EPLC Education Notebook

Monday, September 25, 2006

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

    Senate Activity

  • The Senate Appropriations Committee moved forwarded amended versions of the following legislation on Tuesday. Both bills await further consideration by the full Senate.

    Senate Bill 592: Allows the Pennsylvania School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS) to keep some investment information confidential for certain periods of time.

    Senate Bill 1209: Establishes a program to make grants available for kindergarten classrooms in Pennsylvania's public and private schools to offer nutritional and agriculture education programs. The Healthy Farms and Healthy Schools Program also is designed to benefit Pennsylvania's farmers by exposing students and their families to locally grown nutritional foods.

  • House Activity

  • On Monday, the House Children and Youth Committee held an informational meeting on the National Character Education Foundation (NCEF). The foundation's mission is to promote good character through continuous positive messaging. NCEF has developed a curriculum for grades pre-K-12 that challenges negative cultural influences through the integration of character development programs in the public education curriculum. The foundation also provides speakers for student assemblies, parental symposiums and educator staff development programs. For more information about NCEF, visit www.ncef.net.

  • The House Education Committee met with representatives of the Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Teacher Educators (PAC-TE) to discuss concerns related to teacher certification issues. Also appearing before the Committee at Monday's informational meeting in Pittsburgh were Sharon Brumbaugh, Special Assistant to the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, and Robert Feir, Executive Director of the Governor's Commission on Training America's Teachers, both of whom have been involved in developing recommendations to overhaul Pennsylvania's teacher certification system.

    Currently, the Pennsylvania State Board of Education is considering revamping the state's certification system to include new certificates for early childhood education, middle level education and secondary education that would require all special education teachers to be dually certified in the area that they teach. The proposal under consideration by the Board also would add new requirements for teacher preparation programs to provide coursework and practice in teaching students with disabilities and English language learners. The new certificates under consideration would be issued beginning January 1, 2012. For more information about the meeting, contact the office of Committee Chair Jess Stairs at (717) 783-9311.

  • On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee met in West Chester for an informational meeting on Individual Education Plan (IEP) due process hearings. For more information, contact the office of Committee Chair Dennis O'Brien at (717) 787-5689.

  • On Wednesday, the House Urban Affairs Committee met in Philadelphia for an informational meeting on school violence. For more information, contact the office of Committee Chair John Taylor at (717) 787-3179.

  • Other Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

  • The Pennsylvania State Board of Education adopted final form regulations governing prekindergarten programs at its meeting Wednesday, the first-ever guidelines for operating state-funded pre-K programs. School districts are not required to provide prekindergarten and attendance by students also is optional. Under the state's Accountability Block Grant program, currently funded at $250 million, districts may choose to use block grant funds to support pre-K programs. The regulations now go before the Governor's office, the Education Committees of the State House and State Senate and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission for their approval. A copy of the regulations is available at www.pde.state.pa.us/stateboard_ed/lib/stateboard_ed/FinalversionofRegs.pdf.

  • Governor Ed Rendell this week announced 103 schools that will receive Classrooms for the Future grants to purchase laptop computers for their high schools' English, math, science and social studies classrooms. The initiative also includes a multimedia workstation for teachers and teacher training in integrating technology into instruction. For a list of grantees, see www.pde.state.pa.us/k12/cwp/view.asp?a=3&pm=1&Q=122230.

  • The Governor also announced recipients of other high school reform grants. An additional 32 schools will receive funding through Project 720 - the state's high school reform initiative - through the $8 million invested in the program this year, brining the total number of schools involved in the initiative to 107. Additionally, 19 school districts will receive grants to improve College and Career Counseling through the $3 million appropriated for the program this year. Finally, the Governor announced that nearly 30,000 students in 313 school districts will benefit from dual enrollment grants that allow them to earn college credit during high school. Currently, 77 postsecondary education institutions are participating in the dual enrollment program, including 13 of the state's 14 community colleges and 12 of the 14 State System of Higher Education universities. Dual enrollment is currently funded by the state at $8 million. For more information about grant recipients, see www.pdenewsroom.state.pa.us/newsroom/cwp/view.asp?a=3&q=122307.

  • 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

    Education Statistics

  • Enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools is expected to grow by 6 percent nationally between 2003 and 2015. Pennsylvania, however, is expected to lose almost 6 percent of its PK-12 student population, mirroring the overall 5 percent decline projected for the northeastern United States. Nationally, college enrollments are expected to spike by 15 percent during the same time period, according to the new "Projection of Education Statistics to 2015" from the National Center for Education Statistics. In addition to student enrollment forecasts, the publication includes projections for graduates, teachers, and expenditures in elementary and secondary schools. Find the report at http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2006084.

  • Teacher Quality

  • Major changes are needed to improve teacher education programs that are "inadequately preparing their students to meet the realities of today's standards-based, accountability-driven classrooms," according to a new report from Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and former president of Teachers College, Columbia University. In "Educating School Teachers", Levine says education schools suffer from a host of problems ranging from low admission and graduation standards to curriculums and faculty that are disconnected from classroom practice. Levine also criticizes state quality control mechanisms as ineffective because they are more focused on process than substance. The report "provides an examination of the successes and failures of university-based teacher education programs, offers "criteria for excellence" on which to judge the quality of programs, and sets forth a comprehensive five-point plan for improving programs and changing teacher-education policy."

    The study is based on national surveys of education school alumni, principals, education school deans and faculty, as well as visits to 28 various education schools across the country and an examination of the relationship between student achievement gains and teacher preparation. According to the report, 62% of teacher education alumni surveyed felt they were unprepared "to cope with the realities of today's classrooms". Principals gave teacher education programs low marks and said improvements are needed in preparing teachers to integrate technology into instruction, use student performance assessment techniques, implement curriculum and performance standards, manage classrooms, and address the needs of a diverse study body.

    In his action plan for reforming teacher education, Levine calls for the transformation of education schools into professional schools focused on school practice. He also suggests that programs should be evaluated primarily based on student achievement, that quality control should be strengthened by redesigning accreditation and state licensure requirements, and that a five-year teacher education programs that include enriched academic content work should become the norm.

    Levine's study of teacher education programs is one piece of a four-part series - The Education Schools Project - that began with a report on educating school leaders. Download the "Educating School Teachers" report at www.edschools.org/teacher_report.htm.

  • For more information about teacher quality issues, including links to informational resources and additional research and repots, see EPLC's Education Policy Information Clearinghouse at www.eplc.org/clearinghouse_teacherqs.html.


  • Education Sector, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank, recently published a paper that explains how states set passing scores on standardized tests. The organization says setting cut scores is the least discussed of the three key steps in the development of states' academic standards and assessments. Building public awareness about how "cut scores" are set is important "because trying to interpret student performance on a test without understanding the passing score is like reading a map without a scale". The paper presents the various score-setting methods in a format that avoids education jargon and can be clearly understood by the general public. Read the "Explainer" paper at www.educationsector.org/usr_doc/EXPCutScores.pdf.

  • For more information about assessment issues including links to informational resources and additional research and repots, see EPLC's Education Policy Information Clearinghouse at www.eplc.org/clearinghouse_Assessment.html.

    Appointments & Resignations

  • Dr. James Gearity, Deputy Secretary for Postsecondary and Higher Education in the Pennsylvania Department of Education, will retire from the Department effective September 29.

  • Adam Schott has resigned as Director of Government Relations in the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Deb Wynn will assume this position on October 9.

  • Dr. Kathleen Shaw has joined the staff of the Pennsylvania Department of Education as a Special Assistant to the Secretary of Education. Shaw's portfolio will include work with the Governor's Commission on College and Career Success and the Transfer and Articulation Oversight Committee.

  • The Pennsylvania Association of Vocational Administrators will no longer be recognized by the acronym PAVA. The organization is transitioning to the moniker Pennsylvania Association of Career and Technical Administrators.

  • Datebook

  • This Week...The Senate Education Committee holds a public hearing Wednesday on Senate Bill 307, which would establish the Independent Higher Education and Community Financing Program. The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee meets Wednesday in Harrisburg to discuss the cost of beginning school before Labor Day. The Transfer and Articulation Oversight Committee, established by Act 114 of 2006, meets Wednesday. The Education Policy and Leadership Center hosts a Pennsylvania Education Policy Forum - Western Pennsylvania Breakfast Series on Thursday, September 28. The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials hosts its annual trade show on Friday, September 29 in Scranton. The National College Access Network hosts its annual conference September 25-27 in Orlando. The Council of Urban Boards of Education holds its annual conference September 28-October 1 in Phoenix. For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

  • The Education Policy and Leadership Center will honor Karl Girton, Chair of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, with the Edward Donley Education Policy Leadership Award on Wednesday, October 18. The Center's annual awards dinner also 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 Education Policy Fellowship Program), William R. Adams, Jr. (2001-2002 Pittsburgh ICLE) and Daniel Fogarty (2002-2003 Lehigh Valley ICLE). For more information about the 2006 Education Policy Leadership Awards Dinner, 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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