EPLC Education Notebook

Monday, April 4, 2005

  • On Wednesday, the House Education Committee passed legislation ( House Bill 253) that requires the state Department of Education to post on its web site the names of teachers whose teaching certificates have been suspended or revoked because they were convicted of a crime. The PA Department of Education already posts on its web site information very similar to that required by the legislation. The Committee also passed House Bill 894, which exempts retired teachers who return to school service from professional development requirements if they work less than 180 days. Retirees who return to teaching for more than 180 days would be required to fulfill the state's continuing education requirements. Finally, the Committee passed House Bill 377, which reduces the compulsory school age for children in the Philadelphia School District from age eight to age six. The change would not apply to homeschooled children. All three bills await further consideration by the full House.

  • The National Education Data Partnership has launched a clearinghouse of education data that allows users to search for information about their local schools and run customized comparisons with other districts across the state. The SchoolMatters web site includes information about student achievement, education spending, community demographics, school environment and more. Searchable and comparable data is available at the state, district and school level. The site also provides information about outperforming school districts - districts that consistently outperform demographically similar districts. SchoolMatters is a partnership of the Council of Chief State School Officers, Standard & Poor's School Evaluation Services, Achieve, Inc., and the CELT Corporation and is funded by The Broad Foundation and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Access this data-rich tool at www.schoolmatters.com.

  • Issues PA, a nonpartisan issues resource from the Pennsylvania Economy League, has published a series of issue briefs on early childhood education. The series looks at early childhood research, paying for early care and education, the status of early childhood education in Pennsylvania and how other states are investing in early education. Read more at www.issuespa.net/issues/174/.

  • In Philadelphia, fifth and eighth grade reading and math achievement gains eclipsed the state average between the 2001-02 and 2003-04 school years, while the change in eleventh grade achievement fell slightly below the state average. Pittsburgh also saw increases on state math and reading assessments across all grades tested during the 2001-02 through 2003-04 period. Nationally, student achievement in urban schools is continuing to improve, according to the fifth "Beating the Odds" report from the Council of the Great City Schools. The study found that math and reading achievement is improving for fourth and eighth graders and that, while urban math and reading achievement remains below the national average, achievement gaps appear to be narrowing. For data about the performance of Pennsylvania's cities and changes in Philadelphia's achievement gap, see www.cgcs.org/pdfs/BTOVFINALFULLCOPY3.30.05.pdf.

  • An independent analysis of the reform efforts underway in the Philadelphia School District recommends that the district review its reform strategies to identify the most effective programs and reevaluate programs that have not shown progress. The report from the Accountability Review Council will be available on the district's web site within the next week at www.phila.k12.pa.us. The seven-member Council was established as an independent entity to monitor the district's progress as a condition of the agreement that established the School Reform Commission in December 2001.

  • The Education Commission of the States (ECS) has published a new policy brief that looks at "What's Happening in School and District Leadership." The brief reviews research and literature related to highly qualified teachers, distributed leadership, and school and district culture and examines how states and school districts are addressing these issues. Access the brief at www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/59/36/5936.pdf. ECS recently released another new policy brief that examines "State Education Funding Formulas and Grade Weighting ." Access the brief at www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/59/81/5981.htm.

  • A new book from the Economic Policy Institute says that student achievement at charter schools is no better than achievement at traditional public schools. The EPI study also found that "charter schools do not serve a disproportionate number of economically disadvantaged students" and "challenges the notion that the lower academic performance of students in charter schools relative to peers in regular public schools can be explained by socioeconomic differences in the students served." The analysis is based on test scores of fourth and eighth graders on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and 19 studies of charter schools in 11 states, including Pennsylvania. Learn more about "The Charter School Dust-Up: Examining the Evidence on Enrollment and Achievement" at www.epinet.org/content.cfm/book_charter_school.

  • New research from the Southeast Center for Teaching Quality identifies a clear link between teacher working conditions and student achievement. As part of North Carolina Governor Mike Easley's Teacher Working Condition Initiative, the Center surveyed more than 34,000 teachers and principals in 90 percent of the state's schools; a similar initiative was conducted in South Carolina where more than 15,000 teachers and principals were surveyed. Analysis of survey results found that teachers' perceptions of their working conditions - time, empowerment, professional development, leadership, and facilities and resources - "were powerful predictors" of whether a school made adequate yearly progress and performed well under their state accountability system. The studies also found that working conditions had a major impact on teacher retention. Learn more about the connection between student achievement and teacher working conditions in "Listening to the Experts: A Report on the 2004 South Carolina Teacher Working Conditions Survey" at www.teachingquality.org/resources/pdfs/TWC_SCFinalReport.pdf and "Teacher Working Conditions are Student Learning Conditions: A Report to Governor Mike Easley on the 2004 North Carolina Teacher Working Conditions Survey" at www.teachingquality.org/resources/pdfs/TWC_FullReport.pdf.

  • Researchers from RAND looked at the benefits of providing preschool to all 4-year-olds in California, not just disadvantaged children, and estimate that "the cost of a high quality universal preschool program would be more than offset by benefits such as a drop in the amount of special education provided, less grade repetition among K-12 students, less youth and adult crime, and a more productive state workforce." The study says California would see a $2 to $4 benefit for every dollar invested in preschool and that the state would break even by the time the child reaches age 14. Access the report at www.rand.org/publications/MG/MG349/index.html.

  • This week...The House Finance Committee holds an informational meeting on the Commonwealth Caucus' tax reform proposal on Tuesday. The Senate Education Committee meets to consider Senate Bills 390, 417, and 507 on Wednesday. EPLC's Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program participants attend the Washington Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C. on April 6-9. The PA PTA holds its Annual Convention in Wilkes-Barre on April 8-10. The Second Annual Philadelphia *Teach For America Symposium on Public Education: "No Child Left Behind and the Next Steps in Standards Based Reform" will be held on Saturday April 9th, at the Levy Conference Center, University of Pennsylvania Law School. Register online at www.keysurvey.com/survey/55335/13b6/. For more details on these and other events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

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