Monday, November 11, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for November 11, 2013: Charter schools were supposed to be laboratories of innovation. In Pennsylvania, they have been laboratories of fraud, waste, abuse and lack of transparency

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for November 11, 2013:
Charter schools were supposed to be laboratories of innovation.
In Pennsylvania, they have been laboratories of fraud, waste, abuse and lack of transparency.

61% of low-income families have no age appropriate books at home.
About First Book:

Did you catch our weekend posting…..
PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 9, 2013: 55 of 62 suburban Philly superintendents and 4 IU directors urge PA not to adopt Keystones as graduation requirement

Blogger Commentary:
Charter schools were supposed to be laboratories of innovation.
In Pennsylvania, they have been laboratories of fraud, waste, abuse and lack of transparency

In Pittsburgh, Nick Trombetta, founder of the state’s largest cyber charter, is on trial under a 41 count federal indictment for allegedly stealing $1 million.

In Philly, June Brown is on trial, accused of defrauding the four charters she founded of $6.7 million.  Joan Woods Chalker, 75, a top lieutenant in Brown's school network who worked with Brown for more than 20 years and served as a chief executive at one of her charters, has pleaded guilty to three counts of obstruction of justice.  She stood accused of conspiring with Brown and the others in a scheme to defraud four charter schools of $6.7 million, then staging a cover-up.

In Wayne, PA, K12, Inc.’s Agora Cyber Charter used tax dollars to pay for more than 19,000 local TV commercials.  Agora has never made AYP, but Business Week reported that it had made over $31 million for K12, Inc. in one academic year.  K12’s CEO was paid $5 million in 2011.

In Harrisburg, PA Office of Open Records executive director Terry Mutchler said her office had received 239 appeals in cases in which charter schools either rejected or failed to answer requests from the public for information such as budgets, payrolls, or student rosters. She said her office ruled in favor of the schools on just six of those appeals.

"They don't feel they should be subject to this law, or, candidly, subject to you," Mutchler told senators on the state government committee, which is considering legislation to amend the five-year-old law. "They are a cancer on the otherwise healthy right-to- know-law."

In Palm Beach Florida, the Governor’s largest individual campaign donor is building a new 20,000 square foot mansion on a $29 million beachfront lot.  He has been fighting a right-to-know request for over 6 years regarding financial details of his management company’s operation of the state’s largest brick and mortar charter school.  Standardized-test scores dropped precipitously at that Chester Community Charter School after an investigation of possible past cheating brought new scrutiny to the school's testing practices.  Results for 2012 state tests show that, schoolwide, scores fell about 30 percentage points in math and reading, with double-digit drops in every grade. Some fell more than 40 percentage points.

SB 1085, the charter school reform bill now under consideration in the PA Senate, would remove the language that charter schools were to serve as models of innovation for other public schools, and it includes several provisions that would dramatically diminish accountability to taxpayers.

Another day, another fishy charter school
Philly Daily News Attytood blog by Will Bunch SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2013, 7:46 PM
This may have happened in Pittsburgh...but if you're a Pennsylvania taxpayer, then you're paying for this:
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Tens of thousands of dollars spent at Pittsburgh’s finest restaurants, top-flight catering at every staff and school meeting, administration and board retreats to exclusive resorts and spas.
That’s just for starters.
Your tax dollars went to cell phones for board member spouses, and even to develop another school out of state.
Now the feds are investigating spending practices at the Pittsburgh Urban Pathways Charter Schools.

KD Investigation Gets Results: State Calls For FBI Probe Of Pittsburgh’s Urban Pathways Charter School
KDKA Reporting Andy Sheehan November 8, 2013 8:28 PM
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Tens of thousands of dollars spent at Pittsburgh’s finest restaurants, top-flight catering at every staff and school meeting, administration and board retreats to exclusive resorts and spas.  That’s just for starters.
Your tax dollars went to cell phones for board member spouses, and even to develop another school out of state.  Auditor General Eugene DePasquale didn’t like what he saw and has turned the matter over to federal investigators.

School district must pay shuttered Philly charter's bill
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Monday, November 11, 2013, 2:01 AM
It sounds a little Kafkaesque.
The cash-strapped Philadelphia School District has been stuck with a $305,000 bill from a controversial cyber charter school that shut down last month.
Solomon Charter School on Vine Street agreed to surrender its charter to the state Department of Education on Oct. 30, in part because its program for seventh through 11th graders was housed in a building that shared space with a sex-offender clinic.  But Solomon also was under fire because it had enrolled 200 elementary students this fall - even though it was authorized to serve students only from the sixth through 11th grades.  After the Department of Education told the district in September that Solomon was not permitted to enroll the younger students, the district refused to pay the charter the tuition for the younger students due that month.

Six Questions for Teach for America
Yinzercation Blog November 8, 2013
Why would the Pittsburgh school board invite an organization into our schools that could potentially harm students and the district itself? I can’t answer that question, but it appears that is what they are about to do by signing a deal with Teach for America.
Teach for America (TFA) recruits bright young people, fresh from our top colleges, gives them five weeks of training, and sends them to work in mostly urban school districts. To understand the potential problems with TFA, you have to separate these young recruits from the program itself. Some of my own former students have gone into TFA, which is now widely considered an excellent resume builder and has become quite competitive on some college campuses. A couple years ago, a whopping 18% of Yale’s senior class applied to the program. [New York Times, 7-11-10]
While TFA may be a good thing for these young people who wish to experience “the real world” for two years before moving onto their “real careers,” the program is not necessarily helping students. In fact, it may be hurting them. And there are some very big concerns about the damage TFA is doing to public education more generally.
The Pittsburgh Public School board opened the door to TFA when it hired the outside consultants Bellwether and FSG at the beginning of this year to help close the district’s looming budget gap: their winning proposal promised to help the district recruit “high quality teachers” by “building a strong pipeline of talent through partnerships with local universities as well as with major alternative certification providers such as New Leaders, Teach for America, and the Urban Teacher Residency.” [Bellwether and FSG proposal, p. 12] At the time, the district’s director of strategic initiatives in charge of the Bellwether/FSG contract was Cate Reed, a TFA alumna who has since left to do development work for, yes, Teach for America. [Post-Gazette, 8-21-13] Meanwhile, TFA has set up shop in Pittsburgh and is now hiring a Founding Executive Director to plan their expansion into the city by next fall.
Here are six questions the Pittsburgh Public School board should ask before inking any deal with Teach for America:

Pittsburgh schools may hire from Teach for America
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette November 9, 2013 12:05 AM
Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent Linda Lane wants Teach for America -- which has deployed 32,000 college graduates without education degrees to classrooms nationwide for more than two decades -- to help the district fill 15 to 30 teaching vacancies next fall.
Hiring teachers through the alternative certification program would be a first for the district, which has faced teacher furloughs in recent years.

“…bringing their (Waltons) total support for TFA to over $100 million since 1993.”
As WalMart Writes Checks, Critics Blast Teach for America
Critics blast non-profit as 'pipeline' for pro-corporate policies like charter schools and privatization
Published on Monday, August 5, 2013 by Common Dreams - Lauren McCauley, staff writer
The education non-profit Teach for America has been under increasing fire recently as critics and alumni accuse the organization of misappropriating their original mission by backing the policies of the "corporate education agenda" that promote privatization, the expansion of charter schools and the undermining of teachers unions.
These criticisms come amidst news last week that Wal-Mart owners, the Walton Family—key backers of charter school expansion and the effort to end teacher protections—donated $20 million to the nonprofit for "recruitment, training and professional development," bringing their total support for TFA to over $100 million since 1993.

TFA: Is Your Child's Teacher 'Highly Qualified?'
Huffington Post by Jason Stanford Posted: 11/06/2013 6:22 pm
Is your child's teacher highly qualified? Thanks to a loophole snuck into the bill to end the federal government shutdown, there's really no way of knowing.
Here's how it's supposed to work: Under No Child Left Behind, all schools -- even the ones where the poor and minority students go -- are supposed to hire "highly qualified teachers." If a school hires teachers who don't meet the federal definition of "highly qualified," they send letters home to parents about their kids' substandard teachers and come up with a plan to fix it.
This is a great idea. It used to be that inexperienced teachers would get stuck with the hardest jobs in underfunded, underperforming schools. As teachers would gain seniority, they would take their experience to better schools where the kids were easier to teach. NCLB recognized that the worst schools couldn't get better without "highly qualified" teachers.
Unfortunately for Teach for America, their graduates didn't qualify.

Foundation awards Pittsburgh-region preschool math grant
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette November 10, 2013 11:21 PM
While the National Science Foundation has spent millions locally trying to improve math in K-12 schools, it is making its first investment primarily in preschool math instruction in the region with a $3 million grant to the Fred Rogers Co.  The three-year competitive grant is from the NSF's Advancing Informal STEM Learning program. Only 8 percent of applicants won awards in this round.  The work will build on the new "Peg + Cat" television program, which debuted on PBS last month. The Fred Rogers Co. is the executive producer of the animated show, which focuses on a girl, her cat and how they solve problems using math.

It's time for the state to step up on funding for Phila. schools opinion by DARRELL L. CLARKE Sunday, November 10, 2013, 3:01 AM
Darrell L. Clarke is president of City Council and represents the Fifth Council District.
The city and School District of Philadelphia are finally moving forward with a plan to raise revenue for our schools by aggressively marketing and selling vacant buildings. That is a win for students and taxpayers.  Now we are free to focus 100 percent on the district's primary challenge: unpredictable, insufficient, patchwork funding from the commonwealth, which both operates the School District and is constitutionally obligated to ensure adequate resources.

Tom Harkin, George Miller Preparing Preschool Bill To Reflect Obama Plan, Early Draft Shows
Joy Resmovits Posted: 11/08/2013 12:04 pm
Retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, are preparing to introduce an extensive bill that would legislate President Barack Obama's plan to expand preschool dramatically, according to an early draft of the bill obtained by The Huffington Post.
Some observers expect the introduction of the "Early Childhood Education Improvement Act of 2013," as it's called in a draft dated Nov. 6, as soon as next week. The bill is described as a 10-year initiative to improve education for children from birth through their fifth year. It would create a new federal-state formula for grants to fund the expansion of preschool for poor 4-year-olds. States would funnel the new money down to various entities, ranging from school districts and charter schools to child care centers and Head Start programs, that demonstrate they can be "high-quality, local providers," according to a bill summary.

Business Leaders Call for New Federal Investment in Early Learning
First Five Years Fund, The Starting Point NOV 06, 2013   
Last night, a group of 120 prominent business leaders from across the country sent a letter to the chairs of the Congressional Budget conference committee, urging them make a wise investment in our economy by increasing funding for early childhood education. This effort was organized by a group of national early childhood organizations, including FFYF, ReadyNationAmerica’s Edge and others.  The letter reinforces the longstanding and widespread private sector support for early learning. The signees jointly state: “A strong, sustainable economy hinges on a workforce that is knowledgeable, smart, persistent, and capable of working in teams to solve complex problems, earning higher wages, and moving their families ahead through opportunity and enterprise. That is why we cannot close our budget deficit until we close our skills deficit.”   

Paying good teachers $20K to move to bad elementary schools works and is cheaper than reducing class sizes
Hechinger Report Education by the Numbers POSTED BY Jill Barshay ON November 8, 2013
A November 2013 Mathematica study conducted for the Institute of Education Sciences within the U.S. Department of Education shows that paying good teachers $20,000 to transfer to a low performing elementary school raised the test scores of students by 4 to 10 percentile points. No positive effect was found at the middle school level. Mathematica found that the same test score increases could be achieved by reducing class sizes and filling the teacher vacancies as usual. But it’s more cost effective to pay the bonuses. “The cost savings could be as large as $13,000 per grade at a given school,” according to the report. Furthermore, 60 percent of the 81 teachers in the study stayed at the low-performing schools even after the bonus payments ended.

These 11 Leaders Are Running Education But Have Never Taught
The Huffington Post  |  By Rebecca Klein Posted: 11/08/2013 12:17 pm
They design teacher evaluation systems, teacher training guidelines and the types of standards that need to be taught. Yet, they have never been teachers themselves.  These days, being a teacher is clearly not a prerequisite for becoming a leader in education. In fact, some of the leaders with the most daily influence on classrooms come from entirely unrelated fields.
Below we have compiled a list of some of the most influential leaders in education who have never been teachers.

Regarding the Separation of Church and the State’s Money: Charter Schools with Religious Affiliations Being Publicly Funded
Jonathan Turley blog Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger November 9, 2013
As a former public school educator, I have been following what has been going on with school reform in this country. I have written posts about some of the groups and individuals involved in the current reform movement (here), the push to privatize public schools (here), school vouchers (here and here), and charter schools (here and here). Despite all the research that I’ve done on the subject, I hadn’t been aware until recently that there are many publicly funded charter schools across this country that have religious affiliations.

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! .

The November 13 episode of EPLC/PCN "Focus on Education" will discuss Special Education: Student Rights and Services. 
The hour long program produced by EPLC and PCN is broadcast on PCN at 9:00 p.m. on the 2nd Wednesday of every month. PCN also typically repeats the episode at later times each month.  Previous episodes can be viewed online here. Topics we have covered thus far in 2013 are school violence, student testing, the work of school boards, how schools are funded, the dropout crisis, parents as advocates, and arts education.  To learn more, visit PCN's "Focus on Education" web page. Information about sponsorships available for the show can be obtained by contacting Ron Cowell at 717-260-9900 or

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

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 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:

The University of Pittsburgh School of Education Center for Urban Education presents  “Building the Capacity of Schools to Meet Students’ Needs”
Pedro A. Noguera, PhD; Friday, November 15, 2013; 3:30 – 5:00 p.m.
David Lawrence Hall, Room 121; 3942 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh
The event is free and open to the public

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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