EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, February 4, 2005

  • On February 1, the Senate Education Committee held a hearing on the new Bridge Certificate Program, a program through which certain Pennsylvania teachers can meet the state's highly qualified teacher requirements. For more information about the Bridge Program, see www.teaching.state.pa.us/teaching/cwp/view.asp?Q=107572&A=7.

  • On February 2, the Senate Education Committee approved legislation pertaining to assistance for school districts in which one or more schools did not meet the state's academic performance targets. Senate Bill 146 requires Intermediate Units to provide academic assistance to such districts and to coordinate a team to develop an academic improvement plan for the district. Senate Bill 147 requires the Department of Education to provide technical assistance to the district or an individual school identified as in need. Services may be provided by PDE staff or contracted to a third party. SB 147 also requires PDE to develop a clearinghouse of best practices on improving student achievement. Finally, the Committee passed Senate Bill 148 which requires school districts in which one or more schools did not meet academic performance targets to revise their professional development plans to focus on subjects in which they failed to meet targets, methods to improve the achievement of student subgroups, and training for instructional coaches. SB 148 also requires the Department of Education to create a clearinghouse of continuing education experiences cataloged by area of assignment, certification area, and topic. All three bills await further consideration by the full Senate.

  • When given a choice of where to invest new state grant dollars for education, school districts overwhelmingly decided to support early childhood education programs. According to the Accountability Block Grant Mid-Year Report, more than two-thirds of the $200 million allocated for Block Grants is being used to support pre-K ($9.5 million), full-day kindergarten ($111.3 million), and K-3 class size reduction ($13.5 million). Full-day Kindergarten was the most popular program with 293 applications for funding. With the help of Block Grants, Pennsylvania has increased the percentage of eligible students enrolled in full-day Kindergarten from 39% to 54% and is now providing full-day services for 50,849 students. Block Grants funding is also being used to provide K-3 class size reduction for 18,700 students and to provide pre-K for 2,995 students. Additionally, 106 districts received $16.3 million for literacy and math teacher coaches and 111 districts received $16.3 million to implement programs aimed at improving the performance of student subgroups. For more information on programs being funded through Accountability Block Grants, read the report at www.pdenewsroom.state.pa.us/newsroom/cwp/view.asp?a=256&Q=110351.

  • An independent analysis of the state's Career & Technical Education programs, commissioned by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, says the state must apply higher academic standards for the programs, ensure that programs are connected to business needs and labor market trends, and make sure that coursework is relevant to today's economy. In its analysis, Jobs for the Future says "much improvement is needed if Career & Technical Education is to play its rightful role as an important contributor to the economic strength of the state and the economic advancement of its residents." Read "Career and Technical Education in Pennsylvania: Opportunities for Commonwealth Policy" at www.pdenewsroom.state.pa.us/newsroom/lib/newsroom/FINAL_CTE_in_PA1012805_-_2005-01-30.pdf.

  • The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency will contribute an additional $55 million in grant aid to Pennsylvania students during the 2005-2006 academic year and will make additional funding available over the next five years. As part of the Agency's Higher Education Gifts Initiative, $10 million will be used annually for a new grant program targeted to working adults who want to return to higher education. Funding for the new grants comes from the Agency's growing earnings and surplus. Additionally, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Foundation will contribute $40 million over four years to address the shortage of nurse educators.

  • The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has released a new data tool that allows users to create State Education Data Profiles based on information collected by NCES. Data is available for Elementary and Secondary Education Characteristics, Elementary and Secondary Education Finance, Postsecondary Education, and state demographics. Users can create individual state profiles or compare data for up to four states. Access the data tool at http://nces.ed.gov/programs/stateprofiles/.

  • A new report from the National Governors' Association Center for Best Practices makes policy recommendations for improving school readiness. Read "Building the Foundation for Bright Futures: Final Report of the NGA Task Force on School Readiness" at www.nga.org/center/divisions/1,1188,C_ISSUE_BRIEF%5eD_7819,00.html.

  • Margaret Spellings was sworn in as the 8th U.S. Secretary of Education on January 31.

  • Williamsport Area School District teacher Roger H. May was elected president of the Pennsylvania School Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees at the Board's annual reorganization meeting. Rep. Steven Nickol was elected Vice Chairman. Gerald A. Katona, teacher in the Plum Borough School District, and Sally J. Turley, teacher in the Clearfield School District, were each re-elected to three-year terms on the Board.

  • Rep. Michael Diven (R-Allegheny) increased the Republican majority in the House to 110 this week when he left the Democrat Party for the GOP.

  • Robert Bartlett, director of the Upper Bucks County Area Vocational Technical School, has been named Director of the Bureau of Career and Technical Education in the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

  • Register now for the third annual Pennsylvania Education Policy and Leadership Conference sponsored by The Education Policy and Leadership Center! The 2005 Conference will be held Sunday, March 13 to Tuesday, March 15 at the Wyndham Harrisburg-Hershey. For registration information and a preliminary agenda, see www.eplc.org/conference.html.

  • The opening date for the Institute for Community Leadership in Education (ICLE) Lehigh Valley program site has been changed from Tuesday, February 1 to Tuesday, February 22. Applications are currently being accepted for all ICLE Winter/Spring 2005 locations in the Lehigh Valley, Western Pennsylvania, and the Philadelphia Region. The Western Pennsylvania site begins on February 16 and the Philadelphia site on February 17. For more information about the ICLE program and an application, see www.eplc.org/icle.html.

  • Next week...The Senate Education Committee meets on Tuesday. Gov. Ed Rendell delivers his 2005-2006 State Budget Address on Wednesday. Ron Cowell and representatives of statewide and regional organizations will address "Governor Rendell's Education Issues Budget Proposal for 2005-06" Thursday at EPLC's Pennsylvania Education Policy Forum in Western Pennsylvania. For details, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

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