Monday, September 30, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept. 30: Cybers: And you may ask yourself, well, “How did I get here?”

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PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept. 30, 2019

Blogger note: here are a couple articles that provide some historical context for Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools:

“Zogby became policy director for Ridge in 1995 and then state Education Secretary in 2001 under his successor, Mark Schweiker. Along the way, Zogby had a major hand in crafting some of the most impactful pieces of legislation the state’s educational landscape has seen: Pennsylvania’s charter and cyber charter laws….The K12 years: Between his government gigs with Schweiker and Corbett, Zogby was senior vice president of education and policy for K12 Inc., the nation’s largest for-profit operator of online public schools. In January 2003, as Rendell was about to swear-in, Zogby left Harrisburg on a Friday and went to work for K12 Inc. the next Monday – a job he kept until January 2011, when Tom Corbett’s tea-party wave brought him back through the big green dome’s revolving door. K12 Inc. has garnered widespread criticism – spurred in part by a lengthy 2011 article in the New York Times that took the company to task for low academic output, questionable enrollment practices and its ability to generate large profit margins on the backs of taxpayers. “A portrait emerges of a company that tries to squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload and lowering standards,” the New York Times wrote. In Pennsylvania, K12 Inc. was a contractor for Agora Cyber Charter until 2014. Ex-employees there gave testimony supporting the criticisms in a lawsuit filed against K12 Inc. by its investors in 2012. School founder Dorothy June Brown faced fraud charges in a case in which a jury deadlocked on most counts.”
Reprise Jan. 2015: In the final days of Corbett, budget chief Zogby reflects on his quest for school reforms
WHYY By Kevin McCorry January 13, 2015  Listen
As the Corbett administration draws near its final days,  perhaps the departure of Pa. Budget Secretary Charles Zogby marks a radical shift in education philosophy. It’s a cold December day in Harrisburg, where the streets and the echoing halls of the state Capitol lie dormant between legislative sessions. In a handsome executive-wing office of mahogany and leather, a copy of the Wall Street Journal sprawled across his desk, state Budget Secretary Charles Zogby has already begun boxing up his belongings. “Don’t make me out to be the villain,” he says, half joking, referring to his supposed image among traditional public school advocates. As the Corbett administration draws near its final days, it’s Zogby’s departure that perhaps best marks the radical shift about to occur in executive-level education philosophy. To his ideological opposites, Zogby’s a union buster, a privatizer, a profiteer.   But the way Zogby sees it – through three governors and an eight-year foray in the private sector – it’s always been all about the children. “Anything that I’ve done, it’s really been trying to help those most in need get a better shot at a better education,” he says. In Pennsylvania, if you had to craft a short list of the players who best advanced the conservative public school agenda over the past two decades, Zogby’s name would be on it. “Who else will be left that eats, sleeps and breathes school reform?” he asks.

Reprise Dec. 2011: Profits and Questions at Online Charter Schools
New York Times By STEPHANIE SAUL DEC. 12, 2011
By almost every educational measure, the Agora Cyber Charter School is failing.
Nearly 60 percent of its students are behind grade level in math. Nearly 50 percent trail in reading. A third do not graduate on time. And hundreds of children, from kindergartners to seniors, withdraw within months after they enroll. By Wall Street standards, though, Agora is a remarkable success that has helped enrich K12 Inc., the publicly traded company that manages the school. And the entire enterprise is paid for by taxpayers. Agora is one of the largest in a portfolio of similar public schools across the country run by K12. Eight other for-profit companies also run online public elementary and high schools, enrolling a large chunk of the more than 200,000 full-time cyberpupils in the United States. The pupils work from their homes, in some cases hundreds of miles from their teachers. There is no cafeteria, no gym and no playground. Teachers communicate with students by phone or in simulated classrooms on the Web. But while the notion of an online school evokes cutting-edge methods, much of the work is completed the old-fashioned way, with a pencil and paper while seated at a desk. Kids mean money. Agora is expecting income of $72 million this school year, accounting for more than 10 percent of the total anticipated revenues of K12, the biggest player in the online-school business. The second-largest, Connections Education, with revenues estimated at $190 million, was bought this year by the education and publishing giant Pearson for $400 million.

Attendance, graduation rates, test scores…..
Are cyber schools stacking up?
Charter officials challenge notion that students struggle
Altoona Mirror by RUSS O'REILLY Staff Writer SEP 29, 2019
In the Altoona Area School District alone, there were 253 students in cyber charter schools last year. One of them, Amylee Gill, 11, of Altoona, has been attending Agora Cyber Charter School since kindergarten. “I get to do school in my pajamas,” she said at Fairview Park with her parents. After talking with a reporter, she ran off to play with her brother, Brayden, 13, who also attends Agora, and a girl they made friends with at the park. Brayden, 13, now attends Agora after leaving traditional brick-and-mortar school last year, parents Kelli and Torae Gill said. The school district could not strike the right balance of academic rigor for Brayden, who has autism, Kelli Gill said. “He was not being challenged enough in school. He came home one day saying his tests had pictures of fish on them. He said, ‘I need to be challenged more,'” Kelli Gill said. And at other times he would come home frustrated to tears because of homework that made no sense to him, she said. Amylee has been attending Agora since her year after preschool because she has food allergies that are touch-sensitive. A mere sneeze by a student next to her who had eaten something she was allergic to could have been a danger. “They wouldn’t let her carry an EpiPen in school because it was considered a weapon,” Kelli Gill said. With the Gills at the park were Agora Cyber Family Coach Coordinator Pam Keth and middle school principal Heather Bianconi. Both Keth and Bianconi have children but none are in cyber charter schools. However, “I would not hesitate to go for cyber charter if an issue arises,” Bianconi said.

School Vouchers And Federal Support For Discrimination
Forbes by Peter Greene Senior Contributor Sep 28, 2019, 11:36am
I look at K-12 policies and practices from the classroom perspective.
School voucher programs are becoming one of the major fronts in a federal battle to safeguard discrimination by religious organizations. Some flaps created by private religious schools seem minor, like the pastor at a Catholic school who banned Harry Potter books because he believes the books contain “actual curses and spells.” But earlier this year, the Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis touched off a flurry of excitement by requiring Catholics schools in the archdiocese to fire all gay teachers. Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School refused, and was stripped of its Catholic identity. To avoid a similar fate, Cathedral High School terminated a teacher in a decision it called “agonizing.” The teacher settled with the school, but has since sued the archdiocese. This might be a matter of Catholic internal business, except that in Indianapolis, as in many areas around the country, the Catholic school system is now funded in part by school vouchers, a system of using public tax dollars for tuition t0 private schools. Indiana has been aggressive in pursuing school choice policies, particularly under then-Governor Mike Pence, who in his 2013 inaugural address said, “There’s nothing that ails our schools that can’t be fixed by giving parents more choices.” Indiana’s voucher program directs taxpayer dollars primarily to religious schools, and the majority of those are Catholic schools. Cathedral High School participates in both Indiana’s voucher and tax credit scholarship programs. There was a time when private religious schools might have resisted taking government dollars, even indirectly, for fear of having the government push its rules on the institutions. But now we are seeing that the lever can be pushed in the other direction, and it’s the government that may have to bend to the will of private religious institutions.

“This is the second straight year that the state has provided additional funding to the Pottstown School District, which is underfunded by more than $13 million every year due to Harrisburg's failure to fully enact its own fair education funding formula.”
State to provide Pottstown schools with $1.5 million windfall
POTTSTOWN — Pottstown schools are in line to get another cash infusion from Harrisburg. A grant providing $1.5 million to the district is expected to be awarded once a contract is signed and other paperwork completed, according to the office of state Sen. Robert Mensch, R-24th Dist. This is the second straight year that the state has provided additional funding to the Pottstown School District, which is underfunded by more than $13 million every year due to Harrisburg's failure to fully enact its own fair education funding formula.  At about this time last year, Mensch was joined by state Rep. Tim Hennessey, R-26th Dist., and former Rep. Tom Quigley in announcing a $1 million grant made to help compensate the district for the loss of tax revenue due to Pottstown Hospital being removed from the tax rolls. Mensch recognized that the fair funding formula's failure to be fully implemented has left Pottstown taxpayers in a tough spot. “Superintendent (Stephen) Rodriguez truly has the educational and financial best interests of the district’s students and parents at heart — he cares deeply about the quality of education in Pottstown School District," Mensch said in a release from his office.

‘We are broke:’ Allentown school director says no more spending on conferences and dinners
When the Allentown School Board approved a controversial $10 million loan in the spring to avert a financial crisis, director Ce-Ce Gerlach pledged to vote against any future spending on conferences and dinners for board members. Months later, Gerlach, who voted for the loan, is still holding to that promise. At Thursday’s meeting, she voted against spending more than $2,000 to send directors Phoebe Harris and Lisa Conover to a Pennsylvania School Boards Association conference in Hershey next month. Gerlach was the only director out of the nine to vote against the conference, so Harris and Conover will attend. The costs cover registration, hotel rooms and meals. It’s common for school directors and administrators to attend conferences for professional development in-state and even out-of-state. After the meeting, Gerlach her vote wasn’t personal toward Harris and Conover; she just wants the cash-strapped district to reign in its spending. “We are broke,” she said. “We don’t have money to waste.” In the spring, the district discovered its 2018-19 budget was almost $8 million in the hole because it spent more on salaries than was budgeted. In a narrow 5-4 vote, the board decided to take out a $10 million loan to cover that deficit. Conover, Harris, Robert E. Smith and Cheryl Johnson Watts voted against the loan.

$29.6B of Philly real estate is exempt from property taxes. Should nonprofits be asked to pay up?
Inquirer by Laura McCrystal, Updated: September 30, 2019- 5:00 AM
The Philadelphia Museum of Art. Lincoln Financial Field. The former Aramark Tower. Together, those Philadelphia landmarks are worth $794 million, according to city assessment records. But they are among the nearly 23,000 properties in Philadelphia exempt from paying property taxes because they are owned by nonprofit or government institutions. In sum, the $29.6 billion value of all exempt properties account for 17% of the city’s total real estate value, according to an Inquirer analysis. Their combined tax breaks equal about $414 million annually. It’s not unusual for cities like Philadelphia, with a high concentration of universities and hospitals, to have a large amount of untaxed property. Adam Langley, who studies tax exemptions at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, a Massachusetts-based think tank, said he often cites the city when referring to places with lots of tax-exempt properties. Still, Langley said, Philadelphia is “kind of an outlier” because it does not seek payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreements with its largest nonprofit institutions, a step that has enabled other cities to recoup millions in extra revenue.

District: Governor’s Visit Gave Us Chance to Share Views
By Richard Finch Jr. | Posted in: News | September 27, 2019 | The Tube City Almanac
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s visit this month to Twin Rivers Elementary gave McKeesport Area School District a chance to share its views on charter schools, Superintendent Mark Holtzman said. During Wednesday’s school board meeting, Holtzman discussed the Sept. 4 joint news conference with Wolf. “We were able to talk about some of the things that need to change when it comes to charter schools,” Holtzman said. At the press conference, Wolf discussed charter school reform including what he called a “fee-for-service model,” that will charge charter schools to resolve payment disputes with local districts, enabling the Pennsylvania Department of Education to recoup costs they are currently incurring from charter schools. Advocates of the governor’s plan claim it will allow more tax dollars to go toward education. Holtzman said McKeesport Area School District spends about $7 million on charter school payments for 600 district students who attend either brick-and-mortar or cyber charter schools.

Riverview shows off STEAM curriculum to Gov. Wolf
Trib Live by JAMIE MARTINES   | Friday, September 27, 2019 3:50 p.m.
Gov. Tom Wolf visited Riverview Junior-Senior High School in Oakmont on Friday to learn about the district’s efforts to prepare students for jobs in fields of STEAM — that’s science, technology, engineering, arts and math — and to tout his own plan for growing the workforce in those fields, PAsmart. “I want to continue to invest the millions of dollars that we need to invest in STEM and STEAM, because I want to make sure that our kids take good-paying jobs that sustain their families, but even more important, sustain the economy of this commonwealth moving forward,” Wolf told school officials following a tour of seventh-grade classrooms participating in coding, robotics and computer science activities. The Riverview School District was recently the recipient of a $35,000 PAsmart grant to support teacher training and computer science coursework for students in the district.  “Investing in STEAM experiences helps equip our students with the tools they will need to be successful in a global economy,” Eric Hewitt, Riverview Junior-Senior High School Principal, said in a statement. The PAsmart program, led by the Wolf administration over the past two years, supports STEM programs in schools, job training facilities and other community partners.

Pa. Senate seat drawing a crowd of potential candidates
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Updated Sep 27, 7:41 PM; Posted Sep 27, 4:41 PM
More than a dozen people have expressed interest or are at least considering a run for the open state Senate seat in the 48th District, officials said. The group includes some people who already hold public office as well as individuals who are seeking an elective office for the first time. The district represents all of Lebanon County and parts of Dauphin and York counties. The seat was vacated last week upon the sudden resignation of former four-term Sen. Mike Folmer, a Lebanon County Republican who was charged with possession of child pornography. Folmer, 63, remains free on $25,000 bail with a preliminary hearing scheduled for Oct. 31. The Republican and Democratic parties will choose nominees. The individuals chosen as their party’s nominees will face off in a special election that Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has set for Jan. 14. The winner will finish out the remainder of Folmer’s term, expiring in November 2022. State Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon County, is among those considering seeking his party’s nomination for this seat. Diamond said he’s not surprised at the high level of interest in this post that currently pays a nearly $89,000 salary and the potential for lifetime health benefits as well as a pension.

As long as he’s chair, no ‘red flag’ gun laws will get through the Pennsylvania house | PennLive Editorial
By PennLive Editorial Board Today 8:25 AM
Shira Goodman is right. It’s going to take a real fight to stay alive in Pennsylvania. Despite increasingly louder calls for laws to prevent another mass shooting, Pennsylvania’s House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rob Kauffman, a Republican from Franklin County, can’t hear them. The Republican from Franklin County can’t hear the mothers with Moms Demand Action and the increasingly angry voters with Ceasefire PA yelling in the Capitol Rotunda for what they call “commonsense gun laws.” He can’t hear the teenagers marching and protesting, demanding something be done about the very real fear they feel when they step into their schools. And he can’t hear the cries of the battered women – and yes, men, too – who don’t want their home-grown terrorist to be able to stalk them with an assault weapon.  Rep. Todd Stephens, R-Montgomery County, (at podium) called for passage of his legislation that would establish an extreme risk protection order, or red flag, law in Pennsylvania at a Moms Demand Action rally at the Capitol on Tuesday. Kauffman is standing in the way of getting what millions of very reasonable people are demanding as a logical step to reduce gun violence – passing “red flag" laws. Kauffman’s committee would have to act on the legislation before it can go to the full House for a vote. His decision to not allow that move creates a major obstacle to what many see as a vital step to help prevent needless deaths from gun violence. “We will not be considering 'red flag’ in the House Judiciary Committee so long as Chairman Kauffman is chairman," Kauffman said last week. Kauffan also said he will not allow his committee to consider any other gun-control measures during this legislative session. The legislative session runs through 2020, so if that’s accurate, it means Kauffman won’t bring up any gun-control bills for the rest of this year and all of next year.

On a red flag law for Pa.: It’s the start of the fight in the House — not the final word | Opinion
By Capital-Star Op-Ed Contributor Shira Goodman September 29, 2019
Shira Goodman is the executive director of CeaseFire Pennsylvania, the advocacy arm of CeaseFirePA, a Philadelphia-based group whose mission is to end the epidemic of gun violence across the Commonwealth and the country through education, coalition-building and advocacy. 
As Maya Angelou famously said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” This past week in Harrisburg, we got a real good look at the people who are trying to block the efforts to solve Pennsylvania’s gun violence crisis. And now that we know where they stand, we know what we have to do. First, House Judiciary Chair Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin, made himself absolutely clear in comments following a meeting in which the committee voted to: allow gun lobby groups and gun owners to sue Pennsylvania cities; impose more mandatory minimum sentences; allow more people to drive around with guns in their cars; and permit the civilian use of tasers. Kauffman said other proposed gun laws including background check expansion, safe storage and Extreme Risk Protection Orders might will not receive a vote this session. In fact, he said “We will not be considering red flag in the house judiciary committee. .. So long as Chairman Kauffman is chairman.'” Some considered Kauffman’s statements — especially his claim that the committee’s actions would make us safer — a source of anger and frustration. To me, Kauffman’s words were fighting words, not the final word. He just gave us his roadmap for the next year and half of session, and now we know exactly where our efforts need to be focused. Every Pennsylvanian needs to hear what he said, and we will be making clear to him that we believe this “promise” is a dereliction of duty and an abdication of his role as chairman.

Rep. Bernstine’s language creating school-to-work program folded into approved bill
Elllwood City Ledger By J.D. Prose Posted Sep 28, 2019 at 5:00 PM
Language from bipartisan legislation co-introduced by state Rep. Aaron Bernstine was included in a more-sweeping education bill that passed the state Senate on Thursday and should be signed by Gov. Tom Wolf. Under the legislation, the state would create a pilot grant program that would encourage schools and businesses to partner on work-based learning opportunities for high school students, including apprenticeships, internships and job options. “This innovative pilot program would bring our business leaders and students together to transform our education system and prepare Pennsylvania students for jobs right here at home,” Bernstine, R-10, New Beaver, said in a joint statement with his colleagues. “We need to do a better job of communicating all opportunities to students before they exit high school and embark on their careers, and this program will help us do that,” he said. In March, Bernstine, Rep. Kate Klunk, R-York County, and Rep. Jared Solomon, D-Philadelphia, introduced a bill — the Schools to Workforce Pipeline Act — establishing the program. That bill passed the House in June, but it’s language was eventually incorporated into House Bill 265, which addresses education issues.
House Bill 265 was unanimously passed by the Senate on Sept. 25 and then the House unanimously concurred with amendments on the same day, sending it to Wolf’s desk to be signed.

York Academy charter's new CEO strengthens foundation
Lindsay C VanAsdalan, York Dispatch Published 8:06 p.m. ET Sept. 29, 2019
York Academy Regional Charter School hopes to move to the next level with a new CEO who has a strong background in the International Baccalaureate program. After working in an urban-suburban community in Texas, Angela Sugarek is practiced in serving a blended school community, said board President Nancy Ahalt. Though this is her first time at a charter, Sugarek said its management is not too different from a public school — the main differences being a charter's management is more independent, costs are higher for a smaller student body and growth is limited. "Part of the problem in perception is the idea that they are that different," she said.

Nurses association wants to open charter high school in central Pa.
Penn Live By Jana Benscoter | Updated Sep 27, 2019; Posted Sep 27, 2019
Four Dauphin County school districts could offer its students specialized courses in nursing at the Pennsylvania Nurses Middle College Charter School in September 2020 if its proposal is approved. The regional charter would enroll 100 students in grades 9 through 12 from Harrisburg, Central Dauphin, Susquehanna Township and Steelton-Highspire school districts, according to Pennsylvania State Nurses Association Chief Executive Officer Betsy Snook. Students would enter the charter through an open enrollment, she explained. "When a classmate goes home with strep throat, we want another student in this program to say, ‘wow,’ I know what that looks like under a microscope,” Snook said. The idea of the charter has been kicked around for about four years, but actionable steps toward making it a reality began last year. The state’s nurses association hired New York City-based Talbot Consulting, which has had success helping to open charter schools in the Empire State. The idea of the charter school birthed out of a report published in 2010 by the Robert Wood Foundation and The Institute of Medicine — "The Future of Nursing” — that revealed 36 percent of registered nurses have a baccalaureate degree or higher. And, it showed that the occupation lacked diversity in gender and ethnicity.

'We live for these moments': Educators use Trump impeachment inquiry to teach valuable lessons in class
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer Sep 29, 2019
Fletcher McClellan was a college student during the impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon in the 1970s. Now, he’s teaching about an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump at Elizabethtown College. McClellan, an E-town political science professor, is among the college and high school educators using this week’s headlines surrounding Trump as fodder for classroom discussion and instruction. Educators interviewed Thursday and Friday by LNP said the situation creates an important teaching opportunity. Students, they said, are itching to learn more about how impeachment works, what an impeachable offense is and, ultimately, whether there’s enough evidence to impeach the current president. And it’s the instructor’s job, they said, to help students make sense of it all. But that’s not always easy, especially given today’s heated political climate. Teaching critical thinking - “My goal isn’t to say that one side is right or wrong,” said Kyle Kopko, an associate professor of political science at Elizabethtown College. “My job is to get you to think critically and understand how to evaluate competing planes (of thought) effectively.”

Mars Area High School among four schools in southwestern Pa. to win national Blue Ribbon awards
Central Elementary, Dutch Ridge Elementary and Sunset Valley Elementary also win awards
Post-Gazette by SANDY TROZZO SEP 27, 2019 3:43 PM
Four schools in southwestern Pennsylvania have been named 2019 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. They include Mars Area High School in Butler County, Central Elementary School in Allegheny County,  Dutch Ridge Elementary School in Beaver County, and Sunset Valley Elementary School in Westmoreland County. This is the first time that a Mars Area School District school has been named to the national list of high-achieving schools. The 2019 list was announced Sept. 26. “Being recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School is a testament to the hard work of all the members of our school community,” said Lindsay Rosswog, high school principal. “Mars Area High School could not have accomplished this without the foundation established by our dedicated teachers and staff members, our determined administrators, and the endless support of parents and community members combined with the hard work of our students,” The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes schools in two categories: high performing schools and schools that have made significant progress in closing achievement gaps over the past five years.

Norwin elementary school given Blue Ribbon Award
MEGAN TOMASIC   | Friday, September 27, 2019 12:51 p.m.
Pennsylvania schools given the National Blue Ribbon Award in 2019:
  • Afton Elementary School — Yardley, Bucks County
  • Ann Letort Elementary School — Washington Boro, Lancaster County
  • Cardinal John Foley Regional Catholic School — Havertown, Delaware County
  • Central Elementary School — Elizabeth, Allegheny County
  • Dutch Ridge Elementary School — Beaver, Beaver County
  • Eisenhower Elementary School, Indiana, Indiana County
  • G.W. Carver High School of Engineering and Science — Philadelphia
  • Jefferson Elementary School — Jefferson Township, Butler County
  • Joseph J. Greenberg Elementary School — Philadelphia
  • Mars Area High School — Mars
  • Mary, Mother of the Redeemer School — North Wales, Montgomery County
  • Sabold Elementary School — Springfield, Delaware County
  • St. Pius X School — Broomall, Delaware County
  • St. Thomas the Apostle School — Glen Mills, Delaware County
  • Ss. Colman-John Neumann School — Bryn Mawr, Montgomery County
  • Sunset Valley Elementary School — North Huntingdon, Westmoreland County
  • West Vincent Elementary School — Chester Springs, Chester County
  • Windber Area High School — Windber, Cambria County
A Norwin elementary school was given the National Blue Ribbon Award for academic excellence, becoming the first school in the district to win the award. Students at Sunset Valley in kindergarten through fourth grade erupted into cheers Friday morning as Principal Jason Cendroski announced the achievement, which was given to more than 360 schools across the country this year, with 18 in Pennsylvania, including Central Elementary School in Elizabeth. “It’s recognition of the great place that we have here at Sunset Valley — the wonderful community, the parents, the teachers and students and all of their hard work,” Cendro­ski said. “It’s great recognition from the Department of Education to recognize Sunset Valley as one of the top schools in the country, and we certainly appreciate receiving this honor and we look forward to sharing our information with other schools across the county and across the commonwealth.”

Letort Elementary among seven Pa. schools recognized for closing achievement gaps by US Department of Education
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer Sep 28, 2019
An elementary school in Lancaster County is one of the best in the country at closing student achievement gaps. That’s according to the U.S. Department of Education, which on Thursday announced this year’s Blue Ribbon Schools. Letort Elementary School, in Penn Manor School District, was one of only seven Pennsylvania schools recognized as an Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing School. “The faculty and administration of Penn Manor have engaged in ongoing efforts to ensure that the education our schools provide to all children is world class,” Penn Manor Superintendent Mike Leichliter said, adding that the recognition is “representative of the education across all Penn Manor schools.” The federal program annually highlights schools that “serve as models of effective school practices for state and district educators and other schools throughout the nation,” the Education Department’s website states. In total, 362 schools in 46 states were recognized.

“Picciotti-Bayer interviewed Brittany and other parents of children benefiting from tuition assistance for an amicus brief just filed at the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief was filed by the Catholic Association in support of a challenge to a Montana Supreme Court decision that religious schools cannot benefit from public tuition aids -- including tax credits for people donating to private scholarship funds. (The Institute for Justice is representing moms of Montana.) The case, Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Taxation, has the potential to throw out anti-Catholic Blaine amendments that remain in many state constitutions. Such a decision could change children's lives in America.”
Kathryn Lopez: Catholic schools are a lifeline for many families
Delco Times Opinion by Kathryn Lopez September 28, 2019
(Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA.
As a second grader, Raeyln Sukhbir used to cry every night. She was being bullied "unmercifully" in the public school she was attending. Life at home was miserable because the poor girl was so anxious and despondent -- which had her parents worried about how bad things must have been the rest of the time. Raelyn "did not want to be around other kids, and was clingy whenever we would visit friends," her mother told lawyer Andrea Picciotti-Bayer. "She did not want to participate in any activities or sports." Her father, a retired Army veteran who was injured in Afghanistan, talked to the teachers and administrators, but there was no improvement. Brittany and Kyle Sukhbir had heard good things about St. Mary's, a Catholic school in their area with a "zero-tolerance policy" about bullying. Picciotti-Bayer writes that "the Sukhbirs did not think that they could afford private school, but the daily bullying simply became too much for Raelyn to bear."
They contacted the school just before Christmas, and Raelyn spent a day "trying on" the school. "Every single teacher knew her name, and every student was excited to meet Raelyn and play with her," her mother said.

“Is it unfair?” Pondiscio asks. “Of course it’s unfair. Children shouldn’t be penalized or disadvantaged for the actions or inactions of their parents.” And yet, he defends Success as an entitlement of determined, low-income parents — just as wealthy and middle-class parents move to the suburbs or pay for private schools for the sake of their children’s education. “If you demand that engaged and committed parents send their children to school with the children of disengaged and uncommitted parents, then you are obligated to explain why this standard applies to low-income black and brown parents — and only to them,” Pondiscio writes. Some charter school critics dub this argument “the lifeboat theory of education reform,” in that the majority of children are left to sink on the big ship. With this morally disturbing conclusion to his unsparingly honest book, Pondiscio implicates all of us in the unforgivable neglect of children and education in our poorest communities.”
The Secret to Success Academy’s Top-Notch Test Scores
New York Times Book Review By Dale Russakoff Sept. 10, 2019
Equality, Excellence, and the Battle Over School Choice
By Robert Pondiscio
Every fall, astonishing news emerges from Success Academy, the largest and most controversial charter school network in New York City. With considerable fanfare, the network announces that its predominantly low-income and minority students have once again defied their demographics, earning consistently impressive scores on the state’s standardized tests. Not only do they dramatically outperform children across the city, erasing the achievement gap between white and black, rich and poor, they even beat the privileged kids in suburban Scarsdale and Chappaqua. Divining the secret to Success’ success has been an obsession for years in media and education circles. That is partly because its founder and leader is the former New York City Council member Eva Moskowitz, whose hardball politics and support of punitive consequences for noncompliant students and parents have stirred public backlash. In 2016, the New York Times reporter Kate Taylor posted a hidden-camera recording of a Success teacher ripping up a first grader’s incorrect math work, then ordering her off the classroom rug. (The teacher was briefly suspended.) Robert Pondiscio, a former public-school teacher in the South Bronx who became an education writer, won Moskowitz’s permission to embed himself for a year inside one of her more than 40 schools to discover once and for all how Success does what it does. A senior fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Pondiscio is allied with the education reform and charter movements, but not hesitant to criticize them.

Register now for PSBA’s Sleep & Student Performance Webcast OCT 31, 2019 • 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Our students face many issues today, but who would have imagined sleep deprivation could be a significant issue? The Joint State Government Commission established an advisory committee to study the issues, benefits and options related to school districts instituting later start times in secondary schools. Register now to hear from the executive director of the Commission, Glenn Pasewicz, commission staff and David Hutchinson, PSBA’s appointee to the commission, on the results of their study and work.

According to state law, all school directors must complete training. How many hours are required if you are a new school director? What about if you’re re-elected? Get the answers to these and other related questions in this episode of PSBA’s #VideoEDition

Information about the education sessions for the 2019 @PasaSupts @PSBA School Leadership Conference are now live on our website! We hope to see you there! #PASLC2019

What: Informal discussion on cyber charter schools
When: 9 a.m. refreshments, 9:30 a.m. panel, Oct. 7
Where: Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, 800 E. Park Ave., State College
AAUW State College Branch invites you to attend an informational panel discussion to learn more about background and issues connected with cyber charter schools. Join us on Oct. 7, at the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800 E. Park Ave., State College (visitor center off Porter Road). Refreshments, 9 a.m.; panel discussion, 9:30 a.m.
The American Association of University Women State College Branch is part of a nationwide network of about 1,000 branches that are dedicated to advancing equity for women and girls.

Adolescent Health and School Start Times:  Science, Strategies, Tactics, & Logistics  Workshop Nov 13, Exton
Join school administrators and staff, including superintendents, transportation directors, principals, athletic directors, teachers, counselors, nurses, and school board members, parents, guardians, health professionals and other concerned community members for an interactive and solutions-oriented workshop on  Wednesday, November 13, 2019 9:30 am to 3:00 pm 
Clarion Hotel in Exton, PA
The science is clear. Many middle and high school days in Pennsylvania, and across the nation, start too early in the morning. The American Medical Association, Centers for Disease Control, American Academy of Pediatrics, and many other major health and education leaders agree and have issued policy statements recommending that secondary schools start no earlier than 8:30 am to allow for sleep, health, and learning. Implementing these recommendations, however, can seem daunting.  Discussions will include the science of sleep and its connection to school start times, as well as proven strategies for successfully making change--how to generate optimum community support and work through implementation challenges such as bus routes, athletics, and more.   Register for the workshop here: Thanks to our generous sponsors, we are able to offer early bird registration for $25, which includes a box-lunch and coffee service. Seating is limited and early bird registration ends on Friday, September 13.
For more information visit the workshop website  or email

WHERE: Hershey Lodge and Convention Center 325 University Drive, Hershey, PA
WHEN: Wednesday, October 16 to Friday, October 18, 201
Registration is now open!
Growth from knowledge acquired. Vision inspired by innovation. Impact created by a synergized leadership community. You are called upon to be the drivers of a thriving public education system. It’s a complex and challenging role. Expand your skillset and give yourself the tools needed for the challenge. Packed into two and a half daysꟷꟷgain access to top-notch education and insights, dynamic speakers, peer learning opportunities and the latest product and service innovations. Come to the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference to grow!

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