Monthly Archives: August 2009

State hits ‘home run’ for student achievement

Thursday, August 20, 2009
By Tracie Mauriello and Eleanor Chute, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
HARRISBURG — In the midst of a budget impasse over how much the state should spend on education, Pennsylvania has received accolades for improvement in its state test scores.

Pennsylvania is the only state in which student performance on its own tests has improved in elementary, middle and high school grade levels in both reading and math as well as at three achievement levels — basic, proficient and advanced — for at least 2002 to 2008, according to a report released yesterday by the Center on Education Policy, an independent public school advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.

Gov. Ed Rendell used the good news about test scores to stump for his education spending plan. “We need to keep moving forward,” he said during a rally in the Capitol rotunda. “We can’t stop now.”

The governor was joined by Jack Jennings, president and chief executive officer of CEP, and comedian and longtime education supporter Bill Cosby.

CEP’s conclusion is based on a study of results of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment math and reading tests given from 1999 through 2008 for grades 8 and 11 and from 2006 through 2008 for grade 4.

“Pennsylvania is unique in that it has across-the-board gains, all [three] grades, all achievement levels in reading and math,” said Mr. Jennings. “Other states did not have a complete home run.”

Each state gives different state tests, some easier and some harder than others.

“We don’t reach a conclusion to say Pennsylvania is No. 1 in the country in achievement because every state has a different test, ” Mr. Jennings said.

The study also did not examine the causes of Pennsylvania’s improvements, but Mr. Jennings said, “Common sense says, changes of that scope, it has to be state action as well as local action. It can’t just be local action because then you’d have differentiated results. The state must be doing something right as well as local school districts.”

The state-by-state comparison became possible after 2002 as states implemented tests required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Mr. Cosby, who headlined yesterday’s rally at the governor’s request, was in Harrisburg to stump for Mr. Rendell’s education spending plan. He said he hasn’t been following the budget debate but is familiar with the struggle to fund education because it’s happening nationwide.

“Politicians in their speeches always [say], ‘Elect me and I will do good things for education.’ Two days after the swearing in, they talk about cuts,” he said. “No more cuts.”

House and Senate Republicans — who largely oppose Mr. Rendell’s spending plan — have not proposed cutting education spending, but they would keep it at current levels by using federal economic stimulus money. The governor would like to use the federal money to increase basic education spending and continue phasing in a new basic subsidy formula aimed at improved equity and adequacy.

Mr. Rendell argues the state will be left with a gap of about $700 million when stimulus funds dry up in about two years.

The governor also is concerned that the Republican plan would result in cuts to wealthier districts because the federal government requires most of the stimulus money to go to poor districts, said Mr. Rendell’s spokesman, Gary Tuma.

Steve Miskin, spokesman for the House Republican caucus, said, “There’s going to be a gap no matter what, but the gap under the governor’s plan would be gargantuan. Doing what Gov. Rendell wants — increasing spending with federal money he knows will expire — would lead to huge fiscal problems.”

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The Principal Story by Tod Lending, David Mrazek Tuesday, September 15 at 10:30 PM (60 minutes)

The Principal Story tells two stories, painting a dramatic portrait of the challenges facing America’s public schools — and of the great difference a dedicated principal can make. Tresa Dunbar is a second-year principal at Chicago’s Nash Elementary, where 98% of students come from low-income families; in Springfield, Illinois, Kerry Purcell has led Harvard Park Elementary, with similar demographics, for six years. Tod Lending (Omar & Pete, POV 2005) and David Mrazek followed both women over the course of a school year, discovering each one’s unique styles yet similar passions. The Principal Story takes the viewer along for an emotional ride that reveals what effective educational leadership looks like in the 21st century.

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State Board of Education approves exit exams

State Board of Education approves exit exams
Thursday, August 13, 2009
By Tracie Mauriello, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
HARRISBURG — A divided state Board of Education this morning approved a controversial proposal requiring students to take exit exams in core subject areas to receive high school diplomas.

The 14-2 vote sets the stage for the first exams to be given in 2010-11. Students in the Class of 2015 and beyond would be required to take them at the end of courses in core subject areas. Their scores would count for a least one-third of their course grades.

Those voting no were state Rep. Paul Clymer, R-Bucks,and Mollie O’Connell Phillips, a former school counselor who lives in Luzerne County. Pittsburgh resident Jim Agras, president of Triangle Tech Group, abstained without explanation.

Opponents of the proposal are concerned that testing is expensive and that it would hold students back from graduating.

“A high school diploma is a gatekeeper to a job,” said Joan Duvall-Flynn, president of the Media Area Unit of the NAACP, which opposes the testing. She asked board members not to let the new testing system deprive students of one.

Supporters, meanwhile, say the new Keystone exams ensure that diplomas are meaningful and that academic standards are equitable.

The advocacy group Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children has been one of the strongest proponents.

“This demonstrates our commitment to an equitable system of education,” said Joan Benso, its president. The best part of the regulation, she said, is that it guarantees remedial help for students who have trouble on the test.

Those who fail would have multiple chances to retake the test. The ones who still can’t would have the option instead to demonstrate proficiency through individual projects.

The plan now heads to the House and Senate Education Committees. If the committees approve or take no action, the plan heads to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, which ensures it does not conflict with other regulations or statutes. If the committees vote no, the Legislature would have an opportunity to block implementation with majority votes in both chambers.

Education officials say that’s unlikely because the Senate Education Committee already passed a resolution in support of the exit exams.

“There are still hurdles, but the biggest hurdle was today,” said Board of Education Chairman Joe Torsella.

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PA Test Scores Show Improvement Across the Board!

Great news!

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I’m baaack!

Vacation is great, isn’t it?   How come the week is exponentially faster when you are on vacation?  Some math genius should come up with an algorithm that explains that one!

The new school year is coming up quickly.  I’m looking forward to assisting you in your challenges, but I can’t help you if I don’t know what they are! Let me know how I can best be of assistance.  🙂  And don’t forget to become a member of the site!  I look forward to hearing from and about you.

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Las Vegas HS a Model for School Turnaround

What does it take to turnaround a low performing high school?  See for yourself at:

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What’s up with the PA Exit Exams?

Orie renews fight against high school exit exams.  Check it out at the following link:

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