November 2019 Newsletter

News from the Superintendent …

PA Cyber Laws Need Reforming

The Susquehanna Community School District is losing over $550,000 in operational revenue this year due to having 27 students enrolled in cyber charter schools. Under current Pennsylvania law, whenever a student decides to enroll in a commercial cyber charter school and not the school district’s VLN cyber program, the district loses $15,000 in revenue for each regular education student and $32,000 for each special education student. The loss of this revenue to the school district is devastating. Unfortunately, the law does not work in the opposite direction. Whenever a new student enrolls in the school district, no new funding is provided to the school district. If even just 13 students, one student per grade-level, attend a cyber charter school, the district will spend between $195,000 and $416,000, depending on how many of the students are identified as needing special education services. Unfortunately, the district cannot reduce staff or spending based upon only losing one or two students per grade-level.

The track record of cyber charter schools is dismal at best. The average graduation rate and academic performance of the brick and mortar public schools in Pennsylvania are much higher than the average for the cyber charter schools that operate in the Commonwealth. If cyber charter schools are not successful, then how do they exist? They exist by using your public tax dollars, taken from school districts, as donations to the campaigns of influential state legislators who regularly stop efforts to change the state’s laws relating to cyber charter schools. Millions of taxpayer dollars are donated each election cycle by cyber charter schools to political candidates in Pennsylvania.

Additionally, cyber charter companies, due to the fraudulent billing of Pennsylvania’s public school districts, have excess funding to support television and radio advertising that portrays an image of their cyber schools that is not consistent with the academic facts showcased in Pennsylvania’s Future Ready Index. Just one of the many operating cyber charter schools in the Commonwealth spent over $7,900,000 in taxpayer funds to purchase television and radio advertising time. Finally, and unfortunately, there are too many parents and students across the Commonwealth who are content with a low-quality education simply because they do not want to be held accountable under the state’s compulsory school attendance laws.

Identifying that there are significant flaws in the cyber school system operating in the state, Governor Wolf stated: “Pennsylvania’s charter school law is the worst in the nation and is failing students, teachers, school districts and taxpayers.” Wolf is currently working to make recommendations for changing Pennsylvania’s cyber charter laws. Additionally, Representative Fritz is currently supporting a bill in the House of Representatives, House Bill #1897, that would make significant changes to the state’s cyber charter school law. Last school year, the Susquehanna Community School District deficit spent $634,000, and the vast majority of that deficit spending was due to payments to cyber charter schools. The cost of these ineffective schools is higher property taxes for residents, low-quality education to the students who are enrolled in them, and a loss of programming for students attending the Susquehanna Community School District. I urge you to take action and contact your legislators today!

News from the High School Principal …

As we start to move into the second quarter, I would like to stress the importance of reaching out and holding meaningful conversations about the successes and struggles of your student. For some students, the first quarter can be a challenge as they start to become aligned with the high expectations placed on them within the building. Early intervention is always the best way to handle this type of situation. Now is the time to reach out to your student’s teacher to have an honest discussion about how we can move forward together to meet your student’s needs. It is essential for this conversation to include your student and not just be a line of communication from teacher to parent and vice versa. Email can be an efficient tool; however, more can be accomplished in a fifteen-minute face to face meeting — the Susquehanna Community Jr./Sr. High School has resources and interventions at its disposal to help support our students. However, these resources dwarf in comparison to the effectiveness of a united team of parents and school staff. It is only through banding together that we can provide the most effective education for our students. I invite you to Parent-Teacher Conferences on November 7 from 1:00-5:00 pm and 5:30-8:00 pm.

Parents are also reminded that we have several opportunities for students to gain additional help as we move forward with the school year. After School Tutoring has officially started and runs each Tuesday and Thursday, this program allows students to stay after school and receive additional instruction in the areas that they need help. Our Student Mentor Program is also up and running. This program looks to match high achieving upper-level students with students who may need additional support in academics, organization, or social skills. Parents may submit requests for their students to be assigned a mentor by reaching out to Mrs. Taylor or Mr. Soden.

 

News from the Elementary Principal…..

This year, Susquehanna Community Elementary School has started using MobyMax, which allows students of all grade levels and all abilities to be enriched or remediated through the use of the online program. MobyMax can be assigned as a grade-level intervention where the program gives an initial assessment and then appropriately provides work for the student based on the needs of that student. This use of data, driven through computer programming, is at the forefront of education and the world today. Also, teachers can use classroom data from assessments to manually assign work or even print worksheets so students can get the extra help they may need or to advance their knowledge.

Moby Max has taken off in grades 3-6, with students getting weekly time to increase the skills necessary to be successful on the PSSA exam in the spring and class. In grades 5 and 6, the students are working diligently in a structured study hall. The fifth and sixth-grade teachers are using time on task reports to hold students accountable, along with personalizing assignments based on student needs. All students are, therefore, being appropriately challenged and engaged.

In fourth grade, the teachers have taken the lead in personalizing student learning, assigning assignments for students based on last year‘s PSSA data, along with both math and reading assessment results weekly. Personalization is a step up from differentiation which tailors instruction for individuals based on their needs. Monthly, teachers are meeting with administrators, reviewing assessment data, and how they are differentiating and personalizing instruction for all students. Each report they run allows teachers to see the academic gains of students, which provides more information, thus allowing more personalization. The hope is improved PSSA scores and overall student performance and engagement in the classroom. Susquehanna Community Elementary School is headed in the right direction as personalization begins to move to the forefront of education nationally.

 

News from the Supervisor of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment….

 

Winter Keystone Exams will be held in January 2020. The Winter Keystones are taken primarily by students who are retaking an assessment in order to increase their scores to the Proficient level. Students who did not obtain a Proficient or Advanced score on the Spring Keystones, in May of 2019, were provided with remediation in Biology in Quarter 1 and will be provided with remediation in Literature in Quarter 2. If your student is taking one or more Keystone Exams in January, you will receive information about the testing in December by mail. The students will take the exams in the morning, so please make sure that your student arrives at school well-rested and on-time to ensure the best possible outcome.

Winter Keystone Exams - January 2020

Literature

Monday, January 6, 2020
Tuesday, January 7, 2020


Algebra

Wednesday, January 8, 2020
Thursday, January 9, 2020

Biology

Monday, January 13, 2020
Tuesday, January 14, 2020


*In the event of a snow day, the schedule will be moved ahead one day.