EPLC Education Notebook
Friday, October 3, 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.
REMINDER: The deadline for voter registration or change of address to participate in the November 4 Election is Monday, October 6. Information about registering to vote is available at http://www.votespa.com.
Governor Ed Rendell has announced appointees to the new Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission. The following individuals will serve on the body tasked with making recommendations for the expansion of early learning and development services for young children and their families.
The House Education Committee Subcommittee on Special Education met in West Chester on Thursday for a public hearing on House Bill 2536 and House Bill 2438. HB 2536 would create an independent board to oversee the adjudication of disputes between parents and school districts on the appropriate education of special needs students. HB 2438 would return the burden of proof to school districts to demonstrate that an individual education plan created for a special needs student was appropriate for meeting the needs of the student. For more information, contact the office of Subcommittee Chair Barbara McIlvaine Smith at (717) 705-1922.
Pennsylvania Department of Education
The Pennsylvania Department of Education recently released Common Cents Initiative Pilot School District Reports, which make recommendations to districts participating in this program on potential cost savings through shared services. The objective of the program is to “make every dollar count in the classroom rather than on administrative costs.” Districts who voluntarily participate in the initiative receive expert analysis to explore cost savings in the areas of: transportation, food services and nutrition, safety and security, technology, finance and payroll, purchasing, human resources, facilities and real estate, and administration. Districts that choose to adopt any of the cost-saving recommendations also are provided with technical assistance during the implementation process. The Common Cents Initiative was created with a $1 million appropriation in the 2007-08 State Budget, and received $987,000 in 2008-09 in order to reach more school districts. Click here to view the Pilot School District Reports.
Pennsylvania Department of Revenue
This week the Department of Revenue reported that Pennsylvania collected $2.3 billion in General Fund revenue in September, $163.8 million, or 6.5 percent less than anticipated. Fiscal year-to-date General Fund collections total $5.8 billion, which is $281.4 million, or 4.7 percent, below estimate.
VIRTUAL HIGH SCHOOL STUDY COMMISSION
The Virtual High School Study Commission, created by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in Act 61 of 2008, held its first meeting on Thursday to identify key issues it will address as part of its charge to examine the feasibility and costs associated with creating a state-operated, Internet-based high school. The Commission will organize itself into six subcommittees to address issues related to: technology; governance; funding; accountability; articulation; and curriculum, instruction and assessment. Further, to inform its work, members requested that the Commission review current research about and models for delivering virtual education, current state initiatives that could be integrated into a virtual curriculum (such as STEM and World Language instruction), and that the Commission gather input from students.
During its deliberations, the Commission will evaluate options for delivering distance education – via a state-run school, cyber charter schools or some coordinated combination of providers – and discuss options that would allow high school students to attend full-time or to enroll in courses not available in their school districts. Members extolled the value of virtual learning to provide equitable learning opportunities for students, mindful that students also must have equal access to technology in order to participate. The 32-member Commission comprised of government officials, education professionals, higher education presidents, parents and the business community must report its findings and recommendations by December 31, 2009.
RESEARCH AND REPORTS
No Child Left Behind
The Center for Education Policy has released its most comprehensive report to date on restructuring efforts under the No Child Left Behind Act. “A Call to Restructure Restructuring: Lessons from the No Child Left Behind Act in Five States” examines how the NCLB school restructuring requirements for chronically low-performing schools are being implemented in Michigan, California, Maryland, Ohio and Georgia. The study found that many schools have remained in restructuring for multiple years with little guidance from the federal government on what to do about persistently struggling schools. The study also reported that the number of Title I schools in restructuring during the 2007-08 school year increased by 56 percent to an estimated 3,599 schools, about 7 percent of all Title I schools in the nation. The report makes recommendations for policymakers, state and federal officials and schools to improve the current restructuring process.
Early Childhood Education
Pre-K Now has released its annual state-by-state analysis of pre-kindergarten funding, “Votes Count: Legislative Action on Pre-K Fiscal Year 2009.” The report finds that despite the country’s worsening economic conditions, the majority of states continue to invest in pre-kindergarten programs. According to the report, “most state legislatures recognize quality pre-k as a smart policy that promises substantial returns to states, provides immediate economic relief to families and improves the future prospects of young children and the communities in which they will live and work as adults.”
High School Reform
Recently, the Alliance for Excellent Education published the report “From No Child Left Behind to Every Child a Graduate.” This report outlines the Alliance’s Framework for Action to Improve Secondary Schools, which is built upon consensus among educators, researchers, policymakers and other authorities on the specific problems of secondary schools as well as the research and best-practice solutions. The report identifies seven policy areas (alignment and rigor, accountability, student supports and options, highly effective educators, supportive communities, college access, and investment) that are necessary to provide a comprehensive and systemic approach to improving secondary schools and achieving national objectives.
For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.