For Information on the H1N1 virus….

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State Bill Would OK Students to Possess Allergy Drug EpiPen

What are your thoughts on allowing this in your school?

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Local High School Students Gather to Discuss Civics

Tuesday, September 15, 2009
By Vivian Nereim, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette
Marjorie Rendell, left, first lady of Pennsylvania, speaks to high school students in the music hall at the Carnegie Library of Homestead yesterday. At right is Gerald Zahorchak, state secretary of education.
Airing grievances about the public school system to resounding cheers, about 1,000 high school students from across Western Pennsylvania gathered yesterday to discuss civics with Pennsylvania’s first lady, Judge Marjorie Rendell, and Education Secretary Gerald Zahorchak.

As microphones were passed around the crowded auditorium in the Carnegie Library of Homestead, some students said high school taught them to be submissive, while others argued that ineffective student governments were poor models for democracy.

The town hall-style meeting was attended by students from 34 school districts. Hosted by the Consortium for Public Education and the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, it was held as part of a bus tour Judge Rendell is making to promote civics education in the public schools.

Students took Judge Rendell’s opening question — “How does what you learn in school prepare you to be an active participant in your democracy?” — in several directions.

“It teaches us how to individually voice our opinions, and to vote,” said a student from Fox Chapel Area High School.

“You have to get up in the morning and go to school. This teaches you responsibility,” said a student from West Mifflin Area High School.

But the energy shifted as the room began to fill with complaints.

“I feel like there is much needed change that can be done,” said a student from Pittsburgh Peabody High School.

“We don’t have enough debate,” said a student from Baldwin High School. “We’re spoonfed what people want us to believe.”

A student from Bethel Park High School questioned how standardized tests taught active citizenship.

Some students suggested civics classes should be mandatory and taught in lower grades.

“I just started my first modern government class like two weeks ago,” said one student, a senior at South Allegheny High School.

“I believe we should start in kindergarten,” Judge Rendell answered.

Other students raised more serious concerns.

A student from McKeesport High School suggested schools would not improve until crime rates did.

“I just had a cousin die,” she said. “Half the time, we’re in the house because of fear.”

Willette Walker, a 10th-grade world history teacher at Pittsburgh Brashear High School, said she was glad students were able to participate fully in the discussion.

“It’s not what I expected,” she said. “I thought it was going to be more like a panel.”

Ms. Walker said that many of the students’ criticisms arose from the difficulty of balancing order with personal freedom.

“I think some of them are legitimate concerns. I certainly have heard them before,” she said, “especially when you talk about student government.”

Cassie Vensel, an 18-year-old senior at Franklin Regional High School, said she thought some of the complaints, like one about school lunches, were “kind of pointless.”

“You’ve got to be able to deal with what you have,” she said. “You have people who are less fortunate.”

Near the end of the discussion, a student from Moon Area High School stood up and said: “It was actually today, hearing other students, that I realized my opinion matters.”

Vivian Nereim can be reached at or 412-263-1601.

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Welcome Back!

A big welcome back to all you wonderful school administrators! I’d say hope you had a restful summer, but I know better! I look forward to continuing my work with you to forward leader, school and student achievement. Don’t forget to sign up for the Quick Studies and other professional development opportunities at the IU! I look forward to seeing you!

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A Quick Look at Some of the Gurus of Education

Click on the link below to meet Charlotte Danielson, Robert Marzano and others. If you can look beyond the obvious sales pitch, you will pick up some good information!

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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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