EPLC Education Notebook
Friday, November 13, 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.
EPLC’s 2009 Pennsylvania Education Finance Symposium took place on November 12 in Harrisburg. The event featured an update on education finance issues in Pennsylvania and around the nation, as well as sessions on Special Education Funding Reform, Charter School Funding, and Education Foundations. Attendees also received an update from Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Jerry Zahorchak as well as perspectives on upcoming challenges for education funding from a panel of education advocates. Special thanks to Education Secretary Zahorchak, Mike Griffith of the Education Commission of the States (ECS) and all of the panelists for their participation. Power Point presentations made at the Symposium are available on the EPLC web site.
On Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee met with Dr. Arlene Ackerman, CEO of the Philadelphia School District, for a hearing on the district’s strategic plan, Imagine 2014, and efforts to turn around its lowest achieving schools. Click here to read Dr. Ackerman’s testimony.
Independent Regulatory Review Commission
On October 22, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) voted (4-1) to approve Keystone Exams, a proposal from the State Board of Education to create voluntary end-of-course exams for high school students in core academic subjects – math, science, English and social studies – which will take effect with the graduating class of 2015.
The plan creates a new system for measuring whether students have met the state’s academic expectations for high school graduation. Under the plan, students will be able to demonstrate proficiency in English, math, science and social students through one or a combination of the following assessment mechanisms: 1) successfully completing high school coursework, which includes a Keystone Exam that will count as one-third of a student’s final course grade; 2) passing a local assessment (which must be independently validated as aligned with the state’s academic standards once every six years); or 3) passing an advanced placement or international baccalaureate exam in the appropriate content area. The plan also provides for a student to supplement a Keystone Exam score with a project-based assessment. Students also will have the ability to retake a Keystone Exam – which must be offered at least three times a year – and to only retake that portion of the exam on which they were not initially successful.
The PA Department of Education plans to apply to the federal government for approval to use the Keystone Exams system as its high school assessment system required by No Child Left Behind. Once approved, PDE would discontinue use of the 11th grade PSSA.
In addition, the plan includes voluntary model curriculum that school districts may choose to use, tutoring for students who are not successful in passing a Keystone Exam, and professional development for teachers designed to help improve their instruction.
Supporters of the proposed changes cited the need to prepare all students for college or workforce readiness and to make the high school diploma more meaningful. Organizations and individuals who spoke in opposition voiced concern with unintended costs, interference with local school boards to assign/calculate student grades and increased student drop-out rates — particularly for students with learning disabilities. To read the public and legislative comments submitted to IRRC, click here.
The regulations will undergo a final review for form and legality by the Attorney General’s office. Upon the Attorney General’s approval, the regulations will become effective when they are published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, which is expected later this year.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) this week released the final application for its $4.35 billion Race to the Top competition. According to the USDE, $350 million will be used to help states create assessments aligned to common sets of standards. To compete for the remaining $4 billion, states’ applications must “document their past success and outline their plans to extend their reforms by using college-and career-ready standards and assessments, building a workforce of highly effective educators, creating educational data systems to support student achievement, and turning around their lowest-performing schools.” States also must not have legal barriers to linking student growth and achievement data to teachers and principals for evaluation purposes. Click here for details on the Race to the Top application.
RESEARCH AND REPORTS
Michelle Switala, a math teacher from the Pine-Richland School District, has been named Pennsylvania’s 2009 Teacher of the Year. Click here to learn more about Michelle and the Teacher of the Year program.
For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.
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