EPLC Masthead
EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, November 18, 2011

In this issue

The EPLC Education Notebook (current and past editions) also is available by visiting the EPLC web site at http://www.eplc.org/publications-reports/weekly-policy-notebook/


Look for results of EPLC's 1st Annual Pennsylvania Education Issues Poll on Monday, November 21, after 1:00 pm at www.eplc.org. Pennsylvania voters respond to questions about value of public education, K-12 public school funding, public school choices, and more.

EPLC will host a PA School Choices Forum on Tuesday, November 29 at the Harrisburg Hilton. A part of EPLC's School Choices Project, the forum will discuss a broad set of school choice issues. Open to the public (but registration required), three panels will address: 1) a vision for the future of school choices in PA; 2) current innovations in public school choices that exist already; and 3) what parents want to know about school choices and expanded student learning opportunities.


For more information and to register, www.eplc.org.




On November 14, the Senate Rules and Executive Nominations Committee voted to approve the nomination of Pedro Ramos to the School District of Philadelphia School Reform Commission.


On November 15, the Senate Education Committee unanimously reported a package of six bills described as Mandate Relief for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE):

  • Senate Bill 1133 (Sen. Donald White, R-41) would grant Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) schools the authority to offer professional doctoral degrees with the approval of the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
  • Senate Bill 1211 (Sen. Mary Jo White, R-21) would allow the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) to undertake capital projects funded by Commonwealth general obligation bonds, by capital appropriations or under Article XVI-B of the Fiscal Code ("Borrowing for Capital Facilities") if PASSHE provides the Department of General Services (DGS) with written notice.
  • Senate Bill 1221 (Sen. Andrew Dinniman, R-19)would add a new section to Article XX-A (relating to the State System of Higher Education) concerning the relationship between PASSHE institutions and private affiliated entities (affiliated foundations). Under SB 1221, state employees or officers would be able to provide services to an affiliated entity as an ex officio, non-voting member of the board of the affiliated foundation. PASSHE and the institution would be allowed to coordinate and engage in fundraising activities for the affiliated foundation if the funds are used to directly benefit PASSHE or the institution.
  • Senate Bill 1239 (Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-18) would require all PASSHE construction contracts be reviewed under the Commonwealth Attorneys Act and would require the contract to be public with the PA Treasury Department as required under Chapter 17 of the Right-to-Know Law.
  • Senate Bill 1308 (Sen. Robert Tomlinson, R-6) would authorize state-owned universities and system employees to enter into economic development agreements that inure to the benefit of the state owned universities and system employees.
  • Senate Bill 1322 (Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-13) would allow the state-owned universities to enter into an agreement with an entity for cooperative procurement of supplies and services. Cooperative purchases made through the consortium would be done in accordance with current competitive bidding requirements.

SB 1133, SB 1211, SB 1221, SB 1239, SB1308, and SB 1322 have been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee for further consideration. 

  • On November 16, the Senate Education Committee held an informational meeting to discuss implementation and compliance with the criminal history provisions of Act 24 of 2011. Dr. Carolyn Dumaresq, Deputy Secretary Office of Elementary and Secondary Education for the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and Stuart L. Knade, Chief Counsel to the Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA) provided testimony. The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) submitted written remarks.

    For a video/audio account of the Senate Education Committee hearing and to read the written testimony submitted, click here.


  • In light of the ongoing controversy at Penn State, calls for the four state-related universities to be covered by the state's Right-to-Know Law have been renewed. In the past, the Pennsylvania Legislature has exempted the four universities from the state law that applies to all other public colleges and universities in the Commonwealth. This exemption was provided again in the 2008 version of the law. Now Representative Eugene DePasquale (D-95) and Senator John Blake (D-22) have asked fellow lawmakers to join with them in supporting legislation that would amend the Right-to-Know Law to include state-related institutions of higher education (Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln) as organizations that must abide by the provisions Right-to-Know Law.  They are seeking co=sponsors for their bills and legislation will be introduced when the House and Senate return to session in December.
  • On November 15, the House Education Committee held an informational meeting to discuss temporary special aid to school districts suffering loss of payment.  House Bill 1050, introduced by Representative Ted Harhai (R-58), was the subject of the hearing. The legislation would allow school districts which experience at least a 25% loss in payment in lieu of taxes caused by the relocation of a business to be eligible to receive temporary aid from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) for a period of 2 years.  Funds under HB 1050 would be provided by undistributed basic education funds to the extent that such funds are available.  Representative Harhai along with Dr. John Molnar, Superintendent of Southmoreland School District and former Superintendent of Southmoreland, Dr. John Halfhill, provided an overview of the district's financial situation which led to the introduction of HB 1050.   Similar legislation, HB 2733, passed the House last session by a vote of 148-40.
  • On November 16, the House Education Committee reported as amended House Bill 1980 (Rep. Ryan Aument, R-41) which would implement a new statewide educator evaluation system. This issue has been cited by Governor Corbett as one of the four pillars of his education reform agenda.

    Under HB 1980, all professional employees and temporary professional employees in public schools, cyber charter schools, charter schools, intermediate units and area vocational technical schools would be evaluated through an approved rating tool developed by the Secretary of Education in consultation with education experts, parents, teachers and administrators, including research and collaboration conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE).

    The new teacher evaluation system as proposed in HB 1980, would require 50 percent of a classroom teacher's evaluation to be comprised of multiple measures of student achievement, including, but not limited to: student achievement data on statewide assessments; student growth data through the PA Value Added Assessment System (PVAAS) and other measures of student achievement for grades and content areas not assessed. The remaining portion of the evaluation would include traditional teacher practices and classroom observation to evaluate an educator's effectiveness in: planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction and professional responsibilities.

    Non-teaching professional employees (beginning in the 2014-2015 school year) would be evaluated using a rating tool that takes into account planning and preparation, educational environment and delivery of service. Twenty percent of the overall rating of non-teaching professional employees would be based on student performance of all students in the school building in which the non-teaching professional employee is employed. A "non-teaching professional employee" is defined as an education specialist or a professional employee or temporary professional employee who provides services other than classroom instruction.   The term "principal" is defined as a building principal, an assistant principal, vice-principal, or director of vocational education.

    The professional employee and temporary employee serving as classroom teacher, principal and nonteaching professional employee would receive a rating of: distinguished; proficient; needs improvement; or failing. An overall performance rating of either "distinguished or "proficient" would be considered satisfactory. An overall performance rating of either "needs improvement" or "failing" would be considered unsatisfactory.

    HB 1980 was approved by a vote of 15-9 and is awaiting further action in the House.


The State Board of Education held meetings on Tuesday, November 15 and Wednesday, November 16. The sessions started with committee meetings and were followed by a convening of the Committee of the Whole. The School and University Safety Committee discussed the addition of Chapter 10 (on safe schools) to the PA Code. The Teacher and School Leader Effectiveness Committee presented information from the National Association of State Boards of Education's Report: Gearing Up: Creating a Systemic Approach to Teacher Effectiveness (summary link) (purchase link), and received an update on the teacher evaluation pilot program that is currently running in over 100 PA schools. A joint committee meeting of the Vocational Technical Education and College Access and Affordability gave a report on achievements and gains by Career & Technical Education Institutes in PA.


Reports were given by Deputy Secretary for Postsecondary and Higher Education Jill Hans, the Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis and Gilbert Griffiths of the Professional Standards & Practices Commission.


In addition, a presentation was made to the Council of Higher Education in regard to the recent transition of Act 101 Programs to the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency from the Department of Education. In a presentation to the Council of Basic Education, the Board was presented with: information in regard to PA and the Common Core Standards; information on the rubric assessment that has been tailored to PA and is based on the Danielson model of teacher evaluation; an overview of the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge and its application to Pennsylvania; and an update from the recently established Office for Safe Schools within the Department,  


The only action item was the deliberation and eventual passage of Chapter 10 of the PA Code in regard to safe schools, which is intended to establish and maintain a cooperative relationship between school entities and local police departments in the reporting and resolution of incidents that occur on school property. In addition to presenting the final provisions of Chapter 10, the School and University Safety Committee of the Board presented a model Memorandum of Understanding to be used by School Districts and their respective local law enforcement agencies.

  • As reported earlier, results of the 2011 National Assessment Education Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation's Report Card were released on November 1. The NAEP informs the public about the academic achievement of elementary and secondary students in the United States. Specifically, the assessment measures students' knowledge and skills in mathematics and reading comprehension. To view Pennsylvania specific results, click here. 

            An additional analysis of the results of the 2011 NAEP, prepared by the Institute of Educational  

            Sciences (IES) within the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), is available by clicking here.

  • On November 9, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) released its final content frameworks for the common standards. The frameworks will serve as blueprints for K-12 assessments in English and math. The frameworks also provide support and guidance for implementation of the Common Core State Standards. PARCC is an alliance of 24 states working together to develop common assessments.


  • The House and Senate will reconvene on Monday, December 5 at 1:00 PM.
  • EPLC's School Choice Forum will be held in Harrisburg on Tuesday, November 29.
For information on upcoming events, please visit www.eplc.org and click on "Events Calendar".
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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 the Education Policy and Leadership Center is to encourage and support the development and implementation of effective state-level education policies to improve student learning in grades P-12, increase the effective operation of schools, and enhance educational opportunities for citizens of all ages.