Date – October 24, 2011

Good News – T/E School Board Candidate Debate Will be Videotaped!

Good news — Gene Donahue, the studio manager for the township’s public access channel reports that League of Women Voters debate for the supervisors and the school board candidates will be videotaped!  The debates will be available 24//7 online at the streaming video-on-demand site.
Gene reports that it usually takes about 24 hours to upload and process before the videos become available for viewing on channels – Comcast 2 and Verizon 24.
Here’s the schedule for the supervisor and school board debates:

Starting 10/28/11 & Ending 11/7/11

Supervisors Candidates Debate:
Mondays @ 8:30 PM
Tuesdays @ 8:30 AM & 2:30 PM
Fridays @ 8:30 PM
Saturdays @ 8:30 AM Sundays @ 2:30 PM

School Board Candidates Debate:
Mondays @ 10:30 PM
Tuesdays @ 10:30 AM & 4:30 PM ;
Fridays @ 10:30 PM
Saturdays @ 10:30 AM Sundays @ 4:30 PM


To view programming as video-on-demand, visit:
To see the schedule of programming airing on Comcast channel 2 and Verizon FIOS channel 24, visit: and click any of the series’ names for detailed information.


“Train Station Project Advancing Quickly” — and NO, it’s not Paoli!

I saw this headline in Sunday’s edition of the Daily Local “Train station project advancing quickly”. No, the author was not referring to the Paoli Transportation Center or the Ardmore Transit projects.  Was it the Downingtown or Parkesburg train station projects that was advancing?

No,  . . . the “advancing” train project was the Coatesville Train Station!  According to PennDOT rep Bob Garrett, the train station at Coatesville is officially “ahead of projects in Parkesburg and Downingtown after a few months of hard work”. (No mention made of Paoli Transportation project . . . does PennDOT even know it exists!)

Interesting to note that the Coatesville train station has $16 million in secured funding from state and federal sources for a new train station, pedestrian cross-over and street-scaping.  Plus an additional $1.3 million in federal funds to rehab the old station even though there’s no firm use for it.

Remember how excited some of us in the community got about the $1 million funding to the Paoli Transportation Center project, and that was 1-1/2 years ago.  I am mystified as to how these other train projects move along through the system and our train project just seems to be quick mired for years and years.  When I read that Coatesville gets state and federal funding after a “few months of hard work” . . . you just have to shake your head and wonder don’t you?  Doesn’t anyone care about the Paoli transportation project? We know that there is a finite amount of state dollars (and federal dollars) for transportation projects and obviously, no credence is given to ‘time already spent on the list’.

Apparently, the Coatesville train station is not very busy – only 8 trains per day stop at this station!  The current Coatesville train station suffers from low ridership and doesn’t have any Amtrak amenities or a place to buy tickets. The idea is that by revitalizing Coatesville and the train station area and adding more stops commuter traffic will increase on the rails.

So again I ask, what about Paoli train station — where are its advocates?  There are elected officials pushing Coatesville and Downingtown train station projects; who is really behind Paoli?


Should Our Teachers be Graded on Student Achievement?

There was much discussion about public education reform during Governor Tom Corbett’s campaign and this week the Governor offered four broad proposals for reform (however, the specifics are limited).

(1) Charter school reform — Give the process of approving charter schools to a new state commission rather than to local school districts;

(2) Expansion of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program — The program offers businesses tax credits for providing funding for scholarships or other educational improvement organizations;

(3) Voucher program — Create ‘opportunity scholarships’ that would allow low-income students in poor-performing schools to attend a different school;

(4) Grading teachers — Review and beef-up the teacher evaluation system in Pennsylvania’s schools.

As Tredyffrin Easttown School District candidates prepare for the League of Women Voters debate on Tuesday (7-9 PM at the Tredyffrin Township building), it was Corbett’s fourth initiative on public education reform that caught my attention. I wonder what school board candidates think about Corbett’s proposed teacher grading system.  And how, if any, would a grading system challenge the TESD teacher contract negotiations of 2012?

My understanding is that Corbett is proposing a grading system for teachers much like the way students are graded.  Currently teachers are graded ‘satisfactory’ or ‘unsatisfactory’ and 99.4 percent of teachers in public school in Pennsylvania receive an ‘A’ . . . satisfactory rating.  However, counter to the teacher’s ratings, some school systems in the state have barely 50 percent of their students performing at grade level.  The new proposed multiple-point grading system for teachers would include “distinguished”, “proficient,” “needs improvement” or “failing.”

We know that most local school teachers are good, but are there not any bad ones?  Is it accurate that less than 1 percent of teachers in Pennsylvania are unsatisfactory?  Especially in light of the number of failing students and Pennsylvania’s ever-increasing high school drop out rate.  Is there any correlation between the quality of teaching (performance of teachers) and the performance levels of students?  Corbett’s is suggesting a reform of the teacher evaluation system that combines classroom observations and student performances . . . linking student achievement to teacher performance.

Is it possible that a single, statewide pay-for-performance model will work in each of the state’s 500 school districts?  Should the grading of teachers take into account a teachers’ longevity?

I believe that the most important school-based factor in children’s success is good-quality teachers.  Isn’t there a real possibility if we tie the merit pay of teachers performance to student achievement, this will discourage teachers from taking on the needier students and push the educators to ‘teach to the test’?

Most of us would probably agree that students with experienced, highly skilled teachers tend to do better academically. And that poorer schools have a more difficult time in attracting and keeping those teachers.  The real challenge is what is the solution?

Taking that logic a step further . . . if vouchers and charter schools remove the highest-performing students from the poor school districts, isn’t there a real risk that the failing school districts will not be fixed by Corbett’s proposed public education reform?

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