EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, February 25, 2005

  • REMINDER: Candidates for school director in Pennsylvania may circulate nominating petitions now until the filing deadline of Tuesday, March 8. There are 500 elected school boards in Pennsylvania. More than 2,000 school board members will be elected this year.

  • EPLC hosts a Western Pennsylvania School Board Candidates Workshop on Saturday, February 26. Another workshop will be held in Valley Forge on Saturday, March 5. For details, including registration materials, see www.eplc.org/leadership.html. Additional workshops are being planned for the York and Lancaster-Lebanon areas.

  • The House Education Committee held a hearing on proposed changes to Chapter 12, the regulations of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education governing Students and Student Services, on February 23. Two points of contention concern the use of corporal punishment to discipline students and students' rights to freedom of expression. The State Board of Education revised Chapter 12 to ban school districts from using corporal punishment, however, some Committee members feel that properly applied corporal punishment should remain an option for correcting student behavior. Some Committee members also felt the Board usurped its authority by implementing a policy change through regulation that was not authorized by legislative statute. According to testimony delivered at the hearing, approximately 400 of Pennsylvania's 501 school districts already have local policies banning corporal punishment.

    The State Board proposal also revises the regulation governing freedom of expression to reflect court rulings. The revised regulation allows school districts to intervene if a student's expression "materially and substantially interferes with the educational process, threatens immediate or serious harm to the welfare of the school or community, encourages unlawful activity or interferes with another individual's rights." Currently, state regulations allow a district to intervene only if an immediate threat is posed. The addition of the words "or serious" represents a compromise between free speech advocates, who fear that under the regulation students could be unfairly punished for making controversial statements, and school districts, who want greater flexibility to address potential problems that may not pose immediate threats. Some Committee members expressed support for tightening the regulation to read "serious and immediate harm" or for clarifying that action may only be taken if a student threatens violence. The Committee will finish gathering testimony on March 8 and plans to vote on the final form regulations at that time. Read the proposed changes at www.pde.state.pa.us/stateboard_ed/lib/stateboard_ed/CHAPTER12_Final_form_3-17-04_%28GED_CLEAN%29.doc.

  • A bipartisan review of the No Child Left Behind Act by a special task force of the National Conference of State Legislatures calls for more flexibility in the law. Among its recommendations, the report says Congress and the Bush administration should "remove the one-size-fits-all" assessment system, eliminate restrictions that hinder successful state programs that were in place before NCLB's passage, and address the challenges faced by English language learners and special education students. Read all 43 recommendations in the report at www.ncsl.org/programs/educ/nclb_report.htm.

  • The National Governors Association released an "Action Agenda for Improving America's High Schools" that makes recommendations for state policymakers in high school and college accountability, streamlining education governance, redesigning high schools, and more. Access the report at www.nga.org/cda/files/0502actionagenda.pdf.

  • There is still time to register (and RSVP hotel) for the EPLC 3rd Annual Pennsylvania Education Policy and Leadership Conference that will be held on March 13-15 at the Wyndham Harrisburg-Hershey Hotel.

    Partial list of SPEAKERS includes:
    PA Secretary of Education Francis Barnes
    PA Secretary of Policy and Planning Donna Cooper
    PA Deputy Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Gerald Zahorchak
    PA Deputy Secretary for Information and Educational Technology Michael Golden

    Partial list of SESSIONS includes:
    "Highly Qualified" Requirements - Implications for Practitioners and School Staffing
    Act 72: School District Budgets and Taxes - Issues for School Boards and Communities
    The 2005-06 State Education Budget
    Pennsylvania Value-Added Assessment System
    Working Conditions for Teachers: Effects on Student Achievement
    Skills and Numbers: Challenges for Pennsylvania's K-12 School Leaders
    New "IDEA" Law: Implications for PA Policymakers and Practitioners
    Effective School Boards in an Era of NCLB and Standards-Based Reforms
    Harnessing the Power of Data and Analysis Using SchoolMatters.com
    Parent Involvement: Building Capacity through Leadership, Policy, and Commitment
    Improving Student Achievement - Lessons Learned from the Act 16 Empowerment Districts
    Smooth Transitions to Kindergarten: Getting Ready for School
    Keys to a Successful Communication Strategy
    How to Be an Effective Advocate for Education and Children

    Annual Conference information and registration materials are available at www.eplc.org/conference.html.

  • Next week...State Budget hearings begin next week. The House Appropriations Committee will meet with Penn State University on Tuesday and with Lincoln University, the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the State System of Higher Education on Wednesday. The Senate Appropriations Committee will meet with state-related universities on Tuesday and the State System of Higher Education on Wednesday. On Tuesday, the House Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on school violence in Philadelphia. For times and meeting locations, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

    The Western Pennsylvania-site Institute for Community Leadership in Education meets Wednesday. The Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program meets in Harrisburg on Friday. For more information about these programs, sponsored by EPLC, see www.eplc.org/leadership.html.

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