EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, February 2, 2007

Reminder: Tuesday, February 13, will be the first day to circulate petitions for school board elections in 500 of Pennsylvania's 501 school districts (only Philadelphia has an appointed board). More than 2000 school board positions across the Commonwealth will be on the May 15 Primary Election ballot.

    Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

  • Progress continues on the statewide education costing-out study recently commissioned by the State Board of Education. Organizations interested in submitting nominations for the professional judgment panels that will be convened as part of the study may forward names to project manager Dr. Robert Feir by February 16, 2007. Other nominations will be made through several statewide education associations identified on the State Board of Education's web site. For details on how to submit nominations, including information related to panelist qualifications, responsibilities and anticipated time commitment, see www.pde.state.pa.us/stateboard_ed/cwp/view.asp?Q=124911&A=3.

    The costing-out study will incorporate four methodologies in its evaluation of what it costs to provide an education that allows all students to meet state standards, one of which is the professional judgment approach. Using this model, panels of educators will identify the resources hypothetical Pennsylvania schools need to enable all students to attain state standards. More detail about how the study will be conducted is available in the January 26 edition of the EPLC Education Notebook at www.eplc.org/notebook2007/January26.html. The costing-out study was mandated by the General Assembly in Act 114 of 2006.


  • The Senate Education Committee conducted a public hearing Wednesday on implementation of the higher education articulation program also mandated by Act 114 of 2006. Dr. Kathleen Shaw, Deputy Secretary for Postsecondary and Higher Education, said the Transfer and Articulation Oversight Committee is on target to meet the law's deadline for approving at least 30 credit hours of foundation courses that can be universally transferred between the state's community colleges and State System of Higher Education universities. Community colleges and PASSHE universities by law must participate in the transfer system; state-related universities and private institutions may choose to participate.

    To date, five subcommittees consisting of representatives of all sectors of higher education have approved course equivalency standards in six areas - mathematics, natural sciences, English and humanities, behavioral sciences, English composition, and public speaking. These general guidelines will serve as the basis for the subcommittees to evaluate courses submitted by institutions for approval in the transfer system. Submitted courses will be reviewed from March through June. PDE has hired Pennsylvania-based company AcademyOne to provide web-based services that will help facilitate this work. AcademyOne will catalog existing course equivalencies as well as courses approved for transfer by the subcommittees and provide notice to participating institutions as each course is approved so that each institution can establish a course equivalency. Eventually, students will be able to access a web-based matrix identifying the menu of foundation courses that are transferable between participating institutions. The system will take effect in the Fall 2007 semester. For more information about AcademyOne, see www.academyone.com.

    State-related and independent institutions may choose to participate in the system this year by signing an agreement to abide by the transfer system's standards by February 28. However, Mary Young of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania told the Committee the February 28 deadline is a problem for private institutions. She said they likely will wait until next year to decide if they want to join because they need more time to discuss the recently-developed course equivalency standards with their faculties and review courses approved for transfer before bringing participation up for a vote before the institution's governing board. Private colleges and universities that do not elect to participate at this stage will have an annual opportunity to join in the future.

    Pennsylvania's community colleges want to see the articulation system expanded in the future. Dr. Karen Stout, President of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, urged that while the law's requirement to identify "at least 30 hours of foundation courses" for universal transfer is a starting point, the ultimate goal should be the seamless transfer of an associate's degree with a student being granted admission with junior standing. Committee Chair James Rhoades agreed that developing a more extensive system is a future goal. The community colleges also expressed concern that the current effort not be limited to identifying only 30 credit hours (10 common courses) for transfer that are applicable only to certain majors, but that the requirement to identify "at least" 30 hours should provide students a broad matrix of courses from which to select.

    The Transfer and Articulation Oversight Committee will meet next on February 7 to approve specific course titles that typically serve as foundation-level courses across the disciplinary areas. Additionally, chairs of the group's five subcommittees will make a recommendation as to how best engage faculty in the course review process.


  • 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.


    Pennsylvania Bulletin

  • From the January 27, 2007 Pennsylvania Bulletin...
    The Pennsylvania Department of Education will submit notice to the U.S. Department of Education that by June 30, 2008 it intends to amend state special education policies to be consistent with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 and that it will comply with the requirements of the federal law from July 1, 2007 to June 31, 2008. Notice is required in order for the state to receive a federal special education grant. The Department of Education will entertain public comments on this assurance through March 28, 2007. Information on obtaining a copy of the proposed assurance and how to submit comments is available at www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol37/37-4/127.html.



  • Research and Reports

    High School Reform

  • The Governor's Commission on College and Career Success is calling on the state to fundamentally redesign the high school experience to equip students to meet the changing workforce demands of the 21st century economy. According to the Commission's final report, by 2010, two-thirds of all new jobs created will require at least some post-secondary education. The Commonwealth must prepare all students with the skills needed to directly enter the new economy's workforce or to enter and succeed in college - skills that are comparable whether students choose to enter college or workforce training programs. The 12 recommendations put forth by the Commission focus on increasing rigor, expectations and supports and represent a dual agenda for the Commonwealth as they "require that Pennsylvania not only increases the academic proficiency of its graduates, but also do so while graduating more of its students."

    The panel is recommending new high school graduation requirements under which students must demonstrate proficiency of state academic standards either on the 11th grade PSSA or new, state-developed Graduation Competency Assessments (GCAs) in order to graduate. All students would be required to take a series of GCAs in math, English/Language Arts, laboratory science, and American History, Economics and Government. GCAs would provide a more in-depth assessment of each subject than the PSSA and provide more timely information on student progress toward meeting state standards prior to the 11th grade. Currently, to graduate from high school students must either demonstrate proficiency on the PSSA or on an equivalent local assessment. The Commission wants to replace the local assessment option with the GCAs to ensure a common, statewide graduation standard. Further, the Commission says PSSA and GCA scores should be recorded on all student transcripts to make the exams relevant for students and meaningful for colleges and employers to use for admission, placement and employment purposes.

    As part of its deliberations, the Commission worked with Pennsylvania businesses and colleges to develop definitions of college and career readiness - referred to as College and Career Essentials (definitions are complete for math and English, science definitions are underway). The Commission hopes these definitions will guide the State Board of Education's review of the state academic standards as a means of influencing high school curriculum. It also encourages colleges and universities to use the College and Career Essentials in developing their placement exams to build alignment between the P-12 and higher education systems.

    Among its other recommendations, the Commission says the state should develop a college and career readiness definition for Social Studies and require students to be assessed in this area. It also calls for the state to develop model preK-12 curricula aligned with the College and Career Essentials and for the state to develop a preK-16 student information system to collect information on student performance over time, including value-added assessments. The recommendations also address establishing an early warning system to identify students that are in danger of falling behind; reconfiguring and expanding the role of guidance counselors; building alliances with business, colleges and high schools to address needs unique to specific regions; and increasing rigor in Career and Technical education. Finally, the Commission makes recommendations surrounding programs to encourage economically and educationally disadvantaged students to complete college and programs to re-engage and re-enroll former dropouts.

    Read the Commission's final report at www.project720.org/images/stories//commission%20final%20report%2012-22-06.pdf.


  • Philadelphia School District

  • Philadelphia city schools that underwent district-led interventions perform better than schools turned over to private managers, according to a new study conducted by researchers from RAND Corporation and Research for Action. The study found that "despite additional per-pupil resources, privately operated schools did not produce average increases in student achievement that were any larger than those seen in the rest of the district. Meanwhile, district-managed restructured schools outpaced the gains of the rest of the district in math".

    Following the state's 2002 takeover of the district, 45 of the city's lowest-performing elementary and middle schools were turned over to for-profit or nonprofit private managers and given extra funding, 21 low-performing schools were restructured using district-led interventions and extra funding, and 16 schools viewed as improving prior to the takeover received extra funding but no additional intervention. Math and reading achievement has increased significantly district-wide in the past four years and paralleled achievement gains in similar low-achieving Pennsylvania schools. However, achievement at privately managed schools did not exceed these district-wide trends despite extra resources. The 21 schools restructured by the district showed significant gains in math during the first three years and in reading during the first year. In the fourth year, when additional resources for restructured schools were cut, the schools seemed to have maintained their achievement gains. Results for the "sweet sixteen" schools showed no significant positive or negative effects.

    The study also assessed whether different private providers had different impacts. Researchers concluded that there was no significant difference among the three private provider types - universities, other nonprofits and for-profit companies. However, they expressed concern over negative results for schools managed by Temple University (in math and reading) and by Victory Schools (in math).

    The study acknowledges that private managers kept pace with district achievement while working with some of the lowest-achieving schools in the district, but concludes that "with four years of experience, we find no evidence of differential academic benefits that would support the additional expenditures on private managers". For more information, read "State Takeover, School Restructuring, Private Management and Student Achievement in Philadelphia" at www.researchforaction.org/publication/details/262.



  • Other

  • The House has announced its Committee membership for the 2007-2008 legislative session. The House Education Committee members are:

    Rep. James R. Roebuck, Jr. (D-188) - Majority Chair
    Rep. Patrick Harkins (D-1) - Democratic Secretary
    Rep. Lawrence H. Curry (D-154) - Subcommittee Chair-Higher Education
    Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland (D-159) - Subcommittee Chair-Basic Education
    Rep. Barbara McIlvaine Smith (D-156) - Subcommittee Chair-Special Education
    Rep. Michael Carroll (D-118)
    Rep. Scott Conklin (D-77)
    Rep. Richard Grucela (D-137)
    Rep. Michael Hanna (D-76)
    Rep. Daylin Leach (D-149)
    Rep. Mark Longietti (D-7)
    Rep. John Pallone (D-54)
    Rep. Frank Shimkus (D-113)
    Rep. Chelsa Wagner (D-22)
    Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-19)
    Rep. John Yudichak (D-119)
    Rep. Jess Stairs (R-59) - Minority Chair
    Rep. Bob Bastian (R-69)
    Rep. Karen Beyer (R-131)
    Rep. Mike Fleck (R-81)
    Rep. Beverly Mackereth (R-196)
    Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-12)
    Rep. Duane Milne (R-167)
    Rep. Thomas Murt (R-152)
    Rep. Bernie O'Neill (R-29)
    Rep. Thomas Quigley (R-146)
    Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-65)
    Rep. Sam Rohrer (R-128)
    Rep. Curtis Sonney (R-4)

  • Melva S. Vogler has been elected to a one-year term as Chair of the Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS). Vogler, who has served on the PSERS Board since 1994, currently teaches math and is mathematics department chairperson at Wallenpaupack Area High School in Wayne County. Representative Steven Nickol (R-York & Adams Counties), who serves as one of two Board members appointed by the Speaker of the House, was re-elected to serve as Vice Chair.



  • Datebook

  • EPLC is again offering regional Workshops for 2007 school board candidates. The Workshops are being offered by EPLC with the cooperation of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA). Workshops are intended for incumbent board members and new candidates, as well as all citizens who plan to be actively involved in school board elections as campaign volunteers or community leaders.

    EPLC's day-long Candidate Workshops are planned for Valley Forge (February 10), Mechanicsburg (February 24), Allentown (March 3) and Monroeville (March 10). Registration is $30 which includes lunch, break refreshments, and materials. For more information and a registration form, please see www.eplc.org/schoolboardworkshop.html.


  • Next Week...Governor Rendell delivers his FY 2007-2008 budget proposal to a Joint Session of the General Assembly on Tuesday, February 6. The Senate Education Committee meets Tuesday to consider Senate Bills 71, 154, 155, 157, 158 and 219. EPLC hosts a Pennsylvania Education Policy Forum - Southeastern Pennsylvania Breakfast Series on Friday. On Saturday, EPLC holds a Workshop for School Board Candidates in Valley Forge. For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.


  • Save the Date...EPLC will host the 5th Annual Pennsylvania Education Policy and Leadership Conference on March 29-30, 2007. Keynote speakers include Wendy Puriefoy, President of the Public Education Network, and Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Jerry Zahorchak.



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