EPLC Education Notebook
Friday, May 22, 2009
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.
House Republican Policy Committee
On Monday, the House Republican Policy Committee met in Pottstown for a public hearing on school district consolidation. The committee heard from representatives of the Pottstown and Spring-Ford school districts, the Pennsylvania State Education Association, and an education consultant. Earlier this year, Governor Ed Rendell proposed, as part of his budget address, a proposal to begin a process to consolidate the state’s 500 school districts to 100 districts. Under the Governor’s proposal, a commission would be created to develop two strategies that the legislature would approve or disapprove. If neither plan is adopted by the Legislature, the State Board of Education would decide. In 2006, the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) issued a report on school district consolidation. For more information on the hearing, contact Nicole Wamsley at 717-783-8063.
PENNSYLVANIA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION
The State Board of Education met this week and approved a Student Nutrition and Wellness grant from the National Association of State Boards of Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This grant will help facilitate activities that lead to the development of state policies and standards for student physical activity, nutrition and wellness.
The Board also received a briefing on the progress of its state academic standards review. The review, which began a year ago, is intended to update, consolidate and correct any standards as needed. Comments received thus far have indicated that some standards may cover too much content and not go deep enough into core areas of learning. Additional standards in Reading and Mathematics for grades 4, 6 and 7 are expected later this year, and the Board plans to hold hearings to receive public comment on these. Voluntary standards are being developed in the areas of: Early Learning, Alternative Learning, English Language Learners, World Languages and Vocational Technical Education. Currently, the state has standards in 12 academic content areas. In addition to the Board’s activity, PDE reported that it is working on voluntary course outlines for Algebra I. These guidelines are intended to ensure a certain level of academic rigor across school districts.
The College Board made a presentation to the State Board on Advanced Placement courses and College Readiness opportunities. The Panel reported on their efforts in partnering with 16 of the state’s 29 Intermediate Units to boost AP participation and teacher training, particularly in underserved areas. According to their data for Pennsylvania, 17.9 percent of the public high school class of 2008 took at least one AP Exam during high school, while the national average is 25 percent.
The Board’s School Safety Working Group shared its findings on other states’ policies relating to school violence reporting and programs aimed at violence prevention. The School Safety Working Group is charged with reviewing best practices in other states, as well as Pennsylvania, with an emphasis on transparency and identifying social/emotional supports for students. Comments from members of the Board indicated that they would like to see the following issues included in the Working Group’s considerations: alternative education, students with disabilities, and bullying prevention.
Finally, Carnegie Mellon Professor Dr. Robert Strauss presented the preliminary findings from his three-year project on Teacher Quality. The study includes an analysis of PSSA results, instructional spending, teacher test scores, and poverty rates for the state’s 100 top performing schools and 100 bottom performing schools. According to the report’s initial findings, there is evidence that teacher preparation programs do not require teachers to learn what they must teach once they are employed. According to the report, teacher preparation schools’ curricula are highly variable and often require an excessive number of pedagogy courses. A final report is expected later this year which will include findings on teacher demand projections, current and best practices, professional development patterns and student achievement, ranking of teacher preparation schools by Praxis scores, and employment rates.
Republican Jerry Knowles won a special election to fill the 124th State House District seat vacated when Dave Argall was elected to the State Senate in March. Knowles, a former grocery store owner and police officer, previously served as a legislative aide to Argall and also has served as a Schuylkill County Commissioner, Mayor of Tamaqua, and as a Tamaqua Councilman. The 124th District covers parts of Berks and Schuylkill counties.
The Pennsylvania State Senate and the House of Representatives are currently in recess and will return to session on Monday, June 1.
For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.