Wednesday, August 17, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 17: Can Policymakers Fix What Ails Online Charter Schools?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup August 17, 2016:
Can Policymakers Fix What Ails Online Charter Schools?

Blogger note: Not one of Pennsylvania’s 13 cyber charters has achieved a passing score of 70 on the state’s School Performance Profile in any of the three years that it has been in effect.  Most never made “adequate yearly progress” under NCLB from 2005 through 2012.
Nationally, Stanford University reported that online schools have an "overwhelming negative impact," showing severe shortfalls in reading and math achievement.  The shortfall for most cyber students, they said, was equal to losing 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days in math during the typical 180-day school year.  In math it is as if they did not go to school at all.  The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a charter advocacy group based in Washington, said the findings were so troubling that the report should be "a call to action for authorizers and policymakers."
Can Policymakers Fix What Ails Online Charter Schools?
Education Next By Dara Zeehandelaar and Michael J. Petrilli 08/08/2016
A major development of recent years has been the explosive growth of online learning in K–12 education. Sometimes it takes the form of “blended learning,” with students receiving a mix of online and face-to-face instruction. Students may also learn via web-based resources like the Khan Academy, or by enrolling in distance-learning “independent study” courses. In addition, an increasing number of pupils are taking the plunge into fully online schools: In 2015, an estimated 275,000 students enrolled in full-time virtual charter schools across twenty-five states.  The Internet has obviously opened a new frontier of instructional possibilities. Much less certain is whether such opportunities are actually improving achievement, especially for the types of students who enroll in virtual schools. In Enrollment and Achievement in Ohio’s Virtual Charter Schools, we at Fordham examined this issue using data from our home state of Ohio, where online charter schools (“e-schools”) are a rapidly growing segment of K–12 education. Today they enroll more than thirty-five thousand students, one of the country’s largest populations of full-time online students. Ohio e-school enrollment has grown 60 percent over the last four years, a rate greater than any other type of public school. But even since they launched, e-schools have received negative press for their poor academic performance, high attrition rates, and questionable capacity to educate the types of students who choose them. It’s clearly a sector that needs attention.

Hearing begins today in refugee lawsuit against School District of Lancaster
Lancaster Online by KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer August 16, 2016
A federal judge will hear evidence today in a lawsuit that claims refugee students are being turned away at the doors of Lancaster city schools.  Six refugees filed a lawsuit in July, saying that the School District of Lancaster has denied them the "meaningful and equal education" they are due under federal and state laws.  The refugee students are asking the court to order the district to admit them and all other similar students to McCaskey High School for the school year that begins Aug. 30.  U.S. District Judge Edward G. Smith will hear testimony on the issue during a hearing  today in Easton.  Their complaint says that the school district regularly refuses to admit older immigrant and refugee students, or assigns them to an "inferior" alternative school — Phoenix Academy — with insufficient support for overcoming language barriers.  An attorney for the students last month called Phoenix Academy an “educational dead end.”  The students and their parents are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the Education Law Center and Pepper Hamilton LLP, all of Philadelphia.  The district will be represented by Sharon O'Donnell, of Camp Hill law firm Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman and Goggin.

Refugee students testify about education at Phoenix Academy: 'Even if I graduate, I will know nothing'
Lancaster Online by KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer August 16, 2016
EASTON, Pa. – For four refugee students, testifying in federal court Tuesday was similar to a typical day at Phoenix Academy in Lancaster.  A metal detector greeted them at the entrance. Instructions were given in English. Hours passed without them knowing what was happening.  But that's not the kind of education they want or deserve, the refugee students told U.S. District Judge Edward G. Smith.  They are part of a group that is suing School District of Lancaster over the issue. Their hearing began Tuesday and continues Wednesday.  The students said the district has denied them admission or diverted them to an alternative school – Phoenix Academy – where they are unable to learn.  They told U.S. District Judge Edward G. Smith they instead want to enroll at McCaskey High School, the Lancaster's regular high school.

'Not the school I deserved': Refugee students take stand in lawsuit against Lancaster schools
Penn Live By Colin Deppen | Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on August 16, 2016 at 5:23 PMEASTON — At 5 years of age, Khadidja Issa fled the heat and civil war of Sudan with her family. She spent the next decade of her life in a Chadian refugee camp before eventually emigrating to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in September of 2015.  "We came to get a better education," she told a federal court here on Tuesday.  But a lawsuit filed against Lancaster's public school district by Issa and 5 fellow refugee students claims district officials there denied her that opportunity, systematically stalling and stymieing enrollment for older refugee students like them, or placing them into an inferior alternative school described by their attorneys as an educational "dead-end."  The class action suit is one of a handful of similar suits filed against school districts in other U.S. states in recent years as a wave of global instability drives new waves of immigration to The West.  

A plea for fairer school funding
Trib Live LETTER TO THE EDITOR by Janet Sardon | Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, 8:57 p.m.
The writer is superintendent of the Yough School District.
Education is a powerful tool that we use to prepare children. As a school district superintendent I want to thank Pennsylvania's legislators for passing a budget, timely and with a slight increase in education funding. We are thankful for the money and work to provide students a quality education. Running a district has become a herculean task for those who struggle to meet their mission while mandated costs skyrocket.  Since 2009-10, our pension expenses have increased 860 percent, charter school costs have doubled and we have other expenses that when aggregated significantly impact education. For a small community, these increases are beyond sustainable and result in unmanageable tax increases.  The 2016-17 budget has been approved and the new formula applied. For our district, funding increased by 1.9 percent. For some of the affluent districts, the increases were between 5 percent and 7 percent. I don't understand how that translates into fair and equitable funding. Educating on an even playing field is impossible.
In my opinion, two things need to occur: Funding has to significantly increase and districts need to be allocated money based on poverty and the communities' taxing ability. Districts are falling behind because of their ZIP code. We need to afford all students the same opportunities and learning environment.

Erie School District to go into 'watch' status
Your Erie Published 08/16 2016 05:29PM Updated 08/16 2016 05:29PM
The Erie School District received unofficial notice that the state plans to put them on “watch” status this coming school year.  Watch is one step away from recovery status.  Chief Financial Officer Brian Polito said when the district receives $4 million in emergency funding that was part of the state budget, they'll officially go into watch status.  The district will then have 180 days to develop a recovery plan while working with state.  To get out of watch status, they'll have to implement that plan and request to be pulled out.  "Watch is going to give us another opportunity to plead our case in Harrisburg,” Polito said.  The district does not know when they will receive that $4 million funding.  Aliquippa, Reading, Steelton-Highspire and Wilkinsburg school districts are currently in finical watch status.  Watch status is a “selection for participation in the financial watch status is not a statement about the community, the School Board, the district employees, or the students. It is a statement about the financial condition of the district and it reflects a concern that the district, without assistance and/or a change in financial operations, is at risk for a decline in its ability to serve students as effectively and efficiently as it could. The factors at the core of the district’s financial problems could, in fact, be due to the closure of a major employment facility, the nonpayment of taxes by one or more large taxpayers, or some other development that is entirely out of the district’s control.”

“The terms of three of the five members – Chair Marjorie Neff, Sylvia Simms, and Feather  Houstoun – are due to expire in January. Their replacements will be appointed by Mayor Kenney and Gov. Wolf, both Democrats who were strongly supported by the PFT in their election campaigns.”
Green ramps up attack on teachers' union, and Jordan fires back
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa August 16, 2016 — 6:48pm
School Reform Commissioner Bill Green is ramping up his rhetoric against the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, accusing the union of stalling on any contract settlement until the turnover in School Reform Commission membership that's expected in January.  Green, a longtime PFT critic, said the District has offered a reasonable financial package to the teachers that would result in “net raises,” even after restructuring medical benefits so that members contribute toward their health-care costs, which most do not do now.  PFT president Jerry Jordan immediately shot back, accusing Green of “trash talking” and disputing his point that the District is offering his members a financial deal that the union leadership could accept in good conscience.  “We put fair raises on the table,” Green said. “Nobody would disagree that members of the PFT should contribute to health care, like everybody else in America, including all the surrounding teachers' unions in the suburbs.  “Let’s just face reality,” he added, “it’s not the District that is not bargaining in good faith, it’s the PFT simply trying to wait for a change in membership on the SRC.” 

Pennsylvania Top Court Says Philadelphia Can't Cancel Teachers' Contract
Education Week District Dossier Blog By Denisa R. Superville on August 16, 2016 8:50 AM
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ended a long-running legal dispute between the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and the school district, ruling Monday that the school district cannot unilaterally cancel the teachers' union contract.    The dispute goes back to October 2014, when the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, the entity that runs the school system, called a special school board meeting and announced that it was cancelling the teachers' union contract and making changes to the union members' health benefits.  The district, then facing serious financial troubles, hoped to save $43.8 million that school year through the health benefit changes, and $198 million over a four-year period. Other unions had made similar concessions, the district said at the time.   The move against the teachers' union came after the district went to court earlier that year to ask for a declaration that the district had the authority to make changes to work rules and work conditions. The court declined to issue that declaration.

Brentwood teachers union, district reach tentative agreement on contract
Trib Live BY STEPHANIE HACKE  | Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016, 3:12 p.m.
School will start on time next week in the Brentwood Borough School District.  After months of uncertainty surrounding a contract for the district's teachers, the Brentwood Education Association and Brentwood Borough School District agreed to a tentative contract Tuesday night.  The first day of school for teachers is Tuesday, and students head back to the classroom Aug. 25.  School board members are scheduled to vote Monday on the pact, while the BEA will meet that night for the agreement to be presented to the entire membership, Pennsylvania State Education Association spokesman Matt Edgell said.  District negotiation Chair Gary Topolosky confirmed the tentative agreement Tuesday night.  Neither Topolosky or Edgell would provide terms of the contract, as it has not yet been voted on.  Negotiations between the Brentwood Education Association and district leaders began in January 2015. Teachers have been working for more than a year under the terms of a contract that expired June 30, 2015.

Spring-Ford Area High School ranked among best nationally
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury  POSTED: 08/16/16, 11:14 PM EDT | UPDATED: 3 HRS AGO
ROYERSFORD >> Spring-Ford Area School District officials had plenty to brag about this week after a national publication ranked the high school among the best in the country.
With more than 15,000 high schools under consideration, Spring-Ford ranked in the top 500 high schools nationally, coming in at number 306 in Newsweek’s 2016 “America’s Top High Schools” report.  Spring-Ford was one of 30 Pennsylvania schools to make the annual list. Connestoga and Unionville High Schools ranked highest in Pennsylvania at 36 and 49 respectively.  Other area high schools to make the list include Downingtown STEM Academy at 58, Radnor High School at 106, Great Valley High School at 209, Penncrest High School at 276, West Chester Bayard Rustin High School at 278, West Chester Henderson High School at 293, Haverford High School at 294, Upper Dublin High School at 330, West Chester East High School at 355 and Souderton Area High School at 439.  According to the publication’s website, which includes the full list of schools, “The Newsweek High School Rankings assess schools based on a broad range of data to determine which institutions do the best job of preparing students for college.” Spring-Ford, like the other high-achieving high schools, shined primarily because of student achievement and highly talented teachers.

Washington Teachers' Union calls Walmart's teacher school supply promotion 'deceitful'
FOX 5's Marina Marraco reports. By: staff POSTED:AUG 15 2016 07:47PM EDT UPDATED:AUG 16 2016 12:47AM EDT
WASHINGTON - Despite Walmart running a back-to-school campaign calling on people to nominate a teacher to help them receive school supplies and a $490 gift card – the estimated yearly cost teachers spend out of their own pocket to supply their classroom – the Washington Teachers’ Union is calling out the retail giant for not doing enough to help public schools, especially in Washington D.C.  The teachers’ union blasted Walmart at a press conference Friday and called the promotion “deceitful,” “bogus,” and a “cynical coverup.” The union believes the Walton family, the owner of the retailer, shortchanges and undermines D.C. public school students by providing large financial support to charter schools.  The union is asking its teachers not to spend their money and to boycott Walmart.

Sharing Success
It's good to see some charter schools making efforts to share best practices.
US News By Charles Sahm | Contributor Aug. 16, 2016, at 9:50 a.m.
When America's first charter school law was passed in Minnesota 25 years ago, charters were envisioned as laboratories of innovation that would help inform practices in the broader public education system. It hasn't worked out that way, however, and the relationship between charters and district schools has instead been one of competition and acrimony. But as charters celebrate their silver anniversary, some of the nation's largest networks are now charting a course back to that original vision.  Some departments of education are now actively supporting district-charter collaboration. In New York, the city is taking steps in that direction with the help of Collaborate NYC, a new nonprofit that brings educators from district and charter schools together to share best practices. The state Department of Education recently announced a $4 million, three-year initiative to encourage charter schools in New York City and Rochester to join forces to improve student achievement. But more important is the steps charters are taking by themselves to share materials and pedagogy.

Philly’s 7th Ward Blog BY SHARIF EL-MEKKI AUGUST 10, 2016
Sharif El-Mekki is the principal of Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus, a neighborhood public charter school in Philadelphia that serves 750 students in grades 7-12. From 2013-2015, he was one of three principal ambassador fellows working on issues of education policy and practice with U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan
“We are serving notice that no longer will the plantation system of… appointing our leaders exist…”  This is a quote from Cecil B. Moore, former president of the Philly chapter of the NAACP. Cecil B. Moore is likely one of the last unbought and unbossed leader of this previously civil rights-focused organization.  Today’s version of the NAACP isn’t woke. It’s more woozy than anything. The leaders of the NAACP have lost their way and are stumbling, bumbling caricatures of their former selves.  Questions the NAACP should answer before they suggest a moratorium on charter schools and school choice for families include:

In Ohio, Ted Strickland calls for nationwide moratorium on for-profit charter schools
By Jeremy Pelzer, Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 16, 2016 at 2:53 PM, updated August 16, 2016 at 6:48 PM
COLUMBUS, Ohio—Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Ted Strickland on Tuesday said he supports a nationwide moratorium on for-profit charter schools.  "I'm opposed to for-profit charter schools because I do not believe that educating our kids should become a for-profit activity," said Strickland, who called for a similar freeze in Ohio as governor in 2007. "I would love to see a nationwide moratorium on for-profit charter schools."  Strickland made the comments to reporters at a downtown Columbus high school after laying out his education priorities if he defeats Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman in November.  The Columbus Democrat spoke out against "excessive, oppressive testing," saying instead that educators should use "systems of accountability that inform instruction."

Testing Resistance & Reform News: August 10 - 16, 2016
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on August 16, 2016 - 1:21pm 
The pace of assessment reform news quickens as the 2016-2017 academic year begins to unfold across the U.S.  In addition to revitalizing many ongoing controversies, a new issue in many jurisdictions is how much testing flexibility will be allowed under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.  Grassroots activists are actively campaigning to reduce the number of required standardized exams, eliminate high-stakes test misuses, and create more opportunities to develop better ways of assessing student learning. If you have friends or colleagues who would benefit from these weekly updates, encourage them to join the thousands who have already subscribed at:

REGISTER NOW for the 2016 PA Principals Association State Conference, October 30 - November 1, at the The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College.
The Early Bird Discount Deadline has been Extended to Wednesday, August 31, 2016!
PA Principals Association website Tuesday, August 2, 2016 10:43 AM
To receive the Early Bird Discount, you must be registered by August 31, 2016:
Members: $300  Non-Members: $400
Featuring Three National Keynote Speakers: Eric Sheninger, Jill Jackson & Salome Thomas-EL

2016 National Anthem Sing-A-Long - September 9th
American Public Education Foundation Website 
The Star-Spangled Banner will be sung by school children nationwide on Friday, September 9, 2016 at 10:00am PST and 1:00pm EST. Students will learn about the words and meaning of the flag and sing the first stanza. This will be the third annual simultaneous sing-a-long event created by the APEF-9/12 Generation Project. The project aims to bring students together – as the world came together – on September 12, 2001.

Registration for the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 13-15 is now open
The conference is your opportunity to learn, network and be inspired by peers and experts.
TO REGISTER: See   (you must be logged in to the Members Area to register). You can read more on How to Register for a PSBA Event here.   CONFERENCE WEBSITE: For all other program details, schedules, exhibits, etc., see the conference

PSBA Officer Elections Aug. 15-Oct. 3, 2016: Slate of Candidates
PSBA members seeking election to office for the association were required to submit a nomination form no later than April 30, 2016, to be considered. All candidates who properly completed applications by the deadline are included on the slate of candidates below. In addition, the Leadership Development Committee met on June 24 at PSBA headquarters in Mechanicsburg to interview candidates. According to bylaws, the Leadership Development Committee may determine candidates highly qualified for the office they seek. This is noted next to each person’s name with an asterisk (*).  Each school entity will have one vote for each officer. This will require boards of the various school entities to come to a consensus on each candidate and cast their vote electronically during the open voting period (Aug. 15-Oct. 3, 2016). Voting will be accomplished through a secure third-party, web-based voting site that will require a password login. One person from each member school entity will be authorized as the official person to cast the vote on behalf of his or her school entity. In the case of school districts, it will be the board secretary who will cast votes on behalf of the school board.
Special note: Boards should be sure to include discussion and voting on candidates to its agenda during one of its meetings in September.

PA Supreme Court sets Sept. 13 argument date for fair education funding lawsuit in Philly
Thorough and Efficient Blog JUNE 16, 2016 BARBGRIMALDI LEAVE A COMMENT

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