Tribune Staff Report
At a time when high school students around the nation are making their final decisions about colleges, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania representatives are visiting several communities in the northeast to reach prospective college students who might be looking for a quality education from a supportive and diverse liberal arts university.
Beginning Wednesday, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania personnel are hitting the road to tell Pennsylvania and New York area high school students, transfer students and communities what Cheyney has to offer and to help potential students enroll.
The outreach event, Destination Cheyney University: Your Next Stop!, is coming to Darby, Delaware County, Center City Philadelphia, White Plains and Harlem, NY. Potential students and their families will have an opportunity during the two to three hour stops to talk with Cheyney admissions and financial aid staff about higher education and the opportunities available to them at Cheyney University’s beautiful suburban campus.
Admissions and financial aid staff are prepared to spend time counseling students, accepting students on the spot if they bring their documentation, such as official transcripts and standardized test scores, and providing fee waivers for new applicants who stop by any of the venues while CU staff are there.
Cheyney University President Michelle Howard-Vital, Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Suzanne Philips, Director of Enrollment Management Dr. Eric Hilton, and Chief of Staff and Deputy to the President Sheilah Vance, Esq. are among the administrators taking part in some of the trips.
The exact dates, times and locations are:
9 a.m. — 12 p.m., Darby Borough Recreation Center, 1020 Ridge Ave., Darby.
2 p.m. — 4 a.m., Cheyney University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia Multi-University Center, 701 Market St., Room 308, Philadelphia.
12 p.m. — 2 p.m., The Theodore Young Community Center, 32 Manhattan Ave. White Plains, N.Y.
3 p.m. — 5 p.m. , Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building Plaza, 163 West 125th St., New York, N.Y.
—Source: Cheyney University
The “dream” of going to college could become a reality for many undocumented Pennsylvanians under the PA DREAM Act, a measure that state Sen. Anthony H. Williams is co-sponsoring.
Williams joined the bill’s prime sponsor state Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) and the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition during a news conference today at the Capitol in support of the PA DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors). Williams is the first Democratic co-sponsor of the legislation.
Under Senate Bill 713, all students in Pennsylvania, regardless of immigration status, would have the opportunity to attend college and be eligible for in-state tuition rates and financial aid at public universities in Pennsylvania. They must offer proof of having attended at least two years of high school and must meet all commonwealth residency requirements in order to qualify for financial aid.
Williams praised the measure as an opportunity for undocumented Pennsylvanians to achieve the American dream and obtain equal access to a higher education.
“This legislation represents a clear vision of what our country can, should, and will be,” said Williams (D-Phila./Delaware). “It’s a return to the basic understanding that if you work hard, take care of your family, and abide by the law — if you are civically responsible and you are proud to be American — you too will be accepted and embraced in this country and that includes being able to participate in basic institutions such as education.”
Thirteen states have passed similar legislation.
“I come from a family that has a history of being denied rights and access to basic freedoms in a country that says it embraces the rights of people of all backgrounds. I believe that we all deserve equal access to everything that makes this nation great,” he said. “In spite of limited perspectives of others and against the odds, many undocumented Pennsylvanians are excelling because this grand experiment of America still works. They believe in this country. What they simply want is fair access to a higher goal that their parents probably may not ever be able to achieve, and that is the dream to have a college or graduate degree, and they would love to do it in Pennsylvania and we would love to have them as Pennsylvanians. If they’re given the opportunity to go to college and graduate, and they choose to settle in Pennsylvania, they can be the greatest contributor to our revenue stream that we so desperately need to expand.”
A new $3 million city program has been launched to help parents with substance-abuse problems reunite with their children.
The five-year effort was launched by the Department of Human Services, the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services and The Health Federation of Philadelphia.
A key element of the partnership will be integrating Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP) with other services at one location. The primary goal of CPP is to support and strengthen the relationship between a child and their parent to restore the child's sense of safety and attachment.
This intervention has been shown to produce real and lasting positive change for young children whose family relationships have been disrupted by trauma, substance abuse and separation.
“Research has shown that children of parents with drug and alcohol problems are much more likely to experience physical, sexual and emotional abuse or neglect than children in households where substance abuse is not an issue,” said DHS Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose.
“The complexity of the problems these families are experiencing requires help from a variety of service systems. We believe this program will afford an opportunity for these parents to take care of themselves and their families at the same time.”
The Philadelphia Partnership Promoting Family Recovery and Wellbeing will offer services at the DHS Achieving Reunification Center (ARC) at 714 Market St. in Center City. The Health Federation of Philadelphia, a non-profit organization that works to improve access to and quality of health care services for underserved individuals and families, will oversee the effort, which brings together DHS, Family Court, and the Behavioral Health Department. Client services begin in the first week of April.
“We believe in the potential for healing for young children and their families who have suffered adversity,” said Health Federation of Philadelphia CEO Natalie Levkovich.
“This initiative gives the Health Federation the opportunity to build on earlier efforts on behalf of vulnerable families and to demonstrate strategies to promote healing through interventions at the level of the family and the systems that serve them.”
DHS notes that drug and alcohol abuse by parents has been identified as a primary cause of child maltreatment. Nationally, substance abuse has been a factor in 79 percent of cases in which children have been removed from their homes.
“We must continue to focus on the impact of behavioral health challenges on the family as a whole, and how organizations can work collectively to strengthen those families,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., Ph.D., commissioner, Department of Behavioral Health.
“This partnership will help us to promote a more cohesive approach to addressing the needs of both parents and their children.”
Funding for this initiative was provided by the Children’s Bureau, a federal government agency focusing exclusively on improving the lives of children and families. This is one of three recent grants sent to Philadelphia to help improve outcomes for children. The other two include: a $1.6 million Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency’s (SAMHSA) National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative (NCTSI) grant to increase access to effective trauma-focused treatment and services for children and adolescents who have experienced traumatic events; and a $250,000 Teamwork for Enhancing Early Childhood (TEECH), grant aimed at increasing the socio-emotional and behavioral well-being of children ages newborn to five involved in the child welfare system.
“We think these programs will build upon the success we have had in implementing evidence-based practices and it will assist us in our efforts to improve long-term outcomes for children,” Ambrose said.
State Representative James Roebuck – long a critic of the manner in which the state’s charter schools are managed and financed, and the lack of comprehensive oversight – has issued a scathing, top-down report on the dozens of charter schools throughout the state that are involved in ongoing investigations or have other pertinent issues.
Roebuck’s 41-page report, “Charter and Cyber Charter School Reform Update and Comprehensive Reform Legislation,” provides and update on the charter schools’ irregularities and also includes the Roebuck-authored House Bill 934, a comprehensive charter school reform legislation that will reorganize that system’s governance, financial reporting and accountability.
Overall, Roebuck’s legislation is aimed at recouping $365 million in overpayments made to the state’s charter school operators.
“These investigations and incidents are often reported only in dribs and drabs, and I feel it’s important for Pennsylvania families and taxpayers to have an overall picture. The Democratic Education Committee report is drawn from credible sources such as the Philadelphia City Controller, the Pennsylvania Auditor General and news media across the state,” said Roebuck, who serves as Democratic Chairman of the House Education Committee. “It shows investigations or problems at 44 charter and cyber charter schools, including the six schools covered in the state auditor general’s report last week and the school that had its charter revoked last week and is set to close in three months.
“My understanding is that 37 of the 44 schools mentioned in our report are still operating.”
The six schools Roebuck referred to are all outside of Philadelphia and each had received improper lease reimbursements totaling $500,000. Those schools are: School Lane Charter School in Bucks County; Fell Charter School in Lackawanna County; Roberto Clemente Charter School in Allentown; Bear Creek Charter School in Bear Creek Township; Keystone Charter School in Mercer County and Evergreen Charter School in Monroe County.
“With school budgets strained again this year, it is important that every education dollar possible goes to classroom learning,” Said Auditor General Eugene DePasquale when the problems were publicized. “If the improper lease reimbursement problem is more widespread among the state’s 157 brick-and-mortar charter schools it could be siphoning millions of dollars away from other education priorities.”
While much of Roebuck’s report is dedicated to a state view of the charter school system, it also provides several interesting anecdotes regarding charter schools within Philadelphia. According to the report, in both the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school year, traditional public schools performed better than charter schools and significantly better than cyber charter schools in terms of achieving Adequate Yearly Progress. AYP is determined by student academic performance on state reading and math assessments (the controversial PSSA Exams). For 2011-12, while 61 percent of school districts met AYP, 50 percent of public schools met AYP. In contrast, only 29 percent of charter schools met AYP and none of the 12 cyber charter schools met AYP.
The report drills down even further, noting that the percentage of students performing at grade level in math and reading in order for a school to achieve AYP increased from 67 percent of students in math in 2010-2011 to 78 percent in 2011-2012 and increased from 72 percent in reading in 2010-2011 to 81 percent in 2011-2012.
Tellingly, Roebuck’s report claims the Pennsylvania Department of Education currently operates a double standard regarding AYP benchmarks for traditional public schools and their charter and cyber-charter competitors.
“However, when the Department of Education (PDE) released the AYP results for 2011-2012 it decided to change the method of determining whether charter and cyber charter schools met AYP targets under NCLB. PDE made this change even though it application to the US Department of Education to this change under the NCLB law had not been approved by the US Department of Education,” read a portion of Roebuck’s report. “Instead of using the same method of determining AYP for a traditional public school as is currently under No Child Left Behind for determining AYP for charter and cyber charter schools, PDE proposed to determine AYP for charter and cyber charter schools by the method used to determine AYP for a school district.”
Roebuck’s report also claims that under the new method the education department is now applying to charter schools, the school’s overall student body would not have to meet PSSA proficiency percentage targets. Instead, a school’s student body would be divided into up to three grade spans (elementary grades 3-5, middle grades 6-8, and high school grades 9-12), and if the students in at least one of the those spans met proficiency percentage targets, including the subgroups within that span, the entire school would be regarded as having met that component of AYP. In addition, PDE is not requiring that a single grade span meet targets in both math and reading, but is awarding AYP designation if at least one grade span meets targets in each subject.
The complete report is available online as a downloadable PDF at http://www.pahouse.com/PR/Charter_and_Cyber_Charter_School_Report.pdf
“With investigations or problems at 37 out of 173 charter and cyber charter schools currently operating in Pennsylvania, that’s more than 20 percent. I continue to support the concept of charter schools as centers of innovations that can be duplicated in other public schools, but this compilation shows a need for major reforms in governance, financing and accountability of these publicly funded schools,” Roebuck said. “If any other vendors were charging public schools 5 to 20 percent too much, we would demand reform – not push for ‘direct pay’ that would take the payments out of school districts’ state funding before that funding reaches the districts.
“The reality is, the money for the charters comes out of the school district’s budget, so if there are things being done wrong or incorrectly, then that money should go back to the school districts,” Roebuck added, noting that he is a supporter of the overall thrust and mission of charter schools. “There are more charters in Philadelphia than anywhere else in the state, but what I am looking at is stopping the abuses, so that going forward, those school districts won’t be giving money to the charters who are using it incorrectly.”
While every family is unique, the number of children being raised by a grandparent or other older relative continues to grow and change the contours of households across the nation, including here.
According to the AARP, more than 7 million U.S. children are living in homes where grandparents or other relatives are the householders. In Pennsylvania, more than 81,000 children live in homes where grandparents are responsible for them.
“I admire these special families, who are selflessly taking on a monumental task to raise a child or multiple children. But I also recognize that kinship caregiver families need access to specific resources,” said state Sen. Anthony H. Williams. “It’s important that they realize that they are not alone and that there are programs, services and information available to help them.”
Williams, in partnership with the Philadelphia Kinship Care Committee, Gateway Health Plan, and the Philadelphia School District, invite the public to the 2013 Helping Hands Kinship Care Conference.
This free event, taking place on Saturday, April 20, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at West Philadelphia High School, 49th and Chestnut streets, is open to grandparents and other relatives who are raising children.
“This conference will serve as an important outlet for this increasing population of kinship caregivers by providing helpful information and solutions to resolve their concerns,” Williams said. “The ultimate goal is to help these families continue to have a peaceful, happy household where the children thrive.”
The keynote speaker is Nikki Johnson-Huston, a successful tax attorney who will share lessons she learned being raised by her grandmother and overcoming both poverty and homelessness.
There will be workshops on issues relevant to participants and their families, including topics on custody and the law, family dynamics of kinship care and behavioral health resources, as well as a panel presentation moderated by radio personality Barbara Grant and featuring dignitaries from the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, Philadelphia School District, Philadelphia Family Court, and Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health.
A complimentary lunch will be served to those who register, along with a resource and information pavilion.
The event is accessible from SEPTA via bus routes 21, 31, and 400 and the 52nd Street stop on the Market-Frankford line. Street parking and limited lot parking is available on 50th Street.