EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, September 2, 2005

    Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

  • Rep. Peter Daley and the Pennsylvania State Education Association are calling for Pennsylvania to join the law suit filed by the state of Connecticut against the No Child Left Behind Act. Last week, Connecticut filed a suit alleging that the federal government has not provided sufficient funds to cover the requirements of the law. The suit says states must unconstitutionally spend their own funds to fulfill federal mandates. Daley estimates that the federal government is underfunding Pennsylvania by $208 million in Title I funds alone. To learn more about the Connecticut suit, see www.cslib.org/attygenl/mainlinks/linkindex12.htm.

  • House Speaker John Perzel will recognize Pennsylvania public schools that pioneer inventive education programs through his new Golden Apple Awards for Education Innovation. This year, awards will be presented for curriculum innovation, parental involvement and administrative leadership. Future award categories will change from year to year. For more information about Perzel's Golden Apple Awards, go to: www.goldenappleawards.com.

  • Research and Reports

    Achievement Gap

  • Standard and Poor's has identified 61 Pennsylvania school districts that significantly narrowed their achievement gaps between 2003 and 2004. The group analyzed student achievement data to identify districts that reduced "the gap between groups while simultaneously improving each group's performance." Fifty-one of the districts identified narrowed the gap between economically disadvantaged students and the entire student body. 10 districts were identified for narrowing the black-white achievement gap (one of which narrowed its Hispanic-white gap, as well as its black-white gap).

    Among the 51 districts that reduced the gap between economically disadvantaged students compared to all students, the gap was narrowed by an average 9.1 percentage points while economically disadvantaged students increased their math and reading proficiency rate by 14.2 percentage points. However, the gap between economically disadvantaged and all students in these 51 districts still stands at 11.4 points and at 15.3 points for all of Pennsylvania's K-12 school districts.

    Among the 10 districts recognized for narrowing the black-white achievement gap while simultaneously improving each group's performance, black students improved their math and reading proficiency by 10 points while white students improved by three points, with the gap narrowed by an average of seven points. But the black-white gap in these 10 districts remains at an average 23.3 percentage points. The black-white gap for all districts is 25.6 points. For additional information on the criteria used by S&P to identify districts, read "Helping All Students Learn: Identifying School Districts in Pennsylvania that are Significantly Narrowing Achievement Gaps" at www.schoolmatters.com/pdf/PA_achievement.pdf. S&P also provides a cross-continent review of narrowing achievement gaps in its National Report, available at www.schoolmatters.com/pdf/National_achievement.pdf.

  • Rural Education

  • According to the Rural School and Community Trust, Pennsylvania is among the urban states that are overlooking their rural schools, despite the fact that Pennsylvania has the sixth largest population of rural students in the country. The Rural Trust analyzed 22 indicators of rural education conditions in "Why Rural Matters 2005", and found that rural students in states with large urban populations are being largely ignored. The 22 indicators measured were categorized as: the relative importance of rural education, the level of poverty in rural schools, other socio-economic challenges faced by rural schools, and the policy outcomes achieved in rural education. The Trust makes recommendations for policymakers to improve the conditions in rural schools that include: supporting small schools, providing protection for loss of revenue due to declining enrollment, and building multi-use facilities that can serve communities as schools, health clinics, and more. Read the full report and the complete set of policy recommendations at www.ruraledu.org/whyruralmatters/WRM2005.pdf.

  • A second publication from the Rural School and Community Trust discusses adequate education financing from the rural perspective and identifies unique characteristics of rural communities that require additional resources, principles of a high quality rural education program, and educational strategies to meet the needs of rural schools. Read "Providing Rural Students with a High Quality Education: The Rural Perspective on the Concept of Educational Adequacy" at www.ruraledu.org.

  • Safe Schools

  • Using data from the 2001 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey, recent publication of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) examines how often and to what extent bullying occurs in our nation's schools. In the report, researchers examine the act of bullying by comparing student characteristics, school characteristics, and criminal victimization as reported by twelve to eighteen-year-old students. Other behaviors associated with bullying are explored as well, including emotional instability, avoidance behavior, weapon carrying, and low academic grades. Additionally, the report places bullies into one of two categories - direct (physical) or indirect (emotional) - and discusses the effects of both types of bullies on students. To download "Student Reports of Bullying: Results from the 2001 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey", go to http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2005/2005310.pdf.

  • Other

  • EPLC will host the second annual Edward Donley Education Policy Leadership Award Dinner on Wednesday, September 28. The Center will honor Dr. Paula Hess, Senior Advisor to the Speaker and Majority Leader in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, with the Edward Donley Education Policy Leadership Award. The 2005 Dinner also will give recognition with the EPLC Partner Award to the Pennsylvania State Education Association and the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties. In addition, the Center will present its EPLC Leadership Program Alumni Award to Sylvester Pace and Jean Dexheimer. For details about the 2005 Donley Dinner, including information about program advertising and a reservation form, see www.eplc.org/donleydinner.html.

  • Next week...The Pennsylvania State Board of Education holds a briefing on the technical issues surrounding validation of the PSSA performance level cut scores for Math and Reading. The meeting will be held at the PaTTAN office in Harrisburg and video-linked to the PaTTAN offices in Pittsburgh and King of Prussia. EPLC's Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP) holds its opening retreat on September 8-9. For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

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