This #TeacherTuesday, we’re shining a spotlight on these five educators, all members of the Central Bucks Education Association, who attended the Philadelphia Educator Summit in early July. They spent time learning about students’ curiosity, how to launch a culture of kindness and growth mindsets. Shoutout to Mary McDonald, Lisa Mancini, Catherine Mooradd, Mike London, and Matt Freed for dedicating a portion of their summer to this important work.
It’s #TeacherTuesday! And we’re highlighting Mindy Rubinlicht from Hatboro-Horsham School District. Mindy recently visited NYC for a Broadway Teaching Workshop. There, she explored collaborative outlets for students who may not fall into the “musical theatre world.” She attended 4 shows, 10 professional development sessions and is heading into the next school year with many new skills to share with her students.
This week’s #TeacherTuesday highlights Andrea Roney, an English & Drama teacher from North Penn High School! Andrea also leads the NPHS Thespian Troupe. Andrea’s shift to teaching came after a career in professional theatre. She says, “Working with high school students daily is a blessing and a joy.” She loves to see students make discoveries about themselves through her lessons in the classroom.
Nominate a teacher you know in the comments to be featured for #TeacherTuesday!
In a special report released last week, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said the commonwealth’s taxpayers are unnecessarily spending millions of dollars every year on the Keystone Exams, which have not been required since 2015, when the federal No Child Left Behind Law was replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act. “Pennsylvania should aggressively explore using a nationally recognized test that can open new doors for students rather than continuing to spend money on an exam that is no longer required,” the auditor general said. “For less than what Pennsylvania spends on the Keystone Exams, it could instead pick up the tab for every high school student to take the PSAT or SAT.” He suggested the ACT as another option.
DePasquale has been an effective and energetic auditor general, rooting out wasteful spending in state-funded entities — including school districts — across the commonwealth.
But he’s not an educator. Educators — not politicians — should figure out what secondary-level standardized test is employed in Pennsylvania.
DePasquale is absolutely right, though, to call for transparency from the Pennsylvania Department of Education regarding its contracts with Data Recognition Corp., the Minnesota-based company that developed, administers and scores the Keystone Exam.
The Keystone Exam has been something of a boondoggle.
Originally, the exam was intended by lawmakers as a graduation requirement — the thinking being that students should prove they had mastered certain skills before getting their diplomas.
But educators including Solanco Superintendent Brian Bliss pointed out that the graduation requirement was a logistical nightmare for students trying to complete career and technical training. And some students simply don’t fare well on standardized tests.
So the graduation requirement first was delayed and then scrapped entirely by lawmakers, who approved alternative measures of graduation readiness — a move we welcomed.
Nevertheless, as DePasquale’s report points out, the state education department continues to pay Data Recognition Corp. tens of millions of dollars to administer Keystone Exams.
“Between 2015 and 2021, Pennsylvania will have spent nearly $100 million on the Keystone Exams” and associated pre-testing tools, the report states.
That math makes no sense to us.
Why pay such an exorbitant sum to a company for a state-specific test that’s no longer required?
We’ve long argued against the disproportionate place that standardized testing has come to occupy in public education. In our view, and that of many parents, the imperative to teach to the test had squeezed out subjects such as music, art and history.
Now, it may be time to replace the Keystone Exam. But probably not, as DePasquale suggested, with the SAT or ACT, standardized tests that measure students’ aptitude for college.
The auditor general’s report says that at least 12 other states now use the SAT or ACT to meet the federal requirement of administering some secondary school exam.
“Research has shown that having all students take the SAT or ACT increases the rate at which students attend post-secondary education of some kind, particularly lower-income students who might not otherwise realize they could fare well in college,” the report maintains.
That may be true. But even colleges are moving away from the SAT and the ACT.
As the digital media company Inside Higher Ed reported in June, there’s been a surge in recent months “in the number of colleges dropping requirements that applicants submit SAT or ACT scores.” This trend is born out of the recognition that a student’s potential cannot always be captured in a standardized test. And that a student’s future shouldn’t be waylaid by his or her performance on a single, one-size-fits-all exam.
Which is not to say that standardized testing should be eliminated completely. As we wrote in April 2018, “We believe it can serve to alert school officials to struggling students — and teachers.”
Replacing the Keystone Exam with the SAT — even at an estimated saving of at least $1 million a year — strikes us as a bad idea, though we’d defer to educators on this.
Bob Hollister, superintendent of the Eastern Lancaster County School District, said he agrees with DePasquale “that the Keystone Exams need replacing and that there is likely a more cost-efficient state testing system to be found.”
But “requiring all students to take a test specifically designed as a predictor of college success makes no educational sense whatsoever,” he added.
Hollister likened it to a future nurse taking an entrance exam for a welding program.
Penn Manor Superintendent Mike Leichliter said switching tests could be destructive to classroom instruction already geared toward the Keystones.
“Our schools, students and teachers need a reliable statewide exam that will stand the test of time and will not be subject to a change in the political climate of the moment,” Leichliter said.
Bliss expressed the hope that “we will see increased stability regarding testing and graduation requirements moving forward.”
The Keystone Exam has been anything but stable. It went from being a proposed graduation requirement to a delayed graduation requirement to one option among graduation requirements. Whole classes of students were caught up in the mess, as lawmakers tried to figure it out.
The task of what should replace it — if anything should — now must be left to educators, not politicians, DePasquale included.
And at least one politician agrees: State Sen. Ryan Aument, of Mount Joy, tweeted last week that Leichliter, Hollister and Bliss “are exactly right. Elected leaders in Harrisburg would do well to listen to them.”
For this week’s #TeacherTuesday, we are highlighting Nicole Bartolacci from Jamison Elementary School. She found a fun way for her students to learn about poetry and share with their schoolmates. Check out those awesome poet-tees! 😄
Know a teacher who should be featured for #TeacherTuesday? Let us know!
We’re so proud of the Lower Merion School District’s chapter of buildOn that won the Student Leader Award in PSEA’s Celebrating Excellence Awards program this year. The chapter is part of a worldwide movement to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations through service and education.
Last year, more than 300 community members from Lower Merion’s chapter volunteered a total of 12,474 hours. They worked on more than 100 projects in their community, including tutoring at Bethel Academy, delivering food to families in need, beautifying local parks, feeding the homeless, and much more. Since the program began, buildOn students and staff have also raised $750,000 to construct 10 schools and provide adult literacy programs in Haiti, Nepal, Nicaragua and Malawi.
Congrats to Lise Marlowe, a sixth-grade teacher at Elkins Park School in the Cheltenham School District, and member of the Cheltenham Education Association, for winning PSEA’s Celebrating Excellence Award this year in the category of Educational Leader. She has strived to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive for her students, community, and temple.
Lise brings survivors into her classroom to talk to her students, hires Temple University students to film their stories, and has written short books about several of them. Twenty years ago, she set out to teach her students about the enormity of the lives lost in the Holocaust. She asked students how long it would take to draw 6 million stick figures to represent the people killed in the Holocaust. Some thought it would take a few weeks or months. Two decades later, her students have drawn about 1.3 million stick figures, representing only the children under age eight who were killed.
With the number of Holocaust survivors dwindling, Lise tells her students that after they hear a survivor’s story, it is now their story to tell others.
The North Penn School District was honored once again with the “Best Communities for Music Education” designation from the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education. North Penn joins 623 districts across the country in receiving the prestigious award in 2019.
In cooperation with researchers at the Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas, and based on survey results, each year the NAMM Foundation selects school districts to be recognized as being among the Best Communities for Music.
Now in its 20th year, the awards program recognizes outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students and community leaders who have made music education part of the curriculum. Designations are made to districts and schools that demonstrate an exceptionally high commitment and access to music education.
This week’s #TeacherTuesday highlights Karen Lyon, a retired teacher from Bristol Township who is still very active in her community. She serves on the board of Discovery Service Projects, an organization that helps Central American countries that have been affected by natural disasters rebuild schools, homes and community buildings. This group allows her to continue to engage students in her community with volunteer work.
“Every day I get to see students engaged and excited to use the skills they have learned to build careers after graduation. I am inspired by the graduates that come back to show what they have done and the families they have built.”
If you know a teacher who deserves to be recognized on #TeacherTuesday, let us know!
This week’s #TeacherTuesday highlights Gary Felmey, an electrical tech teacher at Eastern Center for Arts and Technology and a member of the Eastern Montgomery County Educators Association. “Every day I get to see students engaged and excited to use the skills they have learned to build careers after graduation. I am inspired by the graduates that come back to show what they have done and the families they have built.” If you know a teacher who deserves to be recognized on #TeacherTuesday, let us know!