EPLC Education Notebook
Monday, November 17, 2008
Content in this edition:
The EPLC Education Notebook (current and past editions) also is available by visiting the EPLC website at www.eplc.org/ednotebook.html.
Lt. Governor Catherine Baker Knoll
Pennsylvania Lt. Governor Catherine Baker Knoll passed away November 13, ending her brief battle against neuroendocrine cancer. Knoll served two terms as State Treasurer before being elected Pennsylvania’s first female Lieutenant Governor in 2002. Knoll was 78. As the state constitution provides, State Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25) will assume the position of Lieutenant Governor while simultaneously retaining his Senate post.
John Godlewski, a 34-year veteran of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, passed away on November 12. Godlewski most recently served as Director of the Bureau of Budget and Fiscal Management at PDE. He was 56.
EPLC’s annual Pennsylvania Education Finance Symposium takes place this week in the Harrisburg area on Thursday, November 20. Sessions include:
For Symposium details and registration information, see www.eplc.org/financesymposium.html.
The House Education Committee gathered on Thursday for a public hearing on the PA Department of Education’s guidelines for implementing the state’s new teacher training rules. Changes to state regulations that govern teacher certification (Chapter 49) – approved last year by the State Board of Education – establish new teaching certificates in grades pre-K through 4th and grades 4th-8th, require dual certification for special education teachers, and require all Education majors to receive training in working with special education students and students who are English language learners as part of their undergraduate education. Some college faculty members contend that the state’s guidelines for revising teacher training programs to comply with the new regulations are too prescriptive and impinge on the autonomy of professors or the institutions. Click here to read testimony presented to the Committee.
Representatives of private colleges expressed concern over the ability to integrate new course requirements into a balanced liberal arts education within a four-year program, citing potential increased costs to both universities and students. While independent college faculty expressed general support for the competencies and standards being emphasized by PDE, they oppose the specificity in the Department’s guidelines for implementation. Faculty members also raised concerns that the new certificates could eventually reduce the number of available middle school and special education teachers. Finally, concerns were expressed over a state-developed matrix to document the qualifications of teacher education faculty.
However, the Executive Vice Chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) said PASSHE’s 14 universities are well on track to complying with the new guidelines and said many of the changes are long overdue given the realities of our classrooms. Representatives of the state’s community colleges and early childhood teacher educators also spoke in support of the guidelines and urged continued support for a provision that requires transfer and articulation agreements between 2-year and 4-year institutions, which is opposed by some private colleges.
Kate Shaw, PDE Deputy Secretary for Postsecondary and Higher Education, said the guidelines were developed with extensive input from the field and offer clarity about the state’s expectations for teacher preparation that has not previously existed. Shaw acknowledged the challenges facing the state’s diverse higher education community, but said the guidelines provide flexibility for institutions in meeting the Department’s standards and PDE stands ready to provide technical assistance in meeting each institution’s individual needs. Recognizing the tight timeline for change, Shaw announced that colleges and universities may apply for a 6-month extension of the deadline by which students must graduate under the new certificates. Applications for the extension are due by December 31, 2008.
RESEARCH AND REPORTS
The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) recently identified a set of policy recommendations for middle grade reforms to better prepare students for academic success in high school. The NASBE proposals are intended to address what they refer to as the “benign neglect” by educators and the public to place greater emphasis and attention on these significant years – grades 6, 7 and 8. According the NASBE Executive Director Brenda Welburn, "Whether students later thrive or falter in high school is largely determined at this time, making improvements in these areas critical if we are to increase high school achievement overall.” The full report and recommendations, “Beginning in the Middle: Critical Steps in Secondary School Reform”, is available from NASBE for $14 by calling (800) 220-5183 or via the Internet at www.nasbe.org.
For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.