Wednesday, November 26, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 26: Cyber charters are falling short of expectations/ five pieces on fair funding

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 26, 2014:
Cyber charters are falling short of expectations/ five pieces on fair funding

Upcoming PA Basic Education Funding Commission Public Hearings
Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 10 AM East Stroudsburg; Carl T. Secor Administration Bldg., 50 Vine Street, East Stroudsburg Area School District

Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 10 AM - 12:00 PM Lancaster; location TBA
* meeting times and locations subject to change

"From every standpoint - academic, financial, and quality of oversight - there is ample evidence that Pennsylvania's cyber charters are falling far short of expectations. Meanwhile, state policymakers have failed to pass meaningful reforms: a report earlier this year by the National Education Policy Center found that 33 separate reform proposals have either failed or stalled out.  The legislature has a long to-do list when it reconvenes in early 2015. Cyber-charter reform should be right at the top. In the meantime, the state ought to exercise caution concerning any further expansion of the sector."
Cyber charters are falling short of expectations
Inquirer Opinion By Kate Shaw and Adam Schott POSTED: November 26, 2014, 1:08 AM
Kate Shaw is executive director ( and Adam Schott is director of policy research ( at Research for Action, a Philadelphia-based, nonprofit education research organization.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has just concluded hearings on three proposed cyber-charter schools. If approved, these schools have the potential to divert millions from Pennsylvania's brick-and-mortar charter schools at a time of unprecedented financial and structural challenges.  Even without these new cyber charters, the sector continues to expand. While the number of cyber schools is down slightly to 14 (from a high of 16 in 2013), enrollment is up - reaching nearly 36,000 students according to the most recent data from Education Department. The combined enrollments of cyber schools would make it the second-largest district in Pennsylvania.  This growth - and now the prospect of even more cyber charters - is alarming considering any basic assessment of the sector's performance.

Pennsylvania's ad hoc school funding is unfair, unpredictable: PennLive letters
Penn Live By Letters to the Editor  on November 25, 2014 at 11:00 AM WILLIAM H. KERR, Superintendent of Schools, Norwin School District, Westmoreland County
Pennsylvania is one of only three states without a consistently applied school funding formula, which creates unfairness for students and disparities among school districts across the state. State officials must find an equitable method to distribute state funds for public education so that all students can be better served and have access to high-quality educational programs and services.  Recently, more than 850 educators across Pennsylvania met via video conference at 29 locations on the same night to discuss the need for a fair public school funding formula. Discussions focused on how the Pennsylvania legislature determines the amount and method of Basic Education Funding by using inconsistent criteria. The last true school funding formula, eliminated in 2011, calculated state aid based on a district's actual costs which created a more level playing field and a state financial commitment for educating students.

Fair funding for Pa. schools
By Neil D. Theobald POSTED: Wednesday, November 26, 2014, 1:08 AM
Neil D. Theobald is president of Temple University. This commentary is adapted from testimony delivered on Nov. 18 to the Commonwealth's Basic Education Funding Commission.
In 1866, the architect of New York City's Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted, was asked to come to San Francisco and re-create Central Park on a windswept expanse of sand dunes near the future Golden Gate Bridge. Olmsted's response accurately describes, I believe, the task facing the Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Commission:  "The conditions are so peculiar and the difficulties so great that I regard the problem as unique. It must be solved, if at all, by wholly new means and methods. It requires invention, not adaptation."

Funding should be driven by enrollment, education leaders say
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Monday, November 24, 2014 3:25 pm
School funding needs to start with the actual number of students in a district.
That’s what Jay Himes told state officials in Lancaster on Monday.
Himes, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, testified at the Basic Education Funding Commission’s public hearing at Intermediate Unit 13.
The commission was created by legislators in June to study a new way of distributing cash to Pennsylvania's 500 school districts. Pennsylvania is one of only a handful of states that do not have a predictable education funding formula based on student enrollment and characteristics.

DN Editorial: Formula for disaster
Philly Daily News Editorial POSTED: Tuesday, November 25, 2014, 3:01 AM
EACH YEAR Pennsylvania hands out $5.5 billion in subsidies for basic education that follows a formula which is outdated and ignores the realities of local school districts.   To use just one example: districts that have lost students in recent years get the same amount of state subsidy, even though they are educating fewer children. And don't even talk about making allowances for such factors as poverty.  In fact, in 2007, a "costing-out" study commissioned by the legislature concluded that the state's public schools were underfunded by $4.38 billion. The study further concluded that Philadelphia schools were underfunded by nearly $5,000 per student. Schools got a one-time boost following the study, but that increase was short-lived.  Fortunately, the current legislature recognizes the need to change the formula and created a bipartisan commission, with members from the legislature and the governor's office, to devise a new and improved formula.

Developments in fair education funding
PA School Talk Blog Posted by Kate Welch on November 25, 2014 at 5:30pm
November has been a busy month in public education news.
On November 10, the Education Law Center and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia filed a major suit against the governor, legislature, and Department of Education on behalf of parents, school districts, and community groups. Eleanor Chute of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote a spot-on piece detailing the funding lawsuit.
Consensus is building across the state that fair funding is vitally important to our commonwealth's future--that means both sufficient funds to educate every child and equitable distribution to make sure funds go to the communities that need them the most. Just yesterday the Philadelphia Daily News Editorial Board published a piece arguing for both of those goals.
In Lancaster City, school board member Jennifer Desmarais articulated her district's decision to sue, seeking to better serve its student population (87% of whom live in poverty).
These are just a few highlights of the articles and editorials spreading the word on the recent fair funding lawsuit and the need for adequate funding. Check out the suit's website, "Thorough and Efficient," for more explanation and links to pieces from across the state discussing it.

PA Basic Education Funding Commission

The Campaign for Fair Education Funding

Thorough and Efficient? A video short on Pennsylvania’s Education Funding Lawsuit

Thorough and Efficient: Pennsylvania School Funding Litigation website
The Education Law Center of Pennsylvania and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia filed suit in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court on November 10, 2014 on behalf of six school districts, seven parents, and two statewide associations against legislative leaders, state education officials, and the Governor for failing to uphold the General Assembly’s constitutional obligation to provide a"thorough and efficient" system of public education.

Wolf rounds out panel of fiscal advisers
Inquirer Commonwealth Confidential Blog POSTED: TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2014, 3:17 PM
Governor-elect Tom Wolf has tapped union leaders, former Rendell administration officials and private business executives to join his committee to address the expected budget crisis on the horizon.  Leading the Budget Deficit and Fiscal Stabilization Task Force are former budget secretary Mary Soderberg and Montgomery County Commission Chairman Josh Shapiro.  The Independent Fiscal Office released a report this month projecting a more than $2 million budget deficit in 2015. Wolf delivers his first budget address in March.
"Pennsylvania is facing challenging economic times, a multi-billion dollar budget deficit, and negative cash flow projections," said Gov,-elect Wolf. "My Budget Deficit and Fiscal Stabilization Task Force will get to work to determine the scope of the challenges facing Pennsylvania and begin to discuss how we can get Pennsylvania's fiscal house in order."
Other members of the committee include:

Governor-Elect Wolf Names Budget Deficit and Fiscal Stabilization Task Force
November 25, 2014 by Wolf Transition
YORK, PA - Governor-elect Tom Wolf today named his full Budget Deficit and Fiscal Stabilization Task Force, which will work to address the looming budget deficit. The Task Force will be led by Mary Soderberg and Montgomery County Commission Chairman Josh Shapiro.  Earlier this month, the Independent Fiscal Office found that Pennsylvania is facing a multi-billion dollar budget deficit. This news is only the beginning of what we will learn about the structural budget problems left by the current Administration. In addition to the projected budget deficit, Governor-elect Wolf will enter office amid cash flow projections that indicate the state will be cash flow negative from January through March.
"Pennsylvania is facing challenging economic times, a multi-billion dollar budget deficit, and negative cash flow projections," said Governor-elect Tom Wolf. "My Budget Deficit and Fiscal Stabilization Task Force will get to work to determine the scope of the challenges facing Pennsylvania and begin to discuss how we can get Pennsylvania's fiscal house in order."

Constitution High students march to Liberty Bell to protest Ferguson
the notebook By Shannon Nolan and Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 25, 2014 03:07 PM
Students from Constitution High School protested by the Liberty Bell pavilion Wednesday. They made a spontaneous decision to rally against the grand jury's decision not to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.  Cimani Cox was sitting in English class when teacher Rob Hall brought up what had happened the night before in Ferguson -- a grand jury's decision not to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.  She decided she had to do something about it. After all, this is Constitution High School.  Before long, she had the support of principal Tom Davidson and teachers for a protest march.   Carrying signs and chanting, the students walked a little more than a block to the Liberty Bell, where they surprised tourists and were surrounded by police on bicycles. About 250 of the 375 students participated in the 45-minute action.

Reader feedback invited: Teaching about Ferguson in Philadelphia
the notebook By Paul Socolar on Nov 25, 2014 01:03 PM
Many Philadelphia students have yesterday's news on their minds today -- of the non-indictment in last summer's police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. And some teachers and schools have changed their plans for the day to give students an opportunity to respond.
The Notebook would like to hear from teachers, parents, and others about how you are engaging with young people about that news. Please share your experiences and thoughts in our comments.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: November 19 - 25, 2014
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on November 25, 2014 - 1:10pm 
As you give thanks over the upcoming holiday, please join FairTest in our gratitude for the thousands of parents, teachers, students, administrators, community activists, school board members, researchers and commentators who are standing up to protect our children from standardized testing misuse and overuse.  Here are a few of their recent stories.

"The program — started more than a decade ago by educators at Boston College — is based on the simple idea that a child distracted by pain, fear, or deprivation can’t possibly do as well in school as a child without those challenges. So City Connects tries to resolve as many of those issues as possible — whether that’s buying Christmas presents, fighting obesity, getting students into drawing lessons, or helping kids negotiate playground bullies.
In a new study, students who went through Boston schools with a City Connects program, like Edison, were shown to drop out of high school at half the rate of their peers from other schools.  City Connects is now in 62 schools in Boston, Springfield, and Dayton, Ohio, serving 20,000 students, most of whom are among the most disadvantaged in their communities."
Community Schools: Helping students with needs that extend outside the classroom
Boston Globe By Karen Weintraub GLOBE CORRESPONDENT  NOVEMBER 24, 2014
Mark Griffin starts every weekday standing at the door of the Thomas Edison K8 School in Brighton: “Great hat!” “Don’t you look good today!” “How’re you making out?”
His pleasantries are a nice way to start the day, but they also have a point. As Griffin greets more than 400 students each morning, he’s looking to see who is shivering in a too-thin coat, whose eyes look rimmed with tears, which parents are walking their kids to school and staying for the free breakfast themselves.  “It’s hard to concentrate on schoolwork when there are other things much more important to them that need to be addressed,” Griffin said.  Nearly all students at Edison are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, which means they come from families that lack middle-class advantages.  That’s where Griffin comes in. He’s employed by a program called City Connects that helps Edison kids with needs that extend outside of the classroom.

U.S. Wants Teacher Training Programs to Track How Graduates’ Students Perform
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH NOV. 25, 2014
The federal Department of Education announced preliminary rules on Tuesday requiring states to develop rating systems for teacher preparation programs that would track a range of measures, including the job placement and retention rates of graduates and the academic performance of their students.  In a move that drew some criticism, the Education Department said the new rating systems could be used to determine eligibility for certain federal grants used by teacher candidates to help pay for their training.  Critics have long faulted teacher training as inadequately preparing candidates for the realities and rigors of the job.  In a conference call with reporters, Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, said that far too many education programs set lower requirements for entry than other university majors.

U.S. Rules Aim to Heighten Tracking of Ed. Schools' Performance
Education Week By Stephen Sawchuk Published Online: November 25, 2014

Teacher colleges would need to provide proof of their graduates’ classroom skills in helping advance student learning, under proposed rules issued Nov. 25 by the U.S. Department of Education.  Programs that failed to do so could eventually be blocked from offering financial aid to would-be K-12 teachers in the form of federal Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education, or TEACH, grants, according to the long-delayed proposal.
The rules are the Obama administration’s attempt to toughen what have long been considered ineffectual requirements for teacher-preparation programs in Title II of the Higher Education Act. Even so, under its proposal, few consequences would kick in before 2020—years after President Barack Obama will have left office.

Discipline, Disabilities, School to Prison, Disproportionality
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Saturday, December 13, 2014 from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM
United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Presenters include Sonja Kerr; Howard Jordan, ACLU; Dr. Karolyn Tyson; Michael Raffaele, Frankel & Kershenbaum, LLC
This session is designed to assist participants to understand the specifics of the federal IDEA disciplinary protections, 20 U.S.C. §1415(k) as they apply to children with disabilities. Topics will include functional behavioral assessment, development of positive behavioral support programs for children with disabilities, manifestation reviews and avoiding juvenile court involvement. 
Questions? Email or call 267.546.1317.

Register Now – 2014 PASCD Annual Conference – November 23 – 25, 2014
Please join us for the 2014 PASCD Annual Conference, “Leading an Innovative Culture for Learning – Powered by Blendedschools Network” to be held November 23-25 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center in Hershey, PA.  Featuring Keynote Speakers: David Burgess -  - Author of "Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator", Dr. Bart Rocco, Bill Sterrett - ASCD author, "Short on Time: How do I Make Time to Lead and Learn as a Principal?" and Ron Cowell. 
This annual conference features small group sessions (focused on curriculum, instructional, assessment, blended learning and middle level education) is a great opportunity to stay connected to the latest approaches for cultural change in your school or district.  Join us for PASCD 2014!  Online registration is available by visiting

January 23rd–25th, 2015 at The Science Leadership Academy, Philadelphia
EduCon is both a conversation and a conference.
It is an innovation conference where we can come together, both in person and virtually, to discuss the future of schools. Every session will be an opportunity to discuss and debate ideas — from the very practical to the big dreams.

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