Friday, November 9, 2018

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov. 9, 2018 Have you signed up for the PA Schools Work Summit on Nov. 17th?

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4050 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, superintendents, school solicitors, principals, charter school leaders, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, 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, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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Have you signed up for the PA Schools Work Summit on Nov. 17th?

PA Schools Work Summit Meetings Saturday Nov. 17th 9 to noon
Hundreds of local school and community leaders will come together on Nov. 17, to lead the fight for greater state investment in public education. #TheSummit will be held in seven locations across Pennsylvania from 9-noon on Saturday Nov. 17.

Philadelphia’s suburbs roar in another post-Trump election
AP State Wire By MARC LEVY yesterday
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — For the second straight year following President Donald Trump’s election, voters in Philadelphia’s politically moderate suburbs flexed their muscles to help Democrats. Bucks, Chester and Montgomery counties recorded the highest turnout rates in the state, according to an Associated Press analysis of preliminary results from Tuesday’s election. Montgomery County led the way, with nearly 67 percent turnout, and party officials there credited a groundswell of activism in response to Trump. “There was a lot of energy, and that energy started after November 2016 and grew and grew and grew, and there were a lot of motivated people canvassing for months and it just built up until November, and all that hard work paid off,” said Rep. Tim Briggs, D-Montgomery. Philadelphia’s four suburban counties, including Delaware County, accounted for a larger share of the statewide vote than they usually do, exceeding 23 percent. In past statewide elections, that percentage has topped out at just above 22 percent. Voters there flipped at least 12 state House seats and four state Senate seats from red to blue, the biggest single pickups by Democrats in decades. Democrats could expand their catch: five House and two Senate districts, all but one most recently in Republican hands, remained too close to call Thursday. Suburban voters gave Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf a staggering 320,000-vote margin over Republican challenger Scott Wagner, the biggest margin since 2006 when then-Gov. Ed Rendell blew out Republican challenger Lynn Swann in the four counties by 374,000 votes. Democratic Sen. Bob Casey also won by 283,000, beating Republican U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta on Tuesday.

How to make schools safer? District ideas range from security equipment to hiring police officers
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Updated Nov 8, 12:34 PM; Posted Nov 8, 11:22 AM
A portion of Pennsylvania’s historic $70 million investment in school and community safety will soon make its way into school district coffers with many districts interested in using that money to buy security technology and equipment and visitor ID systems. Some $12.4 million is being doled out in $25,000 portions to 496 districts that submitted applications for consideration by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency’s School Safety and Security Committee. In the application, a district had to identify which of 21 categories of school safety measures they viewed as areas it wanted to pursue to enhance safety and security of their buildings.

Chronic absenteeism: School attendance can determine district quality
Beaver County Times By Dani Fitzgerald / Posted Nov 8, 2018 at 5:00 PM Updated Nov 8, 2018 at 5:11 PM
Test scores are a thing of the past. Well, sort of.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has been taking notes over the last several years and concluded that a more holistic approach when evaluating school districts was needed. Specifically, the department decided to create a new district evaluation tool that puts just as much emphasis on student attendance as it does on overall academic achievement and test scores. Essentially, this new measuring tool, known as the Future Ready PA Index, says student success goes beyond getting an A on a test. And local districts agree. With the implementation of the Future Ready PA Index this year, districts throughout the region are noticing even more that absenteeism could impede student success. For instance, the Ellwood City Area School District found that 23 percent of its students are known as “chronically absent,” meaning those students have missed 10 percent of the school year — that’s two days per month. And those absences are counted whether they are excused or unexcused. District Superintendent Joe Mancini calls this absenteeism an epidemic. “If your student misses 10 percent of school, they are less likely to know how to read by third grade,” he said.

Philly District test scores improve, but lag in proficiency
The notebook by Darryl C. Murphy November 8 — 4:51 pm, 2018
The School District of Philadelphia released results last week from the 2018 PSSA and Keystone exams. Although there were improvements in every subject, the District still struggles to bring students up to proficiency. District officials are celebrating the incremental victories. I congratulate our students, teachers, and principals on their continued academic progress,” said Superintendent William Hite.  “These results clearly show the hard work, dedication, and determination of everyone is making a difference.” Between 2017 and 2018, the District overall showed small increases on the PSSAs in the number of proficient and advanced students in math and English language arts, but science showed the biggest improvement, moving from 32 to 35 percent. These tests are given from 3rd through 8th grade. The Keystone exam results showed noticeable improvements in all subjects. Proficient and advanced percentages increased by four points in biology and algebra, and by five in literature. The Keystones are for high school students and given by the 11th grade. However, Philadelphia continues to lag behind the state as a whole in proficiency rates. While 65 percent of students statewide are proficient and advanced in science, just 35 percent of city students are. In English language arts, the comparable figures are 61 percent and 35 percent, and for math, 41 percent and 20 percent.

Tony Williams is ‘seriously’ thinking about running against Mayor Kenney | Clout
Inquirer by Chris Brennan @ByChrisBrennan |  Posted: 57 minutes ago
Every Election Day, politicians in Philadelphia eat matzo ball soup and corned beef sandwiches at the Famous 4th Street Deli in Queen Village. And every Election Day, Clout pesters them with questions about power and politics.
Question One: Will Mayor Kenney have a primary challenger in the 2019 mayor's race besides former City Controller Alan Butkovitz?
Question Two: In 2020, which Democrat is best suited to defeat President Trump in Pennsylvania?
Question Three: What comes first for Philadelphia's politically powerful Electricians union: its drive to take over City Council seats in 2019 — or federal probe trouble?

Blogger note: since it is a pretty light ed news day today, here are a few prior postings covering State Senator Anthony Williams and his relationship with the Students First PAC.  You might recall that Scott Wagner’s largest campaign donor this year was also Students First PAC, at a cool $1 million….
Reprise 2012: Will a PAC Pick Philly’s Next Mayor?
Students First is very interested in City Council.
Philly Mag by PATRICK KERKSTRA· 7/6/2012, 7:30 a.m.
The pro-privatization Students First PAC has been a huge player in state politics from the moment it emerged in 2010 flush with cash, much of it from three local businessmen who together founded Susquehanna International Group, a global investment company. Students First gave State Sen. Anthony Williams—a leading Democratic proponent of school vouchers—a staggering $3.65 million for his failed gubernatorial run. And ever since, the PAC has showered smaller sums on state representatives and senators receptive to the organization’s goal of sweeping education reform.

“It’s a point he’s made repeatedly — and no less since public campaign finance reports released in January showed that Williams had received more donations from political action committees associated with groups pushing charter school expansion, especially the same individuals, the pro-voucher managers of the Bala Cynwyd-based Susquehanna International Group, who pumped a staggering $5 million into his 2010 gubernatorial run and contributed roughly a quarter-million dollars to a newly-formed super PAC expected to use independent expenditures to support his mayoral bid. “
Reprise 2015: Ties between Williams’ campaigns and charter school proponents run deep
His mayoral campaign manager has also worked for his biggest donors
BY ISAIAH THOMPSON  PhillyVoice Contributor MARCH 20, 2015
Anthony Hardy Williams officially declared his candidacy for mayor of Philadelphia in November, though his candidacy was assumed for a while. A few weeks ago, state senator and would-be Philadelphia mayor Anthony H. Williams addressed a gathering of self-described "progressive" voters going by the name Philly for Change, making his pitch and fielding questions. Unsurprisingly, the topic of education came up quickly.  Williams, a longtime proponent both of charter schools and private school voucher programs, has accepted substantial — almost monolithic, at times — donations from groups promoting those agendas. When the questions started coming, Williams didn’t deny his support for charter schools (he did not, however, mention the word “vouchers”) but did downplay his connection to his erstwhile donors and their agendas. “I wasn’t dependent on one interest group,” he said. “I’m owned by no one.” “If you really want to address the gravest problems (in money in politics), you’ve got to break that nexis between lobbyists, money and lawmakers.” – Craig Holman, of Public Citizen

Reprise 2017: Champion for Charters Sen. Anthony Williams Supports What Works for Kids. Period.
Education Post by Sharif El-Mekki POSTED MAY 4, 2017
Sharif El-Mekki is the principal of Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus, a neighborhood public charter school in Philadelphia, and he is a principal fellow with the U.S. Department of Education.
As an early-career teacher, there were people who made some real contributions to my classroom’s culture and instruction. Obviously, some were teacher coaches and mentors who I have written about previously. Others, were residents of the southwest Philadelphia community where I started my career. State Senator Anthony H. Williams, who has been recognized as a 2017 Champion for Charters, was one of those community members. Every year, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools recognizes the local, state and federal elected officials who lead the charge to give parents and students better public schools and the freedom to choose the school that works best for them. I remember as a fledgling teacher, Sen. Williams, whose mother was a public school teacher, would visit my class to speak with my students and encourage me. His support and encouragement was extremely beneficial. He shared his experiences as a Black student in the very neighborhood I was working in. He connected me with community leaders and engaged our students in a plethora of opportunities. He advocated for children, youth, and communities.

Undeterred by crushing Prop. 305 loss, school choice advocates double down on vouchers
Rob O'Dell and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, Arizona Republic Published 6:00 a.m. MT Nov. 8, 2018 | Updated 7:55 p.m. MT Nov. 8, 2018
Less than a day after the crown jewel of their school choice policies was crushed at the ballot box, prominent school choice advocates doubled down by calling for the Arizona Legislature to promote school choice and vouchers laws.  Both the Goldwater Institute and American Federation for Children issued statements backing school choice in the hours after voters rejected by a 65-35 margin Proposition 305, a massive expansion of school vouchers.  The vote overturned the Empowerment Scholarship Account expansion that would have allowed all 1.1 million Arizona public school students to use public money to attend private school. The number of students receiving the money would have been capped at 30,000.

Linda Darling-Hammond vs. Diane Ravitch and Carol Burris
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss Reporter November 9 at 6:00 AM
I recently published a post by Diane Ravitch and Carol Burris titled “Why It Matters Who Governs America’s Public Schools,” which took issue with some parts of a new report — “The Tapestry of American Public Education: How Can We Create a System of Schools Worth Choosing for All?” — released by a California think tank founded by education expert Linda Darling-Hammond. This post is a response from Darling-Hammond and colleagues to that piece. Ravitch, Darling-Hammond and Burris are three of the most prominent voices in the national education debate about how to create equitable schools in this country and more often than not agree with one another. This piece and the earlier one reveal a split in the way they view school choice.

NSBA 2019 Advocacy Institute January 27-29 Washington Hilton, Washington D.C.
Register now
The upcoming midterm elections will usher in the 116th Congress at a critical time in public education. Join us at the 2019 NSBA Advocacy Institute for insight into what the new Congress will mean for your school district. And, of course, learn about techniques and tools to sharpen your advocacy skills, and prepare for effective meetings with your representatives. Save the date to join school board members from across the country on Capitol Hill to influence the new legislative agenda and shape the decisions made inside the Beltway that directly impact our students. For more information contact

2019 NSBA Annual Conference Philadelphia March 30 - April 1, 2019
Pennsylvania Convention Center 1101 Arch Street Philadelphia, PA 19107

Registration Questions or Assistance: 1-800-950-6722
The NSBA Annual Conference & Exposition is the one national event that brings together education leaders at a time when domestic policies and global trends are combining to shape the future of the students. Join us in Philadelphia for a robust offering of over 250 educational programs, including three inspirational general sessions that will give you new ideas and tools to help drive your district forward.

Any comments contained herein are my comments, alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or organization that I may be affiliated with.

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