EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, August 26, 2005

    Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

  • Governor Ed Rendell has established two commissions to address teacher training and preparing high school students for postsecondary education and the workforce. The Training America's Teacher's Commission will "recommend ways to address challenges associated with teaching in low-income communities; state-of-the art high schools; schools with high immigrant, non-English speaking populations; and practices in early education." Led by Dr. Richard Kneedler, president emeritus of Franklin and Marshall College, the 44-member Commission also will include representatives of higher education, public schools, business and civic communities. The teaching commission is to issue its findings and recommendations by March 2006. The Commission on College and Career Success will review a high school core curriculum that provides all students the skills they need to succeed after graduation. The 18-member Commission will be co-chaired by State System of Higher Education Chancellor Judy Hample and Daniel Fogarty, manager of Management and Organization Development at Carpenter Technologies and a member of the Western Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Board. The Commission is scheduled to issue its report by December 2006.

  • On Thursday, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission approved a Department of Education regulatory change that extends the deadline to apply for the Bridge Certificate Program to July 30, 2006. The Bridge is an alternative path through which special education and middle school teachers may become highly qualified as required by No Child Left Behind. The regulation had been in effect since early July when Gov. Ed Rendell issued an emergency certification to fast-track it through the review process because of an impending deadline.

  • The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has released non-regulatory guidance regarding alternate achievement standards for students with the most severe cognitive disabilities. Find the supplemental guidance at www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/altguidance.doc.

  • The USDE also released revised and expanded non-regulatory guidance for highly qualified teachers and Improving Teacher Quality State Grants (Title II, Part A). Access the guidance at www.ed.gov/programs/teacherqual/legislation.html#guidance.

  • Appointments and Nominations

  • Newly-elected State Representative Karen Beyer (R-Lehigh/Northampton) has been appointed to the House Education Committee for the 2005-06 legislative session. Beyer previously served as a School Director in the Saucon Valley School District.

  • Mary A. Soderberg has been appointed Executive Deputy Secretary of the Budget and Chief Financial Officer of the Commonwealth by Gov. Ed Rendell. Soderberg most recently served as Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration at the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Prior to joining the State System, she was Executive Director of the House Democratic Appropriations Committee from 1992 to 2003.

  • David Donley has been appointed Director of the Governor's Budget Office; Donley had been serving that role in an acting capacity. He has worked in the Governor's Budget Office for more than 10 years.

  • Research and Reports

    Early Childhood Education

  • Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children has released a new report that identifies where Pennsylvania's children stand on 14 indicators of school readiness. The indicators in this first annual report will be used to benchmark progress in school readiness and highlight where improvements are needed. Indicators examine four categories: Ready Communities & Families; Ready Services - Health; Ready Services - Early Care & Education; and Ready Schools. PPC cites progress in the number of public school kindergartners attending full-day programs - 51 percent compared to 33 percent three years ago. However, the report reveals that Pennsylvania has "a critical unmet need" in high-quality child care. According to PPC, there are only enough high-quality child care programs to serve 3.9 percent of Pennsylvania children age 0-4 who require child care services. The report also provides county-by-county data for children living in low-income families, children lacking health insurance, public school pre-K enrollment, K-3 class size, and 10 other indicators. Read "School Readiness in Pennsylvania - School Readiness Indicators - 2005" at www.papartnerships.org/sr/Indicators.pdf.

  • The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) recently authored five policy briefs related to Head Start reauthorization and early childhood program funding:

    "All Together Now: State Experiences in Using Community-Based Child Care to Provide Pre-Kindergarten" discusses a "mixed delivery" model where pre-k is delivered in schools and by community-based child care providers. Twenty-nine states operate at least one pre-K program using a mixed delivery model. (Pennsylvania was not included in the study because the state's pre-K policies were not developed enough at the time it was conducted.) CLASP believes this method of presenting pre-k is valuable because it has the potential to address the needs of working families, while strengthening the quality of community-based programs by mandating high standards and providing community-based programs with additional resources, technical assistance and monitoring. Additionally, CLASP identifies policy principals states should consider in order to successfully implement a mixed delivery model, including: what providers are eligible to participate, who decides which community-based providers receive funding, are program standards the same for community and school-based providers, and others. For more information about the state policy considerations identified by CLASP, see www.clasp.org/publications/cc_brief5.pdf.

    In "Making the Case: Improving Head Start Teacher Qualifications Requires Increased Investment", CLASP describes changes in Head Start (HS) teacher qualifications in light of previous federal policy changes that required more HS teachers to obtain associate's degrees and recent federal policy proposals to require more HS teachers to obtain bachelor's degrees. CLASP says increasing education requirements for HS teachers is a laudable goal, but cautions that heightened requirements must be accompanied by funding to support scholarships, release time, mentoring, substitutes, and salary compensation commiserate with the teachers' new qualifications. The publication also examines whether states and higher education systems are prepared for a major policy change that could require more teachers to have a bachelor's degree. CLASP estimates it could cost $298 million to help 50 percent of HS teachers obtain B.A.'s by 2008, while the amount to have 100 percent of HS teachers obtain Bachelor's degrees over the next eight years could total $5.2 billion. The Center makes recommendations for Congress so that potential teacher qualification changes included in the Head Start reauthorization do not become an unfunded mandate. Access the policy brief at www.clasp.org/publications/hs_policy_paper_1.pdf.

    In an additional publication, CLASP looks specifically at the "Cost of Meeting House and Senate Proposed Head Start Teacher Qualification Requirements". CLASP estimates that the costs of proposed increases in teacher education in the House bill and raising teacher compensation to the level of kindergarten teachers could reach $2.7 billion over six years. Proposed Senate requirements for increased education, coupled with increasing compensation, could top $3.4 billion over six years. The figures include the cost of tuition, books, substitute teachers, and raising salaries to levels comparable with kindergarten teachers. Read more at www.clasp.org/publications/head_start_memo.pdf.

    (For more information about Head Start Reauthorization, see the June 10 edition of the EPLC Education Notebook at www.eplc.org/notebook/June10,2005.html.)

    CLASP outlines requirements of Head Start grantees to serve children with disabilities in a publication that provides data showing that Head Start providers are exceeding these requirements. In 2004, 13 percent of children enrolled in Head Start or Early Head Start were diagnosed with a disability. Learn more in "Preparing for Success: How Head Start Helps Children with Disabilities and Their Families" at www.clasp.org/publications/hs_disabilities_updated.pdf.

    "Missed Opportunities? The Possibilities and Challenges of Funding High-Quality Preschool through Title I of the No Child Left Behind Act" describes how federal Title I funds can be used to support preschool programs, provides information on states' use of Title I funds for preschool, and raises questions about the U.S. Department of Education's statutes, regulations and guidance for use of Title I for preschool. The paper also examines how No Child Left Behind may limit the availability of discretionary funding for programs like preschool. For more information, see www.clasp.org/publications/missed_opp.pdf.

  • Charter Schools

  • A Policy Brief from the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University contends that charter schools are a failed reform because they "have not lived up to their promise of increased achievement" advocates claimed they would produce during the charter school movement that swept the country in the mid-1990's. Using national evaluations in addition to examinations of charter schools in seven states, the report concludes that the overall academic achievement of students in charter schools was no better than in the majority of the nation's public schools. The failure is surprising, notes the report's author, because charters enjoy smaller numbers of students and freedom from bureaucratic regulations. "Charter Schools' Performance and Accountability: A Disconnect," authored by Gerald W. Bracey of George Mason University, is available at www.asu.edu/educ/epsl/EPRU/documents/EPSL-0505-113-EPRU.pdf.

  • Other

  • Good Schools Pennsylvania is currently accepting applications for its Parent & Community Leadership Assembly. Training for individuals who wish to become advocates for improving student achievement in their local school districts will be held in Bloomsburg on October 7-8, in Reading on November 11-12, and in Lancaster on January 13-14. For more information about the Assembly, see www.goodschoolspa.org.

  • Next week...The House Education Committee holds an informational meeting on high school reform in Erie on Monday. For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

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