29 June 2009

Time for teachers' merit pay?

School is out, but education is a hot topic right now. The state's budget deadline is hours away, and Gov. Ed Rendell has been out stumping for his education plan, which calls for $300 million in new funds for basic education. Republicans have proposed using federal stimulus money to keep funding for basic education flat. Whichever side you're on, there's no disputing the fact that the quaility of the state's educational system goes right to the heart of how competitive Pennsylvania will be in the 21st-century economy.

How well prepared for college will our students be? How will we reverse brain drain? What will the quality of our workforce be? How attractive will the state be for recruiting and retaininig key employers?

Part of the governor's plan for improving Pennsylvania's public-education system includes new testing for students and new evaluations for principals and teachers. Even the liberal think tank Center for American Progress makes the case in this new report that teacher evaluations should play a larger role in assessing student performance, and now might be the time to consider ideas such as merit pay:

"New educators, both teachers and principals, are more receptive to differential treatment of teachers than were prior generations. Seventy percent of new teachers in a representative sample said that the fact that teachers do not get rewarded for superior effort and performance is a drawback. Eighty-four percent of these teachers said that making it easier to terminate unmotivated or incompetent teachers would be an effective way to improve teacher quality. The influx of so many new educators also provides an opportunity for supervisors to evaluate teachers more rigorously now, before these individuals gain tenure."
What about this? Is it reasonable to think that tracking the performance of teachers and schools and giving bonuses to high-performing teachers might produce higher-performing students?

- Dan Fink

22 June 2009

Sattler to leave York

Ryan Sattler, the former Bon-Ton executive who founded York County Community Against Racism and has been a key leader of the effort to establish a county Human Relations Commission, announced in May he will move to Baltimore this summer for family reasons. Sattler said he wants to remain involved in YCCAR and the YorkCounts HRC working group unitl his move is completed, and that could take several months.

- Dan Fink

16 June 2009

YorkCounts e-newsletter - May 2009

Found on the blog at yorkcounts.org

May 2009

In this issue:

  • YorkCounts work advances on three fronts
  • Partner spotlight: United Way of York County
  • Indicators update: Bias-related incidents

YorkCounts work advances on three fronts

It's a busy time for volunteers working on three different YorkCounts initiatives. Here's a recap on where each effort stands.

The IB charter school: York County Community Foundation and the Women’s Giving Circle, a program of the Community Foundation, awarded $60,000 and $15,000 in grants respectively to YorkCounts for its effort to create a new K-12 regional charter school in York. Once approved by the state Department of Education, the new school will offer an International Baccalaureate curriculum, and it will be the only K-12 IB school in Central Pennsylvania.
YorkCounts Director James DeBord accepted the grants on behalf of Dennis Baughman and Sue Krebs, volunteers who have guided YorkCounts’ Metro-York Educational Opportunities Subcommittee since it formed in January 2008.
The money will allow the regional charter school effort to move to its next stage. The Educational Opportunities group will next write its charter school application and start looking in York at possible sites for the school.
The regional IB charter school concept emerged in response to a 2007 Metro-York recommendation that called for attacking the root problem in the York City School District: the concentration of poverty in the city. In his 2002 visit to York, David Rusk made establishing a charter/magnet school one of his key recommendations. The IB school, which is to be made up of a 51 percent-49 percent mix of city and county students, would create a new public school opportunity for parents and students throughout York County.

Public safety study: Representatives from nine municipalities begam monthly meetings in April with a goal to cooperate on a study of the role regional policing might play in improving public safety. The nine municipalities - Dover, East Manchester, Manchester, Spring Garden and Springettsbury townships, Manchester, Mount Wolf and West York boroughs and the city of York - have chosen a chairman, found two municipalities to take the lead in the state's grant application process and heard a presentation by the consultant that will likely be asked to perform the study. The group's smart, honest conversations have been encouraging.

Stay in School: The United Way of York County took the lead in convening a group to study the array of local in-school and after-school programs aimed at keeping more kids in school. The group also set out to determine which ones were having the most success and to assess whether they could be implemented on a larger scale. The group will release its recommendations in a report due in August 2009.

Partner spotlight: United Way of York County

The United Way held its annual meeting June 15, electing new board officers and recognizing the work of key volunteers. A big part of the program detailed how the United Way did in the past year on its core function: funding community agencies. Despite one of the most difficult fund-raising environments in memory, the United Way managed to raise $7.1 million for its 2008 campaign and distributed some $5 million to its 34 partner agencies.

The local United Way was also part of an organizational change in May that changed the name of the global umbrella entity to United Way Worldwide. United Way chapters around the world approved the change to better integrate United Way of America and United Way International and to "position the United Way as a leader in the global market and better ensure . . . long-term growth," according to a statement from United Way of America.

Indicator update: Bias-related incidents

In May, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission released its annual report for 2007-2008. That report put the number of bias-related incidents reported for 2007 in York County at 17. That's a significant dip from 2006, when 35 cases were reported. It would put the average per 100,000 residents at 4.1, and that's lower than the county average during the past 10 years. But it would still be higher than the state per-capita average in the same time period, which means that the county has more intolerance than what would be considered the statewide average. That's an aspect of the county's quality of life that still needs work.

- Dan Fink

02 June 2009

Meeting held on draft county comp plan

The York County Economic Development Corp. and the York County Planning Commission have issued a draft 10-year economic development strategy for York County. They released the draft May 5, and there's a public meeting tonight to give an overview of the plan and take public comment. The meeting starts at 6:30 in the county planning offices on the second floor of the former York County Courthouse, now called the York County Administrative Center. Find a press release from the county planners here. Read the full draft plan, all 222 pages, here. The public comment period ends June 22. York County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the plan at their regular meeting July 8.

- Dan Fink