BSE Releases a Pair of Memos on PA Alternate Assessment (September 10, 2019)

PASA Updates and Training Announcement

On September 9, 2019, Carole L. Clancy, Director of PDE’s Bureau of Special Education, released a PennLink memo titled Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA): Updates and Training Announcement. The memo states that the PASA enrollment window opens September 30, 2019, and closes November 15, 2019.  The enrollment window will not be available after he deadline has passed.  Only students newly identified PASA eligible and/or new to the service provider may be enrolled through the PASA vendor after November 15, 2019.  All other requests to enroll students outside of the enrollment window will be directed to the Bureau of Special Education (BSE).

Also, the PASA test administration window is from February 24, 2020, through April 10, 2020, for all content areas.  The service provider may determine the schedule for test administration within this window, including the order in which the subject area assessments are administered.

A live webinar training entitled “2020 PASA Getting Ready Annual Updates” will be held on September 25, 2019, from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM.  This training is sponsored directly by BSE and is separate from the PASA Test Administration training provided by the assessment vendor.  The 2020 PASA Getting Ready Annual Updates training is designed for special education administrators and/or the PASA Assessment Coordinator (AC).  Guidance from BSE is that the PASA AC continue to be an administrator with decision making authority on behalf of the local education agency (LEA) or service provider.  The training session will provide a high-level overview of important factors in the assessment cycle – enrollment, training, administration, accountability and reporting. 

BSE will also provide updated information regarding the Every Student Succeeds Act requirements pertaining to the 1.0 percent threshold of students who participate in the alternate assessment.  Pennsylvania received a letter from the U.S. Department of Education in June 2019 placing grant conditions on the state’s fiscal year 2019 Title 1, Part A award contingent on a plan to reduce the number of students in the state who participate in the alternate assessment.  In accordance with Pennsylvania’s 1.0 Percent Threshold Compliance Plan of Action, the justification process required of LEAs who anticipate exceeding the 1.0 percent threshold has been updated.  The new form and updated submission requirements will be reviewed during this webinar.

LEAs and service providers are strongly encouraged to ensure participation of the Special Education Administrator PASA AC in this training.  The PASA AC receives important assessment announcements through electronic mail from the PASA vendor and serves as the point of contact with the PASA vendor and BSE.  Please ensure that contact information in the PASA digital system is current.

PASA Assessment Coordinators and special education administrators responsible for the implementation of the PASA may register for the training session by clicking here.

The webinar will be presented through Zoom.  The training will be recorded and posted on both the PDE and Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network websites following the training for staff who are unable to attend the live webinar. 

Questions regarding this training opportunity may be directed to Lisa Hampe, Special Education Adviser, at lihampe@pa.gov or 742.425.3000 or Lynda Lupp, Statewide Assessment Coordinator, at llupp@pattan.net or 800.441.3215, ext. 7233.

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PASA 1.0 Percent Participation Threshold

Also, on September 9, 2019, Carole L. Clancy, PDE’s Director Bureau of Special Education, released a second PennLink titled Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA) 1.0 Percent Participation Threshold Justification. That memo announced that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) 1.0 percent participation threshold requirements for local education agencies (LEAs) administering the Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA) for students with significant cognitive disabilities continues to be in effect for the 2019-20 school year. ESSA requires Pennsylvania to ensure that the total number of students assessed in each subject, using the alternate assessment for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, does not exceed 1.0 percent of the total number of all students in the state assessed on the statewide assessments.  In accordance with 34 CFR 200.6(c)(3), a State must require an LEA that assesses more than 1.0 percent of its assessed students in any subject with an alternate assessment to submit information to the state justifying the need to exceed the 1.0 percent threshold.  States must provide appropriate oversight of each LEA that is required to submit such a justification and must make the justification publicly available, provided that it does not reveal personally identifiable information about an individual student.

The PASA 1.0 Percent Participation Threshold Justification process has been updated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), Bureau of Special Education (BSE) in accordance with the regulatory requirement under ESSA. If the LEA anticipates exceeding the 1.0 percent threshold for the 2019-20 testing cycle, justification must be submitted to BSE by October 15, 2019.  Please note the due date for the 2019-20 justification submission is earlier than previous years.  Additionally, LEAs should be aware of the updates to the required submission process for the 2019-20 school year to include completion of the form and a survey submission:If the LEA anticipates that more than 1.0 percent of students will participate in the 2019-20 PASA testing cycle, the LEA must complete the PASA 1.0 Percent Participation Threshold Justification.  The updated document can be accessed on the PDE website. – Once the LEA has completed the 1.0 Percent Participation Threshold Justification, the contents of the document must be submitted to BSE by October 15, 2019, via Survey Monkey. The survey is mandatory for all LEAs that anticipate exceeding the threshold and serves as LEA’s formal   submission of their justification to PDE.  – The LEA must retain a copy of their completed justification form with the necessary signatures of assurance.  The LEA must make their justification information publicly available, without disclosing any personally identifiable  information about a student.  – PDE will post a list of LEAs who anticipate exceeding the 1.0 percent threshold to the PDE website prior to the start of the testing window.  Public requests to view specific LEA justifications will be referred to the contact person on the LEA’s justification document.  

LEAs are reminded that the state cannot grant approval for an LEA to exceed the federally mandated 1.0 percent participation threshold. Any LEA that exceeds the threshold may be subject to further review by BSE.

Questions regarding this information should be directed to Lisa Hampe, BSE Special Education Adviser, at lihampe@pa.gov or 724.425.3000 or Lynda Lupp, Statewide Special Education Assessment Coordinator, at llupp@pattan.net or 800.441.3215 ext. 7233.