Friday, November 21, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 21: Wolf plans ‘to find funds’ to raise education spending

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3500 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, 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 and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 21, 2014:
Wolf plans ‘to find funds’ to raise education spending



Next PA Basic Education Funding Commission Public Hearing
Monday, November 24, 2014 at 10 AM IU#13 Lancaster



Reforming PA charters is no easy task
PLS Reporter Author: Alanna Koll/Thursday, November 20, 2014/Categories: News and Views
During the 2013-14 legislative session, Gov. Tom Corbett and the legislature eliminated the state's 50 percent pension reimbursement to charter schools, putting an end to what many called the pension "double dip.”  The elimination of the double dip marked the first time since the charter law was enacted in 1997 and the cyber charter law was adopted in 2002 that any reforms to those laws have been adopted.
“We’ve learned a lot in those 17/18 years about things that can be operated more efficiently, ways to do things better and a lot of that has been in a number of bills. Every year, in every session there has been a charter reform bill that has come up and every year it has failed for slightly different reasons in each case. Probably 85 percent of what is in the bill everyone agrees with and it is that 15 percent that has caused all the conflict and has stopped the passage of the bill,” stated Robert Fayich, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools.
Jim Buckheit, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA), agreed that there has not been major reform to charters. “This has been a major political fight ever since the original bill was passed in ’97, there have been several attempts over 14 years plus to make some changes and every one of those has failed,” he stated. “It’s a very hard lift to do anything, any time there is a serious discussion about the issue. One side or the other rallies its troops and steps up and puts pressure on legislators. When legislators get heat from one side or the other or both sides they tend not to take action. That’s why we have been stuck in this current state for so long.”


 “If it is for a public service, for the interests of the children, why does money need to be made off their education?”
York City School District fends off privatization plan for now
Written by Emily Previti/Keystone Crossroads | Nov 20, 2014 4:22 AM
 (York) -- Governor-elect Wolf has said he’s against privatizing the city of York’s struggling public school district, and critics of the effort say there’s pressure to do that before he takes office.
If it happens, York City School District would be the first public school system in Pennsylvania, and one of just a few in the nation, to be converted entirely to charter schools.
Students, parents and teachers spent more than two hours last night protesting [the turnover of the city’s floundering public school district to a private for-profit charter school operator.
Vlonda Kearse was one of them.  “If it is for a public service, for the interests of the children, why does money need to be made off their education?” she said.
School board members delayed a vote on a contract with Charter Schools USA to allow time to get more information about the company’s plans.  But, they can do little more than stall, because they’re engaged in the state’s Act 141 program for distressed, under-performing public schools.
That law allows a receivership if district officials aren’t complying with their recovery plan.
York’s state-appointed Chief Recovery Officer David Meckley says that’s the scenario there, and that he’ll push for a receivership and then charterize the schools.

York schools poised for state’s first district-wide charterization
Keystone Crossroads/WHYY Newsworks BY EMILY PREVITI, WITF NOVEMBER 20, 2014
Students, parents and teachers spent more than two hours Wednesday night protesting the turnover of the city of York's floundering public school district to a private for-profit charter school operator.  "If it is for a public service, for the interests of the children, why does money need to be made off their education?" says teacher Vlonda Kearse.  Distrust was a common theme in the testimony of about three dozen people who testified – some, three or four times during the evening.  Desperation figured prominently, too; specifically, to keep the district intact and convey the social and educational benefits it's conferred upon students.  Ultimately, the school board did not vote on the proposed contract with Charter Schools USA. Instead, members unanimously moved to table the matter so they have time to get more information about the company's plans.

Who’s behind the York Community Foundation Charter School?
Cram Session Blog Posted on November 20, 2014 by Angie Mason
Some York City students attended last night’s meeting to oppose turning schools over to a charter operator.  At last night’s York City School Board meeting, questions came up surrounding a nonprofit entity that would be the charter holder if the school district’s buildings were turned into charter schools run by Charter Schools USA.  Charter schools in Pennsylvania have to be nonprofits. (They can then contract with other companies, which can be for-profit.)

What do we know about the nonprofit board?

"Told of the lower scores, Ron Cowell, president of the Education Policy and Leadership Council, said that it is difficult to prove causation but noted school districts had about $850 million less when they opened their doors in fall 2011 than they did the previous school year.  While some money has been restored, particularly to pay for increased pension contributions, Mr. Cowell said that school districts still are operating with hundreds of millions of dollars less than in 2010-11 for classroom spending.  “In the poorest school districts where we often find the largest concentrations of students who are English language learners and who are in circumstances of economic disadvantage, those kinds of school districts disproportionately lost greater amounts of state money,” Mr. Cowell said."
Pennsylvania student scores declined with reduced funding, test results show
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette November 21, 2014 12:00 AM
With school districts across the state now in their fourth year of facing fewer state and federal resources, statewide results of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests show declines in every grade level in nearly every subject tested.  The pattern of lower scores on the 2014 PSSA tests holds true for subgroups of students who are white, black, economically disadvantaged, English language learners or are in special education.  Overall on the assessments tests, there were these declines in the percentage of students scoring proficient and advanced in grades 3-8:

Economics a factor in results of School Performance Profiles
By Clarece Polke / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette November 20, 2014 12:00 AM
The recently released state School Performance Profiles once again show a correlation between the economic makeup of top-performing districts and those in the bottom of the academic rankings in Allegheny County.  "You didn't even need to look at the scores,” acting Wilkinsburg superintendent Dan Matsook said. “All you need to look at is the market value of commercial and industrial buildings in the district and wealth-to-aid ratio to see how well those students perform."
Released earlier this month, the School Performance Profiles show academic scores of up to 107 — counting seven extra credit points — measuring factors such as student performance on state standardized tests, graduation rates, attendance rates and participation in Advanced Placement courses.  Less than a week after the profiles were released, six school districts, parents, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools and the Pennsylvania state conference of the NAACP filed a lawsuit against the state.  The lawsuit contends the state has not sent enough money to schools and, in doing so, has turned quality public education into “an accident of geography.”

Wolf plans ‘to find funds’ to raise education spending
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau November 21, 2014 12:00 AM
HARRISBURG — After warnings from his team about Pennsylvania’s nearly $2 billion projected shortfall, governor-elect Tom Wolf says he still plans to push to increase education funding next year, but the newly elected Democrat acknowledges the end result will depend on negotiations with the General Assembly, which even larger Republican majorities will control in January.
“The key is that we have a $29 billion budget, and with that amount of money, part of what any governor needs to do is look at priorities,” Mr. Wolf said in a telephone interview Thursday. “There’s still plenty of money to make sure that our commonwealth is spending whatever dollars it has intelligently and that we establish the right priorities.”
“Education has to be a priority,” he said. “We’re going to have to find the funds.”

"Leaders of both parties said they appreciated the overtures, which some said amounted to more communication than they got from Gov. Corbett before or even after he took office four years ago."
Wolf extends an early olive branch
AMY WORDEN, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU Thursday, November 20, 2014, 6:54 PM
HARRISBURG - There are no doubt partisan battles ahead, but for now Gov.-elect Tom Wolf is trying to set a positive tone with Republicans who control the state legislature.  Wolf, a Democrat, surprised some legislative leaders on the other side of the aisle with a phone call shortly after his election.  Then he sent a handwritten introductory note that was read aloud to Republican and Democrats in both chambers during caucus meetings.
Then he called some top lawmakers a second time.

Wolf hopes to have Cabinet in place by Jan. 20
Philly.com THE ASSOCIATED PRESS POSTED: Thursday, November 20, 2014, 3:55 PM
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Tom Wolf says he hopes to have his Cabinet picked before his Jan. 20 inauguration.  In a brief telephone interview Thursday, the Democrat said his transition team is still in its formative stages, but that two months should be enough time to choose his top advisers.  Wolf says he hasn't ruled out keeping some of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's Cabinet members and that the party affiliation of a candidate doesn't matter as much as his or her competence and integrity.

Top Senate Republican: We're not ruling out lame-duck session
Penn Live By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com  on November 20, 2014 at 3:23 PM, updated November 20, 2014 at 3:43 PM
New Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said Thursday that he's not ruling out a lame-duck session during the final two weeks of Gov. Tom Corbett's term so that lawmakers can push through bills before Gov.-elect Tom Wolf takes office.  "Tom Corbett is governor for four years, not three years and 10 months," Corman, R-Centre, said in remarks taped for broadcast Sunday on WHP-TV's "Face the State"program. "We get sworn into office on the first Tuesday [in January] and we might go to work."  Corman said he's "looking at the schedule" to determine if there's enough time for lawmakers to pull off the long-shot legislative session. For the past several years, the Legislature has sworn-off holding lame-duck sessions.  Corman was far from definitive about a legislative session, but he did hold the option open during the interview.

Task force to help Gov.-elect Tom Wolf understand, overcome a $1.85 billion shortfall next year
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen | calexandersen@pennlive.com  on November 20, 2014 at 2:43 PM
With Gov.-elect Tom Wolf expected to face a $1.85 billion budget shortfall next fiscal year, transition staff is working to prepare him for what he will have to face during his first year in office.
The Budget Deficit and Fiscal Stabilization Task Force is being led by Mary Soderberg and Josh Shapiro. Wolf Spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan said the task force will help the governor-elect understand the complexities of the fiscal crisis his administration will face.  "The challenges that are going to face his administration and the challenges that lie ahead are really very deep and very serious," Sheridan said. "He needs people to help him understand the depth of that hole."  To understand that "hole," Shapiro, chairman of the Montgomery County Commission, said the task force must start out with the Independent Fiscal Office's long-term economic and budget outlook.

Will the GOP stop Wolf and hold Philly back?
Citypaper By Daniel Denvir  Published: 11/20/2014
Tom Corbett has bequeathed Dem­ocratic Gov.-elect Tom Wolf not only wrecked public schools, but also a projected state budget deficit of nearly $2 billion, according to last week's report from the state Independent Fiscal Office. Conservative government, that chimeric realm of low taxes and high living, was just a marketing scheme. And given Corbett's historic loss, a low-quality one.
Wolf has a mandate — low voter turnout prompts some to question how large — to reverse Corbett's deep cuts to public education. Wolf says he wants to do this partly by taxing natural-gas extraction (not ending it, to environmentalists' chagrin) and making the state income tax progressive, which translates to higher rates on the wealthy.
But Corbett's deficit means that Wolf must first dig out before he rebuilds — he cannot let deeply cut programs get cut once again. Republicans, who in the very same election expanded their majorities in the state legislature, will make that difficult. This is a more conservative iteration of a Republican legislature that mostly refused to pass a Republican governor's agenda.

Community Schools: Demonstrators rally in Oakland to support community schools across U.S.
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette November 20, 2014 1:08 PM
Great Public Schools Pittsburgh today rallied in favor of community schools outside the headquarters of Pittsburgh Public Schools in Oakland, one of about 15 such demonstrations across the country.  About two dozen people attended the rally, which was part of a week of action under the national umbrella of the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools. Community schools help to address social service and other needs and connect with families and community organizations to help children learn, according to rally organizers and participants.
"We cannot and will not accept the status quo," said Pamela Harbin, a Point Breeze resident with two children in city district schools. "Poor education policies that destabilize our communities is the status quo."  She said, "Research shows that sustainable community schools work because a community understands what their children and their families need."
She called for the federal government to put all new School Improvement Grants toward community schools.

Beers, bars and babies: The next generation of Philly school parents gets serious
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY NOVEMBER 20, 2014
Dark bars, craft beers, cooing babies and a basic philosophical belief in the power of public education: Meet the new generation of urban-professional parents who just may be crucial to the long-term success of the Philadelphia School District.  At two separate evening events in the city this week, throngs of young, civically minded parents gathered at bars to drink in the pros and cons of sending their not-yet-school-aged children to the district's oft-beleaguered neighborhood public schools.  For Tom Wyatt, an attorney by trade, that neighborhood school would be Andrew Jackson Elementary.  "If you visit that school, and you go talk to the leader of that school, and you interact with the teachers and you see the vibrancy of that school community, I think anyone would agree it's a wonderful place to be and it's the keystone of our neighborhood," said Wyatt, who chairs the education committee of Passyunk Square Civic Association in South Philly.

Charter debate rages on at SRC meeting
SOLOMON LEACH, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER LEACHS@PHILLYNEWS.COM, 215-854-5903 POSTED: Friday, November 21, 2014, 12:16 AM
THE SCHOOL Reform Commission got an earful last night from school-choice supporters as it voted not to renew one charter and gets ready to consider applications for dozens of new ones.
The commission voted 4-1 for non-renewal of Imani Education Circle Charter in Germantown. Sylvia Simms was the lone dissenting vote. Officials cited poor performance on state standardized tests and financial woes at the K-8 school, which serves roughly 450 students.

SRC votes to close Imani charter school
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, November 21, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, November 20, 2014, 10:21 PM
Despite pleas from board members and parents, the School Reform Commission voted, 4-1, Thursday night to close another Philadelphia charter school for alleged academic and financial failings: Imani Education Circle in Germantown.  Commissioner Sylvia Simms cast the dissenting vote.  Imani officials challenged the commission's findings and vowed to take the case to the state's Charter Appeal Board in Harrisburg.

SRC violated Pa. Sunshine Act, court complaint alleges
The Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools has filed suit about the SRC's action in voiding the teachers' contract last month.
the notebook Paul Socolar's Blog November 20, 2014
Advocates have filed a complaint in Philadelphia court charging that the School Reform Commission violated the state Sunshine Act when it met Oct. 6 and voted to cancel the contract of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.  The suit was filed by the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools in the Court of Common Pleas. In a statement, Lisa Haver of APPS, a plaintiff in the case, said, "The public should expect that the SRC would give adequate advance notice of such a major action, not take pains to shut the public out."  The School District has not offered a response and generally declines to comment on pending litigation.

School chief: China wants to invest in Chester-Upland
KATHY BOCCELLA, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, November 21, 2014, 1:08 AM
After buying the Waldorf-Astoria, the General Motors Building, and billions of dollars of U.S. Treasury bonds, the Chinese may be looking to invest in something completely different - a broke and struggling school system.  The head of the Chester Upland School District announced Wednesday that he would travel to China to work out a deal in which an elite school would pour up to a billion dollars into the Delaware County district, which is in state receivership, and the communities it serves.  The state Department of Education has expressed grave reservations about the plan, which might seem too surreal for even Hollywood. It calls for Chinese benefactors to put up staggering amounts of money to turn low-performing schools into elite academies that send students to top universities.  "If we're successful in making this work, it would change the way our district looks," said Joe Watkins, who was appointed the district's receiver by Gov. Corbett.

Prudent changes to Pennsylvania's school performance assessment are needed
Post Gazette LTE by Susana Montoya November 21, 2014 12:00 AM
The Pennsylvania school performance score was designed as an indicator of school quality but has had unintended consequences including focusing curriculum on test content and resources toward test preparation. Changes are needed to improve the assessment system.
All schools would benefit from timely notification of test results and specific feedback on test performance before the start of the next academic year. The state assessment also requires evidence of academic growth as measured by performance on PSSA and Keystone tests. Some schools are being penalized on their overall academic score for not continuing to improve even though more than 90 percent of their students score proficient or advanced on each of the state-mandated tests.  Currently, 40 percent of the school assessment score is based on indicators of academic growth. This measurement was developed to determine if underperforming schools show improvement over time. The misguided emphasis on growth for all schools results in higher-performing schools spending inordinate time and effort on test preparation. Some suggest a better model may require growth data only for underperforming schools and even decrease test frequency for higher-performing schools.

Askar was 'target' in Trombetta probe; wiretap comment goes unexplained
Beaver County Times Online By J.D. Prose jprose@timesonline.com  November 19, 2014 7:45 pm
According to the testimony of an FBI agent in federal court last week, Beaver County Solicitor Joe Askar was considered a “target subject” in the investigation that led to the indictment of Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School founder Nick Trombetta.  And, Askar was heard on a secret recording played in court warning Trombetta not to say anything before telling him, “I’m supposed to be representing the county and I’m representing you,” while the two discussed private office arrangements, potential tenants and lease agreements for an office building at 1000 Third St., in Beaver.  That building is owned by the county, according to county assessment records, but the National Network of Digital Schools (NNDS), which Askar also represents, holds a lease-buy agreement on it. Vince LaValle, the county commissioners’ chief of staff, said NNDS is paying back almost a quarter of a $4 million nearly 10-year-old bond directly to the bank so no money comes into the county.

"At one point, Askar warned Trombetta not to say anything before telling him, “I’m supposed to be representing the county and I’m representing you.”  Askar was also heard discussing responses to a media organization’s request for information regarding NNDS. “Those are great talking points,” Trombetta told him. “You got it down good.”
During one call, Askar tells Trombetta, “If we had anything to worry about, the IRS would be up our asses, believe you me."
Misconduct complaints filed against Askar, three other attorneys in Trombetta Probe
Beaver County Times Online By J.D. Prose jprose@timesonline.com Posted: Thursday, November 20, 2014 5:30 pm
A former business associate of indicted Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School founder Nick Trombetta has filed complaints with the state Supreme Court’s disciplinary board against Beaver County Solicitor Joe Askar and three other attorneys with whom Trombetta claims to have had privileged conversations that were secretly recorded by investigators.
Moon Township resident Michael Barney filed the complaints of professional misconduct Nov. 14 against Askar, who also represents the Trombetta-created National Network of Digital Schools in Rochester; former PA Cyber attorney Tim Barry; and Leo Daly and Ralph Monico, lawyers with the Pittsburgh firm Grogan Graffam, who used to represent NNDS.
Barney asked the board to send an investigator to monitor proceedings at next Tuesday’s continued hearing in Trombetta's case. “The evidence forthcoming will assist in having a thorough investigation into the professional conduct” of each of the attorneys, Barney wrote.
Trombetta, who faces 11 federal charges, is trying to get a federal judge to toss recordings made by the FBI involving discussions with the four attorneys. Trombetta is claiming that the attorneys represented him so those recorded talks should fall under attorney-client privilege.


"Another central challenge for Williams’ candidacy is education. Williams may be the most prominent Democratic education reform champion in the state. His failed 2010 gubernatorial bid was centered on his charter-friendly reform agenda, and bankrolled to the amazing tune $3.65 million by an education reform PAC known as Students First.
Which direction to take Philadelphia’s public schools is an explosive and divisive question, with many passionate adherents on either side of the debate. My sense, though, is that education reform advocates have lost a bit of momentum in Philadelphia over the past 18 months or so, as the financial struggles of district-run schools have received extensive attention, and many Philadelphians have concluded (for good reason) that the rapid expansion of charter schools has played a critical role in those struggles. To be clear: That’s just my read on the city’s mood. I’ve seen no polling data either way on this question. But if Williams is on the wrong side of public sentiment now on the schools question, he could be in for a long race. At minimum, he’ll have to contend with a fired-up Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, which sees him as a poster child for education reform."
Tony Williams’ Fragile Juggernaut of a Campaign
The veteran state senator enters the race with a lot of support, and a lot of vulnerabilities.
BY PATRICK KERKSTRA  |  NOVEMBER 20, 2014 AT 7:03 AM
State Senator Anthony H. Williams launched what looked like a juggernaut of a mayoral campaign last night in a large hall at the visitor’s center on Independence Mall packed with elected officials, fundraisers, lobbyists, operatives and other assorted power players.
With Alan Butkovitz bailing, and City Council President Darrell Clarke still on the sidelines, Williams has become the mayoral front-runner almost by default (though Lynne Abraham’s strong opening yesterday bears watching). When political insiders talk about Williams, they talk about tactical advantages like establishment support, a credible base in West Philly, the prospect of big outside money and, as Dave Davies just put it, “very favorable racial math” as the only high-profile black candidate in the race (so far).

Allentown School District cuts graduation project requirement
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times on November 20, 2014 at 8:18 PM
The Allentown School Board voted to eliminate its graduation project requirement starting with the class of 2017.  Students graduating this spring and next school year still have to complete a project, according to the district.  With the advent of the Pennsylvania Common Core standards and the Keystone Exams, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has eliminated the requirement starting with the class of 2017.

Missing ACT tests are found
Inquirer by Susan Snyder POSTED: THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2014, 5:42 PM
Remember those missing ACT exams?
They’ve finally shown up at the Iowa-based testing service’s headquarters, but officials there say they have no idea where the test sheets have been all this time.  Their whereabouts over the last two months remain a mystery - at least as far as ACT officials are saying.  Test results for 182 students who took the college readiness exam at Upper Darby High School on Sept. 13 were declared missing late last month, though parents had been asking questions for longer than that.


Opinion: UNC Students should be skeptical of Teach For America
Daily Tarheel November 20, 2014
Teach For America is ubiquitous at UNC. In 2013, 57 Tar Heels joined the corps, making UNC the sixth-largest provider of teachers for the program in the country that year. In recent years, between seven and eight percent of graduating seniors at UNC applied to join the program.
Are these students making a mistake? Given the decision of the Durham Public Schools system not to renew its contract with TFA, and with the next program application deadline approaching on Dec. 5, the UNC community needs to have an open conversation about the value and shortcomings of the program.  TFA teachers are imbued with the best of intentions; however, we believe that TFA is a highly flawed program.  Many UNC students will do great work through TFA, but all students should tread carefully before submitting their next application to an on-campus recruiter.

Guess the percentage of cable news education guests who are actually educators
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss November 20 at 7:07 PM  
Can you guess the percent of evening cable news guests who are brought on camera to discuss education issues who are actually educators? Well, someone did the math and came up with this: Nine percent. Yes, 9 percent. And that was high if you looked at the results for single networks.
Media Matters, a progressive nonprofit, analyzed how many educators were included in substantial discussions of U.S. education policy on evening cable news shows between January 1, 2014 and October 31, 2014. They looked at shows on CNN, MSNBC and Fox, including The Situation Room, Erin Burnett OutFront, Crossfire, Anderson Cooper 360, CNN Tonight, The Ed Show, PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton, Hardball with Chris Matthews, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, The Five, Special Report with Bret Baier, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, The O’Reilly Factor, The Kelly File, and Hannity.


“Circuit Rider” Lawrence Feinberg to visit LMSD on 11/25 to speak about PA school funding
Lower Merion School District Announcements Posted: November 18, 2014
With school funding a hot issue in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, an alliance of state education leaders is engaged in a campaign to build support for changing the way the state pays its school bills. During the yearlong campaign, 11 "circuit riders" will attempt to build support among current superintendents, business managers, and school board members for a movement for education-funding changes.  Please join us on Tuesday, November 25 at 8:30 AM as "circuit rider" Lawrence Feinberg will speak at the District's Legislative Committee meeting in the District Administration Building Board Room.
Click here for a recent article on philly.com about the circuit riders.

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 www.pascd.org

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.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 20: Pa. cyber charters given poor grades by researchers; had revenues of $418 million in 2012-13

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3500 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, 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 and LinkedIn

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg
The Keystone State Education Coalition is pleased to be listed among the friends and allies of The Network for Public Education.  Are you a member?
The Keystone State Education Coalition is an endorsing member of The Campaign for Fair Education Funding


Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 20, 2014:
Pa. cyber charters given poor grades by researchers; had revenues of $418 million in 2012-13


"Although school districts approve regular charters, the Education Department has authority over cybers.  The schools enroll students from across the state who receive online instruction in their homes. A total of 36,596 Pennsylvania students are registered in cybers.  Because the students' home districts pay tuition based on how much each spends to educate students, the cyber schools receive funding at 500 different rates.  Cybers had revenues of $418 million in 2012-13, according to the most recent data posted on the Education Department's website."
Pa. cyber charters given poor grades by researchers
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Thursday, November 20, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 5:35 PM
While Pennsylvania's education secretary mulls applications for three new cyber charter schools, a Philadelphia research group has released a paper stating that none of the 14 existing cybers meets state academic standards.  The results of the state's school performance profiles, released this month, show that cybers "continue to lag far behind both traditional public and charter schools," according to a policy brief that Research for Action released Monday.
Kate Shaw, executive director of the independent research organization, said she hoped the analysis would be considered by Carolyn C. Dumaresq as the acting education secretary reviews proposals for the three new cybers.

Philly's opt-out movement grows as Council holds hearing on testing
By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Nov 19, 2014 07:06 PM
In a sign that the movement to opt out of testing is gaining traction, the Philadelphia City Council Education Committee on Wednesday heard parents, teachers, and education advocates decry state and federal officials' emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing.
"Standardized tests negatively impact students living in poverty, English language learners, and children with special needs, of which Philadelphia has many," said Alison McDowell, a District parent who has led Philadelphia's opt-out movement and helped organize the hearing with Councilman Mark Squilla.  Of particular concern to the crowd gathered in Council chambers is the requirement that, beginning with the Class of 2017, Pennsylvania's students must pass Keystone exams in literature, Algebra I and biology to graduate from high school.
This could have a profound effect on families, not just in Philadelphia, but statewide; recent data show that many students are not scoring at a proficient level on the exams, especially biology.

"There has been a growing debate across Pennsylvania about the state's Keystone exams, which were introduced last year. Students will be required to pass three Keystone exams - Algebra I, Biology and Literature - to graduate starting with the class of 2017. The results will also be used to evaluate teachers.  State Rep. Mike Tobash, R-Schuylkill/Berks, has introduced legislation that would halt the state from developing and implementing five additional Keystone exams before 2022. He testified yesterday that he believes testing should be used for accountability, but should not be a focal point."
Critics slam cost, impact of standardized tests
SOLOMON LEACH, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER LEACHS@PHILLYNEWS.COM, 215-854-5903 POSTED: Thursday, November 20, 2014, 3:01 AM
MEREDITH Broussard knew the fix was in when she saw her son's homework from first grade.
"I knew my son would start taking standardized tests in third grade. If the first-grade homework was this confusing, I was really worried about [how] he or how any kid was supposed to figure out the test," said Broussard, a Temple University professor.  Broussard was one of several parents, educators, elected officials and advocates who testified yesterday before City Council's education committee about the cost and impact of standardized testing during a hearing called for by Councilman Mark Squilla.  Like Broussard, many of the speakers in the crowded Council chambers assailed the nation's "fixation" on high-stakes testing as a way to unfairly label students, teachers and schools as failing.

Jerry Jordan's City Council Testimony on High-Stakes Testing
PFT president Jerry Jordan says it's time to end the practice of using standardized tests to evaluate educators and students.
PFT website 11/19/2014
Good afternoon. On behalf of the members of the PFT, I want to thank City Council for convening a public hearing on one of the most critical issues facing public education.
I want to start off by addressing some misconceptions about teachers and testing.
First, teachers are not against testing. Quite the contrary, teachers use tests in the classroom as one way to measure their students’ understanding of the content they are expected to learn. Tests help educators to see where they need to provide additional emphasis and support for their students.  Standardized tests are certainly nothing new. Like tests given in the classroom, they can provide a wide overview of how students in a school are mastering the concepts they should be learning.
When done appropriately, testing is a tool that teachers, students and parents can use to discover new ways and opportunities for our children to be the best students they can be.
But the current national fixation on high-stakes standardized tests has very little to do with figuring out how to better teach our children
http://pft.org/Page.aspx?pgid=51&article=680

"Mosenkis displayed his scatter plot showing starkly how districts with equivalent levels of poverty get more money per pupil if their student body is mostly White. The amount decreases as a district becomes more diverse.  He stressed that his findings show correlation, not causation. "Racial discrimination can emerge even without intention," said Mosenkis."
BEFC: On second day, funding panel hears from POWER, charters
Statistician David Mosenkis presents study of racial bias in funding to commission; Sen. Browne says no formula should have "unintended consequences."
the notebook by Dale Mezzacappa November 19, 2014
On their second day in Philadelphia Wednesday, the Basic Education Funding Commission heard from two distinct groups.  First were charter operators, who highlighted their successes and parsed the complexities of the state's education funding streams, mostly to argue that their schools are being shortchanged.  And then there were the ministers, parents, and advocates from POWER, the faith-based advocacy group who urged the legislators to to think of school funding as a matter of justice.  They argued that all the children of Philadelphia were being unfairly treated because of who they are and where they live.

 “Turning over low-performing public schools to charters has not worked as a strategy for sustained school improvement,” said Whitehorne.  
Community Schools: PCAPS to launch campaign for community schools
the notebook By Payne Schroeder on Nov 19, 2014 03:45 PM
The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools will launch its campaign for community schools on Thursday, Nov. 20, at Arch Street United Methodist Church in Center City.
As a member of the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, which is a confederation of parent, youth, and community organizations, PCAPS will host a community meeting at 4 p.m.
Similar events are set to occur in 20 other cities across the country as part of the alliance's week of action.  “This is a long-term campaign to change the conversation on what kind of schools we need,” said Ron Whitehorne, a PCAPS coordinator. “We see [the community school model] as an alternative vision of how to move schools forward.”
There are no District schools that fit the model of community schools, which can be described as public schools where social services and community resources are brought under the same roof and integrated into the fabric of the school.  

More background on Community Schools

Community Schools: De Blasio Administration Announces $52 Million Investment to Launch Community Schools
New York City Office of the Mayor June 17, 2014
City to launch 40 new Community Schools in high-need neighborhoods that bring social service providers into schools to support at-risk students and families
Wide array of in-school programming can include mental health services, vision testing, physical wellness, tutoring, job training and family counseling
NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced a $52 million grant to launch the development of 40 innovative Community Schools that will match comprehensive social services and learning programs with 40 high-need public schools across the city. By reaching students with vitally important services ranging from mental health support to homework help and family counseling, Community Schools have a proven track-record of helping at-risk children succeed in the classroom and beyond.  Coupled with pre-K for every child and expanded after-school programs for middle schoolers, the Mayor pledged to make Community Schools a key component of transforming the education system and lifting up every child.
The 4-year grant utilizes funding provided by the New York State Department of Education and will be managed in partnership with the United Way of New York City. Schools and non-profit service providers will be selected this summer through a Request for Proposals. The Department of Education and United Way will work in close coordination with parents and communities to design and launch programs during the 2014-2015 school year.

"Like Abraham, Williams has deep roots in Philadelphia politics. He has been in the state Senate, toiling in the minority, for 16 years, but he's also a ward leader with a solid base in West Philadelphia.  He has been known for his support of charter schools and school choice - a position that puts him at odds with fellow Democrats and the teachers' union.
His unsuccessful 2010 gubernatorial run was aided by $5 million from three executives of Susquehanna International Group who support school choice."
Abraham and Williams join race for Phila. mayor
CHRIS HEPP AND CLAUDIA VARGAS, INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS LAST UPDATED: Thursday, November 20, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 7:23 PM
The contours of the 2015 Philadelphia mayor's race finally emerged in sharp relief Wednesday with the entrance of two formidable Democratic candidates - former District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham and State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams.

"No one spoke in favor of the charter conversion during several hours of public comment Wednesday."
Update: York City school board tables vote on charters
York Dispatch by ERIN JAMES 505-5439 @ydcity POSTED:   11/19/2014 06:01:51 PM EST
Another lengthy, and often tearful, York City school board meeting ended Wednesday in an anti-climactic vote to table a proposed agreement with a for-profit charter company.
Hundreds crowded into the cafeteria at William Penn Senior High School to witness the potentially history-making decision.  A vote to approve the document would have turned over operation of the district to Charter Schools USA, a Florida-based company that negotiated the proposed contract with the district's state-appointed financial recovery officer.
That official, David Meckley, is pushing charter schools as the solution to the district's financial and academic problems.  Last week, Meckley gave the board an ultimatum: Approve the contract, or the state will pursue receivership.

York City School Board tables charter decision
Officials requested more information at a meeting Wednesday
York Daily Record By Angie Mason amason@ydr.com @angiemason1 on Twitter UPDATED:   11/19/2014 11:11:33 PM EST
The York City School Board, faced once again with hours of comment from community members who urged them not to turn district schools into charters, voted to table the idea to get more information on a proposed contract with Charter Schools USA.  The move came with conditions listed by the board, including that meetings be held with the nonprofit charter board and district recovery officer, a revised contract be submitted and that the matter come up for a vote again no later than Dec. 17.
Board president Margie Orr said the board should only vote after a proper review.
"We need to objectively and logically analyze the proposal but temper it with heart since we are guiding the educational future of our city of York children," she said, reading from a document. "The School District of the City of York board needs to have clear and convincing evidence that this agreement is in best interest of York City community now and for the future."

Study into consolidating York County school districts' central office to be released
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com on November 19, 2014 at 6:55 PM
With skyrocketing pension and health care costs, a delegation of York County House members decided to call for a study to look into the cost savings that could be derived by consolidating the administrative operations of 15 school districts in their county.
The results of that study done by the state's Independent Fiscal Office will be revealed at 6 p.m. on Dec. 16 in the cafeteria of the York County School of Technology, 2179 South Queen St., York. Retiring Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, who was among the six lawmakers who requested the study, will moderate the event.  The study looks only at consolidating the administrative functions in all districts located within the county except for West Shore School District, which stretches into Cumberland County.
http://www.pennlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/11/study_into_consolidating_york.html

Top donors to hash out union contracts with Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Wolf
Trib Live By Melissa Daniels Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
When Gov.-elect Tom Wolf negotiates Pennsylvania's largest public sector union contracts in 2015, his administration will sit across the table from some of his largest campaign supporters.
The national chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees gave Wolf's campaign $500,000, as did the political arm of Pennsylvania's Service Employees International Union. The state's AFSCME Council 13 donated $54,000. AFSCME and SEIU contracts for state employees will expire June 30.  The Commonwealth Foundation, a free-market think tank based in Harrisburg, said donations of $5,000 or more from unions to Wolf's campaign total more than $2.7 million, citing figures from Public Source. Nathan Benefield, vice president of policy analysis of the Commonwealth Foundation, said donations don't mean there's a “quid pro quo,” but four of the top 10 donors to Wolf's campaign were unions.
Passing Rate Declines by 20% as NY State Uses New Certification Exams for Teachers
New York Times By ELIZABETH A. HARRIS NOV. 19, 2014
New York State saw a significant drop in the number of candidates who passed teacher certification tests last year as tougher exams were introduced, state officials said on Wednesday, portraying the results as a long-needed move to raise the level of teaching and the performance ofteacher preparation schools.  In the 2013-14 school year, 11,843 teachers earned their certification in New York, a drop of about 20 percent from the previous two years.
Candidates without certification cannot teach in public schools, and education schools with high failure rates may eventually lose their accreditation.



“Circuit Rider” Lawrence Feinberg to visit LMSD on 11/25 to speak about PA school funding
Lower Merion School District Announcements Posted: November 18, 2014
With school funding a hot issue in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, an alliance of state education leaders is engaged in a campaign to build support for changing the way the state pays its school bills. During the yearlong campaign, 11 "circuit riders" will attempt to build support among current superintendents, business managers, and school board members for a movement for education-funding changes.  Please join us on Tuesday, November 25 at 8:30 AM as "circuit rider" Lawrence Feinberg will speak at the District's Legislative Committee meeting in the District Administration Building Board Room.
Click here for a recent article on philly.com about the circuit riders.

Public Issues Forums of Centre County | What should be the goal of public schools?
BY DAVID HUTCHINSON State College - Centre Daily Times November 8, 2014 
What: “What is the 21st-century Mission for our Public Schools?”
When: 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 20
Where: Fairmount Building, 411 S. Fraser St., State College
The articles linked on this page offer several perspectives on one of the most important issues we have to wrestle with as residents: What is the goal of a public education?
To prepare students for the workforce?
To prepare them as residents, as Ben Franklin initially proposed? Or to help students discover and develop their individual talents?
What is the experience of our students? What do they think we should do differently? This is your invitation to join that conversation.

Join the Listening Tour hosted by PSBA as it follows the Basic Ed Funding Commission to each location this fall
The next tour stop will be on Thursday, Nov 20, 2014 from 6-8 p.m., at Hambright Elementary School in Lancaster. Click here to register for the FREE event. Other tour dates will be announced as the BEF Commission finalizes the dates and locations for its hearings. The comments and suggestions from the Listening Tour will be compiled and submitted to the Commission early next year. Members also are encouraged to complete a form online allowing you to "Tell your story" if you are not able to attend one of the BEF Listening Tours.

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 www.pascd.org

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.