Interview Materials for Junior Student Representative Finalists

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:24 pm by

Congratulations to the Finalists chosen to Interview in Harrisburg this April! All of the applications we received were outstanding, reflecting students with an impressive range of talents, skills, and passions that we are proud to have in our state!

Finalists are asked to reference the resources below to prepare for your interview activities. As always, we will be happy to answer any questions directed to [email protected]


News Article Re: advertising in schoolbuses

Non-Profit Report Re: advertising in schoolbuses

Keystone Exams Legislation



Won’t You Join Us?

Posted in communication, Interview tagged , , , at 12:39 am by

Of course, students are always welcome to attend any Board of Ed. meetings as members of the public and high stake-holders in our education institutions, but wouldn’t you like to be in on the behind-the-scenes action?

The Application is now open for the Junior Student Member of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education. All current high school juniors in the state (there are 200,000 of you, so don’t be shy) are eligible to apply.

Application materials and guidelines can be found here and any questions can be addressed to [email protected] Also check out http://www.pasc.net for more information about the application and interview process!


How Can Your Education Best Make the Grade

Posted in Monthly Updates tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 12:14 am by


For all the time and planning we invest in schedules and meetings, it often happens that the moments in between the pre-planned events yield the highest return.   It is true of life, work, school, and government, that when we pause to really talk about what we think is most important, we discover not only a common cause to unite us, but also an effective way to work together towards that one grand goal.  I hope that no students had to think for long about what this common cause is for the PA Board of education – we want to work towards what is best for you.  This sometimes feels lost in bureaucracies or the time it takes to create lasting change.  But this month, more than ever, I have seen that unifying principle in action; and it has been in those in-between moments when your Board of Education has made as much headway on revelation as on legislation.

We continue to make progress on the same several projects that have filled the last few meetings, namely Chapter 18 Financial Recovery, Chapter 4 and the Keystone Exams, and updating teacher and school leader effectiveness standards.  On January tenth, the Board of Education on the whole voted on the Final-Omit Regulation and the Proposed Regulation for Chapter 18.  Chapter 18 is a list of  27 factors which the secretary of education may consider either stand alone or in groups, to pronounce a financially challenged school district in either severe or moderate recovery status.

This is a piece of legislation loaded with “if’s” and “then’s”, which makes it highly customizable and adaptable to a school district’s individual needs.  The secretary can declare a district to be either severe or moderate recovery status, but must specify which criteria from the list on which he or she based that decision. Only nine districts can be placed in recovery status at any given time, but the clear outlines in the soon-to-be-approved Chapter 18 will help our state prevent unfortunate but necessary takeovers like those in Chester-Upland School Districts earlier this year.

January also found the Board of Ed. with the new information on the updated Danielson model for evaluating teacher and school leader effectiveness.  In discussing the restructuring of  teacher evaluation standards,  Deputy Secretary for Post-secondary and Higher Education, Dr. Jill Hans, summed up her goal by saying: “foundations we have been standing on may be shifting now … and we want to stir things up a little bit”.

With the Keystone Exams officially approved as our state’s AYP measure for this school year, and a graduation requirement for the class of 2017, the rigor in Pennsylvania classrooms is definitely increasing.  To keep up with this rigor, Dr. Hans, and Dr. Dumaresq, the Deputy Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, foresee a four pronged system of accountability and support for Students, Teachers, Principals, and School Administration. This support, each asserts, must be equitable and measure up with performance expectations.

In the discussion over what these expectations are and how to best support them, I was delighted by the wording of the evaluation rubric. Teachers are evaluated in four categories: Planning and Preparation, the Classroom Environment, Instruction, and Professional Responsibilities. Some stand-out requirements for distinguished teachers are that one must “actively seek out knowledge about individual students’ levels of development … skills and special needs … from a variety of sources”, and interactions between teachers and students should be “highly respectful, reflecting genuine warmth and caring, and sensitivity to students as individuals”, and that all lessons are assessed “thoroughly and accurately for their effectiveness”.  Overall, we are moving towards an evaluation system which stresses “impact over input”, and benefits both teachers and students holistically rather than strictly based on facts and figures.

With all the talk of supporting high standards, a behind the scenes conversation emerged as a theme throughout both days of our January meeting. Much as we hope and plan for success, it is important to remember that success carries its own definition for every student. While many schools stress college as the ultimate outcome of high school, it is important to remember that we do not have one standard set of expectations for all students. Nor do we define success as constantly maintaining straight A’s or winning every scholarship or award you apply for.  Learning is a journey; and sometimes being asked to problem-solve is better experiential education than any formal lesson can be. When I brought my own academic experiences into the conversation – some better than others- Board of Ed. Chairman Larry Wittig reminded me of a lesson I hope every student can take to heart: “what feels like failure now is an educational part of shaping tomorrow’s path”.


As always, feel free to contact us via comments on these articles, or at [email protected]



We Hold the Key(stone) to Our Future!

Posted in Monthly Updates tagged , , , , , , at 8:48 am by

As the holidays are upon us, students as likely to be dreaming of the Keystone exams as sugarplums and winning at dreidels. With the majority of Pennsylvania schools administering the Keystones from December 3rd to 19th, it is important that our students understand not only the background of the test, but its future. Tests in Biology, Algebra I, and Language Arts/Literature will be fully implemented by the 2016-2017 school year, when seniors must have passed the test with a score of proficient or advanced in order to graduate.

Many districts are already using the tests, which is fantastic for both students and schools. This gives the student body time to adjust to a new schedule, although many student I’ve spoken with felt that the Keystones “felt just like taking the PSSA last year”. Beginning using the tests five years before they become mandatory also gives districts a chance to see how their curriculum measures up to state and national standards. Many districts are developing specific classes to address areas in which the Keystones indicate they need improvement. Because the Keystones will serve as an end-of-course exam, most students will take the exams before the eleventh grade deadline. This kind of class can be a great opportunity to review content for students who do not initially score proficient or advanced.

If a student does not have a score of proficient by eleventh grade, he or she can complete a graduation project in lieu of further testing. Schools still have the option of developing local area assessment on their own. These must be approved by the state Department of Education before they can be use as a measure of adequate yearly progress. For students in charter schools, many will be using a grade spans testing system, which is as good an indicator of achievement and progress as Keystone or PSSA testing.

Besides Keystones, the November Board of Education meeting focused primarily on financial security of Pennsylvania’s schools. Education and policy specialists from across the state met before this round of normal Board meetings, to discuss a proactive process of financial recovery for high-need schools. Financial recovery plans have been in place in Chapter 18 of the PA School Code, but the last major update was in 2005, when the state was operating in a much different economy than we are today. The proposed changes to Chapter 18 give school districts over thirty possible grounds on which to appeal to the state to be counted as a financial recovery district. If the PA Department of Education approves the appeal, the district will be qualified as either a moderate or severe status school. These two options move the recovery process along at different speeds based on the needs of the district. While the revisions aren’t completed yet, the special committee on financial recovery worked efficiently at last month’s meeting, and I have no doubt the final revisions will create a system that secures a sound financial future of Pennsylvania’s schools.

With big changes in testing a financial recovery programs, Pennsylvania, just like our 1.8 million students, is looking at a bright future. So, nothing could have been more fitting than the theme of December 4th’s National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE)  project briefing. While Pennsylvania isn’t an official NASBE member, we still receive information on projects and reports from time to time. I was excited by the topic of the meeting, and even more delighted to see the inside of a Senate office building for the briefing. Entitled “Born in Another Time”, the NASBE briefing focused on effectively implementing technology in the classroom. A Primary concern was the tendency for technology to come into the classroom as a novelty, and then fall into a pattern of disuse. Any student who has seen a Smart Board used only as an upscale projection screen knows exactly what we were talking about. To my delight, PA is already implementing many of the suggestions issued at the briefing. We ask teachers to complete technology training as part of continued education in-service hours while still giving them freedom in lesson planning. We also offer computer-based versions of standardized tests, which NASBE study group members stressed as an important step towards the future of education.

More details on Chapter 18, NASBE projects, or Keystone testing can be found at http://pastudentrep.edublogs.org/, and Emily and I are happy to answer any questions at [email protected]. We wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season, and can’t wait to see the outcomes of this years Keystone exams – just one more reason to be proud of PA Students!



Getting Ours Heads in the Game This School Year

Posted in Monthly Updates tagged , , , , , , at 6:59 am by

The old adage “no news is good news” comes to mind when considering the agenda for September’s PA Board of Education meeting. The normally two-day agenda was condensed into one marathon meeting. But even as the school year is just beginning, I am already learning that what seems like no news initially, is actually an abundance of new information. This school year will see Pennsylvania through changes in Title IX athletics legislation, Keystone testing standards, and teacher effectiveness evaluation.

Across the country more than 7.6 million high school students play a sport, meaning that 55.5 percent of students in our state are also athletes. In that vein, Pennsylvania follows the national Title IX code for non-discrimination in athletics. The Board received a report from Steve Fisher, Director of School Services, on the subject. Along with Deputy Secretary of Education, Dr. Dumaresq’s regular report, Mr. Fisher talked about new enforcement policies under Title IX. Pennsylvania will use a new system for schools to report compliance with equal opportunity mandates in their athletic programs. By the beginning of 2013-2014 school year, a database will be in place for each team in a school district to record the opportunity it provides for students. Dr. Dumaresq used the example of a girls’ field hockey team with the minimum eleven players matching the opportunity provided by a boy’s football team with the same minimum, and described her goals as “reaching a totality of opportunity”. This equality will work towards ensuring that interested student athletes will have increased opportunity to take to the field.

I comfortably describe myself as Pennsylvania Students’ biggest fan, and I will cheer as loudly for achievement in academics as I will in sports. The incoming system of measuring student learning and teacher achievement is rolling out to fully replace the eleventh grade PSSA in the next five years. The Keystone exams, as many students have undoubtedly heard, will take the place of the PSSA with tests in Biology, Algebra I, and Literature. The class of 2017 will have to pass these three exams with a score of “proficient” or “advanced” to graduate from high school. However, the Keystone Exams will be administered much differently than the PSSAs we are used to. Students will take the Subject Keystones immediately after taking the three classes they cover. For example, if your home district offers Biology in eighth grade, you will take the Biology Keystone at the end of your eighth grade year. If you receive a score of proficient or advanced, your score will be saved and applied to the eleventh grade graduation requirements. If your score is lower than proficient, you must retake the exam any time before eleventh grade, and your best score will be used. There is a grace period for the class of 2017, though. Any student who took Biology, Algebra I, or a preparatory Language Arts course prior to eighth grade will not have to pass the Keystones to graduate, but will have to take the exams to have their scores counted in their school’s Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). If you do not receive a score of at least proficient after the eleventh grade seating of the Keystone Exams, you will be notified with enough time to complete an evaluative graduation requirement project. Graduation projects can be researched or work study based, can center on any subject of a student’s choice, and can be completed individually or in a group. All projects will be evaluated for evidence that a student “is able to apply, analyze, synthesize and evaluate information and communicate significant knowledge and understanding” (the PA School Code).

Standardized test scores will also play a role in formal teacher evaluation. Pennsylvania is now using “value added” standards and multiple measures of teacher effectiveness. For this evaluation, a sample of student test scores will be evaluated before entering a teacher’s classroom and afterward. Then, total student growth in a teacher’s subject area will be calculated. Over three years, this will be repeated and the three growth measurements will be averaged. This measure of growth qualifies as moving from a below basic score to a basic score or moving from a proficient score to an advanced score. Because of this, teacher evaluations will now measure how much a teacher has helped his or her students, rather than student mastery of course material.

This month also marked the first official meeting for our new Junior Student Member, Emily Clark. Emily is a junior at Seneca Valley High School. She will serve this year and next as one of your two Student Representatives to the PA State Board of Education. I warmly welcome Emily to the Board and want to share my excitement for our year working together. We are looking forward to sharing the year in educational policy with all of you, and welcome your insights and feedback! Please contact us any time at [email protected], or tweet at @PAStudentRep.


Thoughts for Graduated Seniors

Posted in communication, PASC, Thoughts About School tagged , , , at 11:29 pm by

The graduation ceremony for my own small town high school took place in the familiar blue football stadium, filled with familiar kind faces, punctuated by familiar endearing traditions.  Families gathered in enclaves to cheer for their particular graduate. Returning alumnae occupied their particular square of the bleachers. The fire engines beside the fence let loose sirens and horns to celebrate the diploma each volunteer earned.

It was quintessential, and only served to make me even prouder of the many close friends who are leaving our little community for the great, wide world. And, as I sat and thought about how proud I am of the choices of jobs, schools, and military engagements that my friends have made, a little girl seated in the row below me burst out with a peal of laughter. Graduation is a celebration, granted, but usually a sober one. Naturally, her mother shushed her (she had begun her giggle fit in the middle of the keynote speech). But, a few moments later, she laughed aloud again; rather than disturbing the proceedings, it was a perfectly delightful interruption. What better way to look at the future than with gleeful abandon?

In that moment, I wished for each of my graduated friends and classmates to have that unabashed joy in whatever lies ahead in their lives. And I have that same wish for you, graduated seniors of Pennsylvania. In fact, I have all the same wishes for you as I have for my closest friends. But beyond that, I have the ultimate confidence that you will each, in your own way, live up to every wish and goal I have for you.  I am confident in my hope that every one of you will find something you love, and be happy to wake up every morning and go do it.

I am confident that in your own ways- quiet, loud, steady, swift, fastidious, revolutionary- you will change the world for the better. But the last thing I want to do is make you feel pressured to do world altering feats on a large scale. Graduation speeches and heartfelt notecards do enough of that. All I hope to impart is the knowledge that whatever you choose to do, you will be changing the world around you. If you rise to a place of great prominence in the process, good for you. If you stay as well-known as you are at this moment, good for you. If you decide to  seclude yourself and work quietly for the rest of your life, good for you.

It does not matter how renowned you become; it’s important to remember that, in our media-obsessed generation. Your life will be an impactful one, no matter what you choose. The key element in all this is that your choice creates the impact.

So along with my confidence, my hopes, and my wishes, I offer you a challenge. Make your choices the best they can be. Make your choices so that you can keep that unbridled joy in your life. Make them so that you can always look proudly back on your experiences. Make them so that you do not regret, but rejoice. Make them so that whether I see you on the news or the street, I know that you took my hopes to heart.

Congratulations, Graduates of Pennsylvania. Make us proud!


Interview Materials For Junior Student Representative Candidates

Posted in #HighSchoolChat, communication, Interview, PASC at 1:32 pm by

Congratulations on being selected to interview for the position as a Junior Student Member to the PA Board of Education!
Use the resources below to prepare for:

Individual presentations on Keystone Exams:

Initial Keystone Policy Statement

Performance Level Descriptors

Keystone Cut Scores


Roundtable Discussion on Teacher Effectiveness and Evaluation:

National Teacher Training Programs

Alternative Teacher Certification Programs


Is Academic Tracking on Track? January’s #highschoolchat

Posted in #HighSchoolChat, communication at 2:09 pm by

Our Junior year of high school is almost universally characterized by compulsive talk about college options, dark circles under the eyes, and late nights laden with homework.  Junior year is one which is under close scrutiny; one which it seems will determine our future success in life.  It makes sense that students feel pressure to incorporate as many honors and advanced placement (AP) courses into their schedule as possible.

Some see this as pure opportunity for motivated students to personalize their schedule and delve more deeply into their interests.  Others look at honors and AP ‘tracking’ as limiting to students who do not place into higher level courses early in their educational career.  Tracking places students into course levels defined by difficulty level and pace.

Honors classes group students based on success in prerequisite courses.  AP courses are elective classes, regulated by the College Board, which then offers tests for college credit at the end of the year long course.  Schools determine the rigor and content of honors courses for themselves, and any class offered by the school could also be offered as an honors class.

Tracking began in the 1920s, when many students did not attend college after high school.  Tracks were initially college preparatory, academic, business educational, or vocational (trade based).  They were intended to benefit students by tailoring their high school education to the needs of their immediate future.

Schools groom students for bigger and better things with each graduating class.  Some say that academic tracking remains effective in its original intent: it allows students to work at their own pace, with others who are comfortable working on the same speed and content.  Some see tracking as means to discriminate in schools.  Some even say it goes against the right of students to work in the “least restrictive environment”.

This month, I’m asking students and members of school communities to reflect on academic tracking in your own schools.  Is academic tracking beneficial to schools and students? How has it impacted your education?

Some things to think about: Does your school offer honors and AP courses?  What variety of classes is offered?  How early are classes divided into academic or honors?  Have you taken honors or AP courses?  How have these courses impacted your workload, depth of knowledge, and work ethic?

Tweet into the discussion on the hash tag #highschoolchat  , comment below, or let me know directly at [email protected].


@ we’re on twitter, too! # follow us!

Posted in communication at 10:56 am by

You can now stay up to date on Education in PA, in 140 characters or less.

Follow us at @pastudentrep

Discuss issues with the two of us and other students by tweeting the hash- tag      #pastudent


We Must All Tweet Together, For We Are Already Tweeting Separately

Posted in communication at 2:19 pm by

The time has come for students to talk about our education! It’s time to share what works, to talk about ideas for improvement, to discuss what makes a teacher amazing, a class special, a club important, and a team exceptional.

When browsing the endless hash-tags and profiles of Twitter, it’s plain to see that everyone is talking about education! Teachers and school administrators are, textbook suppliers are, lobbyist organizations are, legislators are.  In this expansive and extensive discussion, one major group is missing!


Students are, without a doubt, the heart and soul of schools. The goal of our educational system is to shape us into thoughtful, responsible, empathetic citizens who are engaged in the world around us.

This brings me to my point: Let’s start engaging now! Let’s start talking about things that matter to every student! Let’s start sharing ideas, for the greater good!

Talking to your friends about school is fine, but telling the world about what changes you want to see in your school can make them happen!


Starting  on December 29th, I will post a question of the month using the Twitter profile @TalkaboutHS

The hash-tag to join in the discussion is #highschoolchat

Discussions will last a month, with a new question announced the last Thursday of every month.

Sharing ideas suggestions, questions, and issues public school together in one student public forum could help us grow an even better high school experience.

Students are encouraged to post as frequently as possible, and parents and teachers are welcome to weigh in. In fact, parents and teachers are encouraged to ask questions of our group.

In order for the discussion to be useful, it must be appropriate, so please follow all rules found here while posting.

By the way, I’m Erin, a Junior at Springfield Township High School.  I am currently serving on the Pennsylvania State Board of Education as a student representative, and I’m looking for ways to involve as many students as possible in the educational experience.




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