Thursday, June 18, 2015

CURMUDGUCATION: PA: Assault on Public Ed Advances

CURMUDGUCATION: PA: Assault on Public Ed Advances:

PA: Assault on Public Ed Advances

You may recall that State Senator Lloyd Smucker has been trying to sell the idea of an Achievement School District, and that he even brought some charter-choice advocates to town to help push the idea. Well, his initiative has made it out of the concept-and-hearings stage and is now an actual bill.

Senate Bill 6, the Educational Oppportunity and Accountability Act, would amend the school code to establish an Achievement School District, a state-run body that would take over local school districts. If you're wondering if this process would be politicized, here's how the seven ASD board members would be selected-- One by the Governor, two by President Pro Tempore, two by the Speaker of the House, one by Minority Leader of the Senate and one by Minority Leader of the Senate.

The ASD board would appoint an executive director who would have the power to "transfer an eligible school" to the ASD as well as the ability to authorize a charter school.

It gets worse.

The ASD has the power to convert any school under its jurisdiction to a charter school. It has to establish criteria for such conversions "consistent with national standards" which-- what? What national standards? Exactly what national standards for public-to-charter school conversion are we talking about here?

Every year the ASD must do at least one of the following to at least five (but no more than fifteen) schools in its jurisdiction:

     * Replace the principal and at least 50% of the staff
     * Contract with a nonprofit or for-profit management entity to operate the school
     * Convert the school to a charter
     * Close the school and transfer the students to some high-performing school
     * Open a new charter school and give priority to students in the area

How can schools become "eligible" for this great treatment? Three ways:

     * Ranking in the lowest 1%  SPP rating for two consecutive years starting in 2013-2014
     * A school that qualifies as an "intervention" school for three straight years starting 2013-2014
     * Or 50% of the parents can pull the trigger

The first is particularly tasty, because there will always be someone in the bottom 1%. Pennsylvania could have the most awesome schools in the world, and there will still be a bottom 1%. 
CURMUDGUCATION: PA: Assault on Public Ed Advances:

Summer Opportunity

It's time for the beginning of summer break. That means a time of opportunity for teachers, ranging from the personal to the professional. But the greater availability of teachers also means that summer is a time of opportunity for policy makers and education deep thinkers.
Even policymakers and edubiz advocates who want to involve teachers in the Ed Conversation (yes, I think there are such people) can find it challenging to do so during the school year, because those of us who teach are busy doing our jobs. Simple ways of connecting and conversing that work in the private and government sectors ("I'll just pop in to your office for an hour or so tomorrow afternoon to go over the details") do not translate at all to the teaching world ("I think I can take five minutes out of lunch to run those forms up to the office"). Lobbyists and thinky tank types take long working lunches while first grade teachers go seven hours without peeing because they don't have the time. Legislators hold hearings about education, but no teachers are there because they are working (and if they do take a personal day to be there, they may wait in vain an entire day to speak).

Much has been made of the Media Matter study showing that only 9% of evening cable shows about 

Summer Opportunity