Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for October 31, 2013: A new ‘no excuses’ school reform mantra

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3000 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, 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 and Twitter

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for October 31, 2013:
A new ‘no excuses’ school reform mantra

  • There can be no excuse for every child in America not to have access to health and dental care.
  • There can be no excuse for the failure to make early childhood education available to every child
  • There can be no excuse for not ensuring that every child, regardless of income, has the opportunity to succeed at higher education
  • There can be no excuse for homelessness
  • There can be no excuse for lack of adequate nutrition

A new ‘no excuses’ school reform mantra
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS October 31 at 4:00 am
The “no-excuses” school reform movement is famous for giving short shrift to how students are affected by living in poverty and expecting teachers to be able to overcome the consequences.  Here’s a different “no excuses” philosophy, by George Wood, superintendent of the Federal Hocking Local Schools in Stewart, Ohio; executive director of the nonprofit Forum for Education and Democracy, and board chair of  The Coalition of Essential Schools.

Lehigh Valley school leaders to fed official: Stop the mandates
Superintendents say mandates are burdening financially strapped districts.
By Margie Peterson, Special to The Morning Call 11:50 p.m. EDT, October 29, 2013
A top official from the U.S. Department of Education got an earful Monday from frustrated Lehigh Valley school superintendents and board members who feel they've been asked to do too much with too little for too long.  Massie Ritsch, the department's acting assistant secretary of communication and outreach, met with school officials from around the Lehigh Valley at a two-hour roundtable discussion hosted by the Bethlehem Area School District.
School directors and administrators talked about the difficulty of sustaining high-quality programs and teachers with stagnant funds and an ever-growing burden of state and federal requirements.
"The federal contribution to our district is less than 1 percent," Ballard said. "But the cost to the district from federal and state mandates that are unfunded is many, many times that."
Ballard said districts have constraints on how much they can raise property taxes but their costs keep growing.  "We're raising class sizes; we're curtailing programs," Ballard said.
When the IRRC considered the Keystone Exams in 2009, school districts all over PA passed resolutions in opposition; was your district one of them?
School Board Resolutions Opposing Keystone Exams Submitted to IRRC - 2009

“Nearly one in four registered voters believes unemployment is the state's most important problem, followed closely by education.”
Gov. Tom Corbett should give up politics after 2014, half of Republican voters say in new F&M poll
Intelligencer Journal Lancaster New Era By KAREN SHUEY Staff Writer Oct 31, 2013
A big concern for Pennsylvania Republicans isn't whether Gov. Tom Corbett can win a second term; it's whether they should even give him a chance.  At least that's what a new Franklin & Marshall College poll has found.  The survey of state voters shows that half of those registered as Republican believe Corbett should step aside so someone else can represent the party in the 2014 election.

Franklin & Marshall College Poll - The 23rd year of consecutive polling in Pennsylvania
Below are the highlights of the October, 2013, Franklin & Marshall College Poll of Pennsylvania voters. Complete results can be found at
  • Only one in four registered voters (25%) think Pennsylvania is headed in the right direction.
  • Nearly one in four (22%) registered voters believes unemployment and the economy is the state’s most important problem, followed closely by schools and school funding (21%).
  • One in five (19%) registered Pennsylvania voters believes Governor Tom Corbett is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as governor, which is similar the ratings he received in the August 2013, Franklin & Marshall College Poll. Only one in three (34%) Republicans rate his performance as “excellent” or “good.”
  • Only one in five (20%) voters believes Governor Corbett has performed sufficiently well to deserve re-election.  Few Democrats (7%) or independent voters (19%) believe he deserves re-election, but, surprisingly, less than half (37%) of Republicans do.
  • As many registered Republicans believe the Governor should step aside (44%) so another Republican can represent the party in the 2014 election as believe he should run again (42%).
  • Two in five (39%) registered Pennsylvania voters believe President Obama is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as President, which is higher than his August ratings.  The government shutdown appears to have helped the President’s job approval ratings in the state, but does not seem to have made a significant difference for the other officials tested.
  • Nearly two in three (64%) registered voters favor increasing the number of state residents who are eligible for the state’s Medicaid program.  Support is even higher (72%) for the state's proposed Medicaid expansion program that includes the use of private insurance companies and work requirements.More Pennsylvania registered voters believe the Affordable Care Act should be kept (50%) than repealed (40%).

The Wrong Questions
Yinzercation Blog October 30, 2013
Pittsburgh seems to have a question problem. By that I mean, the school district and many other leaders seem intent on asking the wrong questions. Any researcher will tell you, half the battle is asking a good question, one that opens up possibilities and leads to new ways of thinking. The way you ask a question, inevitably shapes the solution you find.

Nutter buys in: Schools to raise $61 million by selling buildings
LAST UPDATED: Thursday, October 31, 2013, 2:01 AM
Mayor Nutter agreed Wednesday to a Philadelphia school funding plan that hinges on selling millions of dollars worth of empty school buildings, despite having expressed skepticism about the idea for months.  The School District plans to post its inventory of more than 30 shuttered buildings on its website next week and start seeking bids on the properties, Nutter said.
The district would have to sell $61 million worth of buildings by the end of the fiscal year in June. That would cover the $50 million the city promised the district at the beginning of the school year, as well as $11 million that the district had already budgeted from building sales.
In the meantime, the city plans to give the district $60 million that normally would have been sent in May or June from tax collections earmarked for the schools.

West Philly’s Quest for the Automotive X Prize
In an excerpt from Jason’s Fagone’s new book, Ingenious, teacher Simon Hauger and his students build hybrid cars and race for $10 million—and a chance to change the city’s school district forever.
Philadelphia Magazine BY JASON FAGONE  |  OCTOBER 24, 2013
The bell rang at 3 p.m. Kids burst from their second-floor classrooms at the West Philadelphia High School Academy for Automotive and Mechanical Engineering and leapt down the stairs. Most filed past the metal detector onto the street, where a trash bin spilled colorful garbage, but a few stayed behind, making their way into a drafty garage and slapping down their backpacks with purpose. A vaguely fungal smell emanated from racks of motor fluid, tools and spare parts, and a sign straight out of the ’50s read ALL SKIRTS & SHORTS MUST BE WORN KNEE LENGTH. It was February 2010. On a wall, a lime-green banner was emblazoned with a quote from Henry Ford: “Thinking always ahead, thinking always of trying to do more, brings a state of mind in which nothing is impossible.”

The Food Column: Educators meet for healthy-foods summit
By Rebecca Sodergren / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 30, 2013 11:46 AM
Local experts will gather at a symposium next week to discuss ways to "bag the junk" from school food service, get kids exercising, and teach kids to grow and cook healthy food.
"Let's Move Pittsburgh: Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice" will offer tips and information for parents, fitness instructors, health-care workers and other professionals. But Hannah Hardy, Let's Move Pittsburgh's director of programming and operations, said her main target audience is educators because she wants Let's Move Pittsburgh to increase involvement in local schools in 2014.

Saucon Valley School Board to accept neutral party's teachers contract recommendations
By Express-Times staff on October 30, 2013 at 10:44 PM
At least one side of the ongoing teachers contract dispute in Saucon Valley School District says it will accept the terms of a neutral third party, meaning an agreement may be within reach.  A majority of the Saucon Valley School Board agreed in a special meeting tonight to vote to approve the recommendations in an independent fact-finder's report at the next scheduled meeting Nov. 7, the board said in a news release.  The Saucon Valley Education Association has also met to take a vote, the board's release said, but the results of that meeting were not immediately available.

PP4C: Capitol Watch for Children
An update on state and federal policies affecting Pennsylvania’s children
Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children October 2013

Wisconsin Vouchers, Cyber Charters Come Under Scrutiny
Education Week Charters and Choice Blog By Katie Ash on October 30, 2013 12:30 PM
In Wisconsin, school choice advocates are facing criticism about the state's newly expanded voucher program as well as the academic performance of cyber charters in that state.
According to the Associated Press, only 21 percent of students receiving vouchers under the state's expanded program attended public school last year. Nearly three-quarters of those receiving vouchers (73 percent) attended a private school, 3 percent did not attend school, and 2.4 percent were homeschooled, says the article.
Vouchers are public funds that are doled out to families who meet certain requirements that are to be used for private school education.  While proponents of voucher programs maintain that the tuition grants provide students with more choice and give low-income students and families access to better schools, critics say that vouchers essentially provide a rebate for families who would be sending their children to private schools anyway—a claim bolstered by these recently released figures.

“With Stanford’s reputation in technology, it is no wonder that computer science is the university’s most popular major, and that there are no longer any humanities programs among the top five. But with the recession having helped turn college, in the popular view, into largely a tool for job preparation, administrators are concerned.”
As Interest Fades in the Humanities, Colleges Worry
New York Times By TAMAR LEWIN Published: October 30, 2013
STANFORD, Calif. — On Stanford University’s sprawling campus, where a long palm-lined drive leads to manicured quads, humanities professors produce highly regarded scholarship on Renaissance French literature and the philosophy of language.  They have generous compensation, stunning surroundings and access to the latest technology and techniques of scholarship. The only thing they lack is students: Some 45 percent of the faculty members in Stanford’s main undergraduate division are clustered in the humanities — but only 15 percent of the students.

“In the global perspective, the Finnish education system seems to be a paradox. When much of the rest of the world is implementing more oversight of schools to assure teachers meet specific goals, lengthening the school day, toughening academic standards, and increasing homework, Finnish children continue to enjoy a relatively short school day, a broad curriculum, and a light homework load. In addition, Finnish children do not attend private tutoring sessions or spend any time preparing for standardized tests, as so many of their peers around the world must.”
The Finnish Paradox
Education Week By International Perspectives on Education Reform Group on October 31, 2013
This post is by Pasi Sahlberg.
Since the release of the first OECD PISA results in December 2001, Finland has become the mecca of education pilgrimage. Some visitors wish to discover the secrets of Finland's high scores in reading, mathematics, and science. Others hope to find out how great teachers are prepared or what successful schools look like. There are also those who want to take a first-hand look at education's "ultimate slacker," as Fareed Zakaria described Finland on his CNN news program.   When I ask these visitors what is the most important takeaway of the Finnish education system, a frequent answer is widespread trust exhibited by Finns in their schools. They also wonder how only a few Finns seem to be worried about whether teachers do what they are expected. What becomes obvious in school visits is not often found in visitors' own communities: Finnish parents seem to think that if there are schools that do not perform according to expectations, local authorities will find ways to help them get better.

Optimism in the Face of Federal Gridlock
First Five Years Fund Starting Point Blog OCT 30, 2013   
There was a sense of relief and a hint of jubilation in our office the morning of October 17.
After 16 days of shutdown, federal government employees returned to work. More importantly, access to critical programs and services for children and families was restored. It was a difficult few weeks, making it easy to understand the cynicism surrounding the federal government and Congress in particular.  But the displeasure of early October cannot overshadow a year of tremendous victories for early childhood education at the national level.

K-12 Teacher Evaluation is Broader than a Test Score
Core Education Blog Posted on October 30, 2013
Teacher evaluation systems today are more refined and useful for improving teachers’ skills and connecting teachers to student achievement than past models, a new national report that examines states’ teacher evaluation policies by the National School Boards Association‘s (NSBA) Center for Public Education (CPE) finds.
Trends in Teacher Evaluation: How States are Measuring Teacher Performance,” offers an overview of changes in teacher evaluation systems by state. The report also describes states’ use of evaluation data for personnel decisions and continuous improvement.

When Outsiders Take Over Schools: Lessons From Memphis
Tennessee's new Achievement District gives control of some public schools over to charter networks, with mixed results.
The Atlantic by SARAH CARR OCT 29 2013, 7:21 AM ET
MEMPHIS — Depending on who you talk to, Memphis is rapidly becoming one of the best cities to teach in America—or one of the worst.
For Amanda Montgomery, a 24-year-old teacher, for instance, the takeover of her elementary school by Aspire Public Schools—the California-based charter network—has brought smaller class sizes and more-consistent mentoring. “I have a lot more coaching ... and supports,” she said.  But Sarah Kennedy-Harper, a veteran special-education teacher at Memphis’s Northside High School, aggressively opposed a similar takeover at Northside, knowing she could lose some job security. “I need to pay my bills,” Kennedy-Harper said. “I can’t afford to be at a school where they could hand us pink slips at any time and say, ‘We don’t need your services.’”
The city’s schools are on the vanguard of controversial changes reshaping urban education nationally, including decentralized control, more charter schools, increased use of data to determine which schools stay open, and a greater reliance on new teachers who come through alternative preparation programs such as Teach for America or the Memphis Teacher Residency.

Common Core/Keystone Exams: The PA State Board of Education (Board) has submitted the final-form regulation entitled “Academic Standards and Assessment."
The Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) plans to meet and act on this regulation at our public meeting at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, November 21, 2013.
Regulation #6 – 326: Academic Standards and Assessment
Amends existing regulations to reflect Pennsylvania's Common Core Standards in English language arts; address test security concerns; and require students to demonstrate proficiency on the Keystone Exams in order to graduate from high school.
The agenda and any changes to the time or date of the meeting will be posted on IRRC’s Web site at  Please note that any comments should be submitted to the Board prior to the 48-hour blackout period, which begins at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday,November 19, 2013. Please provide IRRC with a copy of any comments submitted, as well. Please note that all correspondence and documents relating to a regulation submitted to IRRC are a matter of public record and appear on IRRC’s Web site.
For a copy of the regulation or if you have any substantive questions regarding the regulation, please contact the Board at (717) 787-3787. You can also download the final-form regulation from IRRC’s Web site using the following link:

PASCD Annual Conference ~ A Whole Child Education Powered by Blendedschools Network November 3-4, 2013 | Hershey Lodge & Convention Center
We invite you to join us for the Annual Conference, held at an earlier date this year, on Sunday, November 3rd, through Monday, November 4th, 2013 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center.  The Pre-Conference begins on Saturday with PIL Academies and Common Core sessions.  On Sunday and Monday, our features include keynote presentations by Chris Lehmann and ASCD Author Dr. Connie Moss, as well as numerous breakout sessions on PA’s most timely topics.
Click here for the 2013 Conference Schedule
Click here to register for the conference. 

Where: Abington Senior High School
When  November 5, 2013 8:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Contact Lynn Murphy, Delaware Valley College

Philadelphia Education Fund 2013 EDDY Awards November 19, 2013
Join us as we celebrate their accomplishments!
Tuesday, November 19, 2013 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm WHYY, 150 North 6th Street, Philadelphia
Invitations coming soon!

Building One Pennsylvania Fourth Annual Fundraiser and Awards Ceremony, November 21, 2013 6:00-8:00 PM
IBEW Local 380   3900 Ridge Pike  Collegeville, PA 19426
Building One Pennsylvania is an emerging statewide non-partisan organization of leaders from diverse sectors - municipal, school, faith, business, labor and civic - who are joining together to stabilize and revitalize their communities, revitalize local economies and promote regional opportunity and sustainability.

The National School Boards Association 74th Annual Conference & Exposition April 5-7, 2014 New Orleans
The National School Boards Association 74th Annual Conference & Exposition will be held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, LA.  Our first time back in New Orleans since the spring of 2002!
General Session speakers include education advocates Thomas L. Friedman, Sir Ken Robinson, as well as education innovators Nikhil Goyal and Angela Maiers.
We have more than 200 sessions planned! Colleagues from across the country will present workshops on key topics with strategies and ideas to help your district. View our Conference Brochure for highlights on sessions and focus presentations.
Questions? Contact NSBA at 800-950-6722 (NSBA) between the hours of 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. EST

Join the National School Boards Action Center Friends of Public Education
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

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