EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, December 2, 2005

    Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

  • The Pennsylvania House and Senate were not in session this week and will re-convene on December 5. A Special Session House Subcommittee on Property Tax Relief meeting scheduled for November 30 was cancelled.

  • Congratulations to fifty-eight Pennsylvania teachers who recently have earned certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. To date, 247 Pennsylvania teachers have completed this rigorous professional development program. Nationally, 7,289 teachers earned National Board certification this year, bringing the national total to 47,503. For more information about National Board certification, see www.nbpts.org.

  • Federal Education Policy Activity

  • U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings announced a pilot program that will allow qualified states to propose to use a growth model for state accountability plans. Growth models "give schools credit for student improvement over time by tracking individual student improvement from year to year." States that are following what the USDE calls the bright line principles of NCLB - annually assessing students, disaggregating data, and closing the achievement gap - are invited to submit proposals for developing growth models that align with core principles identified by the Department. The USDE will approve no more than 10 high-quality growth models for 2005-06. Details about the pilot program are available in a USDE fact sheet at www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/growthmodel/factsheet.html and in a letter issued to chief state school officers at www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/secletter/051121.html.

  • The USDE recently released a new publication titled "No Child Left Behind: A Roadmap to State Implementation", which identifies principles for success under NCLB and the different paths states have taken to address these principles. Access the publication at www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/roadmap/index.html.

  • Pennsylvania will receive a $4 million, three-year federal grant to design and implement a statewide longitudinal data system. The U.S. Department of Education awarded a total of $52.8 million in data management grants to 14 states.

  • A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by the National Education Association (NEA) against the U.S. Department of Education which claimed the federal government is violating a provision in No Child Left Behind that prohibits forcing states to spend their own money to implement NCLB. The judge determined that the provision in question does not prohibit the federal government from imposing unfunded mandates, but prohibits "federal officials and employees from imposing additional, unfunded requirements, beyond those provided for in statute." The NEA and its co-plaintiffs plan to appeal.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that when a student's special education program is challenged, the burden of proof in an administrative hearing lies with the party seeking relief. Under the ruling, parents who challenge their child's individualized education program (IEP) as insufficient would be responsible for proving the complaint in a due process hearing. Read the Court's opinion in Schaffer v. Weast at http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/14nov20051045/www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/05pdf/04-698.pdf.

  • Research and Reports

    Teacher Quality and Supply

  • Teacher certifications declined in 2004-2005, according to the Annual Report issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Education's Bureau of Teacher Certification and Preparation. The document reviews teacher certifications awarded during 2004-05 and provides a historical comparison to certifications awarded during the past five years. In 2004-05, the state awarded 12,687 Instructional I certificates, 1,692 less than it awarded the previous year. This number reflects both newly certified teachers and teachers who added a second certification area through the add-on process authorized by the State Board of Education in 2002. Among the state's teacher preparation institutions, certifications also were down across all sectors. Private colleges and universities accounted for 4,884 Instructional I certificates issued in 2004-05 (down from 5,814 in 2003-04), the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education accounted for 5,547 Instructional I certificates (down from 6,216), state-aided universities accounted for 265 (down from 275), and state-related universities accounted for 1,981 (down from 2,063). Certifications also declined for educational specialists, such as school counselors, school psychologists, and school nurses, and for administrative and supervisory certificates, such as elementary and secondary principals.

    The state issued 4,916 emergency permits in 2004-05 to fill vacant positions for which no certified individual was available. The number of emergency permits issued declined by 27 from 2003-04. Individuals serving on this permit are not considered highly qualified under No Child Left Behind. The largest numbers of emergency permits were issued for English as a Second Language Program Specialists (329) and Special Education (1,048).

    The report also includes information on individuals seeking certification through the state's alternative Intern program, certificates issued to candidates from out-of-state, Praxis tests pass rates, and teachers' Act 48 compliance status. Unfortunately, this report is NOT posted on the PDE website. For more information, contact the Bureau of Teacher Certification and Preparation at (717) 783-9252.

    Additional information about Teacher Quality and Supply Issues, including research and reports related to teacher preparation & certification; hiring & recruitment; induction & mentoring; professional development; teacher retention; hard-to-staff schools; highly qualified teachers; teacher assessment; out-of-field teaching; and more are available on EPLC's Education Policy Information Clearinghouse at www.eplc.org/clearinghouse_teacherqs.html.

  • High School Reform

  • The Education Trust recently released two reports that highlight strategies high schools are using to raise the achievement of traditionally underserved students. In "Gaining Traction, Gaining Ground: How Some High Schools Accelerate Learning for Struggling Students", the Trust compares four high-impact high schools, which have produced "greater-than-expected academic gains with previously underperforming students," to three average-impact high schools, which have similar demographics but produced only expected achievement gains. The study found that although both type of schools follow the same educational practices, they implement those practices in very different ways that have a significant impact on students. High-impact schools "have early-warning systems to help catch students before they fail," while average-impact schools tend to provide supports only after a student has failed. High-impact schools also consider teacher expertise and student needs when assigning teachers to specific courses, while average-impact schools assign staff based on seniority and teacher preference. Finally, high-impact schools provide extra instruction in math and English to ninth graders who enter high school behind while keeping them on track with college entrance requirements, while average-impact schools also provide extra instruction but "in a way that delays entry into grade-level courses." Read the report at www2.edtrust.org/NR/rdonlyres/6226B581-83C3-4447-9CE7-31C5694B9EF6/0/GainingTractionGainingGround.pdf.

    In "The Power to Change: High Schools that Help All Students Achieve", the Education Trust tells the story of how three high schools primarily serving English language learners, low-income students, and minority students are helping all students achieve at high levels. Access the report at www2.edtrust.org/NR/rdonlyres/012DC865-97CA-4C2F-8A04-9924E2F392F0/0/ThePowerToChange.pdf.

  • An evaluation of high school reform efforts funded by the Gates Foundation discusses implications for the future of these reforms based on the efforts' positive impacts and areas identified as needing additional focus. Researchers from the American Institutes for Research and SRI International looked at the new schools and redesigned schools supported by Gates compared to similar district schools over a four-year period. "Evaluation of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's High School Grants, 2001-2004" summarizes three distinct evaluations that were conducted to review: 1) the impact on relationships between and among students and teachers, 2) whether these relationship changes (school-level changes) had an impact at the classroom level, and 3) student outcomes. Researchers found that Gates' schools, which enroll traditionally underserved populations, are making strides in developing a positive learning culture with close interpersonal relationships. They also identified positive academic gains in English/language arts; however, math achievement was "on par with or lagging behind other schools in the same district." The report cautions that it is too early to draw definitive conclusions on student achievement because of limitations in the current data that spans only three years or less for some schools.

    Researchers identified implications for the future of the reform efforts in three key areas: teaching and learning, sustainability, and student outcomes. They found that "teachers in nearly all schools are calling for more useful professional development materials, offerings, and coaching, particularly in math," but many schools lack the capacity to provide for these needs. They also found that schools may need assistance in developing effective materials for math instruction. Researchers said schools will continue to require direct and indirect support beyond the first three years of the reform effort and that building partnerships with outside organizations is essential to sustaining reforms long-term. Additionally, researchers said "the foundation and its grantees need to help shape the policy environment in which schools are nested." Finally, the report recommends that "evaluation of secondary schools' performance should focus as much as possible on a 'value added' definition of success". Learn more at www.gatesfoundation.org/Education/ResearchAndEvaluation/Evaluation/HSEvaluation.htm.

    Links to these and other report related to High School Reform, including research related to reform strategies, exit exams, the high school senior year, graduation & dropout rates, dual enrollment and more are available on EPLC's Education Policy Information Clearinghouse at www.eplc.org/clearinghouse_highschool.html.

  • Urban Education

  • The National Center for Education Statistics released results from its "NAEP 2005 Trial Urban District Assessment" which reports on the performance of fourth and eighth-graders in 11 large urban school districts compared to students nationally. The report also compares the districts' NAEP math and reading scores from 2005 with those from 2003. Results showed that fourth-grade math achievement increased at or above Basic level in eight of 10 districts and increased at or above Proficient level in six districts; fourth-grade reading achievement improved at or above Proficient in one district, but no improvement was shown at the Basic level. There was no change in the achievement gap for fourth-graders. For eighth-graders, math achievement increased at or above both Basic and Proficient in four of 10 districts; no significant differences were seen in reading achievement. The eighth-grade reading achievement gap between white and black students increased in one district, and the gap between white and Hispanic students decreased in one district. Access the detailed results at http://nationsreportcard.gov/tuda_reading_mathematics_2005/.

  • A report from The New Teacher Project speaks to the detrimental impact of seniority staffing rules in urban teacher union contracts that "effectively prevent school principals from focusing on quality, school fit, or the needs of the children in each classroom when making a significant portion of their staff decisions." Researchers analyzed five large urban districts and found that an average of 40 percent of all staff vacancies were "filled by incumbent teachers over whom schools had little or no choice in hiring." The report says seniority staffing rules lead to four situations that negatively impact schools and students: 1) schools are forced to hire teachers they do not want; 2) poor teachers are transferred to work in other schools rather than being fired; 3) new teacher applicants are lost due to a late hiring timeline; and 4) novice teachers are "treated as expendable". The report makes recommendations for reforming staffing rules. Read "Unintended Consequences: The Case for Reforming the Staffing Rules in Urban Teachers Union Contracts" at www.tntp.org/newreport/TNTP%20Unintended%20Consequences.pdf.

    The findings of The New Teacher Project mirror studies of the Philadelphia School District conducted by Research for Action. Philadelphia recently revised the seniority transfer rules in its new teacher contact. Links to Philadelphia-based research and other information on Urban Education are available on EPLC's Education Policy Information Clearinghouse at www.eplc.org/clearinghouse_urbaned.html.

  • Other

  • Next week...SPECIAL SESSION EVENTS - The Special Session House Subcommittee on Sales Tax Initiatives meets Monday. The Special Session House Finance Committee meets Monday to consider Governor Rendell's plan (Special Session House Bill 1) and the Local Tax Policy Caucus' plan (Special Session House Bills 14, 15, 16 and 17). The Special Session House Subcommittee on Local Control Initiatives meets Tuesday. Three Special Session House Subcommittees meet Wednesday - Subcommittees on Property Tax Reduction, Income Tax Initiatives, and Alternative Revenue Sources.

    OTHER EVENTS - The House Local Government Committee meets Tuesday in Harrisburg to consider House Bills 1860, 1866 & 1867, related to competitive bidding. The House Education Committee meets Wednesday in Harrisburg to consider House Bills 1227, 1421, 1252 & 1618 and Senate Bill 384. The PA Department of Community and Economic Development and its higher education and economic development partners host the "Creating Pennsylvania's Future: A Higher Education Economic and Community Development Summit" in State College on December 5-6. The Pennsylvania Head Start Association holds its Fall Conference in Grantville on December 7-9. The Pennsylvania School Employees' Retirement System Board meets Friday. The Institute for Educational Leadership holds its National Meeting on December 4-7 in Miami for participants in several statewide Education Policy Fellowship Programs, including the EPLC-sponsored Pennsylvania program. The National Conference of State Legislatures holds its Fall Forum in Chicago on December 6-9. The National Association for the Education of Young Children holds its Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. on December 7-10. For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

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