EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, September 10, 2004

  • On September 7, Dr. Francis Barnes took the helm at the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The nominee for Secretary of Education awaits a Senate confirmation hearing.

  • The House Education Committee held an informational meeting on September 8 to discuss exams used for college admission and teacher certification. Representatives of the College Board addressed changes made to the SAT that include the addition of an essay exam and a reworking of the verbal section to focus on critical reading skills. Students will begin taking the new SAT in March 2005. The Board also addressed Pennsylvania's participation in Advanced Placement courses, which is low compared to neighboring states (12% of Pennsylvania students took AP exams last year, compared with 26% in New York, 22% in Delaware, 20% in New Jersey, and 29% in Maryland). The College Board highlighted a state policy initiative in Maryland that encourages schools to offer AP courses and has led Maryland to be number one in the nation in AP participation.

    Representatives of the Educational Testing Service and the PA Department of Education discussed how the exam currently used for teacher certification (PRAXIS) is developed and whether an alternative assessment is needed. The PRAXIS is developed by ETS, however passing scores are developed by an independent state panel of teachers. According to PDE, approximately 70% of students pass the PRAXIS exams on their first try. Representatives Richard Grucela and Dan Surra think an alternative is needed for individuals who cannot pass the PRAXIS but would make good teachers. Grucela has introduced legislation that would require PDE to develop an alternative certification exam and an alternative certification method for candidates who cannot pass the exam; Surra has introduced legislation to provide for a probationary teaching certificate for candidates who pass all but one PRAXIS exam and have a job offer from a school district. Links to both bills are available on EPLC's Education Policy Information Clearinghouse at www.eplc.org/clearinghouse_teacherqs.html.

  • The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare has created a new Office of Child Development that will be led by Harriet Dichter. Dichter will serve a dual role as co-director of the Office of Policy at the Department of Education in an effort to link these offices across departments and better coordinate work on early care and education issues.

  • The 2004-2005 Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program commenced on September 9 with the largest class (31 fellows) since EPLC introduced the program to Pennsylvania six years ago. The EPFP was established more than 40 years ago and is sponsored nationally by the Washington-D.C.-based Institute for Educational Leadership. For more information about the EPFP and EPLC's other educational leadership programs, see www.eplc.org/leadership.html.

  • The Alliance for Excellent Education's second annual conference on American High School Policy will be held October 3-5 in Washington, D.C. See www.all4ed.org for details.

  • Next week...On Wednesday, Sept. 15, at the Pennsylvania Education Policy Forum in Pittsburgh, Arnold F. Fege, Director of Public Engagement and Advocacy for the Public Education Network, will address "From Brown v. Board of Education to NCLB: Does the Public Have the Will to Finish the Promise?" The PA State Board of Education will meet in Harrisburg Sept. 15-16. The House Education Committee will meet in Tidioute on Sept. 15 to discuss the separation of Tidioute Borough from the Warren County School District.

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