EPLC Education Notebook

Thursday, February 26, 2009

    Content in this edition:
    EPLC News
    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    - State House
    - Pennsylvania Department of Education
    Pennsylvania Bulletin

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



    Registrations are being accepted for EPLC’s 2009 School Board Candidate Workshop in the Lehigh Valley (Saturday, March 7).  Workshops previously were held in Indiana, Montgomery County, Allegheny County and Mechanicsburg.  Conducted in partnership with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, the Workshops are intended for those considering a 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.  Click here for details and to register online.



    State House

  • On Tuesday, Dr. Amy Gutmann, President of the University of Pennsylvania, and Deans from the Schools of Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine at Penn expressed concern to members of the House Appropriations Committee over the Governor’s proposed 2009-2010 appropriation.  Under the Governor’s plan, Penn would receive 10% less in state aid.  The state provides dedicated support for the University’s dental clinics, medical school, and veterinary activities, as well as cardiovascular research and a clinical center for infectious disease.  According to the panel, while the reduction would have a negative impact overall, it would be most detrimental to Penn Veterinary Medicine, the state’s only veterinary school.  Thirty five percent of the veterinary school’s operating budget is state funded.  Without state support, the school may have to eliminate essential agricultural services.

  • The House Appropriations Committee also heard from representatives of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) on Tuesday.  PHEAA President and CEO James Preston, Kelly Powell Logan, Executive Director of Public Service, and board members Rep. William Adolph (R-Delaware) and Sen. Sean Logan (D-Allegheny) provided an update on PHEAA’s cost saving measures that included trimming $77 million in expenses over the past year and suspending its student loan business.  The Agency reported that the steps it has taken to address the current financial crisis have put it back in the black, and it is now administering student grants at no expense to taxpayers.

    Looking forward, the Governor’s proposed 2009-2010 budget would provide a $45 million (11%) increase in PHEAA grants for students (with $10 million dedicated to community college students).  The Governor’s plan also would legalize a limited number of video poker machines at private clubs, taverns and other establishments to provide additional tuition relief to students attending PA State System of Higher Education universities and community colleges.

  • Pennsylvania Department of Education

    A study by Penn State’s College of Education says only five percent of Pennsylvania’s school districts use local assessments that appropriately measure whether students are performing at an 11th grade level in order to award high school diplomas (out of 418 districts that submitted assessments for review).  The study, conducted at the request of the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), examined nearly 1,000 local assessments from 418 school districts.  Assessments were reviewed and rated by eight panels of public educators from across Pennsylvania according to: 1) whether the assessments are aligned with the state’s 11th grade proficiency standards in reading and math, and 2) whether the assessments are conducted in a way that ensures the integrity of the results.  Dr. Rayne Sperling, a Penn State faculty member who worked on the study, said “there was considerable variability in the nature of the local assessments across districts regardless of district size or location.”

    In reading, 99 of the state’s 500 school districts provided an 11th grade assessment for review.  Only 19 districts were identified as using the reading assessment in a way that protects the exam’s integrity and is the basis for making graduation decisions.  In math, 314 districts provided an 11th grade assessment for review, of which only 31 were deemed to be appropriately using the assessment for diploma-granting determinations.  The study identified only 18 districts with both a math and reading assessment appropriately used for awarding high school diplomas.  District superintendents may send a request for their own district’s assessment results to localassess@psu.edu.

    Current state law requires students to be proficient on the state’s math and reading exam (PSSA) or an equivalent local assessment in order to graduate from high school.  In 2007, approximately 56,000 students received a diploma even though they did not pass the PSSA, leading PDE to call for the creation of a common tool to measure high school graduation.  The Department commissioned a study to validate local assessments after questions arose surrounding PDE’s assertion that some local assessments did not measure the rigor of the state’s academic standards.  PDE says the results of this independent study demonstrate the need to work together to make graduation expectations more transparent for students and parents and ensure the integrity of the high school diploma.



  • The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has established grant application guidelines to fund programs that prepare regular and/or special education teachers to become highly qualified in the core academic subjects of math and science as defined by the No Child Left Behind Act.  Partnerships involving a Pennsylvania-based institution of higher education and at least one high-need LEA will be eligible to compete for approximately $2.3 million.  Interested applicants can apply for the Eligible Partnerships Postsecondary Grant via PDE’s e-Grant system website.  Applications must be submitted by Friday, April 3, 2009.  For additional information, see the February 21 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin or contact Jamal Wakeem, Division of Teacher Quality, PDE, at 717-525-5559.

  • The Pennsylvania Department of Education will accept written comments and hold a series of public hearings on its proposed IDEA Part B grant application and modified policies and procedures before submitting it to the U.S. Department of Education for approval.  Written comments will be accepted until May 1, 2009.  The Department will conduct public hearings in the following locations: Pittsburgh (March 30), Harrisburg (April 1) and King of Prussia (April 2).  For more information, see the February 21 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin or contact Nancy Zeigler at 717-783-6134.



    Next week…

  • The House Appropriations Committee holds state budget hearings on Monday for the Pennsylvania Department of Education, state-related universities, and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

  • The Senate Appropriations Committee holds state budget hearings for the Pennsylvania Department of Education on Tuesday and for the Public School Employees’ Retirement System on Thursday.

  • The Pennsylvania State Board of Education holds public hearings on high school reform on Tuesday in Grove City and on Friday in Lock Haven.

  • The Learning Policy Center at the University of Pittsburgh hosts a colloquium with Richard Rothstein, Research Associate at the Economic Policy Institute, on Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

  • PDE and the Center for Schools and Communities host a conference on Afterschool Programs Working for Pennsylvania Youth on March 4-6 in Harrisburg.

  • The Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Mid-Atlantic hosts a Dropout Prevention Practice Guide Forum in Arnold, MD on Wednesday.

  • 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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