EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, April 23, 2010

    Content in this edition:

    Secretary Zahorchak Resigns
    EPLC News
    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    - State Senate
    - State House

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



    Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak has resigned his post effective May 7 to become the new superintendent of the Allentown School District.  Zahorchak will take the helm in Allentown on July 1.  Zahorchak served as superintendent in the Greater Johnstown School District prior to joining the Rendell administration as Deputy Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education in 2003.  He later was promoted to the Secretary’s post, where he has served for the past five years.



    EPLC will hold a Community Forum on Education Issues in the Harrisburg region on Thursday evening, May 6.  This is an opportunity to join other concerned citizens in the region to discuss key education issues and to develop policy recommendations to be delivered to state and local policymakers.  The Forum is co-sponsored by the Pennsylvania PTA and Capital Area Intermediate Unit 15.  For details about the event and to register online, see www.eplc.org/communityforums.html.



    State Senate

    On Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee approved Senate Bill 1192, which would take the place of the existing Education Empowerment Act that is set to expire on June 30, 2010.  The bill would establish greater state oversight of schools that are not meeting state academic performance targets and would require schools and school districts to implement different improvement strategies depending on their accountability level.  As amended in Committee, the bill would establish various accountability levels for schools and districts failing to meet state academic performance targets.  Schools or districts that fail to make academic performance targets for one year would be put on “warning” status.  Schools or districts that miss academic performance targets for two to three consecutive years would be placed in Accountability Level 1 status.  Schools or districts that fail to meet targets for four to eight consecutive years would be placed in Accountability Level 2 status.  Schools or districts missing performance targets for nine or more years would be placed in Accountability Level 3.

    The legislation includes several measures intended to assist struggling schools.  For instance school boards in a district that is identified as in warning, Accountability Level 1, 2 or 3 would be required to complete an instructional course designed or approved by PDE that consists of no fewer than 30 hours of instruction.  In addition, schools would be required to conduct a data-driven examination of deficiencies in academic performance, school climate and safety.

    Schools and school districts in Accountability levels 1 and 2 would be required to establish school improvement teams that may include teachers, administrators, board members, parents, intermediate unit staff, college or university faculty and business and community leaders.  These teams would be required to design, modify, implement and report on a school improvement plan. An analysis of the school’s or district’s academic achievement and the effectiveness of current practices in curriculum, teaching techniques, climate and leadership would be considered when constructing the plan.  Improvement plans must include a program that would allow a student that is attending a school in Accountability levels 1, 2 or 3 to transfer to another school in the same district (upon parental request) that is not designated in such an Accountability status.  Such transfers must be consistent with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

    The bill also includes provisions that would allow some designated schools (Accountability Level 2 & 3) to demote or terminate principals and teachers, convert to a charter school, contract with education management organizations, negotiate a memorandum of understanding with the current collective bargaining agreement, implement performance-based compensation, and petition PDE to allow uncertified individuals to fill teacher shortages.

    School districts, charters schools, cyber charter schools and vocational technical schools in Accountability level 3 would be governed by a three-member statewide accountability board appointed by PDE.  This three-member panel would be responsible for developing the district’s improvement plan, approving the annual budget, employing and terminating school administrators and approving collective bargaining agreements.  If a school in Accountability Level 3 fails to comply with the directives of the statewide accountability board, it would forfeit $5,000 per day for the first violation and $10,000 per day for the second or subsequent violation.

    Under SB 1192, teacher strikes would be prohibited in districts in Accountability Level 3 until the school district has met its academic performance targets for two consecutive years.  Additionally, the bill was amended to remove the exemption from the Prevailing Wage Act, the Separations Act and the Steel Procurement Act from charter schools established under the proposal.  SB 1192 awaits further action by the full Senate.

    State House

  • On Monday, the House passed House Bill 1618, which requires PDE to implement and maintain a high-quality data collection and reporting system on high school graduation and dropout rates.  HB 1618 requires PDE to create a statewide definition of the term “dropout” by the 2010-11 school year if none is provided by federal law or regulation and to annually report on graduation rates and dropout rates down to the individual school level beginning in 2011-12 school year.  Dropout data collected and reported under this proposal must be disaggregated in the following categories: limited English proficiency, low income, special education, gifted education, race/ethnicity, school entity, charter school or cyber charter school, gender, geographic area and other categories determined by PDE.  Dropout information would be made available to the public through the PDE website.  HB 1618 has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.

  • The House Education Committee held a public hearing on Wednesday to discuss House Bill 1803.  HB 1803 would require public, nonpublic and private schools to have at least one Automated External Defibrillator (AED) in each occupied building on its campus.  Further, the bill would require teachers, administrators, school nurses, athletic coaches and trainers, marching band directors, and other school employees specified by PDE to be trained and remain certified in using an AED.  Public schools also would be required to make AED and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) training available to all school employees and volunteers.  Nonpublic and private schools that receive state assistance in obtaining an AED must make AED and CPR training available to all school employees and volunteers as well.

    HB 1803 also would create a pilot program for sixth graders at participating school entities to undergo cardiovascular screenings.  The results of these screenings would be provided to the student’s parents.  Results also would be provided to PDE in a manner that does not identify the individual students in order for PDE to provide a summary of the results to the General Assembly.
    The Committee heard from the families of students who died as the result of a cardiac incident at school, medical professionals and a school administrator who supported increasing the amount of AEDs available in schools.  Testifiers conveyed the urgency for CPR and AED training and equipment in public schools citing statistics that every 2 minutes someone undergoes cardiac arrest and that cardiac arrest can start as early as age five.  Some also expressed support for requiring preventative measures such as mandating heart screenings.  However, it was reported that many children have fatal heart conditions that are left undetected after a heart screening.  Therefore, they believe more immediate recovery options such as AEDs and CPR training also must be available.

    Others supported the goal of having AEDs in every school, but expressed concerns with the cost.  Dr. Marcela Myers, a school board member from the Lower Dauphin School District and director of school health services in the Harrisburg City School District, expressed concerns about the availability of funds to purchase AEDs and pay for ongoing maintenance in what are already tight education budgets.  AEDs cost about $2,300 per unit.  Myers asked that the state provide flexibility in allowing districts to determine how many AEDs they need and suggested that PDE could contract with AED training providers to provide cost-savings to school districts in making this training available, rather than the prescriptive training approach outlined in HB 1803.

    Click here for testimony presented to the Committee.



    State Representative Mario Civera (R-Delaware) announced his retirement this week, which will take effective on April 30.  Civera was elected to Delaware County Council in the November 2009 Municipal Election but has served both his local and state posts since that time.  A date for a special election to replace Civera has not been established yet; a special election to fill a vacant House seat cannot be held until 60 days after the member leaves office.  Civera was elected to the House in 1980 and most recently served as Republican Chair of the House Appropriations Committee.



    Next week…

  • The Pennsylvania State Board of Education holds a public roundtable on proposed changes to the state’s nutrition and physical education policy (Chapter 12) in Clarion on Monday.

  • The Pennsylvania School Boards Association holds its Legislative Advocacy Conference in Harrisburg on April 25-26.

  • The House Education Committee meets Wednesday to consider House Bill 1163.

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

  • The American Education Research Association holds its Annual Conference in Denver, CO on April 30-May 4.

  • For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

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