Thursday, August 30, 2012

Jamie Vollmer: Nostesia - a perfect example of the declining quality of our schools

Middle-class American students who attend well-funded schools rank at the top of the world on international tests. Stephen Krashen, professor emeritus of the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California August 12, 2012 

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1600 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, members of the press and a broad array of education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter.

These daily emails are archived at
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Early email blast today – we’re off to join a group of about 40 PA education leaders invited to a White House Education forum….

School year in Pittsburgh starts with shuffling of employees
August 30, 2012 12:25 am
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Students in Pittsburgh Public Schools will see a lot of new faces when classes begin this week.
About a third of last year's school-based workforce in city school district has been furloughed, reassigned to a different school, retired or resigned.  The school board last week approved the latest changes that call for transferring 611 salaried school-based employees from one position or school to another, including more than 400 K-12 teachers.
The transfers also include social workers, counselors, adjunct teachers, secretaries and data specialists, technical-clerical staff, paraprofessionals, pre-K staff and school-based administrators.  Overall, the transfers amount to about 1 in 5 of all remaining school-based employees.

Parkland's Roberta Marcus Feted for Advocacy

South Whitehall Patch by Mary Youtz August 29, 2012
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association is honoring Parkland School Board member Roberta Marcus with the Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award.
A fellow school board member, Robert Bold, announced the news of the award during the Parkland School Board meeting on Tuesday night. Marcus said she was “tremendously humbled” to learn that she will be receiving the award.

The Notebook receives a big grant to revamp online publishing
by Dale Mezzacappa on Aug 29 2012 Posted in Latest news
The Notebook will be revamping its publishing and implementing new digital strategies for reaching parents and other core audiences, thanks to a two-year, $202,000 grant just awarded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
The grant, through Knight's Community Information Challenge, will help theNotebook build its audience by producing more multimedia content, expanding its use of social media, and making its content more accessible via mobile devices.
The main goal of this project is to do a better job of informing and serving Philadelphia public school parents, many of whom do not have broadband Internet access at home.

Dialogue with the Gates Foundation: What is the Purpose of K-12 Education?

 Anthony Cody  
This week, our exchange is focused on these questions: What is the purpose of K-12 education? How do we think about college and career readiness? How do the Common Core Standards fit in? This post is a response to one posted yesterday, authored by Irvin Scott of the Gates Foundation. This post can also be viewed and commented upon at theGates Foundation's Impatient Optimists blog.
Irvin Scott of the Gates Foundation has given us some vivid images of the students he taught, and sincerely described the fervent desire that motivates every teacher - that we help those children entrusted to us reach their fullest potential. That is a drive that transcends this debate. And there we have common ground as educators.
However, when it comes to the broader strategy of the Gates Foundation, there remain some tough questions. The thrust of the Gates Foundation's approach is captured in this paragraph from Irvin Scott:
But we need all hands on deck when it comes to addressing poverty: we need there to be efforts laser focused on fixing the root causes of inequality that happen outside of school and we need efforts to focus on creating opportunity for all students in the classroom. By focusing on graduating college-ready students, we are empowering kids to have choices and opportunities that they otherwise would not have.
Thus far in our dialogue with the Gates Foundation, I have not seen much evidence of a "laser focus on fixing the root causes of inequality that happens outside of school." I have seen the laser focus on improving teacher quality through the use of evaluations that include test scores. And in this latest post we see their additional focus on college readiness as an antidote to social inequity.

Published Online: August 28, 2012

Catholic Schools Feeling Squeeze From Charters

Education Week By Sean Cavanagh
The nation's Roman Catholic schools have labored for decades under increasingly adverse economic and demographic conditions, which have undermined their finances and sapped their enrollment. Today, researchers and supporters say those schools face one of their most complex challenges yet: the continued growth of charter schools.
Since they first opened two decades ago, charter schools have emerged as competitors to Catholic schools for reasons connected to school systems' missions, their academic models, and the populations they serve.

New Laws, Programs Expand E-Learning Options
Several states now require districts to give students more choices
Education Week By Michelle R. Davis August 27, 2012
Premium article access courtesy of
Lawmakers in Utah recently mandated that school districts allow high school students to take online courses from state-approved providers. In Florida, large districts must give students online-course options from at least three different providers. Recent legislation in Georgia altered the funding structure for students who take virtual courses; the action provides an incentive for districts to encourage students to try online classes.
In recent years, several states have enacted laws that require more choices for students who want to try taking courses online, outside the offerings of brick-and-mortar school districts. In some cases, such legislation—as in Florida and Utah—is a companion to requirements that students take at least one online course before graduating from high school.
The new reality of such requirements, however, means that districts are often facing a significant change in the way they provide options to students. In some places, the legislation has even introduced a level of competition among providers—which sometimes are the districts themselves—in an effort to boost the quality of offerings. At times, the measures have spawned new methods of cooperation and collaboration.

“I know of no college or university in the country that doesn’t have to offer most or all of its freshmen courses in remedial English, beginning mathematics, beginning science and beginning foreign languages. Consequently, we give two or three years of college [courses] and the rest is high school work.”  Professor Theodore M. Greene of Princeton University, March 1946
Jamie Vollmer’s Blog
Today, one of the hot button issues of the “back-to-the-past” contingent is the seemingly large number of college freshmen who require remediation. This subject receives a lot of press, and is offered as positive proof of failing schools. In this context, I offer the following quote. It appeared in the Los Angeles Times attributed to Professor Theodore M. Greene of Princeton University.
I know of no college or university in the country that doesn’t have to offer most or all of its freshmen courses in remedial English, beginning mathematics, beginning science and beginning foreign languages. Consequently, we give two or three years of college [courses] and the rest is high school work.
Most people agree that this is a perfect example of the declining quality of our schools. The problem with the argument, however, is that Professor Greene uttered this statement about the poor quality of high school graduates in March 1946.

The Corporate Invasion of Schools

 Walt Gardner  
When I warned before that public schools are succumbing to sales pitches made by corporations, I was taken to task by a handful of readers for exaggerating the magnitude of the problem ("Be Wary of Corporate Inroads Into Education," Dec. 17, 2010; "Are Public Schools Supermarkets?" May 6, 2011). Perhaps the latest evidence will help change their minds ("Pearson's plan to control education, Report to the B.C. Teachers' Federation," Jun. 30).

If you have received an absentee ballot it must be postmarked by September 10th
Bios of candidates slated for 2013 PSBA offices 8/15/2012
At its May 19 meeting at PSBA Conference Center, the PSBA Nominating Committee interviewed and selected a slate of candidates for officers of the association in 2013.

Upcoming PSBA Professional Development Opportunities
To register or to learn more about PSBA professional development programs please visit:

2012 PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 16-19, 2012
Registration is Now Open!  Hershey Lodge & Convention Center, Hershey, PA

EPLC’s 2012 Arts and Education Symposium: Save the Date, Thursday, October 11

Education Policy and Leadership Center

Please mark your calendars and plan on joining EPLC, our partners, and guests on October 11 in Harrisburg for a full day of events.  Stay tuned to for information about our 2nd Arts and Education Symposium.  Scholarships and Act 48 Credit will be available.  Outstanding speakers and panelists from Pennsylvania and beyond will once again come together to address key topics in the arts and arts education and related public policy advocacy initiatives.  This is a networking and learning opportunity not to be missed!

NSBA Federal Relations Network seeking new members for 2013-14
School directors are invited to advocate for public education at the federal level through the National School Boards Association’s Federal Relations Network. The National School Boards Association is seeking school directors interested in serving on the Federal Relations Network (FRN), its grass roots advocacy program that brings local board members on the front line of pending issues before Congress. If you are a school director and willing to carry the public education message to Washington, D.C., FRN membership is a good place to start. 
Click here for more information.

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