EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, December 1, 2006

    Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

  • The now completed tally of votes in Chester County's 156th House District indicates that Democrats will take control of the House during the 2007-08 session of the legislature with a 102-101 majority. The still unofficial result has Democrat Barbara McIlvaine Smith defeating Republican Shannon Royer by 23 votes to replace the retiring Rep. Elinor Taylor. But House Republicans have yet to concede this seat, and may request a recount in the very tight contest.

  • Governor Rendell signed into law the following legislation this week:

    Act 161 (House Bill 2296): Exempts military personnel who are licensed or certified by the State Department of Education and other state agencies from continuing education requirements during the time of service and allows such individuals to renew certificates upon discharge as if all continuing education requirements have been satisfied.

    Act 184 (Senate Bill 1209): Creates the Healthy Farms and Healthy Schools Program, a grant program for kindergarten classrooms in public and private schools to offer nutritional and agriculture education programs. The Program also is designed to benefit Pennsylvania farmers by exposing students and their families to locally grown nutritional foods.

  • The November 25 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin includes publication of proposed regulatory changes to Chapter 49 (Certification of Professional Personnel). The proposal would overhaul the state's teacher certification system by creating new certificates for early childhood (pre-K through grade 3) and elementary/middle (grades 4 through 8) and replacing the current K-12 special education certificate with three new certificates that require all special education teachers to be dually certified in the academic area for their grade level - special education-primary (pre-K through grade 3), special education-elementary/middle (grades 4 through 8) and special education-secondary in a core academic subject (grades 7 through 12).

    Among other changes, the proposal also would require teachers to receive training in working with diverse learners during preparation programs, induction programs and ongoing professional development. The regulatory changes are open for public comment until December 26, 2006. Instructions for submitting comments, as well as a copy of the proposal, are available at www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol36/36-47/2312.html.

  • Early last month, Governor Rendell announced the development of the Pennsylvania Youth in Transition Project (PAYT) as a strategy to reconnect individuals who left high school prior to graduation or are becoming too old for foster care with career-focused educational opportunities. PAYT is a collaborative effort being developed by several state departments, including Labor and Industry, Education and Public Welfare and the Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Board, as well as local workforce and education organizations. Four to six grants will be awarded to develop strategies to improve the educational and employment options for youth in need through counseling and training focused on high school completion, post-secondary preparation and career development. Details about the program are available at www.paworkforce.state.pa.us under the "Governor Rendell's Strategy for Building a Skilled Workforce" quick link. Grant applications are due by December 15.

  • Information about the Pennsylvania General Assembly, including details on contacting your local state representatives and locating bills cited in this Notebook, is available at www.legis.state.pa.us/index.cfm.

    Research and Reports

  • "The Secretary's Fifth Annual Report on Teacher Quality: A Highly Qualified Teacher in Every Classroom," issued by the U.S. Department of Education, examines teacher preparation and certification based on data collected by states from postsecondary institutions, alternative route teacher preparation programs, testing companies and state accountability systems. The publication presents the 2005 data required to be reported by Title II of the federal Higher Education Act and demonstrates areas of progress as well as areas in need of improvement.

    The data indicate that, nationally, the number of teachers completing both traditional and alternative route teacher preparation programs has increased since last year's report. Additionally, the number of teacher education programs designated as low-performing has decreased from the 20 identified in 2004 to 17 in 2005. The Department also found that while 44 states require that new teachers pass at least one assessment - typically an academic content-related test - to obtain certification, the minimum passing scores for these assessments are generally lower than the national median scores for such tests.

    The data also report on the issuance of teacher certifications. Results indicate that the number of certifications issued has remained stable and the number of teachers practicing under a waiver (without full certification) has decreased by about 25 percent, from 3.3 percent of all teachers in 2003-04 to 2.5 percent of all teachers in 2004-05. However, the percentage of teachers practicing with a waiver in high-poverty districts remains significantly higher than the percentage in all other districts. The greatest numbers of waivers were issued to teachers in foreign languages (7 percent) and special education (5 percent).

    Review the Department's full report at www.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/teachprep/2006-title2report.pdf. State specific reports that provide data on PRAXIS pass rates by institution, teachers on waivers by subject area, the performance of teacher preparation programs and more are available at www.title2.org/Title2DR/ChooseState.asp.

  • The "MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Expectations and Experiences" reports on the expectations of teachers prior to entering the profession, factors that contribute to career satisfaction, and the perspectives of principals and education deans concerning successful teacher preparation and how to provide continued support. The report is based on surveys of teachers, principals and education deans as well as focus groups of prospective and former teachers. One of the most important questions in the study explores issues related to teacher retention in an attempt to determine what drives educators out of teaching and what factors contribute to retaining high-quality teachers in the profession.

    The study found that 56 percent of teachers report they are very satisfied with their career. Considering the results of Met Life's 1986 study which reported that only 33 percent of teachers were satisfied, the results of the 2006 study demonstrate dramatic improvement. However, the new study also reports that 27 percent of teachers say they are likely to leave the profession in the next five years; while career satisfaction has increased, teacher retention remains a serious issue.

    The study presents an extensive list of reasons why teachers say they exit the profession. These issues include unmet expectations in the areas of professional prestige, salary and benefits and control over their own work. Teachers also reported that they felt unprepared to work with children with varying abilities and to maintain order in the classroom and that communication with and consideration from administrators is lacking. Many teachers also reported they feel they do not have the resources to get the job done. One quarter (26%) of teachers said the equipment in their school does not meet student needs; 19 percent say they do not have enough current textbooks, and 18 percent say the buildings and grounds are not clean and in good condition.

    Finally, the survey shows that some important changes are taking place to help retain high-quality teachers in the profession. First, occupational prestige is on the rise. Second, the responses of new teachers indicate some improvement in teacher training programs as new teachers' expectations are coming into line with the realities of teaching. Finally, teachers also report that being assigned a mentor during the first year of teaching "significantly increases the odds" they will stay in the profession. The survey also includes strategies principles and education leaders feel would positively impact teacher recruitment and retention, including increasing salary and benefits as well as increasing financial support for school systems. To view the full report, visit www.metlife.com/WPSAssets/81821402701160505871V1F2006MetLifeTeacherSurvey.pdf.

  • Datebook

  • Next Week...The Institute for Educational Leadership holds its annual Leadership Forum for the Education Policy Fellowship Program December 4-6 in Miami. The Pennsylvania Head Start Association hosts its annual fall conference December 5-6 in Harrisburg. The Pennsylvania State Board of Education holds an invitational roundtable on Chapters 14, 16 and 711 on Wednesday in Harrisburg. For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

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