Middle school parents: New
graduation exams need watchful eye
In disappointing news, the state Board of Education this month approved mandatory graduation exams for all high school students in Pennsylvania. The "Keystone Exams" had been rejected year after year by an overwhelming majority of school boards, education organizations and school advocates.
Beginning in 2014, every high school student will take a total of ten exams. The exams cover basic high school subjects like algebra, reading, and science. Students must pass the exams every year in order to pass their class and must pass six out of ten exams in order to graduate. Students who don't will be denied a high school diploma.
Parents United for Public Education opposed the exams because of their punitive nature towards children. In other states, graduation exams appeared to have contributed to an increase in high school drop out rates. Groups such as Education Law Center have also raised concerns about accommodations for English language learners and special needs students.
As we know, high stakes testing has as much to do with money and contracts as it does with education. The state will spend $176 million to develop the ten exams, and local districts will share the $31 million a year cost to administer them. Last spring, the State Board of Education signed a $201 million, seven-year contract with a Minnesota company to develop the exams, even though they hadn't been approved at the time. The Minnesota company has donated over $200,000 to Harrisburg politicians in the past two years.
Currently the state board decision is under review by the Attorney General's office. We'll keep a close eye on the issue. You can learn more about the issue here:
Read this op-ed
by a Delaware County School Board official from last month about why many school boards oppose the exam.
Read about the financial scandal
involving the Minnesota company that received a $200 million contract to design the exams.
CLASS SIZE POLL!
The District has promised that class sizes would be lowered to no more than 25 in grades K-3. We want to know if that's happening at your school. Let us know!
|BRT Update: 100+ petitions delivered, City still wants schools to pay BRT money
We want to thank the dozens of parents and concerned citizens who delivered over 100 petitions to City and District leaders last week demanding an end to the practice of putting 80 employees of the Bureau of Revision of Taxes on the school payroll. The practice costs city schools more than $4.5 million a year.
The petition effort came from parents, teachers, staff and concerned supporters all over Philadelphia who wrote in personal comments about how $4.5 million can be better used.
Meanwhile at a City Council hearing last week, City Budget Director Rob DuBow
testified that the City wanted all employees on the city payroll but still expected the School District to pay roughly the same amount to cover a share of the BRT payment. Councilman Bill Green
also defended the effort to force the District to pay for BRT services.
School advocates held firm. Michael Churchill of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia noted that no other district in the state pays such a fee and said state law made clear that assessments were not the responsibility of the District. Sheila Simmons of Pennsylvania Citizens for Children and Youth and Helen Gym of Parents United also emphasized the call to use school money for school purposes, adding that the City needs to improve its long-term funding effort for public schools.
Parents United is continuing the petition campaign to remove the BRT workers from the schools payroll. The appeals are going to every single City Council member, the School Reform Commission and the Mayor's office. We will be seeking visits to Council members in November on the issue as well. If you can join us in City Hall on a weekday late morning let us know by clicking here
Thank you for your work in signing the petition and spreading the word. We need to continue to push the issue so that our kids don't pay the price for funding one more thing besides their education.