EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, October 6, 2006

Tuesday, October 10
Last Day to Register to Vote before the November Election
    Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

    Senate Actions

  • On Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee approved House Bill 2562, which increases the minimum employer contribution rate to the Pennsylvania School Employee's Retirement Fund to 7 percent of payroll plus the premium assistance contribution rate for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2007. Beginning July 1, 2008, the rate would be set at "the employer normal contribution rate plus the premium assistance contribution rate." The current employer contribution rate paid by the state and school districts is 4 percent, but large increases are projected for coming years to meet the fund's growing retirement costs. HB 2562 awaits further consideration by the full Senate.


  • On Tuesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee moved forward legislation ( Senate Bill 1332) which makes numerous changes to the Public School Code related to school health services. SB 1332 requires schools to ensure that students undergo a physical exam within one year prior to entering school, one year before or during fifth grade, one year before or during ninth grade, and prior to being issued an employment certificate. SB 1332 also requires children to visit the dentist within one year prior to starting school, one year before or during third grade, and one year before or during seventh grade. If a child does not undergo a physical or dental exam, the district must schedule an exam for the child with a qualified health professional designated by the district or a school dentist. Parents must be notified and invited to attend physical or dental exams scheduled by the district for their child. SB 1332 also addresses procedures for students who have or are suspected of having communicable diseases, health examination requirements for school employees, and tuberculosis and communicable disease evaluations for school volunteers. The bill awaits further consideration by the full Senate.


  • On Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee moved forward the following legislation. Both bills await further consideration by the full Senate.

    Senate Bill 642: Allows a school district to acquire land or buildings owned by a member of its school board as long as certain conditions are met. As amended by the Committee, to purchase land or buildings in which a school board member has an ownership interest, districts must provide public notice of the acquisition, provide an opportunity for public comment on the proposed acquisition during two regular school board meetings, take final action on the acquisition at a public meeting of the board, and comply with all relevant state ethics and financial disclosure laws.

    Senate Bill 647: Allows individuals seeking teacher certification to submit documentation from a certified registered nurse practitioner or physician assistant that they are mentally and physically fit for the job. Currently, such documentation must be furnished by a physician. Also, makes grammatical changes to provisions of the Public School Code related to disqualifications for a teacher's certificate.



  • Other Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

  • The Pennsylvania Department of Education has selected four universities to establish Centers for Teaching Excellence that will help Pennsylvania teachers pursue certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), a nationally-recognized professional development program for master teachers. Gannon University (Erie), Duquesne University (Pittsburgh), Temple University (Philadelphia) and East Stroudsburg University (Pocono region) each will receive a $75,000 grant. The Centers will work with local school districts to recruit candidates to participate in the NBPTS program; provide a site for the program's required mentoring, group work and research activities; and build local business support to provide private scholarships for NBPTS candidates. The state budget enacted for the current fiscal year also includes $1.2 million in state funding to provide support for 500 teachers to earn NBPTS certification.


  • Philadelphia Mayor John Street has formed a 35-member Education Advisory Taskforce to assess the state of the district's finances and resources, partnerships and engagements, school safety, educational programs, and governance structure, including whether the district should be returned to local control. Additional details are available in a press release from the Mayor's office at http://ework.phila.gov/philagov/news/prelease.asp?id=258.


  • 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

    Higher Education

  • The U.S. Department of Education is seeking to make higher education "more affordable, accessible, accountable and consumer-friendly", following last week's release of recommendations from the Secretary's Commission on the Future of Higher Education. The Commission's report, "A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education", found that "access to higher education is unduly limited by the complex interplay of inadequate preparation, lack of information about college opportunities, and persistent financial barriers". The report calls for better alignment to close the "'expectations gap' between what colleges require and what high schools produce". The Commission also makes recommendations regarding rising college costs, which have outpaced inflation in the past two decades, and which it says discourage some students from attending higher education, force students to take on "worrisome debt burdens", and pose a public policy challenge for state and federal policymakers. The report recommends streamlining the financial aid system, providing notice of likely aid to students as early as the eighth grade, and increasing need-based aid.

    Additionally, the Commission expressed distress that learning in U.S. colleges and universities "is inadequate and, in some cases, declining" as evidenced by graduation rates, time to degree learning outcomes and adult literacy skills. In order to improve student learning, the report suggests a number of accountability mechanisms and urges "postsecondary institutions to make a commitment to embrace new pedagogies, curricula, and technologies." Finally, the report calls for greater transparency in information about colleges' and universities' cost, price and student success outcomes, and recommends the creation of a "searchable, consumer-friendly database" through which the public can access this information. Read the report's full recommendations at www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/hiedfuture/reports/pre-pub-report.pdf.



  • High Schools

  • "Diplomas Count: An Essential Guide to Graduation Policy", a report developed by the Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) Research Center, assesses national, state and school district graduation rates. This first annual report examines high school graduation rate disparities among a diverse set of demographic groups, as well as the eight different methods states use to determine such rates. (To accurately compare state and national data, the EPE Research Center developed a Cumulative Promotion Index to measure graduation rates in each state.) The report clearly demonstrates large rate gaps across racial, economic and gender groups throughout the nation. Diplomas Count aims to highlight key policy indicators in order to improve equity in graduation rates and increase the number of high school students who earn a regular diploma within four years.

    Diplomas Count includes a Pennsylvania state-level report that provides information about the overall graduation rate, graduation rates across race and gender classifications, and more. The report compares these data with the national data to place Pennsylvania's performance in perspective. The report demonstrates that Pennsylvania's overall graduation rate surpasses the national rate by nearly 10 percentage points, 79.1 percent in the state as compared with 69.6 percent nationally. Despite these numbers, when Pennsylvania's gradation rate is broken down by race and ethnicity, the state's percentages are below the national average in three out of five categories. The state surpasses the national average in the percentage of black and white students graduating while it falls short with Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native students. The rate of graduation for impoverished students, determined by eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch, is 29.4 percent in the state and 38.7 percent nationally. Find Diplomas Count, including individual reports for each of the 50 states, online at www.edweek.org/ew/toc/2006/06/22/index.html.


  • In "Paying Double: Inadequate High Schools and Community College Remediation", an issue brief from the Alliance for Excellent Education, researchers assess the costs of inadequate high school education. The paper discusses the failure of public high schools to prepare graduates for post-secondary education or the workforce and the cost of remediation associated with the lack of preparation. The claims made by the study are based on the number of students under the age of 25 taking remedial classes in community colleges. Based on a cost model that estimates that the tuition paid by students and families covers one fifth of the cost of education, the study determines the annual remediation costs nationally and by state. The study also considers the diminished earning potential resulting from the higher likelihood of college dropout.

    Paying Double estimates that if high schools were properly preparing students for college and the workforce, the annual remediation savings for the state of Pennsylvania would be approximately $81.8 million; additional wages that would result are estimated at $43.1 million annually. Nationally, the annual remediation savings for the U.S. would be $1.4 billion, with an additional $2.3 billion gained from increased earnings. The study maintains that the actual costs of inadequate high school preparation are likely much higher as these estimates do not account for students taking remedial classes in four-year institutions, nor do they account for other remediation costs such as employer provided skills training or technological substitutes for basic skills. For more information, visit www.all4ed.org/publications/remediation.pdf.


  • Volume 1 of a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) evaluates the various methods used and proposed for measuring high school graduation rates. In response to the No Child Left Behind Act's requirement that schools report an on-time graduation rate as a measure of adequate yearly progress, NCES seeks to establish accepted professional standards for calculating this rate. The report examines each method of calculation currently used and highlights the shortcomings of these methods. Through the National Institute of Statistical Sciences (NISS), NCES convened a task force to aid in the development of a sound method of calculation. Ultimately, the report suggests a standard rate, called the Exclusion-Adjusted Cohort Graduation Indicator (EACGI), which measures students' progress from their entry into 9th grade until graduation. NISS recommends that NCES work with states to develop the student level data required to utilize this measurement. In the interim, this report can serve as an informational guide to schools, districts and states to help determine graduation rates with data currently available. To read "User's Guide to Computing High School Graduation Rates, Volume 1: Review of Current and Proposed Graduation Indicators", visit http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2006604.

    Volume 2 of the NCES "User's Guide to Computing High School Graduation Rates" covers the technical information used in establishing an interim graduation rate measure. The goal of the study was to determine which of the available proxy measures best estimates the true on-time graduation rate determined by the EACGI recommended in Volume 1. To accomplish this, the NISS task force gathered the data and calculated the EACGI for two states as well as the other proxy indicators. NCES identified two states that had adequate student record systems in place for enough years to produce the data needed to calculate the EACGI for this test. In addition to providing the most accurate interim graduation rate measure, the data collection process also indicated the necessary level of specificity needed in student record keeping in order to utilize the EACGI. The study concluded that the most accurate proxy measure was the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR); it also demonstrated a strong correlation between the Freshman Graduation Rate (FGR) and the AFGR. To read the technical report, go to http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2006605.


  • The National Center for Education Statistics also recently released "United States High School Sophomores: A Twenty-Two Year Comparison, 1980-2002" available at http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2006327.



  • Datebook

  • Next Week...The House Education Committee holds an informational meeting on House Bill 2857 on Tuesday in Philadelphia. The House Democratic Policy Committee holds a hearing on growing school districts on Thursday in Shawnee-on-Delaware. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators host their annual School Leadership Conference in Hershey on October 10-13. The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Board of Governors meets October 11-12 in Harrisburg. The National Association of State Boards of Education holds its annual conference October 12-14 in Louisville, KY. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development hosts its Conference on Teaching and Learning October 13-15 in Orlando, FL. The Association of School Business Officials International holds its annual meeting and exhibits October 13-16 in Pittsburgh. For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.


  • EPLC's 2006 Education Policy Leadership Awards Dinner will honor Karl Girton, Chair of the PA State Board of Education, with the Edward Donley Education Policy Leadership Award on Wednesday, October 18. The Center will recognize with the EPLC Partner Award the Laboratory for Student Success at Temple University Center for Research in Human Development and Education and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. EPLC also will recognize alumni of its leadership development programs. The EPLC Leadership Program Alumni Award will be presented to Diane Castelbuono (1999-2000 EPFP), William R. Adams, Jr. (2001-2002 Pittsburgh ICLE) and Daniel Fogarty (2002-2003 Lehigh Valley ICLE). For details, see www.eplc.org/donleydinner.html.


  • Save the Dates...EPLC will host the 2006 Pennsylvania Education Finance Symposium on Thursday and Friday, November 16-17, 2006 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Harrisburg.



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