Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for July 23, 2013: Did the state cheat on test score investigations?

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for July 23, 2013:
Did the state cheat on test score investigations?

School Choices: Are your PA tax dollars, intended for the classrooms of Chester Upland, funding this 20,000 sq.ft. mansion on the beach instead?

(to consider costs of Educating Special Education Students)  
Thursday, July 25, 10:00 AM @ IU #22 Bucks County
705 Shady Retreat Rd. Doylestown

New chief of staff aims to sell Gov. Corbett’s agenda
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review By Brad Bumsted  Published: Sunday, July 21, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
HARRISBURG — A Mt. Lebanon woman with long-standing ties to the Republican Party will head Gov. Tom Corbett's staff as he tries to reignite a stalled legislative agenda and drive up sagging poll numbers.  Leslie Gromis Baker, 53, a former aide to ex-Gov. Tom Ridge, has amassed experience in government, lobbying, campaigns and public relations. She replaces Chief of Staff Steve Aichele, a former power lawyer and Navy captain. Aichele was paid $154,900.  It's unclear whether the third chief of staff in three years will make a difference for Corbett, whose re-election next year is on the line. The shake-up in his inner circle last week follows Corbett's strikeout on legislative priorities: liquor privatization, new money for transportation, and pension reform.
Philly District to release report on cheating investigation at 19 schools
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 22 2013 Posted in Latest news
The Philadelphia School District plans to release a report on its investigation of adult cheating on standardized tests in 19 city schools that will give a sense of the scope of the problem and say how many educators will face disciplinary charges. But the report, which will be released within the next three weeks, will not name names, sources have told the Notebook.
Sources indicated that infractions were found at most of the 19 schools. These 19 represent one of three groups of schools identified for further investigationthrough statistical anomalies, such as high numbers of wrong-to-right erasures on answer sheets that forensic analysis found were virtually impossible to occur by chance.

“odds that erasure patterns were random…were between 1 in a quadrillion and 1 in a quintillion…But the state left the charter to investigate itself.”
How Pennsylvania Schools Made a Cheating Scandal Disappear
Tainted scores throw an entire way of running schools into question.
City Paper by  Daniel Denvir Posted: Thu, Jul. 18, 2013, 12:00 AM
 ….“Two years ago, however, during an April 2011 visit, Corbett was effusive: The school’s test-score success “needs to be reported to all the people ofPennsylvania,” he said, so they could witness school choice in action. At the time, Corbett was under fire for proposing massive cuts to education. ……A state forensic analysis found that the odds that erasure patterns were random on the reading portion of Chester Community Charter School seventh-graders’ 2009 PSSAs were between one in a quadrillion and one in a quintillion. Analyses done in 2010 and 2011, according to the Department of Education, also found “a very high number of students with a very high number of wrong-to-right erasures.” But the state left the charter to investigate itself.”

“A more complex story surrounds the investigation at Chester Community Charter School, a 3,000-student school run by the for-profit company of Gov. Corbett’s largest single campaign contributor, Vahan Gureghian.  There, the state initiated an investigation, then for unknown reasons stepped aside and allowed the school to investigate itself, documents show.”
Info is scarce on cheating probes at 4 area charters
State investigations have been closed at Walter Palmer and a Chester school even though irregularities were unexplained.
The notebook by Bill Hangley, Jr. and Dale Mezzacappa December 2012
…..And he suggested that a subsequent plunge in test scores was due to severe budget cuts the school endured during the battles over Chester Upland’s finances. “When you take away 50 percent of the budget [and] cause a school to lay off 53 people … the model has to be impaired,” Crawley said.  With PDE supervising the 2012 PSSA testing at the school, scores dropped 30 points in both reading and math.

Property Tax Elimination Proposal gains momentum in Senate
Reading Eagle by Mary Young 7/21/2013
A plan to eliminate school property taxes has stalled in the House of Representatives, but the proposal is gaining momentum in the Senate.  Sen. David G. Argall, a Schuylkill County Republican who represents part of Berks County and is prime sponsor of the Senate version, said he has 21 co-sponsors and expects to have more than the 26 votes he needs to pass the plan by the time the Senate returns in September.

“The district competes with charter and cyber charter schools to educate the children living within its boundaries. By increasing enrollment, Chester Upland can decrease its charter school expenses because it no longer has to forward those students’ subsidies to charter schools.”
Chester Upland's Main Street school receives a reprieve
By JOHN KOPP jkopp@delcotimes.com @DT_JohnKopp Published: Monday, July 22, 2013
CHESTERMain Street Elementary School will keep its doors open this fall thanks to a surge in enrollment within the Chester Upland School District.   Receiver Joseph Watkins announced Thursday that the district has increased its 2013-14 projected enrollment by about 500 students, enough to warrant keeping the school open. Main Street was on the chopping block alongside the Chester Upland School of the Arts. Whether CUSA also can be saved remains unclear.

Arts Academy Elementary Charter School proposed for Allentown
Organizers of the proposed Arts Academy Elementary Charter School hope the creation of their school gives Lehigh Valley students a chance to have 13 years of arts education.
The kindergarten-through-fifth-grade school would complement the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts in Bethlehem and the Arts Academy Charter School in Salisbury Township, said Thomas Lubben, founder of both charter schools.

Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School expansion in jeopardy
The Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School wants to expand from its South Bethlehem location, but its chartering school district says that violates state law.
The charter opened in August 2010 in the former Ss. Cyril and Methodius Elementary School located at 551 Thomas St. and wishes to move its middle school to 395 Bridle Path Road.
Principal Lisa Pluchinsky said the school has simply outgrown its current location, but it plans to continue operating the same way.

Broken Promise: The Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program is a failure
The Tribune-Review By Jake Haulk Published: Saturday, July 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Jake Haulk is president of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy.
Begun six years ago with great fanfare and ambitious goals, the Pittsburgh Promise is falling well short of its primary objectives to improve the quality of education and raise enrollment in Pittsburgh's public schools.  No doubt some of the students receiving the program's scholarship money have benefited. But if the program was ever going to be successful in its stated purpose, there should be convincing evidence by now.
AASA Applauds House Approval of NCLB Rewrite Legislation
Statement by Daniel Domenech, AASA Executive Director
On July 19, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives moved toward reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act by voting in favor of the Student Success Act.
Alexandria, Va., July 19, 2013 – On behalf of thousands of school systems across the country, AASA, The School Superintendents Association, applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for supporting the long-awaited reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act by voting in favor of the Student Success Act (HR 5). 

“For starters, the misnamed “Common Core State Standards” are not state standards. They're national standards, created by Gates-funded consultants for the National Governors Association (NGA). They were designed, in part, to circumvent federal restrictions on the adoption of a national curriculum, hence the insertion of the word “state” in the brand name. States were coerced into adopting the Common Core by requirements attached to the federal Race to the Top grants and, later, the No Child Left Behind waivers. (This is one reason many conservative groups opposed to any federal role in education policy oppose the Common Core.)  Written mostly by academics and assessment experts—many with ties to testing companies—the Common Core standards have never been fully implemented and tested in real schools anywhere.”
The Trouble with the Common Core
It isn't easy to find common ground on the Common Core. Already hailed as the “next big thing” in education reform, the Common Core State Standards are being rushed into classrooms in nearly every district in the country. Although these “world-class” standards raise substantive questions about curriculum choices and instructional practices, such educational concerns are likely to prove less significant than the role the Common Core is playing in the larger landscape of our polarized education reform politics.

Weingarten: The promise of public education for all is ‘under assault’
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss, Published: July 22 at 1:00 pm
Here’s the text of the speech that American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten gave at the organization’s convention in Washington D.C. on Monday:

Scoop: Common Core sticker shock - Student loan vote a done deal - What's next for No Child Left Behind - FCC approves ConnectED
Politico By LIBBY A. NELSON | 07/22/13 6:27 AM EDT
GOOD MORNING and welcome to the inaugural edition of Morning Education. I’m Libby A. Nelson, an education reporter at POLITICO Pro, and I’ll be greeting you early every morning with the most important education policy news of the day.
Education Pro’s focus is “cradle to career”: pre-K through higher ed, featuring policy news from Congress, the Education Department, the White House and the states. Our promise here at Morning Education is to cut through the clutter and the rhetoric and offer you exclusive reporting and incisive analysis on education policy, while making sure we share all the “must reads” from our fellow education reporters around the country.
Send news tips, gossip and reactions to lnelson@politico.com or @libbyanelson. And follow us at @Morning_Edu and @POLITICOPro.

“Where you grow up matters,” said Nathaniel Hendren, a Harvard economist and one of the study’s authors. “There is tremendous variation across the U.S. in the extent to which kids can rise out of poverty.”
Poverty: In Climbing Income Ladder, Location Matters
A study finds the odds of rising to another income level are notably low in certain cities, like Atlanta and Charlotte, and much higher in New York and Boston.
ATLANTA – Stacey Calvin spends almost as much time commuting to her job — on a bus, two trains and another bus — as she does working part-time at a day care center. She knows exactly where to board the train and which stairwells to use at the stations so that she has the best chance of getting to work on time in the morning and making it home to greet her three children after school.

An Illustrative Case of the Numbskullery of Evaluating Teacher Preparation by Student Growth Scores
School Finance 101 by Bruce Baker Posted on July 19, 2013
Assumption:  A good teacher preparation program is one that produces teachers whose students achieve high test score gains
Relay Graduate School of Education is housed in North Star Academy in Newark, and its course modules are largely provided by relatively inexperienced “champion” teachers within its own network (and in from the school itself).  The program is designed to train its own future teachers [and others in network] – and to actually credential them (and grant them graduate degrees) in the specific methods used in their school(s).
Put simply, Relay GSE uses relatively inexperienced teachers to grant degrees to their own new colleagues, where those colleagues may be required by the school to gain those credentials in order to retain employment. No conflict of interest here? But I digress. Back to the point.

“Since the moment the federal government got involved in teacher evaluations, the result has been a mess. The old joke about an education bureaucrat unable to organize a two-car funeral procession is an apt description of what is occurring. Teachers are being substantially evaluated on student test scores even though most subjects identified in the current ESEA rightly have no requirement for standardized testing. Teachers are being evaluated on tests scores of students they have never taught. Teachers are teaching to the tests, and curriculum is being narrowed.”
Get the Feds Out of Teacher Evaluations
Education Week By John Wilson on July 22, 2013 7:00 AM
We have miles of gridlock to go before the much-needed re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) finds a clear road to adoption, but there is movement. The United States House of Representatives was first with its version of a new bill, one that has lots of flaws but includes a glimmer of hope. One House amendment indicates that at least some policymakers have finally realized that the federal government has no business telling local employers how to evaluate their employees.

Poll: Parents don’t support many education policy changes
Washington Post By Lyndsey Layton, Published: July 21
Most parents with children in public schools do not support recent changes in education policy, from closing low-performing schools to shifting public dollars to charter schools to private school vouchers, according to a new poll to be released Monday by the American Federation of Teachers.  The poll, conducted by Democratic polling firm Hart Research Associates, surveyed 1,000 parents this month and found that most would rather see their neighborhood schools strengthened and given more resources than have options to enroll their children elsewhere.

The First Review of “Reign of Error” a new book by Diane Ravitch
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianerav July 22, 2013 //
This is the first review of my new book.
Kirkus sends out early reviews that are read by journalists, librarians, and others in the publishing industry.  This reviewer provides an accurate summary of the book. He or she got the main point and presents it succinctly here.

Another Christie Crony Gets A Charter (And !SURPRISE! It's Managed By a Guy At The Center Of The BIGGEST Charter Failure In US History!)
Mother Crusader Blog by  Darcie Cimarusti Monday, July 22, 2013
The announcement of the six charters receiving final approval to open in September was four days off schedule.  The press release is full of platitudes about how well vetted these schools were, and how confident Commissioner Cerf is that these schools will be stellar.
"We must hold a high bar for any school that serves New Jersey students, and we are confident that these schools have the academic and operational components in place to provide a high-quality choice on day one," said Commissioner Cerf.
It's going to take me a while to demonstrate how the approval of Jersey City Global Charter School (JCGCS) proves, without a shadow of doubt, that these words are absolutely meaningless.  I hope you'll stay with me until the end, cause it's a hell of a story.

National School Boards Action Center July 2013
Join the Friends of Public Education and participate in a voluntary network to urge your U.S. Representatives and Senators to support federal legislation on Capitol Hill that is critical to providing high quality education to America’s schoolchildren.  Federal legislation has direct policy and financial impact on your local public schools and students, and federal legislators need to hear the local impact – directly from you, their constituent.  By becoming a part of the Friends of Public Education, you are joining a national campaign to support a strong public education for all students.  When you sign up, you will receive information on critical education legislation and NSBAC will ask you to contact your members of Congress at key strategic times during the legislative process.  NSBAC will notify you through calls to action and provide sample letters that you can personalize so you can easily communicate with your elected federal leaders.
So, join today.  (…And recruit your friends and family to do the same).
Thank you for your support for America’s schoolchildren.

Yinzers - Save the Date: Diane Ravitch will be speaking in Pittsburgh on September 16th at 6:00 pm.  Location and details to come.

Save the Date: Diane Ravitch will be speaking in Philly at the Main Branch of the Philadelphia Free Library on September 17 at 7:30 pm.  Details to come.

Know Your Child’s Rights! 2013-2014 Special Education Seminars
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia July 9, 2013
The Law Center’s year-long Know Your Child’s Rights! seminar series on special education law continues in 2013-2014 with day and evening trainings focused on securing special education rights and services.  These seminars are intended for parents, special education advocates, educators, attorneys, and others who are in a position to help children with disabilities receive an appropriate education. Every session focuses on a different legal topic, service or disability and is co-led by a Law Center staff attorney and a guest speaker.
This year’s topics include Tips for Going Back to School; Psychological Testing, IEEs and Evaluations; School Records; Children with Autism; Transition Services; Children with Emotional Needs; Discipline and Bullying; Charter Schools; Children with Dyslexia; Extended School Year; Assistive Technology; Discrimination and Compensatory Education; and, Settlements. See below for descriptions and schedules of each session.

PSBA members will elect officers electronically for the first time in 2013
PSBA 7/8/2013
Beginning in 2013, PSBA members will follow a completely new election process which will be done electronically during the month of September. The changes will have several benefits, including greater membership engagement and no more absentee ballot process.
Below is a quick Q&A related to the voting process this year, with more details to come in future issues of School Leader News and at www.psba.org. More information on the overall governance changes can be found in the February 2013 issue of the PSBA Bulletin:

PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference
October 15-18, 2013 | Hershey Lodge & Convention Center
Important change this year: Delegate Assembly (replaces the Legislative Policy Council) will be Tuesday Oct. 15 from 1 – 4:30 p.m.
The PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference is the largest gathering of elected officials in Pennsylvania and offers an impressive collection of professional development opportunities for school board members and other education leaders.
See Annual School Leadership Conference links for all program details.

PAESSP State Conference October 27-29, 2013
The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel, State College, PA
The state conference is PAESSP’s premier professional development event for principals, assistant principals and other educational leaders. Attending will enable you to connect with fellow educators while learning from speakers and presenters who are respected experts in educational leadership.
 Featuring Keynote Speakers: Charlotte Danielson, Dr. Todd Whitaker, Will Richardson & David Andrews, Esq. (Legal Update).

EPLC Education Policy Fellowship Program – Apply Now
Applications are available now for the 2013-2014 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP). The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC).
With more than 350 graduates in its first fourteen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants.
Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders.  Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization.
The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 12-13, 2013 and continues to graduation in June 2014.

Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School FAST FACTS
Quakertown Community School District March 2013

PA Charter Schools: $4 billion taxpayer dollars with no real oversight

Keystone State Education Coalition Prior Posting
Charter schools - public funding without public scrutiny
>Charter schools - public funding without public scrutiny

Lawrence A. Feinberg
Keystone State Education Coalition
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

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