EPLC Education Notebook

Monday, November 3, 2008

    Content in this edition:
    EPLC News
    Pennsylvania State Board of Education
    U.S. Department of Education
    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.

    Polls in Pennsylvania are open 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.


  • Residents of the Philadelphia region are invited to submit applications for EPLC’s new Parent and Community Leadership Institute.  The Institute is for individuals who want to know more about education policy issues and want to join a network of community leaders who are able to influence important statewide and local education policies.  The free, 12-hour program will be held over four Wednesdays (November 12 & 19 and December 3 & 10) from 6:00 p.m. to 9:15 p.m.  Subjects include (Session 1) Governance of Education; (Session 2) Standards, Assessments and Accountability; (Session 3) Financing Public Education; and (Session 4) Parent, School and Community Partnerships; Public Advocacy.  For program details and to apply online, see www.eplc.org/PCLI.html.

  • EPLC’s annual Pennsylvania Education Finance Symposium will take place Thursday, November 20 in Harrisburg.  For event and registration information, see www.eplc.org/financesymposium.html.



    The Pennsylvania State Board of Education continued its statewide hearings on the affordability of postsecondary education last week, meeting in Harrisburg on Tuesday and in Monroeville on Wednesday.  In Harrisburg, the Board heard from current and former students about the impact of carrying unprecedented education debt loads. 

    Bob Gorinski spoke to the pressures he and his wife experience in their household budget, raising a family of three while paying almost $1,200 a month for their combined 14 years of education toward physical therapy degrees.  Gorinski said both he and his wife worked while in school, took a full load of classes, and never changed majors, but still graduated from public universities with more than $100,000 in combined debt.  He said while they saw the debt coming, at age 18 you don’t fully understand what those numbers mean, and asked whether there was something they could have done differently.

    Karyn Reinhold, a senior education major from Kutztown University, said she feels lucky her parents planned prudently to support her education.  But she sees the stress her friends are enduring taking on additional jobs to make up for loans that are now being denied by banks and the anxiety her roommate experiences facing $36,000 in debt while entering the teaching profession where the starting pay is generally less than $38,000.  Reinhold suggested the state help alleviate these pressures by increasing need-based grant aid, lowering interest rates on student loans, and expanding interest-free loans for those entering public service careers.

    The Board also heard from a diverse cross-section of Northampton Community College and Harrisburg Area Community College students, representing immigrant students, teenage mothers who dropped out of high school, adult students seeking to update job-related skills, and students who do not qualify for financial aid.

    Northampton student Leslie Jones, a single mother returning to school more than 20 years after high school, said she comes from a family where education is very important, just not affordable.  Jones fretted about how she would address tuition payments combined with child care costs and the need to work to support her family, and told the Board her enthusiasm and desire to succeed academically is high, but she needs financial support to attain her goals.

    Students praised the benefits of their educational experiences in helping them grow both personally and academically, and lauded the flexibility and relative low cost of Pennsylvania’s community colleges in allowing them to pursue their education.  They echoed calls for PHEAA to change its current policies to allow students taking more than half their courses online to qualify for grant aid and asked for relief from increasing textbook costs.

    Joan Benso, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, outlined the benefits of postsecondary education – both to the individual and to society – and laid out policy options for the state to improve higher education access for all students.  Benso said the state should create a scholarship program for low-income students that would cover all remaining costs to attend a community college or PASSHE university once other financial aid options have been exhausted, covering tuition and associated fees as well as necessary remedial education.  Benso also suggested the state index tuition to a student or family’s income.

    The Board will wrap-up its hearings on postsecondary education affordability in Clarion on November 3.



  • The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) this week issued final regulations for the No Child Left Behind Act.  The regulations define a common measure for high school graduation rate to be used by all states, require timely notification to parents of school choice and tutoring options, and require states to include national comparative data when reporting their state math and reading test results.  Click here for complete details on the final NCLB regulations.

  • The U.S. Department of Education has released a policy paper on charter schools as a result of discussions with charter school leaders at the Department’s forum on charter schools held in May 2008, as well as 15 years of research and experience with charter schools.  “A Commitment to Quality: National Charter School Policy Forum Report” reflects the latest thinking on charter schools, summarizes the Department’s vision for the future of charter schools and outlines steps to achieve it.

  • The federal Commission on the Future of Higher Education has found that the current federal financial aid system is not serving the needs of students and families.  The Commission this month put forth recommendations to streamline the federal student aid application process to make it easier and simpler for students to apply for college aid.  The Commission recommends that the amount of questions be reduced from 100 to 26 and that students be able to learn how much aid they might qualify for before their senior year of high school.  Other proposed improvements would provide real time notification of aid amount and eligibility along with creating a portable package of need-based aid that could be used at any institution of higher education.  Also being considered are efforts to reduce the burden on colleges and universities to verify information or rely on the collection of federal income tax returns.



    High School Reform

  • A new report from Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children found that young people who drop out of high school are twice as likely to live in poverty as peers who receive a high school diploma and three times as likely as their peers who attended some college or earned an associates degree.  The report also found that twice as many dropouts are unemployed compared to high school graduates.  “Dropping Back In: Reengaging Out of School Youth” provides examples of successful strategies for reconnecting high school dropouts to education and makes policy recommendations for how Pennsylvania can re-engage students and help then successfully transition to adulthood.

  • “Among industrialized nations, the United States is the only country in which today’s young people are less likely than their parents to have earned a high school diploma,” according to a new report from the Education Trust.  In “Counting on Graduation”, the Trust calls on states to take immediate action to substantially improve high school graduation rates.  The report says states need to support better data collection at the local level, set more rigorous goals and improve targets, and make improving high school graduation rates a high statewide priority.  The report also provides a chart listing graduation rate goals and targets for every state in the nation.

  • The Education Commission of the States this month released three new policy briefs related to high school reform issues.  The briefs can be accessed from the following links:

  • Early Childhood Mental Health

    The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare recently announced the release of a University of Pittsburgh study on the Early Childhood Mental Health Project.  The report, “Evaluation of the Infant/Toddler Systems Building Initiatives: Final Report for the Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Program,” evaluates the implementation of the program as well as key activities and program contributions at various pilot sites across the state from June 2006 to June 2008.  According to the report, regional stakeholders believe the project makes valuable contributions to the state’s infant and toddler mental health system by increasing awareness of children’s mental health issues, knowledge of services, supports and child development.  Increased access to educational materials, referrals, support services, training and collaboration between child serving systems has made a positive difference for children and their families.  The study notes that there is still much work to be done and makes several recommendations in terms of program goals, activities and outcomes.

    School Safety

    The National Center for Education Statistics released a new report on "Student Victimization in U.S. Schools: Results From the 2005 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey."  The report provides estimates of student victimization as defined by the 2005 School Crime Supplement to the 2005 National Crime Victimization Survey.  This survey is the nation’s primary source of information on crime victimization and the victims of crime in the United States.  The report examines the characteristics of non-victims and victims of school crime, conditions of school climate (such as the presence of gangs, weapons and drugs) and the impact of security measures such as metal detectors, security cameras, and security guards on averting school crime.



    This week…

  • The Pennsylvania State Board of Education completes its series of public hearings on college affordability in Clarion on Monday.

  • Tuesday is Election Day.

  • The National Association for the Education of Young Children holds is annual conference on November 5-8 in Dallas, TX.

  • EPLC hosts a Pennsylvania Education Policy Forum in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

  • The Pennsylvania STEM Initiative hosts an information session on the Pennsylvania Girls Collaborative Project on Friday in Harrisburg.

  • The Association of School Business Officials International holds its annual meeting on November 7-10 in Denver.

  • 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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