Commonwealth Education Blueprint

Commonwealth Education Blueprint

The Commonwealth Education Blueprint is a multiyear effort founded and managed by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) to develop and implement a statewide vision for the future of public education. Through this comprehensive project, education stakeholders from across the state and from many areas of expertise collaborate to proactively determine what education should look like in years to come.


Pennsylvania will provide an equitable, exceptional public education that empowers all learners to achieve a meaningful, productive life in our democratic society.

The Process & Your Involvement

The project steering committee conducts meetings and collects data (ongoing since Oct. 2017) toward drafting the Blueprint. They have also been convening Blueprint study groups, focus groups and, now a statewide survey.

Your involvement is critical to the Blueprint’s success! We hope you will participate in this short surveyto build the foundation for public education in the future. Please complete it by May 31, 2018:

What’s Next?

After all of the data has been compiled and analyzed, a comprehensive report will be and will serve as the driving document to set and benchmark milestones toward achieving the vision and shaping all future education-related legislation and advocacy. We hope you will join us in distributing the Blueprint and this vision later in 2018.

For more information about the Commonwealth Education Blueprint, contact Ashley Lenker White, senior director of strategic initiatives, at (800) 932-0588 or

School counselors keep kids on track. Why are they first to be cut?

School counselors keep kids on track. Why are they first to be cut?

Editor’s note: This story on school counselors is part of Map to the Middle Class, a Hechinger Report series exploring how schools can prepare young people for the good middle-class jobs of the future.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Mariano Almanza was overwhelmed. With an English paper due at the end of the week, an anatomy packet to complete, and an ever-growing pile of math assignments, the 18-year-old was at a breaking point.

“It was just an insane amount of work; I couldn’t handle it and the stress level was beyond anything I’ve ever experienced,” Almanza said. “I left class and came straight to Miss Mack and just burst out crying,” he added.

Miss Mack, as she is known to students at Coronado High School, is Colleen McElvogue, one of the school’s six counselors and the chairperson of its counseling department.

“Miss Mack looked at me and said: ‘Don’t worry, we’re going to get through this.’ I stayed in her office for a whole class hour and we just talked through everything,” Almanza recalled. “Since my parents didn’t get much education, it’s hard to talk to them about my schoolwork and applying to college, or how to plan my time and get everything done. But Miss Mack, I can come to her for just about anything…”

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One year in, teachers hand DeVos an ‘F’ grade

One year in, teachers hand DeVos an ‘F’ grade

WASHINGTON — One year after U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was sworn in, teachers’ groups delivered “report cards” to her place of employment, grading the secretary on her performance protecting students’ civil rights, ensuring educational equity and providing funding for students of color and low-income students.

Predictably, the teachers did not grade on a curve.

The groups, which have largely been adversarial during DeVos’ tenure, gave her all Fs. They also delivered what they said were 80,000 individual teachers’ evaluations of DeVos, along with comments about what she’d see if she visited their classrooms.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who addressed a small group of activists gathered in the cold outside the U.S. Education Department on Thursday, said 90% of the teachers “frankly gave Betsy DeVos a failing grade.”

DeVos’ spokeswoman, Liz Hill, said the department is happy to get feedback, but added, “It’s unfortunate that instead of working to have productive dialogue, the union decided it was important to pull teachers out of the classroom for a two-hour political publicity stunt — for which they shot their own footage to send to media outlets.”

For her part, DeVos marked her first year on the job this week saying her proudest accomplishments were shrinking the role of the department and rolling back Obama-era regulations and guidance on several issues.

 Read the full article here:
PENNSYLVANIA: School District of Lancaster seeks to address racial gap in suspensions

PENNSYLVANIA: School District of Lancaster seeks to address racial gap in suspensions

(Harrisburg) — Over the past two-and-a-half years, out-of-school suspensions in the School District of Lancaster dropped by 42 percent. However, a sharp disparity exists between who gets suspended.

African Americans make up 17 percent of the district’s student body, but they account for more than 30 percent of suspensions.

For other racial groups, the suspension rate is either proportional or lower than the population.

Superintendent Damaris Rau says the gap became clear when administrators reviewed suspension data last summer.

Now, she says, they’re taking a closer look at the root causes of suspension.

Read the full article here:

D.C.’s exploding schools scandal — and why it has national significance

D.C.’s exploding schools scandal — and why it has national significance

By Valerie Strauss, Washington Post

On Oct. 28, 2015, the D.C. public school district put out a statement lauding itself, with this headline: “DC Public Schools Continues Momentum as the Fastest Improving Urban School District in the Country.”

For years, that has been the national narrative about the long-troubled school district in the nation’s capital: After decades of low performance and stagnation, the system was moving forward with a “reform” program that was a model for the nation. The triumphant story included rising standardized test scores and “miracle” schools that saw graduation rates jump over the moon in practically no time at all. Arne Duncan, President Barack Obama’s education secretary for seven years, called it “a pretty remarkable story” in 2013.

That tale is looking a lot less remarkable in the wake of revelations that educators and administrators, feeling pressure from their bosses to boost graduation rates and student performance, allowed many students who did not have the requisite qualifications to graduate.

A city study – undertaken after press reports revealed the scandal – found that more than 900 of 2,758 students who graduated from a D.C. public school last year either failed to attend enough classes or improperly took makeup classes. At one campus, Anacostia High in Southeast Washington, nearly 70 percent of the 106 graduates received 2017 diplomas despite violating some aspect of city graduation policy.

Read the full article here:

The Outdated Study That Education Reformers Keep Citing

The Outdated Study That Education Reformers Keep Citing

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, made a bold statement in a recent essay: By giving students individual help, average students can be turned into exceptional ones.

“If a student is at the 50th percentile in their class and they receive effective one-on-one tutoring, they jump on average to the 98th percentile,” Zuckerberg wrote.

It’s a remarkable claim, one that strains the limits of belief. And for good reason: The results from the 1984 study underlying it have essentially never been seen in modern research on public schools.

Still, the results have become a popular talking point among those promoting the “personalized learning” approach that Zuckerberg’s philanthropy is advancing. One video created by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) features an illustration of a 50 on a graph zooming upward to hit 98. The New Schools Venture Fund, another influential education group that backs personalized learning, cites the same work by Benjamin Bloom.

But a close look at the study raises questions about its relevance to modern education debates and the ability of new buzzed-about programs to achieve remotely similar results.

Read the full story here:

PENNSYLVANIA: Act 45 Program: Quality School Leadership Identification (QSLID) Process

PENNSYLVANIA: Act 45 Program: Quality School Leadership Identification (QSLID) Process

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is offering a training opportunity to districts seeking a competency-based approach to hiring principals. Registrants may elect to learn 30 Act 45 hours for participation in the training.

Research tells us that hiring the right principal is critical to school improvement, particularly in the lowest performing schools.  With the right principal in place, student achievement can dramatically advance, and schools can retain effective teachers.  Principal leadership is the second most influential school-level factor impacting student learning; no school has ever turned around without a strong principal leading the way.  Securing the right principal lends itself to consistent leadership. The Quality School Leadership Identification (QSLID) process is an opportunity to create a hiring system that will retain effective school leaders.

PDE and the American Institutes for Research have developed a process for school districts seeking a competency-based approach to hiring principals in turnaround and non-turnaround school contexts. While QSLID was originally designed for the hiring of principals, a parallel process has been designed for the hiring of teachers.  Upon completion of the course, participants will walk away with a complete hiring process and district-specific documents and protocols for both teachers and principals.

This program includes one day of face-to-face training, pre-scheduled webinars, journal/feedback reflections, and documentation of QSLID implementation.

Note dates and locations below:

  • PaTTAN Malvern – March 13, 2018  (Snow date: March 19)
  • Baldwin-Whitehall School District – March 5, 2018  (Snow date: March 27)    

To register: Contact Melanie Novak at

Registration deadline: February 9, 2018

Questions? Contact Jean Dyszel at

Pennsylvania adopts computer science ed standards

Pennsylvania adopts computer science ed standards


PENNSYLVANIA — After a year of debate, Pennsylvania’s State Board of Education has approved a resolution to offer computer science education to all public school students in the commonwealth by endorsing Computer Science Teacher Association K-12 Standards.

Gov. Tom Wolf, who sought the change, applauded the move.

“Over the next decade, seven in 10 new jobs in Pennsylvania will require workers to use computers and new technologies in a constantly changing economy, and this move will help our students prepare for the workforce of the future,” Wolf said.

In the past, computer science offerings varied from school to school…

Read the full article here

A Tale of Two States: Education Funding in PA and NJ

A Tale of Two States: Education Funding in PA and NJ

By Stephen Herzenberg for THIRD AND STATE: A progressive take on public policy in Pennsylvania

A new “big-data” base on U.S. school districts provides new evidence that Pennsylvania has many high-performing schools but many lower-income rural and urban districts that perform less well. A likely culprit: Pennsylvania’s inadequate state funding for schools. Low state school funding leaves moderate- and lower-income districts poorly funded and with less in total funding than affluent districts, even though the lower-income districts serve students with higher rates of poverty, non-English speaking families, and other challenges that hold back achievement. Most school districts in neighboring New Jersey perform well regardless of their income and wealth, thanks in part to more generous and equitable state funding for schools of moderate means.

The new data base, the Stanford Education Data Archive will be a gold mine for education researchers and policymakers. While waiting for definitive studies, we take a first look here at what the data base offers based on a New York Times story and interactive on-line tool posted earlier this month.

The story highlighted that the Chicago Public Schools delivered one of the highest improvements in student test scores from 3rd grade to 8th grade between 2009 and 2015. Its interactive tool allows users to enter a school district, and to extract information on how that school and 19 comparison districts in the same state performed over this period. The comparison districts change each time you use the tool, even if the school district you enter stays the same. The basic picture of how the school district entered performs relative to other districts does not change, suggesting that the researchers have been careful to make the other districts a “representative” comparison group.

We used the tool to examine the performance of Pennsylvania school districts. We then used the tool to generate information on New Jersey school districts. The table profiles Philadelphia and 19 other Pennsylvania school districts.

Read the full story here: