusion of extra personnel, a longer day and year, enrichment activities, and extensive remediation. (The Notebook estimated the additional investment in the first year at $3,600 per pupil.)

Posted on Mon, Aug. 29, 2011
Buyout packages becoming common for departing school superintendents
By Amy Worden, Inquirer Staff Writer
From Massachusetts to California, a rising number of school superintendents who find themselves at odds with their boards of education are enjoying softer landings thanks to generous farewell fees tucked into their contracts.
The $905,000 golden parachute announced with the departure last week of Philadelphia School Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman is by all accounts the biggest buyout bonanza to date, at least in Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia Inquirer Opinion, Posted on Sun, Aug. 28, 2011

How to avoid malaise after the tumult

In search for great leadership, we must act on lessons learned.

Helen Gym is a Philadelphia public school parent and a cofounder of Parents United for Public Education
I can't count the number of times I've heard conversations about the next leadership of our schools start with: "Who would ever want to 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Waiting for Irene....

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Guest Column: House Appropriations Committee Chairman Adolph:

School fund stories misleading

Recently various media outlets have written about school funding and how the state's contribution to PreK-12 education was distributed to Pennsylvania's 500 school districts in the 2011-12 state budget. Many of these articles focus on the poorest 150 school districts and report about the impact state funding will have on their ability to educate students by comparing poorer school districts to wealthier school districts.

Adolph, Corbett should give schools resources to provide quality education

LINDA J. COOK, President, Southeastern Region/Pennsylvania State Education Association
To the Times:
As a teacher, I heard excuses from students who didn't complete their homework. I was reminded of this when I read state Rep. William Adolph's Aug. 22 op-ed, which offers all kinds of excuses about why the General Assembly didn't do the right thing for Pennsylvania's public school students.

Capitolwire: Bill calls for politically appointed charter school commission
8/26/2011 Kevin Zwick, Staff Reporter, Capitolwire
HARRISBURG (Aug. 25) -- A bill aimed at revamping the current charter school law would create a seven-member administrative commission consisting of political appointees, funded through fees from charter schools.
Senate Education Chairman Jeffery Piccola, R-Dauphin, introduced the proposed legislation, Senate Bill 904, to update the state's 1997 charter school law

PSBA testifies at House, Senate hearings as General Assembly gears up for fall session
Aug. 26, 2011
Over the past two weeks, PSBA has testified before both the House and Senate Education Committees at separate hearings on two key issues that are expected to be slated for action in the fall session of the General Assembly – taxpayer-funded tuition vouchers, and expansion of charter schools.

Follow the Students First $6 million voucher money
This is just the direct contributions, does not include money spent on lobbyists, PR firms, brochures, mailings, etc.


When Schools Depend on Handouts

Published: August 25, 2011
EARLIER this month, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced that he and five other wealthy individuals had raised $1.5 million to reinstate the January Regents exams, which New York State had canceled because of budget cuts.
Although praiseworthy as a matter of personal philanthropy, the donation by the mayor and the others, whose names were not disclosed, is highly distressing as a matter of public policy. It is disgraceful that essential components of our public education system now depend on the charitable impulses of wealthy citizens.

The Missing Link in School Reform

Stanford Social Innovation Review By Carrie R. Leana Fall 2011
In trying to improve American public schools, educators, policymakers, and philanthropists are++++ overselling the role of the highly skilled individual teacher and undervaluing the benefits that come from teacher collaborations.

Pa. takes a step backward with Gov. Corbett's education cuts

Published: Friday, August 26, 2011, 5:42 AM
Patriot-News Op-Ed  By Michael J. Crossey
If we want to improve the performance of our public schools, we should cut school funding. And we should make really big cuts in our most challenged schools. Really? Does someone really believe this? Sadly, yes. 

Highlights from Arne Duncan's Twitter Town Hall
By Michele McNeil on August 24, 2011 3:33 PM 
During a 30-plus-minute, rapid-fire Q & A between Arne Duncan and moderator John Merrow, we learned that 10 days of testing is too much, merit pay for teachers should be voluntary, and the U.S. Secretary of Education is a Twitter "novice."

Friday, August 26, 2011

Not one legislative minute spent on promoting what works or on making schools safer

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Commentary: Not one legislative minute spent on promoting what works or on making schools safer

The PA Legislature has held numerous committee hearings on school choice issues this session.  Twenty years of education reform have shown no systematic better results for charters and vouchers except for those who profit from it.  Although we hear steady PR about "rescuing kids from failing, violent schools" there have been no hearings about identifying and promoting best practices that might be used to help all kids, or about making our schools safer for all kids.


Education reform discussion continues at the Pennsylvania state Capitol

Published: Thursday, August 25, 2011, 9:25
The Senate Education Committee is up to bat today in the ongoing education reform discussion that have been a popular subject of legislative hearings this summer.
The panel will hear testimony onSenate Bill 904, sponsored by the committee chairmen Jeffrey Piccola, R-Dauphin County, that calls for major reforms to Pennsylvania's charter school law.


For Senate Ed Committee testimony presented yesterday:


Allentown Board hires consultant, temporary academic chief

Vote comes week after district gave Allentown superintendent $250,000 to resign.

By Steve Esack, Of The Morning Call
10:51 p.m. EDT, August 25, 2011
The Allentown School Board on Thursday hired a temporary chief academic officer at $500 a day and renewed a $79,200 contract for another consultant to monitor the progress of former Superintendent Gerald Zahorchak's controversial Pathways to Success program.,0,6577599.story


Standardized tests: Time for a national opt-out

Parents have the power to break the stranglehold of standardized testing

Baltimore Sun By Shaun Johnson, 4:14 p.m. EDT, August 25, 2011
Here's an update to a clich├ęd philosophical question: If a test is scheduled and no one is around to take it, will this test matter?
The new school year for many public school teachers begins weeks before students arrive. Educators attend hours of workshops to discover that the newest acronym is simply a substitute for an older one. More importantly, piles of test data are pored over to both assess the previous year and to fully appreciate what is to come with a new crop of students.

Posted on Fri, Aug. 26, 2011
Hearing in Neshaminy blasts teacher strikes
By Bill Reed Inquirer Staff Writer
Pennsylvania must prohibit teacher strikes to ensure that children get the education they deserve and school districts are able to negotiate affordable contracts, lawmakers, school board officials, and parents told the state House Education Committee on Thursday.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

$905K not going to Philly kids....

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The reform movement is already failing

REUters AUG 23, 2011 10:41 EDT
By Diane Ravitch
The opinions expressed are her own.
Reuters invited leading educators to reply to Steven Brill's op-ed on the school reform deniers. We will be publishing the responses here. Below is Ravitch's reply. Here are responses from Joel Klein and Deborah Meier as well.

Amid outrage, SRC approves buyout

by Benjamin Herold for the Notebook, WHYY/NewsWorks on Aug 24 2011
Former Philadelphia schools superintendent Arlene Ackerman is gone, but the controversy surrounding her departure is far from over.  At a meeting on Wednesday full of vitriol, fury, and charges of racism, School Reform Commission (SRC) voted unanimously to approve a $905,000 buyout and related separation agreement.


Ackerman Blames Her Departure on Political Missteps

Education Week District Dossier Blog By Christina Samuels on August 24, 2011 2:29 PM
Arlene Ackerman, who resigned Monday as superintendent of the 155,000-student Philadelphia district, said in an interview with Education WeekWednesday that political miscalculations led to her removal, not issues with job performance.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ready for more Charters? Senate Hearing Tomorrow

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Senate Education Committee Hearing on Charter School Legislation
Thursday, August 25, 2011 10:00 AM Hearing Room 1 North Office Building
Senate Bill  904,

Charter school reform proposed by Legislature

State Rep. Tom Killion did not point to a study, survey or test scores when asked if he believed Pennsylvania's charter schools are outperforming traditional schools.
"There are 40,000 kids on the waiting list to get into charter schools in the city of Philadelphia and half the kids in Chester Upland are in charter schools," said Killion, R-168, of Middletown.
"That's all I've got to see."

Charter School Reform - Education Law Center Analysis
New charter school bills before the General Assembly (S.B. 904 and H.B. 1348) would repeal Pennsylvania's current charter school/cyber charter school law in its entirety and replace it with language that permits the unfettered expansion of charter schoolsthroughout the state, reduces accountability, and effectively removes all local control of charters, while continuing to redirect millions of dollars of public funding away from traditional public schools – when charters have been shown, on the whole, not to improve student performance any more than traditional public schools and in many charters, students have fared worse.

The following three items were submitted to the Senate Education Committee for this hearing as written comments on behalf of the Keystone State Education Coalition:

Commentary: In a rush for more charter schools?

Questions about the 144 failing schools list

Stanford CREDO Report on Charter School Performance in Pennsylvania, April 2011