Friday, September 30, 2011

2011 PSSA results released

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Posted on Fri, Sep. 30, 2011
Fewer Pennsylvania schools meet state standards, but students show improvement
By Dan Hardy, Kristen A. Graham, and Dylan Purcell
Inquirer Staff Writers
Fewer schools in Philadelphia and its suburbs met state standards than last school year, state data show, while students statewide showed a slight improvement.
The higher school failure rate this year reflects the fact that the state increased its Adequate Yearly Progress benchmark in math from 56 percent to 67 percent of students passing and in reading from 63 percent to 72 percent.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education Thursday released the PSSA test scores for the 2010-11 school year that measure academic progress. 
Fewer than half of the schools in the Philadelphia District met state performance standards while more than four out of five schools in the suburbs met the mark.
Search below for Pennsylvania School of School Assessment results for all schools and districts statewide including Philadelphia and its suburbs. 

4 districts in Allegheny county fall short on standardized test
Thursday, September 29, 2011
By Mary Niederberger, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has released the results of the 2010-11 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests and four districts in Allegheny County -- Duquesne, McKeesport Area, Sto-Rox and Woodland Hills -- did not meet the federal standard for adequate yearly progress.

Educators, Pa. lawmakers wait for Gov. Corbett to act on charter schools
WHYY Newsworks September 28, 2011 By Mary Wilson
Pennsylvania lawmakers are pressing Gov. Tom Corbett to take the lead on charter schools.
A coalition of public charter schools are calling on lawmakers to approve bills that would reform how the schools are administered.

Beaver County superintendents hope collective voice creates change
Issue joint position paper on charters and vouchers
Posted: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 7:26 pm
By Bill Utterback butterback@timesonline | 2 comments
Superintendents at 15 Beaver County school districts authorized a position paper urging Pennsylvania legislators to create charter school, cyber charter school and school voucher policies that better address challenges faced by public schools.
The letter, authorized by superintendents of every county district but Midland, was sent to county legislators and other state representatives earlier this week, according to Freedom Area Superintendent Ronald Sofo.  "We have to develop a system that's right for everybody," Sofo said.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Follow the money in school privatization: Charter Schools and the New Markets Tax Credit

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Charter School Bill Relaxes Accountability; Removes Local Control

Education Law Center's Education Index, September 2011
Senate Bill 904, a new charter school bill before the General Assembly, would repeal Pennsylvania's current charter school/cyber charter school law in its entirety, and replace it with new legislation that would allow for unchecked expansion of charter schools.
The new legislation raises significant concerns because of its potentially negative impact on students, accountability, and transparency. There are serious questions about many aspects of the bill, including the removal of local control over charters and the redirection of millions of dollars in public funding away from neighborhood public schools. 

When It Comes To Vouchers This Is Worth Saying Again
City School Stories Blog by Frank Murphy September 27, 2011
Vouchers Are Not an Economic Bill of Rights for the Disadvantaged
The Senate bill that Piccola and Williams propose will benefit a relatively small group of poor students in our state.  And these students would benefit only after the school to which they apply decides whether or not to admit them.   The money to fund this proposal will be taken from the budgets of local school districts.   To pursue the enactment of a law that will privilege a handful of citizens at the expense of the many is by no means an attempt to fairly assure the civil rights of the people.
In our society, choice is not just about the ability of a person to exercise individual freedom. We are a nation of the people for the people.  In our democracy, choice is a right that should be exercised in a manner that accounts for the good of others and is consistent with the democratic principles upon which our nation was founded.

Follow the money in school privatization: Charter Schools and the New Markets Tax Credit

August 16, 2011 by indystar
In a May 7 New York Daily News Column Juan Gonzalez explained how the New Markets Tax Credit Program (NMTC Program) established by Congress in 2000 to spur new or increased investments into operating businesses and real estate projects in economically depressed communities is being used by banks and private equity firms to make large sums of money by creating charter schools. The New Markets Tax Credit provides a 39 percent tax credit over a seven-year period, which Gonzalez contends results in investors being able to nearly double their investment during that period. Hedge fund managers have spent millions of dollars on promoting charter schools. The intent of these managers is to make money, not improve the plight of children. It has been reported that some private companies establish a nonprofit school then use a for-profit affiliate to buy school buildings and charge the school rent, which is a substantial portion of the school's overall budget. Profit then is made at the expense of students and teachers.

PA House Labor Committee to Consider Prevailing Wage Bills Next Monday
Just a heads-up on these – more info as we get it.

Posted at 04:00 AM ET, 09/29/2011

A vision for public education

Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss
This was written by David Johnson, president of the Georgia School Boards Association and vice chair of the Floyd County Schools in Rome, Ga.
By David Johnson
When I hear pundits – from both political parties these days – talk about improving education for children through choice, vouchers or whatever the sound bite of the day is, I wonder which children they are talking about. Out of 55.2 million K-12 students in America, 49.2 million of them are in our public schools. Only a small percentage of children go to private or parochial schools. So where's the vision for our public schools? What are they looking at?
To get out of the weeds and back onto productive ground, school board members, and school superintendents in Georgia have been working together for three years on a vision for public education. Instead of picking apart the system and deciding on where or on whom to lay blame, we now have a vision that looks at the entire system of public education in our state and how to move it forward. It's proactive, productive, and positive.

Big test score gains at Philly Renaissance charters
The Notebook by Benjamin Herold on Sep 27 2011 
Philadelphia's new "Renaissance" turnaround operators are reporting big gains on the 2011 PSSA exams at the seven long-struggling public schools they converted to charters last year.
All the converted schools saw improvements in both reading and math scores. Six of the seven saw double-digit gains in math.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

104 PA Entities Participating in new Teacher and Principal Evaluation Pilot Program

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Posted at 06:30 AM ET, 09/27/2011

A bet on No Child Left Behind

Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss
This was written by Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, a non-profit organization created in 1986 to broaden the discussion about economic policy to include the interests of low- and middle-income workers. This appeared on the institute's website.

Four and a half years ago, we surveyed the damage being done to American education by NCLB, the No Child Left Behind iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act:
·         conversion of struggling elementary schools into test-prep factories;
·         narrowing of curriculum so that disadvantaged children who most need enrichment would be denied lessons in social studies, the sciences, the arts and music, even recess and exercise, so that every available minute of the school day could be devoted to drill for tests of basic skills in math and reading;
·         demoralization of the best teachers, now prohibited from engaging children in discovery and instead required to follow pre-set instructional scripts aligned with low-quality tests;
·         and the boredom and terror of young children who no longer looked forward to school but instead anticipated another day of rote exercises and practice testing designed to increase scores by a point or two.

Public Meeting/Panel Debate: School Vouchers – Necessary Education Reform or the Destruction of Public Education?
Get Informed!  Join the Conversation!
Wednesday, October 26, 2011 7:00 PM
Moral Issues Series at Unitarian Church of Harrisburg
1280 Clover Lane, Harrisburg, PA 17113
717.564.4761    Child Care Provided
School Voucher Debate Panelists:
Otto V. Banks, Executive Director, REACH (Road to Educational Achievement through CHoice)
Dr. Jill Sunday Bartoli, Ph.D., Elizabethtown College
Matthew J. Brouillette, Commonwealth Foundation
Dr. Joan Duvall-Flynn, Ed.D., NAACP
Senator Mike Folmer (R), PA Senate District 48
Andrew (Andy) Hoover, ACLU of PA
Dick Komer, Esq., Institute of Justice
Dr. Timothy Slekar, Ph.D., Penn State, Altoona Campus
The debate will be moderated by Scott Gilbert

Support public education by opposing vouchers

Posted: 12:01am on Sep 27, 2011
In June, despite a state surplus, the governor cut $860 million from the state's funding for public schools. And even though there is strong public support for taxing the Marcellus Shale industry, Gov. Tom Corbett refused to consider it. These additional funds could have covered the education budget gap.
And now the governor and some legislators are trying to push legislation to spend up to $1 billion on a private school voucher program that would take even more money away from our public schools and our students.

From EPLC Newsletter:  104 PA Entities Participating in new Teacher and Principal Evaluation Pilot Program
On September 21, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) announced that 104 K-12 entities (including nine career and technical centers, nine charter schools and nine intermediate units) have agreed to participate in the new teacher and principal evaluation pilot program The PDE began developing a new comprehensive educator assessment system two years ago with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Beginning in January 2012, participating pilot schools will use the new evaluation method and provide feedback to the PDE. However, the new evaluation tool will not be used to determine an educator's official 2011-2012 assessment.  Under this proposal, fifty percent of an educator's evaluation will be comprised of multiple measures of student achievement.  The remaining parts of the evaluation (considered traditional practices) would include such areas as classroom observations.  Once the pilot program has been completed, the PDE will review the feedback and make any necessary changes before being implemented in the 2012-2013 school year.

Can Teachers Opt Out?

Huffington Post by Timothy D. Slekar, Head of the Division of Education, Human Development and Social Sciences, Penn State Altoona, Posted 9/24/11
It needs to be clearly stated that all the credible research conducted over the past 15 years does not support the testing movement as a positive reform (Unless you own Pearson or McGraw Hill or receive campaign contributions from these companies.). Testing has not closed the achievement gap. Testing has decimated the idea and practice associated with a liberal arts education. Testing has reduced overall learning. Testing has created intolerable teaching and learning conditions. The "least among us" are hit hardest by the high stakes testing regime.

Posted on Tue, Sep. 27, 2011
New option for New Jersey parochial schools advances
By Maya Rao and Claudia Vargas, Inquirer Staff Writers
TRENTON - High-performing private and parochial schools in failing districts, including Camden, could become taxpayer-funded charter schools under a bill that won final legislative approval Monday.  The Senate voted, 25-13, for the legislation, which Gov. Christie is expected to sign.
The proposal would let parochial schools, which have long struggled financially, avoid closure by eliminating all religious symbols and classes, and adopting a secular name. Existing faculty and staff would be given preference for jobs, and current students would avoid the charter-school lottery process.

Northampton Area School District rests its case against Lehigh zoners, who rejected application for a solar array.

By Arlene Martínez, Of The Morning Call, 9:14 p.m. EDT, September 27, 2011
Whether Northampton Area School District can build a solar farm to power Lehigh Elementary School is now in the hands of a judge.
Reiner Jaeckle, MetroTek's chief operating officer, said Koury's decision is critical and will extend beyond the Northampton Area School District, which also is going to court over plans to build a solar system in Moore Township
The case "could be a precedent," Jaeckle said, paving the way for districts throughout the state to put up solar systems.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

As the Governor’s privatization agenda ramps up, so does parent advocacy for public education. Voters are waking up to the fact that their good public schools will be gone if they don’t speak up.

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Capitol agenda slated to include Marcellus Shale fees and school vouchers

Published: Monday, September 26, 2011, 5:30
As both chambers of the General Assembly return to Harrisburg, there is no end of big issues on the agenda: education reform, privatizing liquor stores, Marcellus Shale impact fees, even how the state votes in presidential elections. Here's a primer on what to watch for as the fall debates heat up. As usual, there are no slam dunks.

Public Education Advocacy in Bucks and Montgomery Counties:
Save the date for a parent legislative meeting on Thursday October 27th.  More details as they become available.

Public Education Advocacy at Laurel Highlands: Local lawmakers urge residents to speak out about education cuts

Posted: Sunday, September 25, 2011 2:00 am .
By Carla DeStefano Uniontown
Local legislators urged residents on Thursday to stand up and be heard against the deep cuts in education that resulted from the governor's budget this year.
"You've got to engage tactfully," said state Rep. Bill DeWeese, D-Waynesburg. "If we don't, we will be playing patty cake for the next three years."
DeWeese was joined by state Reps. Tim Mahoney, D-South Union Township; Deberah Kula, D-North Union Township; and Peter J. Daley, D-California; as well as state Sen. Rich Kasunic, D-Dunbar; and Norman Hasbrouck, special assistant to California University of Pennsylvania president Angelo Armenti Jr. and a school board director in the California Area School District; during a public meeting held at Laurel Highlands High School. The event was organized by Tom Landman, a teacher at the middle school in the district.

This is the national voucher agenda – get the camel's nose under the tent by using "poor kids trapped in failing schools" as the argument, then run the bait and switch to the real agenda – simply handing out tax dollars to unaccountable private and religious schools for any student.  This Ohio bill would raise the family income limit to $95K.

Ohio bill would expand voucher system

GOP-backed plan would let more students attend private schools with public funds

NEWARK -- A bill that would allow wider access to vouchers covering private school tuition is closer to becoming law, although many questions still need to be addressed, officials said.
Ohio House Bill 136 was approved by the House's Education Committee this week, Rep. Jay Hottinger, R-Newark, said. It would expand the state's private school voucher program to any student in any district whose family makes less than $95,000

Here's another one – Indiana's new voucher program has an income limit of $62K and has triggered a rush to Parochial schools.  If we can't support one school system adequately why would we take on funding for an entire additional school system with no fiscal or academic performance accountability?
Detractors: Indiana Voucher System Promotes Religion
Western Michigan University Public Radio September 23, 2011 
Indiana's new voucher program allows families with incomes up to $62,000 to take a portion of the funds that would have gone to a public school and convert it into a scholarship that can be used at a private school. The program has brought an enrollment rush at Catholic schools. Opponents fear the vouchers could siphon money away from public schools, and uses state funds to offer religious education.
© Copyright 2011, WMUK

Public Education Advocacy in Cumberland Valley: Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley Meeting Invitation and Update

From Susan Spicka, Community Liaison, Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley
Thank you to everyone who attended the civic dialogue in Shippensburg last week. Over 45 people came out to discuss issues in public education and to show their support for our public schools.  We would love to continue this conversation. Join us for a meeting of Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley on Wednesday, October 5th at 7:30 at Biscotti (300 N. Earl St. in Shippensburg). Everyone is welcome. Please let us know that you're coming so that we bring enough materials.
At the meeting we will:
·         give a brief overview of issues in Harrisburg that affect public education
·         discuss how we can take action to support our schools
If you're interested in receiving updates on Facebook Like our page at:!/pages/Education-Matters-in-the-Cumberland-Valley/103956316362370
Here are two articles about the civic dialogue:
This is the News-Chronicle's article about the civic dialogue:
The Public Opinion's article about the civic dialogue on education in Ship on Sept. 20th:

PA PASS (Parent Advocates for Public Education to Achieve Student Success)
Public Education Advocacy in Delaware County: Legislative Forum in Delaware County Thursday October 13th at 7:00 pm
Upper Darby Performing Arts Center, 601 N. Lansdowne Ave. Drexel Hill
If you are in southeastern PA, please consider filling up a car with school parents and attending this meeting.  Those invited include Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, House Appropriations Chairman Bill Adolph and House Education Committee Chairman Paul Clymer. Please ask attendees to RSVP in advance at    If you are not close by, consider joining with your neighboring school districts to hold a similar event.  If you are interested in helping out please contact Marian Rucci, Delco PA PASS County Coordinator at

Minnesota State audit finds lower completion rates, more dropouts among full-time online students

by Tom Weber, Minnesota Public Radio, September 19, 2011
St. Paul, Minn. — A new audit released Monday from the Office of Legislative Auditor finds enrollment in online courses is booming. But it also raises concerns about how well those students perform in that setting, and also how the state regulates the entire venture……. Nobles focused a large part of his report on the roughly 8,000 students who are in an online school full time.  He found those students are less likely to complete courses they've started, and more likely to drop out of school altogether than students in traditional classroom settings. Two years ago, 25 percent of 12th graders in online schools dropped out, compared to just 3 percent in traditional schools.

Fox in the Schoolhouse: Rupert Murdoch Wants to Teach Your Kids!

News Corp.'s major move into the education business.
Fri Sep. 23, 2011 3:00 AM PDT
Rupert Murdoch's reputation precedes him—but one thing he's not well known for is his education reform advocacy. But that could soon change. Next month, Murdoch will make an unusual public appearance in San Francisco, delivering the keynote address at an education summit hosted by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has lately been crisscrossing the country promoting his own version of education reform.

Lawrence A. Feinberg
Keystone State Education Coalition

Monday, September 26, 2011

Tomalis: “leaders of traditional public schools care more about the money they lose in tuition to charter schools than the students they lose.”

Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Schools encouraged to sue Corbett over budget cuts
Friday, September 23, 2011
By Mary Niederberger, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
State Rep. Bill Kortz is encouraging school districts that have been hard hit by state education funding cuts of nearly $1 billion to join together in a class action suit against Gov. Tom Corbett to get funding restored.  Mr. Kortz said the lawsuit could be modeled after one filed against the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, which he said resulted in a judge's order in May for the state to restore $850 million for education in that state.
Read more:

Districts urged to sue over cutbacks
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Saying they are bristling at the injustice of cutbacks in funding to some school districts this year, two state House members are urging Mon Valley school districts to file a class-action lawsuit against the state to restore some of the millions of dollars lost.

Education chief: Variety is important
Friday, September 23, 2011
By Mary Niederberger, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The competition that charter schools create for traditional public school systems is good and should help to improve educational quality, according to state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis.
He said now is the time to offer alternatives because a new generation of parents will be seeking choices in their children's education. He added that leaders of traditional public schools care more about the money they lose in tuition to charter schools than the students they lose.

Posted on Sat, Sep. 24, 2011
Pennsylvania undecided on waiver to No Child Left Behind
By Dan Hardy, Inquirer Staff Writer
Pennsylvania has not yet decided whether it will ask the federal government to grant changes in the No Child Left Behind law that would allow schools to delay meeting test-score and other requirements, an Education Department spokesman said Friday.
State Education Secretary Ron Tomalis, who played a key role in enforcing the law when he was a Bush administration official, said he had "reservations" about the changes announced Friday.

Posted at 04:00 AM ET, 09/26/2011

Obama's NCLB waivers: Do flaws outweigh benefits?

Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss
This was written by Monty Neill,  executive director of FairTest, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, a Boston-based non-profit dedicated to ending the misuse of tests. He is writing about the newly announced plan by President Obama to provide conditional relief to states from key provisions of No Child Left Behind.
By Monty Neill
The Obama administration's new No Child Left Behind "flexibility" planoffers our struggling public schools a leap from the frying pan to the fire.

Obama revamps schools law

He bypasses Congress in offering carrot-and-stick fixes to No Child Left Behind Act.

By Steve Esack, Of The Morning Call
10:56 p.m. EDT, September 23, 2011
President Barack Obama, saying he has lost patience with a divided Congress, has changed the No Child Left Behind Act on his own, ending the mandate that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014 and dropping the "failure" label slapped on schools even if a small group of students doesn't meet testing targets.
But Obama is taking a carrot-and-stick approach, allowing school districts to opt out of provisions that have long rankled educators if the districts implement administration-approved reform measures.
Those measures, outlined in Obama's Race to the Top grant program, include:
• Setting up new teacher evaluation systems that tie pay, in part, to test scores.
• Opening more charter schools.
• Fixing the lowest-achieving schools by either closing them, turning them into charter schools, firing the principal or getting rid of the majority of the teaching staff.,0,895715.story


Don't Believe the Hype: Obama's NCLB Waiver More of the Same

Daily Censored Blog Written by Adam Bessie, Sep 23, 2011
If you're a casual observer of the education debate, today might seem monumental: George W. Bush's controversial No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which created a system of extensive high-stakes testing for students and schools nearly a decade ago, is finally being "revamped" by President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, according to a report in the Washington Post, and across the national press.


State Rep O'Neill speaks on property tax reform

Posted: Friday, September 23, 2011 5:00 am
By Gary Weckselblatt Staff Writer 
State Rep. Bernie O'Neill looked at the color-coded state map of school districts that showed property tax increases from 1991 to 2005.  Red showed districts that hiked taxes 151 percent to 200 percent. A deeper red is where homeowners dug even deeper.

PA PASS (Parent Advocates for Public Education to Achieve Student Success)
Public Education Advocacy: Legislative Forum in Delaware County Thursday October 13th at 7:00 pm
Upper Darby Performing Arts Center, 601 N. Lansdowne Ave. Drexel Hill
If you are in southeastern PA, please consider filling up a car with school parents and attending this meeting.  Those invited include Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, House Appropriations Chairman Bill Adolph and House Education Committee Chairman Paul Clymer. Please ask attendees to RSVP in advance at    If you are not close by, consider joining with your neighboring school districts to hold a similar event.  If you are interested in helping out please contact Marian Rucci, Delco PA PASS County Coordinator at