EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, December 12, 2008

    Content in this edition:
    Pennsylvania Department of Education
    State Revenues
    Research and Reports
    EPLC News

    The EPLC Education Notebook (current and past editions) also is available by visiting the EPLC website at www.eplc.org/ednotebook.html.



    PSSA Science Results

    This week, the Pennsylvania Department of Education released the first-ever PSSA science results for 4th, 8th, and 11th graders.  The results of the state science assessment show that 81.5% of 4th graders scored at grade level, while 52.7% of 8th graders were at grade level and only 35.7% of 11th graders performed at grade level.  These results, according to state Education Secretary Jerry Zahorchak, indicate that Pennsylvania needs to make its high school science instruction more rigorous and engaging in order for our graduates to compete in a high-skills global workforce.

    Technical College Program

    Harrisburg Area Community College will receive a $250,000 grant from PDE under the state’s Technical College Program to establish a degree program in Industrial Maintenance/Mechatronics Technology in Franklin County.  The grant will support equipment and operating costs of this associate’s degree program designed to address local manufacturing workforce needs.  The program, which is slated to being in January 2009, will be conducted via a partnership between HACC, the Franklin County Career and Technical School, and local employers.  Additionally, program graduates will be able to transfer their credits to pursue a bachelor’s degree in professional studies with a concentration in Technical Management at Shippensburg University.



    Governor Ed Rendell held his annual mid-year budget briefing this week at which he outlined a plan to address the projected $1.6 billion deficit for the current fiscal year ending June 30.  The Governor proposed closing the revenue gap by: reducing the current state budget by $464 million via already announced cuts, a wage freeze for non-unionized state employees, a hiring freeze, and a ban on out-of-state travel; cutting $36 million from the budgets of the General Assembly and other independent agencies; using half ($375 million) of the state’s Rainy Day Fund; securing $174 million in leases for Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling; using $101 million in unused state funds left over from prior years; and using an anticipated $450 million in federal fiscal relief.  Click here for a copy of the mid-year budget briefing as well as lists of previously announced state budget cuts.



    Science Achievement

    The latest report of Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2007 shows that American students in grades four and eight have shown steady improvement in mathematics since 1995, ranking in the top one-third of participating countries.  In science, while the average score for eighth graders was higher than the average scores of students in 35 of 47 countries and for fourth graders was higher than the average scores of students in 25 of 35 other countries, the number of countries outperforming the U.S. in science has increased since 2003. Click here for further information on TIMSS.

    High School Reform

    The Education Commission of the States (ECS) has introduced three new resources (two databases and a policy brief) for policymakers interested in dual enrollment and early and middle college high school issues.  The early and middle college database makes information available on how states are handling issues such as: guidelines for establishment, funding mechanisms, student eligibility, student supports and faculty requirements.  A companion policy brief on early college high schools reviews key state policy components that contribute to successful programs.  ECS’ new dual enrollment database features 15 indicators of dual enrollment policies and allows users to examine and compare one or more state programs.

    Higher Education Faculty

    More than half of the undergraduate courses at U.S. public colleges and universities are taught by contingent faculty and graduate instructors rather than full-time tenured faculty according to a report released this week by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).  The report, “Reversing Course: The Troubled State of Academic Staffing and a Path Forward”, found that contingent faculty members teach nearly 49% of all undergraduate courses in public colleges.  That figure does not include graduate instructors as they are not considered college “faculty” in most cases.  While the report examines the loss of full-time tenured positions and issues relating to contingent faculty job security and fairness issues, it also puts forth a solution using an interactive model that states, college administrators, faculty members and unions can utilize to calculate the number of people and financial support that would be necessary to change staffing in a meaningful way.


    The U.S. Department of Education, through the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), recently published an issue brief on “Expectations and Reports of Homework for Public School Students in the First, Third, and Fifth Grades.”  The brief uses longitudinal data to examine the amount of time that teachers expect their students to spend on reading and math homework and parent reports of how often their children did homework.  The study finds that children in schools with higher percentages of minority students had teachers who expected more homework whereas children in lower percentage minority schools had teachers who expected less homework.  It also was noted that “in all three grades, larger percentages of Black, Asian, and Hispanic children than White children had parents who reported that their child did homework 5 or more times a week.”



    2009 School Board Candidate Workshops

    EPLC will again sponsor a series of School Board Candidate Workshops early in 2009.  Conducted in partnership with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and local sponsors, the Workshops are intended for those considering a 2009 run for school board (incumbents and non-incumbents), anyone interested in helping others run for school board, or those who just want to know more about the work of school boards and school directors.  The Candidate Workshops are all-day events held on Saturdays in January, February and March.  Check the EPLC web site in late December for information about sites, dates and registration details.

    Coming Soon - Education and Policy Jobs Listings

    Employers will soon be able to list education and policy employment opportunities on a special page of the EPLC web site.  It will be a great meeting place for those offering and seeking positions in pre-K programs, elementary and secondary schools, higher education, public policy agencies, statewide associations, advocacy organizations, and more.  Details coming soon!



    Next week...

  • The Independent Regulatory Review Commission meets Thursday to consider Regulation No. 2730 State Board of Education #6-315: Disciplinary Placements.

  • For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

    EPLC Education Notebook is published by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC). Permission to reprint or electronically redistribute the Notebook in whole or in part is granted provided attribution to EPLC is provided.

    The Education Policy and Leadership Center is an independent, non-partisan and not-for-profit organization. The Mission of EPLC is to encourage and support the enactment and implementation of effective state-level education policies in order to improve student learning in grades P-12, increase the effective operation of schools, and enhance educational opportunities for citizens of all ages.

To return to the EPLC Education Notebook homepage, click here.

To return to The Education Policy and Leadership Center homepage, click here.