EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, January 11, 2008

    Content in this edition:
    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    - State Board of Education
    - Independent Regulatory Review Commission
    Pennsylvania Bulletin
    Research and Reports

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

    State Board of Education

    The State Board of Education held a public hearing Wednesday to gather input on proposed changes to the state's high school graduation requirements. Proposed regulatory changes to Chapter 4 would require students to demonstrate proficiency in science and social studies, in addition to reading, writing and math. School districts could use any combination of the following assessment options to determine student proficiency in these subjects: state PSSAs, subject-specific graduation competency assessments (GCAs) to be developed by PDE, local assessments (that are independently validated as aligned to state standards and proficiency levels), and advanced placement and International Baccalaureate exams. To utilize the local assessment option, school entities would be responsible for contracting and paying the cost of independently validating each assessment every five years.

    Additionally, students would be required to meet their school district's requirements for course completion and grades, complete a culminating project, and satisfy to their school district that they demonstrate proficiency in the other state academic standards not measured by a state assessment. Under the proposal, these new requirements would take effect in the 2013-14 school year.

    Students who do not demonstrate proficiency on the 11th grade PSSA or any GCA exam would be provided supplemental instruction by the student's school entity.

    The proposal maintains current regulations for students with disabilities to be granted a regular high school diploma after successful completion of a special education program developed by an IEP team. Finally, the proposal would require appropriate testing accommodations (following state guidelines) for students with disabilities and English language learners.

    The State Board plans to advance a draft regulatory proposal at its January 17 meeting. For additional information, read the discussion paper made available by the Board.

    Independent Regulatory Review Commission

    The Independent Regulatory Review Commission approved final form regulatory changes to Chapter 4 (Academic Standards and Assessment) on Thursday (these changes do not include revisions to this Chapter's high school graduation requirements which are currently under consideration by the State Board of Education). The changes remove World Languages from the subject areas included in the state's academic standards. While school districts will be required to provide foreign language study (and PDE will issue guidelines for the operation of these programs), the state will not require students to take foreign language courses. The Board cited issues related to cost and the availability of foreign language teachers as barriers to mandating that all students participate in foreign language instruction.

    Additional changes to Chapter 4 clarify school districts' strategic planning process, hold vocational technical education students to the state's academic standards, and require students who complete approved vocational-technical programs to complete the appropriate assessments under the Pennsylvania Skills Certificate Program or another occupational competency assessment approved by PDE.

    These regulatory changes will take effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

    The Pennsylvania Department of Education has published interim standards for Technical College Programs. The program was established in July 2007 to bring training programs for high-priority occupations to geographic areas that currently lack such educational opportunities.

    The 2008 edition of Education Week's "Quality Counts" ranks Pennsylvania above the national average on measures of educational performance and state policy. The report grades states on a variety of indicators in six main categories that gauge: chance for success (as measured by how students fare in the early years, the school years, and the adult years); K-12 achievement; standards, assessment and accountability; transitions and alignment among the education system; efforts to improve teaching; and school finance.

    Pennsylvania ranks 10th nationally on the Chance for Success index. The state performed above average in terms of family income, parent education, parental employment, linguistic integration, preschool enrollment, elementary reading, middle school math, high school graduation, postsecondary participation, and the annual income and steady employment of adults. Learn more about the Commonwealth's ranking on other indicators in the Pennsylvania State Highlights report.

    Responding to the report, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak noted several important steps the Commonwealth should take to improve its standing in "Quality Counts". Foremost, Zahorchak said the state must "improve our school funding system by ensuring that all students have access to quality classroom resources". Additionally, Zahorchak said the state should adopt statewide high school graduation requirements to ensure students graduate ready for college and high-skill careers, expand early childhood education programs, provide financial incentives for successful principals in high-need schools, and require teacher preparation programs to provide more field experience and hold them accountable for how well their graduates do once they start teaching.

    State Representatives Jess Stairs (R-59), Fred McIlhattan (R-63), and Carl Mantz (R-187) have announced they will not seek re-election in 2008. Stairs currently serves as Republican Chairman of the House Education Committee, and was first elected to the House in 1976. He also serves as a member of the State Board of Education. McIlhattan, elected to the State House in 1997, currently serves as Minority Chair of the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Education. A freshman legislator, Mantz was elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly in November 2006.

    The Pennsylvania House and Senate return to session on Monday, January 14.

    Next Week...

  • The House Education Committee holds an informational meeting on the report of the Governor's Commission on College and Career Success on Tuesday.

  • The House Education Committee meets Wednesday to consider House Bills 1496, 1034 and 1020.

  • The Educational Testing Service (ETS) hosts a program on "The Language Acquisition and Educational Achievement of English-Language Learners" on January 15-16 in Princeton, NJ.

  • The Pennsylvania State Board of Education meets Wednesday and Thursday.

  • Upcoming...

    The Senate Appropriations Committee has announced its state budget hearings schedule for 2008. All hearings will be held in Hearing Room 1, North Office Building. Education-related hearings are scheduled as follows:

    Tuesday, February 26, 3:00 p.m. - State-related universities
    Wednesday, February 27, 10:30 a.m. - PSERS/SERS
    Wednesday, February 27, 3:00 p.m. - PA State System of Higher Education
    Wednesday, March 5, 9:00 a.m. - PA Department of Education

    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.

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