EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, January 21, 2005

  • The Pennsylvania State Board of Education met in Harrisburg on January 19-20, 2005. Below is a summary of the Board's actions:

    The Board approved a program through which secondary level teachers of multiple subjects can be designated "highly qualified" as required by No Child Left Behind. The Bridge II program is an alternative route through which secondary special education, ESL, and alternative education teachers in self-contained classrooms can be deemed highly qualified without gaining full certification in each of the core subject areas they teach.

    The initial Bridge I program was approved by the Board in June as a way for certain current teachers to gain highly qualified status in a single content area by amassing a number of points for activities such as teaching experience, college coursework, professional development, and publication of journal articles. However, federal law requires teachers of multiple subjects to be highly qualified in all core academic subjects they teach, a requirement that some felt would be cumbersome to achieve through Bridge I. To address the needs of these teachers, the Board passed the Bridge II program. Critics say the program establishes a lesser standard that lacks the rigor required by traditional teacher certification. For more information about the Bridge I program, see www.teaching.state.pa.us/teaching/cwp/view.asp?Q=107572&A=7. For a copy of the resolution establishing Bridge II, see www.pde.state.pa.us/stateboard_ed/cwp/view.asp?Q=109945&A=3.

    The Board adopted preliminary changes to the regulations governing Chapter 31 (Higher Education General Provisions). Among the proposed changes: higher education institutions that have been operating for at least 10 years could apply to PDE for a waiver to offer more than 50% of a degree program through distance education; institutions could utilize a uniform administrative structure for graduate and undergraduate programs rather than the separate administrative units currently required; and graduate courses would no longer be required to "normally be taught" by full-time faculty in recognition of the growing use of field-based practitioners as instructors. The regulations will be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin for public comment. Read the proposed regulatory changes at www.pde.state.pa.us/stateboard_ed/lib/stateboard_ed/Chapter_31_Working_Draft_1-4-2005_JEB.doc.

    The Board approved standards for the Keystone Education Accountability (KEA) program, designed to evaluate and improve school district management practices and use of resources. The General Assembly passed legislation establishing the program in December 2003. Under KEA, school districts will be evaluated every six years against eleven standards (ten standards were outlined in the legislation and an eleventh - Safety and Security - was added by the Department of Education). Districts that are found to be in compliance will be certified as Keystone Districts for up to six years; districts that are in non-compliance must develop a three-year plan toward compliance and work with a local advisory group. The definition of compliance has not yet been developed, however, the Department will continue to meet with working groups to finalize such details and plans to issue regulations and a district review schedule in early 2006. Reviews by an external firm would then begin in July 2006 as long as an appropriation is made for the program by the General Assembly.

    The Board changed the date of its July 20-21, 2005 meeting to June 29-30, 2005.

  • The Education Trust released an interactive website that allows users to compare graduation rates among peer higher education institutions across the country and to look at graduation rates broken down by race, ethnicity, and gender. Access the comparative tool at www.collegeresults.org. The Trust also released two new reports. The first, "One Step from the Finish Line: Higher College-Graduation Rates are Within Our Reach," highlights strategies used by institutions that have successfully increased their graduation rates or successfully closed the graduation gap between minority students and white students. Access the report at www2.edtrust.org/NR/rdonlyres/10D6E141-08E4-42D7-B7E5-773A281BCDB7/0/onestep_.pdf. The second report, "Choosing to Improve: Voices from Colleges and Universities with Better Graduation Rates," provides greater detail on university efforts to improve student engagement and completion. Read "Choosing to Improve" at www2.edtrust.org/NR/rdonlyres/80202D18-D1DF-4897-9360-F33C16DF88F3/0/Choosing_to_improve.pdf.

  • Achieve, Inc. released a report that reviews each state's high school graduation requirements and makes recommendations for policymakers to ensure that every student takes a college or work-preparatory curriculum. Read "Closing the Expectations Gap" at www.achieve.org/dstore.nsf/Lookup/coursetaking/$file/coursetaking.pdf.

  • The U.S. Department of Education has released a National Education Technology Plan. Access the plan at www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/os/technology/plan/index.html.

  • Philadelphia is one of five cities to receive a grant to fund high school dropout prevention planning efforts. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Charles Steward Mott Foundation provided five cities with $275,000 one-year grants to support dropout prevention program planning.

  • The Pennsylvania Department of Education is currently accepting applications for individuals interested in serving as Distinguished Educators. Applications will be accepted until February 8, 2005. For application information and a job description, see www.pde.state.pa.us/pas/cwp/view.asp?a=3&Q=109084.

  • Applications are currently being accepted for the Institute for Community Leadership in Education (ICLE). Sponsored by The Education Policy and Leadership Center, the ICLE is a six-session leadership development program designed for Parent Leaders for Schools and Communities, Educational Leaders, School Board Members, Business Partners for Education, Community Partners for Schools, Advocates for Children and Public Education, and Legislative Staff. Programs will be offered in the Lehigh Valley, Western Pennsylvania, and the Philadelphia Region during the Winter/Spring 2005 term. For program details and a registration form, see www.eplc.org/icle.html.

  • The Education Policy and Leadership Center hosted the first of three full-day School Board Candidate Workshops in the Lehigh Valley on Saturday, January 15. School board candidates and those exploring a run for office gathered to learn about the Legal and Leadership Roles of School Directors and School Boards, State and Federal Policies, and Candidates and the Law. Two additional workshops are planned for Western Pennsylvania (Saturday, February 26) and the Philadelphia Region (Saturday, March 5). For an application, see www.eplc.org/schoolboardworkshop.html.

  • Next week... The Pennsylvania General Assembly begins its 2005-2006 voting session on Monday. The PA House Republican Caucus Task Force to Connect Education to the Workplace will hold a public hearing on Wednesday at Elizabethtown College. The National Smart Start Conference will take place January 24-27 in Greensboro, NC. The U.S. Department of Education will host a program on Lessons Learned from Education Service Providers on Friday in Washington.

To return to the EPLC Education Notebook homepage, click here.

To return to The Education Policy and Leadership Center homepage, click here.