Search results for: "commonweal"

Most of the time, we engage in covil discourse, even with people whom we know are rigid ideologues whose minds are blted closed. but every once in a while, someone opens a window and yells out, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.” And they say what’s really on their mind.

Rep. Brian Sims did that in Pennsylvania recently. He called out the conservative Comminwealth Foundation after he received a mailing from it. He wrote on his Facebook page:

“See, I already know that you are all racist, homophobic, sexist, classist, ableist, anti-American, bigots whose single driving motivation is to secure the wealth of your multimillionaire donors at the expense of every single working person and family in the Commonwealth. See, I told you I already get it so you don’t need to waste money sending me proof…actually go ahead and waste that money!”

Thanks to reader GST for bringing this important story to our attention: a court in Pennsylvania ruled that the School Reform Commission may not cancel the contract of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. This is a battle that has gone on for two years, as the unelected School Reform Commission looks for ways to cut the budget. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia schools are suffering from former Governor Tom Corbett’s deep budget cuts, and the Legislature has refused to fulfill its responsibility to the children of Philadelphia.

 

Commonwealth Court judges have handed a win to the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, ruling that the School Reform Commission cannot throw out the teachers’ union’s contract and impose new terms.

 

The decision was confirmed by Jerry Jordan, PFT president, on Thursday morning.

 

“This is a very big victory,” Jordan said.

 

After nearly two years of negotiations, the district had moved on Oct. 6 to cancel the teachers’ contract and impose health-benefits changes that would save the cash-strapped system $54 million annually, officials said.
In the decision, judges said that neither the state Public School Code nor the Legislature have expressly given the SRC the power to cancel its teachers’ contract.

 

“This Court is cognizant of the dire financial situation which the Districtcurrently faces and the SRC’s extensive efforts to achieve the overall goal of properlyand adequately meeting the educational needs of the students,” Judge Patricia A. McCullough wrote for the court. “There have been numerous difficult decisions that the SRC has been forced to make in an effort to overcome these economic hurdles, including a one-third reduction in staff and theclosing of 31 schools in recent years.”

 

But the law does not give the SRC the power to cancel a collective bargaining agreement.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/school_files/District-cant-impose-contract-court-rules.html#GVqP31QcrCMOdFmZ.99

Stuart Egan is a high school teacher in Clemmons, North Carolina. This letter is addressed to a key Republican who is leading the charge to shift more public funds to privately managed charter schools.

This is an open letter to Sen. Jerry Tillman, R- Randolph County and the Majority Whip in the NC State Senate. This letter concerns his amendment to House Bill 334 to remove oversight of charter schools from DPI and his primary sponsorship of Senate Bill 456, a bill to forward more public money to charter schools.
Sen. Tillman,

Your crusade to create a lucrative charter school industry at the hands of public schools again has reached new heights of irrationality and hubris, and it is indicative of an exclusionary attitude when it comes to serving the people of North Carolina.

I am not surprised that you as a leader of the GOP caucus in the North Carolina General Assembly would spearhead a campaign to keep privatizing education in North Carolina, but the fact that you are a retired public school educator pushing this agenda makes me think that your commitment to provide a quality education to all of our state’s children simply vanished when you took an “oath” as a politician.

As reported on July 23rd in Lindsay Wagner’s news story entitled “Tillman’s bill impacts charter school oversight”, you championed an amendment to House Bill 334 that now places oversight of charter schools under the care of the State Board of Education and out of the Department of Public Instruction’s jurisdiction.

What this does is essentially place the responsibility of monitoring charter schools into the hands of an entity that is not prepared for that task. When pressed on the matter, you expressed that you intended to allocate funds to allow the SBE to hire personnel to monitor charter schools. Really? Spend more money on charters by creating a situation where you can protect them from checks and balances? This sounds more like a way for you to fashion a favorable situation for new charter schools to not only operate more freely, but be less transparent.

Ms. Wagner also detailed the abrupt manner in which you fielded questions from other legislators who were concerned with the surreptitious manner in which you operated. You stated that “DPI was never in love … with charter schools.” By whose standards is this true? Yours? Is it because DPI has been able to identify indiscretions with many charter schools that needed to be corrected?

When Sen. Josh Stein (D-Wake) confronted you for more clarification about why your amendment was actually beneficial to children of North Carolina, you hid behind a curtain of illogical clichés and glittering generalities. Sen. Stein asked in what ways DPI had inhibited charter school creation and you shot back, “I’m not going to give you the details. A good lawyer would never do that.” That’s odd. You are a lawmaker. You should produce details. In fact, good lawyers very much pay attention to details.

When further pressed to offer details as to why DPI should be divested of charter school oversight, you said, “We don’t air dirty laundry here.” Senator, if there is enough dirty laundry to create the need for your amendment, then you probably need to show everyone the stains. And where and when should this “dirty laundry” get aired? It seems like you were in the laundromat already.

You were in a meeting specifically to address House Bill 334 and you brought forth an amendment which totally changes the scope of how charter schools are managed and then you bullishly refused to explain yourself. If your reasoning is so sound, then why did you not clarify it? When people refuse to answer questions that require thoughtful answers, then it usually means that one is either hiding some secret agenda or really has no logical reasoning whatsoever, or both. I am thinking that it is both because this is just the last of a series of actions that have shown you bulldozing the public schools to create more charter schools without oversight.

A June 4th report by Laura Leslie for WRAL entitled “Senate Education Leader blasts charter chief” detailed your outburst in a meeting concerning why DPI refused to grant charters for many new charter school applications. Reading your comments makes you sound like a playground bully who did not get his way. The first few sentences of the report used phrases like “angry outburst” and “public dressing-down” to describe your tirade. Joel Medley, the State Office of Charter Schools director, actually explained to you the reasoning for the denial of some charters. He did not seem to hide behind some political agenda. He was willing to air dirty laundry for the sake of the state’s welfare. No lawyer needs to explain that.

Let’s go back a few weeks. I now refer to the April 28th edition of the Winston-Salem Journal, when education writer Arika Herron reported that you proposed a bill (SB 456) which “would send more money to charter schools” by taking more from traditional public schools in next year’s budget (“NC Senate bill would send more money to charter schools”). I have to admit; at least you are consistent.

It appears that you publicly ignore that charter schools can practice exclusion and in many cases divert public funds to unregulated entities. Charter schools are not required to offer transportation or provide free/reduced lunches. They can selectively limit enrollment and hire non-certified educators. Most charter schools simply lack transparency. And a further consequence is that SB 456 targets poorer people because you introduced a bill that would exclude more poor people (who still pay taxes) from the benefits of a quality education that you perceive only charter schools can give.

Sen. Tillman, you do not seem to care if your wish to expand charter schools actually widens the income gap that so much grips our state. You made that perfectly clear on Feb. 23rd, 2011, when you were shown on a video posted by Rob Schofield on the ncpolicywatch.org website. You fielded a question that expressed concern over whether lower-income kids could have equal chances to attend charter schools. Your response was indicative of the exclusionary attitude that your proposed bill embraces.

You said, “It’s certainly okay if they don’t go there [the charter school]. They can go to their public schools. They can get their free and reduced price lunch. And they can do that. But the charter school itself and the commission must decide what they can do and when they can do it financially. And that’s where we are now and that’s where we’re gonna’ be and I’m certainly for that.”

With a response like that, how can you claim to represent all North Carolinians? The fact is that no matter the socioeconomic background of the students, traditional schools do succeed when proper resources are allotted (money, textbooks, time, respect, etc.). When teachers have the support of the public AND the legislature, any school can show student growth. However, your statement leads one to think that you are promoting exclusivity based on income levels.
And this is not the first time that you have alienated those who suffer from poverty.

You were a primary sponsor for the Voting Reform Act in the 2013-2014 sessions, leading the charge to fight non-existent voter fraud in our state by fast-tracking a voter ID law that was purposefully constructed to keep many people’s voices from being heard, especially minority and low-income citizens. If these people are silenced, then how can they democratically affect outcomes in elections that may sanction positive change for their children and grandchildren including issues surrounding public education? You seem to be denying them the very right that you have sworn to protect and uphold as an elected official.

As a public school teacher, I am amazed that you continue to belittle the very public schools that you yourself once served as a teacher, coach, principal and assistant superintendent – for over 40 years! You are drawing a pension for being a public school retiree!

But now you are a seven-term state senator and a willing participant in transforming North Carolina from what was considered the most progressive state in the Southeast into what has regressed into a stagnated commonwealth ruled by reactionary policies.

And what seems most egregious is that you are the co-chairman of the Senate’s Education Committee. Your decisions impact ALL STUDENTS! You have a direct influence in how schools are funded, what they can teach, and how they are measured. Surely you remember the Jeb Bush inspired letter-grading system you helped implement that found most “failing” schools in North Carolina resided in areas where there were concentrated pockets of poverty.

As a public official you are under oath to uphold the state’s constitution which ensures all students a quality public education. Instead you are compromising all students in traditional schools while taking more of the valuable money and resources allocated for them to give to charter schools that do not have to abide by the same regulations.

If you truly want to positively impact public education, then invest more in pre-K programs and expand Medicaid so more kids come to school healthy and prepared. Reinstitute the Teaching Fellows program to keep our bright future teachers here in North Carolina. Then give decent raises to veteran teachers so they finish their careers here instead of in other states.

Real leaders take away obstacles that impede those who are served. You are creating more.

Stuart Egan, NBCT
West Forsyth High School
Clemmons, NC

Fairtest reports that George Washington University has grown the long list of universities that no longer require students to take the SAT or ACT for admission. These universities recognize that students’ grade-point-average over four years is more predictive of college success than any standardized test.

GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY GOES TEST-OPTIONAL;
MOVEMENT OF SCHOOLS TO DE-EMPHASIZE ACT/SAT ACCELERATES
WITH 40 DROPPING ACT/SAT REQUIREMENTS IN PAST TWO YEARS
Today’s announcement by George Washington University that it will no longer require most applicants to submit ACT or SAT test scores is the latest example of a surge of schools dropping admissions testing requirements. According to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), 40 colleges and universities have adopted test-optional policies since spring 2013.
Like George Washington, many of the institutions going test-optional in the past two years are among the most competitive in the U.S. The list includes Beloit, Brandeis, Bryn Mawr, Drake, Hood, Kalamazoo, Sienna and Wesleyan. A growing number of public universities, such as Eastern Connecticut, Monmouth State, Old Dominion, Plymouth State, Rowan, Temple, and Virginia Commonwealth, have also eliminated ACT or SAT score requirements for all or many applicants
FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer explained, “The test-optional surge recognizes that no test—not the SAT, old or new, nor the ACT – is needed for high-quality admissions. Many independent studies and practical experiences have shown that test-optional admission enhances both academic excellence and diversity.”
FairTest’s list of ACT/SAT-optional schools (at http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional) now includes more than 180 schools ranked in the top tiers of their respective categories. More than one-third of top-ranked national liberal arts colleges have test-optional policies.
– regular updates for FairTest’s chronology of test-optional adoptions and list of top-tier schools with test-optional or test-flexible policies are online at http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional

A regular commenter on the blog who calls him/herself “Democracy” posted these insightful thoughts about the state of “leadership” and its willingness to follow the corporate reform script instead of standing up for sound policies and practices that promote good education:

 

 

 

Part 1

 

I’ve been commenting on this blog for a while, lamenting the state of “leadership” in pubic education.

 

The fate of Joshua Starr in Montgomery County, MD is a good example. Starr was actually trying to bring more equity to the system, he wanted to de-emphasize testing, he opposed merit pay, and he was collaborative, generally. A teacher rep said Starr made sure teachers were “included in the decision-making process for most major decisions.” Still, Starr seemed to favor the Common Core, and in an interview with NPR he bragged about the county’s “SAT and AP scores.” Sigh.

 

Starr’s replacement was to have been Andrew Houlihan of Houston, who later withdrew his name from consideration.

 

Houlihan’s dissertation was on the use of data. He has described himself as “a big data person. I love using data to make decisions.” Except, apparently, Houlihan never really understood what the “data” said. He bragged about an Arnold Foundation grant that, he said, was “transforming” the recruitment of teachers. And he bragged about Houston’s merit pay program – ASPIRE – that, he said, rewarded “our most effective educators” for “accelerating student progress.”

 

The Arnold Foundation is a right-wing organization founded by a hedge-funder who resists accountability and transparency in derivatives markets but calls for them in education. Its executive director, Denis Cabrese was former chief of staff to DIck Armey, the Texas conservative who now heads up FreedomWorks, the group that helps to pull the Tea Party strings and gets funding from the billionaire arch-conservative Koch brothers.

 

Fairfax County recently hired Karen Garza, who was also in Houston. Garza led the ASPIRE program, a pay plan that was funded (in part) by the Broad, Gates and Dell foundations, the very same groups that fund corporate-style “reform” and that support the Common Core. And while researchers point out the dangers of value-added models, noting that they “cannot disentangle the many influences on student progress,” Garza said they were “proven methodology” that are both “valid and reliable.”

 

Fairfax and Montgomery, by the way, are considered two of the better school systems, nationally.

 

Part 2

 

Meanwhile, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS) recently concluded its Spring conference, titled “Inspiring Leadership for Innovation.” The conference was focused on “college and career readiness,” “leadership skills essential to changing school cultures,” and “superintendent success stories.” The featured speakers were Jean Claude Brizard and Marc Tucker.

 

Brizard has been a failure as a superintendent in Rochester and Chicago. According to a columnist who followed him closely, Brizard “engaged in gross misrepresentations of data and sometimes outright lied. He made promises he didn’t keep. He did one thing while saying another.” As to his two failed superintendencies, Brizard admits that “there were some mistakes made.”

 

Marc Tucker says that he wants high-stakes tests in grades 4, 8 and 10, and “the last exams would be set at an empirically determined college- and work-ready standard.” Additionally, “every other off year, the state would administer tests in English and mathematics beginning in grade 2, and, starting in middle school, in science too, on a sampling basis. Vulnerable groups would be oversampled to make sure that populations of such students in the schools would be accurately measured.” Tucker wants all schools systems to take PISA, because he thinks that the test scores of 15-year-olds are somehow tied tightly to economic growth and competitiveness. You know, jobs.

 

Sigh. Tucker just keeps regurgitating the same-old song, all over again: college and career “readiness.” To Tucker, that’s why public education exists. He says nary a word about citizenship.

 

And what about those jobs? The Bureau of Labor Statistics points out that most new jobs created in the United States over the next decade will NOT require postsecondary education. These are jobs like personal care aides, retail clerks, nursing assistants, janitors and maids, construction laborers, freight and stock movers, secretaries, carpenters, and fast food preparers.

 

http://www.bls.gov/ooh/most-new-jobs.htm

 

In addition to its Spring fling, VASS selected its 2016 superintendent of the year. While the award comes from VASS, a VASS-selected panel –– comprised of the state superintendent of instruction, and the heads of the Virginia Education Association, state PTA and state school boards association, the state ASCD, and the directors of the state associations of secondary and elementary school principals –– picked the winner. In other words, the top education “leaders” in the state –– those who should be familiar with research and evidence –– were responsible for choosing the state’s “best” superintendent.

 

A few years back, this recently-named “superintendent of the year” forced a test-score-tracking software program called SchoolNet on teachers. She was advised against it because of its problems, but she went ahead anyway. It ended up being a $2 million-plus failure. SchoolNet was later bought by Pearson. The superintendent is still withholding 268 SchoolNet-related emails from public scrutiny, claiming they are “exempt” from the Freedom of Information Act.

 

 

Part 3

 

This VASS-award-winner’s school division sent out what it called a “leadership” survey several years back. It was a skewed-question survey designed to produce pre-determined results. But it did allow for comments. And they were instructive. They included comments such as “..this is the worst leadership the county has ever had,” and “Honesty, integrity and fairness are lacking,” and “…teachers have very little voice, and “…the system does not care about me or most other employees as individuals, and “county schools leaders seem to be increasingly inept and far-removed from the day-to-day realities of public education.” Again and again and again, commenters said these things about the top “leadership:”

 

“does not listen to teachers…”
“does not ask what people think before it accepts major policies…”
* “…teachers are not listened to…our opinions have been requested and ignored…”
* “…when I offer my opinion, i has been dismissed.”
* “l..leaders seek input, but then usually, disregard the opinions of those not in agreement with the administration…decisions are made top-down before input is received.”
* “decision making is so top-down — stakeholders are seldom consulted…”
* “…decisions have already been made…”
* “…teachers feel that their professional judgment is not valued…”
* “most administrator are arrogant…and remove themselves with any type of collaborative dialogue with teachers.”
* “…they do not want to hear complaints, or you are labeled as a troublemaker…”
* “the county asks its employees for input but these requests are superficial…the decision have already been made by the people ‘downtown’…”
* “you ask people to think critically but we must toe the party line…”
* “We are not asked what we think…it is common knowledge here that you are not allowed to address concerns that may be negative…”
“I see few examples of teachers being involved in decision making.”

 

A blue ribbon resources utilization committee recommended a climate survey of the schools years earlier, noting that one had been done repeatedly in county government. Teachers asked for a climate survey in the schools too, and even offered to help write one. A climate survey still hasn’t been offered.

 

This “superintendent of the year” forced STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) “academies” on all of the county high schools. The original claim was that research showed a STEM “crisis” in America, and that this move was “visionary.” Norm Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin – which has laid of thousands of STEM workers – was invited to the schools to make his STEM spiel. When asked for the “research,” the superintendent couldn’t produce any. There’s a reason for that. The research shows there is no “crisis,” no “shortage.” In fact, there’s a glut.

For example, Beryl Lieff Benderly wrote this stunning statement recently in the Columbia Journalism Review (see: http://www.cjr.org/reports/what_scientist_shortage.php?page=all ):

“Leading experts on the STEM workforce, have said for years that the US produces ample numbers of excellent science students. In fact, according to the National Science Board’s authoritative publication Science and Engineering Indicators 2008, the country turns out three times as many STEM degrees as the economy can absorb into jobs related to their majors.”

 

When VASS selected this “superintendent of the year” for 2016, it noted certain “indicators of success.” What were they? It cited an increase in the “number of students enrolled in AP courses” and SAT scores that were higher than the state average. Never mind that the SAT is not tied to the school curriculum and that this school division is one of the most affluent in the state. There is no better predictor of SAT score than family income.

 

The research on SAT – and ACT – and AP courses finds that they are mostly hype. The SAT and ACT just don’t do a good job of predicting success in college or life. Moreover, research finds that when demographic characteristics are controlled for, the oft-made claims made for AP disappear. In the ‘ToolBox Revisited’ (2006), a statistical analysis of the factors contributing to the earning of a bachelor’s degree, Adelman found that Advanced Placement did not reach the “threshold level of significance.” Other research finds that while “students see AP courses on their transcripts as the ticket ensuring entry into the college of their choice…there is a shortage of evidence about the efficacy, cost, and value of these programs.”

 

This is the current state of public education’s “leadership.”

 

Unlike the Allstate commercial, I don’t think we’re in ‘good hands.’

Good news–no, great news–from York City, Pennsylvania! Because of the district’s fiscal problems, exacerbated by state budget cuts (a designed crisis), the state appointed a receiver who wanted to turn the entire district over to a for-profit charter chain. A lower court upheld the state’s decision. However, an appeals court overturned the state takeover. This fortunate event reflects the change at the top, as Governor Tom Corbett was defeated by Tom Wolf. Corbett was bent on budget-cutting and privatization. Wolf is not. Corbett and his receiver were set to hand all the schools in York City over to Florida-based Charter Schools USA. That won’t happen.

Ending almost five months of uncertainty about who will control the York City School District, an appeals court in Harrisburg on Wednesday put a stop to the state’s push to appoint a receiver, someone who would’ve had almost all of the school board’s powers.
The order filed in Commonwealth Court throws out a judge’s previous decision appointing David Meckley as the district’s receiver, along with the appeals of that ruling. That comes after the attorneys for the state, district and other sides met earlier this week after a hearing and filed an application asking the court to end the case.
On Dec. 1, the Pennsylvania Department of Education filed a petition in the York County Court of Common Pleas asking a judge to appoint Meckley as the district’s receiver. As receiver, Meckley, the district’s state-appointed chief recovery officer, would’ve had all of the school board’s powers – with the exception of levying taxes.
The state had argued that the York City School Board did not follow Meckley’s instructions, including his request to turn the district’s buildings into charters. The judge granted the state’s petition to appoint Meckley as receiver at the end of the December, which the district almost immediately appealed.
Meckley resigned as chief recovery officer on March 13, saying he could not move the district forward as Gov. Tom Wolf was opposed to turning its buildings into charters.
Carol Saylor, who previously worked as a superintendent of a school district in Lancaster County and has almost 40 years of experience in education, has since been appointed to replace Meckley as chief recovery officer.

Andrea Gabor asks the million-dollar question: Why did Massachusetts, the most successful state in the nation on the National Assessment of Progress, drop its own finely honed standards and replace them with the untested Common Core standards? On one level, the answer is obvious: It wanted the money that come from Race to the Top. But at another level, this decision is not only puzzling but downright distressing. With the outstanding record of the students and teachers of Massachusetts, why in the world would policymakers take a chance on changing its successful system of standards and assessments? Of course, the $250 million that the state won is impressive, but no doubt the mandates that accompanied Race to the Top money very likely cost more than $250 million. From afar, it looks irresponsible. Even stranger is that the business community continues to complain about student performance when the performance of the public schools in Massachusetts is not only first in the nation but near the top of world rankings. What gives?

 

Is this just disruption for the sake of disruption?

 

Gabor writes:

 

Now the Massachusetts reforms are once again under assault by Common-Core enthusiasts. Strangely, many of those attacking the reforms are its erstwhile defenders. In February, the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, a leading advocacy group for the 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act, issued the first of several reports that found, or are expected to find, the Bay State standards and an accompanying high-stakes test, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System or MCAS, wanting when compared to the still-untested “Common-Core aligned” PARCC tests (PARCC stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.)

 

“The current MCAS high school tests do not identify students who are college- and career-ready, and they do not contain the right content to measure college- and career-readiness,” concludes the MBAE study.

 

By contrast, the MBAE cautiously endorses the PARCC test: “As we are preparing this report in early 2015, the PARCC tests hold the promise of being a good indicator of college- and career-readiness.” (Emphasis added.)

 

In response, researchers from the Pioneer Institute, a market-oriented Massachusetts think thank, argue that money, once again, is playing an outsized role in the latest anti-MCAS research. The turncoats, according to Pioneer, include MBAE, which was cofounded by the aforementioned Paul Reville, as well as the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Achieve Inc., both national Common-Core advocates. What these organizations all have in common is that they have receive funding– lots of it—from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which also invested over $200 million in developing the Common Core.

 

The most recent Massachusetts skirmish over the Common Core is no coincidence. This year, Massachusetts elementary and middle schools had the choice of taking the PARCC test or the MCAS. In the fall, Massachusetts will make a final decision about whether to ditch the MCAS entirely in favor of PARCC, at a time when half the states that initially agreed to adopt the Common-Core aligned test have since backed out.

 

In their OpEd, Charles Chieppo and Jamie Gass, detail the tangled web of relationships that tie the critics of the Massachusetts reforms to the Gates foundation, the PARCC tests and the Common Core. The OpEd is particularly scathing about the role of the MBAE:

 

“The Mass. Business Alliance study’s credibility was further compromised by the fact that its author is an adviser to PARCC. An earlier report from the Alliance — written by the senior education adviser to the giant testing company Pearson, which is near the top of a long list of entities that stand to gain from the switch to Common Core — was so bereft of intellectual integrity that it lifted an entire purported “case study” from The Boston Globe without attribution.”

 

However, the winner of the “conflict-of-interest derby,” according to Chieppo and Gass, is Teach Plus, a Boston-based national education-reform organization, which published a pro-PARCC report, “Massachusetts Teachers Examine PARCC“, in March:

 

The group recently released a study in which 23 of its fellows conclude that the commonwealth should ditch MCAS for PARCC. Teach Plus has received over $17 million from the Gates Foundation, including stipends for each of those 23 fellows.

 

The question now is whether Massachusetts will stick with its own test, MCAS, or whether it will switch to PARCC.

 

After each administration of MCAS, the questions and answers are released for public review. This is not the case with PARCC.

 

PARCC, by contrast, is a locked box, entirely controlled by Pearson, the testing giant that is developing the PARCC tests. It isn’t designed to be improved by educators over time, nor to help educators use the test to improve what or how they teach.

 

For now, at least in Massachusetts, the war over the Common Core will continue for at least a few months. Fordham Institute is expected to produce a study this summer examining the MCAS’s alignment to the Common Core; if its earlier support for the PARCC test is any indication, it too is likely to find against MCAS.

 

In Massachusetts, a final decision will be made by Mitchell Chester, the current education commissioner. Chester, it must be noted, also chairs PARCC’s governing board.

 

There you have it, folks. Conflicts of interest abound. Lots of money riding on the decision. And the person who will make the final decision as to which test will be used just happens to be the chair of the PARCC governing board. What do you think will happen?

 

 

The “tax credit” program in Pennsylvania is a backdoor way of spending public money for children who enroll in private and religious schools.

What does the State Constitution say?

Pennsylvania Constitution Article III Section § 15.

Public school money not available to sectarian schools.

No money raised for the support of the public schools of the Commonwealth shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school.

“Religious Freedom
Section 3.

“All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship or to maintain any ministry against his consent; no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship.”

This latter provision has been cited by the state courts to prohibit public funding of religious schools.

Isn’t it funny how Republicans claim to be in favor of strict construction of the Constitution, except when they don’t?

Isn’t it funny how so many Republican state legislators belong to ALEC, which is trying to obliterate local school boards and local control.

After four years of deep budget cuts to public education, Pennsylvania’s New Democratic Governor Tom Wolf has proposed large increases in school funding, coupled with property tax reductions. However, the legislature is controlled by Republicans, and they oppose his plan.

Here are some articles from the website of the Keystone State Education Coalition, a valuable source of information about the state’s education issues.

How would Gov. Wolf’s proposed tax shifts affect you? Here are 8 scenarios

Penn Live By Teresa Bonner | tbonner@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on March 06, 2015 at 6:46 PM, updated March 07, 2015 at 6:59 AM

Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget is proposing to raise the state’s personal income tax from 3.07 percent to 3.7 percent, increase the sales tax from 6 to 6.6 percent and broaden the number of items to which it will apply, and use the money raised from those tax increases to reduce school property taxes. His administration said most families will pay less under his plan, with the average family receiving a net tax decrease of about 13 percent. But the determination of who gains and who loses depends on several factors – income, whether you own or rent your home, which school district you live in, and how much you spend on taxable items each year.

To try to give a clearer idea of what effect the tax plan could have on an individual, PennLive calculated how large a reduction in homeowners in different school districts would see in their school property tax homestead exemption.

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2015/03/how_would_wolfs_proposed_tax_s.html

Wolf Administration Denounces Senate Republicans ‘Just Saying No’ To Helping Schools

Governor Tom Wolf’s website 03/06/2015

Harrisburg, PA – The Wolf Administration today denounced a letter sent by the Senate Republican leadership to school districts across the state. The letter warned district superintendents to lower their expectations about the levels of funding to be provided by the commonwealth in the 2015-2016 budget. On Tuesday, Governor Wolf presented a budget proposal calling for the restoration of massive cuts made over the past four years to Pennsylvania’s struggling schools. The Senate Republicans’ response rejected this push for a historic reinvestment in education.

“Unfortunately, the Republican leadership is just saying no to challenging the status quo by putting forth the same old Harrisburg obstruction instead of real ideas to help Pennsylvania’s struggling public schools,” Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan said. “Governor Wolf has proposed a bold and expansive plan to reinvest in our schools and our economic future. The Governor called for robust debate and collaboration in his budget address. This is the opposite of that. This is a political stunt.” In contrast to the negative expectations being set by Republican leaders, Governor Wolf’s budget sets the table for historic investments in education. Over the last four years schools across Pennsylvania have suffered from $1 billion cuts that led to massive layoffs, huge property tax increases, and the elimination of valuable programs. The data also shows that as education classroom funding fell, so did student scores in reading and math.

http://www.governor.pa.gov/Pages/Pressroom_details.aspx?newsid=1593#.VPpmoPnF_wq

How would Gov. Wolf’s proposed tax shifts affect you? Here are 8 scenarios

Penn Live By Teresa Bonner | tbonner@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on March 06, 2015 at 6:46 PM, updated March 07, 2015 at 6:59 AM

Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget is proposing to raise the state’s personal income tax from 3.07 percent to 3.7 percent, increase the sales tax from 6 to 6.6 percent and broaden the number of items to which it will apply, and use the money raised from those tax increases to reduce school property taxes. His administration said most families will pay less under his plan, with the average family receiving a net tax decrease of about 13 percent. But the determination of who gains and who loses depends on several factors – income, whether you own or rent your home, which school district you live in, and how much you spend on taxable items each year.

To try to give a clearer idea of what effect the tax plan could have on an individual, PennLive calculated how large a reduction in homeowners in different school districts would see in their school property tax homestead exemption.

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2015/03/how_would_wolfs_proposed_tax_s.html

“About 400,000 Philadelphians live in poverty. That’s close to the total population of Pittsburgh and Allentown combined – the state’s second- and third-largest cities. It includes nearly four out of every 10 children in Philadelphia.”

Reducing poverty would benefit all Philadelphians

PHIL GOLDSMITH, FOR THE INQUIRER OSTED: Sunday, March 1, 2015, 3:01 AM

Phil Goldsmith has been managing director of Philadelphia and chief executive officer of the Philadelphia School District.
Several years ago, I offered to give a new resident of Philadelphia a tour of the city. She was grateful but declined. Having lived in the suburbs, she said she knew Philadelphia quite well. After some back and forth, it was clear what she knew was Center City. My tour included the other Philadelphia: the good, the bad, and the ugly. One Philadelphia is vibrant. New condos, ample restaurants, an exciting cultural scene, fashionable shops – something for every generation from millennials to baby boomers. The energy is palpable as you walk the streets – safely.

But there is the other Philadelphia, where poverty lives and gives birth to unemployment, crime, high dropout rates, and, worst of all, hopelessness. For many people, this part of Philadelphia is out of sight and out of mind.

http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/20150301_Reducing_poverty_would_benefit_all_Philadelphians.html#vDV8pVZDcTolhTHW.99

So what does Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget mean for the average Pennsylvanian living in the Philadelphia area? Let me introduce you to two of my friends.

http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/item/79291-what-happens-to-your-taxes-under-wolfs-budget-plan

“About 400,000 Philadelphians live in poverty. That’s close to the total population of Pittsburgh and Allentown combined – the state’s second- and third-largest cities. It includes nearly four out of every 10 children in Philadelphia.”

Reducing poverty would benefit all Philadelphians

PHIL GOLDSMITH, FOR THE INQUIRER OSTED: Sunday, March 1, 2015, 3:01 AM

Phil Goldsmith has been managing director of Philadelphia and chief executive officer of the Philadelphia School District.

Several years ago, I offered to give a new resident of Philadelphia a tour of the city. She was grateful but declined. Having lived in the suburbs, she said she knew Philadelphia quite well. After some back and forth, it was clear what she knew was Center City. My tour included the other Philadelphia: the good, the bad, and the ugly. One Philadelphia is vibrant. New condos, ample restaurants, an exciting cultural scene, fashionable shops – something for every generation from millennials to baby boomers. The energy is palpable as you walk the streets – safely.

But there is the other Philadelphia, where poverty lives and gives birth to unemployment, crime, high dropout rates, and, worst of all, hopelessness. For many people, this part of Philadelphia is out of sight and out of mind.

http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/20150301_Reducing_poverty_would_benefit_all_Philadelphians.html#vDV8pVZDcTolhTHW.99

Is it time to put the brakes on the number of standardized tests that students must take? In this article, Pennsylvania legislators say that the graduation rate will decline if state testing requirements are left in place.

“By 2017, in order to graduate high school in Pennsylvania, students must pass three state standardized tests: algebra, literature and biology.

Based on most recent student scores — especially in biology — if trends continue, Pennsylvania will soon see far fewer of its students walking down the aisle in cap and gown.

“In order to preempt that reality, state Rep. Mike Tobash (R-Dauphin County) has introduced a bill that would repeal the state-mandated graduation requirement, leaving the decision to local school districts.

“The children of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, they need to learn, they need to be assessed, but when we’ve gone so far that we end up handcuffing our educational system with really an overwhelming amount of standardized assessment,” said Tobash. “We need to stop and put the brakes on here, take a look at it.”

“The bill would also halt the creation and implementation of the seven other subject-specific Keystone exams called for by existing state law.

Tobash, who testified on the matter at a hearing at Philadelphia City Hall in November, is skeptical that the tests are actually judging students on material that’s applicable to modern workforce.”

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