Tuesday, November 19, 2013

PA Ed Policy Roundup for Nov 19, 2013: 500 NY State principals highlight concerns with excessive testing

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for November 19, 2013:
500 NY State principals highlight concerns with excessive testing

How will all of Pennsylvania’s property taxpayers be affected by SB1085, charter school reform legislation pending in the Senate this week?

SB1085 would allow colleges and universities to spend your school tax dollars on new charters without any local say or accountability to taxpayers.

So, for instance, if you were a wealthy charter operator who couldn't find a cooperative school board, you could make a nice donation to a college and have them authorize new charter schools for you.

Local taxpayers and school boards would have no say whatsoever in creating the schools and no say in how their tax dollars were being spent.  No public meetings, no sunshine, no chance to vote anyone out of office.

SB1085: Divisive charter school reform bill headed toward vote in PA
Watchdog.org By Maura Pennington  /   November 19, 2013  /   No Comments
PHILADELPHIA — A vote in the state Senate this week could decide the fate of public charter schools in Pennsylvania.  A broad coalition of supporters is optimistic about the passage of S.B. 1085, which would be the first successful legislation to reform the methods of authorization, accountability and financing since the creation of both brick-and-mortar and cyber charter schools in the state more than a decade ago.

Take a moment to read this letter signed by over 500 New York State principals highlighting their collective concerns with the impact of excessive testing on students and learning.
"Open Letter to Parents About Testing" From New York State School Principals
Huffington Post by Alan Singer Social studies educator, Hofstra University 11/18/2013
This letter is by New York State principals and is addressed to New York State parents, but it could just as well be addressed to every parent in the United States. Since Barack Obama and Arne Duncan are parents as well as government officials, I hope they make time to read the letter and to respond. I signed the online letter; maybe they will also and stop the testing madness mandated by Race to the Top. As of this posting, the letter was already signed by 517 New York State Principals and over 2630 supporters.

Pennsylvania House defeats major transportation funding plan
By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com  on November 18, 2013 at 10:58 PM
Pennsylvania’s transportation funding debate hit another roadblock Monday when the state House of Representatives voted down a package that would have routed $2.4 billion into highway, bridge and mass transit funding.  The plan, heavily backed by Gov. Tom Corbett and state business interests, fell three votes short for passage of an amendment, losing on a ticket-splitting, 98-103 vote.  The Republican majority broke for the plan, reluctantly brokered this fall by House Speaker Sam Smith, R-Jefferson County, 59-51. But Democrats broke against it 39-52.
To see the full roll call, click here.  Within 15 minutes, supporters of the plan called for a reconsideration vote, but the margin of failure only widened, with the plan failing 89-112 the second time around.  It was not immediately clear what the next step will be in the protracted transportation funding debate, which could resume as early as Tuesday but might require a cooling off period.

Don't blame expired stimulus funds for short-funding Pennsylvania schools: PennLive letters
PennLive Letters to the Editor  by Sharon Ward on November 18, 2013
SHARON WARD is Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, Harrisburg
Research is clear that student performance improves with smaller class sizes, rigorous programs, and qualified teachers. Yet since 2011 Pennsylvania has done the opposite, enacting cuts that have increased class sizes, eliminated enrichment programs, and taken tens of thousands of teachers, guidance counselors, and aides out of the classroom.
Gene Barr of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry offers a misleading picture of school funding in his Oct. 24 letter ("Teachers union is wrong; Corbett didn't cut $1 billion from education"). Fully half the school cuts enacted in 2011 came from programs that did not have a single dollar of federal stimulus funds. For the other half, it was not unreasonable for school districts or parents to expect that temporary federal funds would be replaced with state funds as they were for prisons and health care programs.

3 reasons why you should care about the Pennsylvania school funding crisis
WHYY Newsworks by Kevin McCorry NOVEMBER 18, 2013
Philadelphia is not the only city in Pennsylvania whose educational institutions are battling a funding crisis. Sharon Ward, executive director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, and a longtime observer of state education policy, breaks down the issue.
"The situation that's happening in Philadelphia ... is being experienced in school districts across the state," said Ward. "There are eight school districts that  are currently designated as 'financially distressed' and many more that are on that path."

Group says Delco schools underfunded by $45.3 million
By John Kopp, Delaware County Daily Times  11/18/13, 10:05 PM EST 
Delaware County school districts collectively are underfunded by $45.3 million according to a report released Monday by Public Citizens for Children and Youth.   The child advocacy group released “The Bottom Line is Children,” a 10-page report examining the state of public education in the county. The report lauded Delco school districts for their high graduation rates and standardized test results, but was critical of achievement gaps between low-income and financially stable students. The report advocated increased state spending to provide the resources necessary to close those gaps.  “We find a very high-performing K-12 system in general, but a system that is continually getting strained,” said Donna Cooper, PCCY executive director.

Report: Delco schools see rise in low-income students
KATHY BOCCELLA, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER  Monday, November 18, 2013, 1:27 PM
With a lower median income and denser pockets of poverty than neighboring communities, Delaware County is struggling to educate all of its students, according to a report from an education advocacy group.  The Public Citizens for Children and Youth on Monday released "The Bottom Line is Children: Public Education in Delaware County" examining the state of education for nearly 70,000 students in 15 school districts.  While the county's overall economic health is strong, the rising number of low-income residents represent new economic and educational challenges for the county, the report said.

Report reveals usage of student data tracking
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In Pennsylvania, it’s called the PAsecure ID. November 19, 2013 12:26 AM
It’s a unique identifier assigned to students so that data can be tracked and studied yet students can remain anonymous.  All K-12 public school students have had such a number since 2006-07. Students enrolled in community colleges and the state System of Higher Education have had one since 2008-09. And children receiving publicly funded pre-kindergarten services got one in the 2010-11 school year.  Across the nation, similar unique identifiers are being tracked to gauge student progress, assist policymakers and help teachers better understand student needs.

Lower Merion approves controversial school-choice zone
JESSICA PARKS, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Tuesday, November 19, 2013, 12:02 AM
LOWER MERION The Lower Merion school board on Monday turned the clock back to 2009, restoring the full size of a school-choice zone that had been the subject of a failed discrimination lawsuit.  The 5-4 vote came during a sometimes combative three-hour meeting.  The plan attempts to maintain an even balance of students at the two district high schools in the face of a sharp and unanticipated rise in enrollment. It does so by expanding the areas where students can choose to attend either Lower Merion High School or Harriton High School.

“Hite emphasized that while the district must replicate strong schools, develop new ones, and close or hand over to charters its struggling schools, its primary job lies elsewhere.
"Eighty to 90 percent of our efforts must go into improving our district schools," Hite said. "Period."
Differing opinions on how to improve Philly schools
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER : Monday, November 18, 2013, 9:23 PM
The numbers don't lie, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said: Most Philadelphia School District students aren't in "good" schools, if "good" is defined as half of all students reading and doing math at grade level.  Hundreds turned out for a School Reform Commission-led discussion Monday night to brainstorm ways to change that.  The opinions were as diverse as the people in the room - parents, teachers and community members, some staunch defenders of traditional public schools, others strong charter boosters, others agnostic about everything but children achieving.

“The District and state, however, don't appear to be on the same page regarding this issue. Since the suspension, PDE has continued to pay charter schools directly for expenses that the schools claim they are owed and that the District refused to reimburse.”
Despite suspension of school code, state still paying charters for disputed students
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 18 2013 Posted in Latest news
Back in August, the School Reform Commission suspended the state school code, using special powers it was granted by legislators when the state took over the District. Among the provisions suspended was one that prevented school districts from setting enrollment caps for charter schools.  But based on what the Pennsylvania Department of Education has done so far, it would seem that the code suspension -- designed to prevent unregulated charter growth that officials say would seriously impede the District's ability to plan financially -- has not had any effect.
After the SRC voted to suspend the code, Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn sent warning letters to charter schools that the District says have enrolled too many students, saying the schools should no longer seek direct payment from PDE. He also threatened charters that continue to "overenroll" with non-renewal or revocation. 

Boyertown school district, teachers agree on 4-year contract
Reading Eagle By Laura Newberry November 15, 2013
The Boyertown School District has agreed on a four-year teacher contract that will include a slight pay raise, restructured health care benefits and a decrease in tuition reimbursements.  This week, the school board unanimously approved the pact with the Boyertown Area Education Association, the local teacher's union. The contract will take effect July 1.  "I'm pleased how the two sides came together," said Chad Roth, president of the teachers union. "It's always been a collaborative environment, and I think it seemed especially that way this time."
Teachers will receive a .5 percent salary increase during the contract's first and second years, .75 percent the third year and a 1 percent raise the final year.

Calling all Students
Yinzercation Blog November 18, 2013
What do zombies and massive street demonstrations have in common? Philadelphia public school students. Young people in Philly have staged zombie flash mobs to illustrate the impact of budget cuts on their education. They have also packed school board meetings to protest school closures and, earlier this year, filled the streets with thousands in a deafeningly loud march. These are exciting and engaged young people – and we have much to learn from them.
Know any high school students? Here is a fantastic opportunity for Pittsburgh area young people to meet some of those Philadelphia students and learn about our shared fight for education justice. Great Public Schools (GPS) Pittsburgh is pleased to host student activists from Youth United for Change and the Philadelphia Student Union this Thursday, Nov. 21st. We will feed everyone starting at 5:30PM (with the meeting at 6PM) at the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers building: 10 South 19th Street, on the South Side.

21st Century Cyber Charter School in New Documentary
Customized education through online learning highlighted as successful school choice initiative
November 18, 2013 
EXTON, PA. — The individualized learning programs at the 21st Century Cyber Charter School in Exton are explored in a new documentary announced today by Choice Media. As The Ticket: The Many Faces of School Choice explores, 21st Century provides options for students above or below grade level, those who have been bullied, and those who have other medical conditions that make classroom learning difficult.  "At 21st Century Cyber Charter School in Pennsylvania, they don't have to teach an entire class at one middle-level pace, leaving gifted kids bored and slower kids confused," said filmmaker Bob Bowdon. "With online education, rate of instruction can be tailored to the individual student. This is simply the future of education."

'White moms' remark fuels Common Core clash
Politico By STEPHANIE SIMON | 11/18/13 8:07 AM EST
Education Secretary Arne Duncan realized fairly quickly that he had stumbled.
He had just told a gathering of state superintendents of education that “white suburban moms” were rebelling against the Common Core academic standards — new guidelines for math and language arts instruction — because their kids had done poorly on the tough new tests.
“All of a sudden, their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought … and that’s pretty scary,” Duncan said at the event Friday.
Two hours later, with those comments sparking outrage on social media, Duncan told POLITICO that he “didn’t say it perfectly.” But he stood by his thesis: To oppose the Common Core is to oppose progress.

Arne Duncan blames ‘clumsy phrasing’ for ‘white suburban moms’ remarks
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS November 18 at 6:16 pm
Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote Monday that “clumsy phrasing” was behind controversial comments he made Friday when he told state schools superintendents meeting in Richmond that it was “fascinating” that some opposition to the Common Core State Standards has come from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”  The comments lit a firestorm of criticism on Twitter and the blogosphere, with critics accusing him of  injecting race into the national debate over the Common Core standards and ignoring the real reasons that many parents are upset with the Core initiative.

Congratulations! Getting elected to the school board was the easy part…..
PSBA New Board Member Training: Great Governance, Great Schools!
November 2013-April 2014
Announcing School Board Academy’s New Board Member Training: Great Governance, Great Schools!
You will need a wealth of information quickly as you jump out of the starting block and hit the ground running as a newly elected member of the board of school directors. New board members, as well as veterans who might like a refresher, will want to make the most of the opportunity to attend PSBA's New Board Member Training Program: Great Governance, Great Schools! .

EPLC is recruiting current undergraduate or graduate students to serve as part-time interns 
EPLC is recruiting current undergraduate or graduate students to serve as part-time interns beginning January or May of 2014 in the downtown Harrisburg offices. One intern will support education policy work including the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign. The second intern position will support the work of the Pennsylvania Arts Education Network. Ideal candidates have an interest/course work in political science/public policy, social studies, the arts or education and also have strong research, communications, and critical thinking skills. The internship is unpaid, but free parking is available. Weekly hours of the internship are negotiable. To apply or to suggest a candidate, please email Mattie Robinson for further information at robinson@eplc.org.

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. BuildingOnePa.org

The Last Waltz Philly benefit for Philadelphia School Children at the Trocadero on Saturday, November 30th
WXPN The Key November 5, 2013 | 12:25 PM | By Bruce Warren
On Saturday, November 30th the Trocadero Theatre hosts The Last Waltz Philly, a benefit for Philadelphia school children. Producers of the event Fergus Carey (owner of Fergie’s, Monk’s Cafe, Belgian Cafe and Grace Tavern), Bryan Dilworth (of Bonfire Booking), singer-songwriter Andrew Lipke, and musician and producer Kevin Hanson. The Last Waltz, a concert by rock group The Band and featuring numerous guest musicians including Neil Young, Muddy Waters, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Dr. John, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond and others, was held on Thanksgiving in 1976. The Last Waltz Philly will celebrate the music of The Band’s farewell show all for an excellent cause.

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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