PA Notified that It Meets Federal Special Ed. Requirements (August 16, 2022)

On August 15, 2022, Secretary of Education Eric Hagarty released a PennLink message to all LEAS titled Pennsylvania’s Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B 2022 – Determinations Notification. The message states that on June 25, 2022, Pennsylvania received notification from the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDE) Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) that the commonwealth has received a “Meets Requirements” determination, the highest level that the federal government awards to states under Part B of the IDEA.

Pennsylvania was one of only 22 states and territories that received the distinction this year. The commonwealth’s excellent work in special education has been recognized with the “Meets Requirements” designation for 15 of the 16 years that USDE has been issuing its determinations. This recognition is a testament to the hard work of educators and staff in delivering high-quality services to students with disabilities and their families.

This determination is based on the totality of the commonwealth’s special education data and information, including the federal fiscal year 2020 State Performance Plan/Annual Performance Report (SPP/APR), other state-reported data, and additional publicly available information. Consistent with USDE’s Results Driven Accountability, 2022 determinations were based on the commonwealth’s compliance with the regulatory requirements of the IDEA, as well as the positive outcomes being achieved for students.

In making Part B determinations in 2022, the USDE Office of Special Education Programs considered the following results data for students with disabilities:

  1. Participation on regular statewide assessments.
  2. Participation and performance on the most recently administered (school year 2018-19) National Assessment of Educational Progress.
  3. Graduation with a regular high school diploma.
  4. Dropout rates.

Pennsylvania’s Part B SPP/APR is available on the Pennsylvania Department of Education website or the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network website. The USDE has developed state profiles as a resource for IDEA-related, state-specific information. Persons interested in reviewing that information may visit the USDE Office of Special Education Program’s Pennsylvania’s Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B 2022 – Determination Notification. 

Questions regarding this information may be directed to Amy Pastorak, Assistant Director of the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Bureau of Special Education, at apastorak@pa.gov.

How the New CDC COVID-19 Guidance Impacts Schools (August 14, 2022)

On Thursday, August 11, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new federal guidelines regarding spread of COVID-19. Those new guidelines relax protocols previously in place and shift much of the decision-making to individuals and local officials.

The new CDC guidelines call on students and staff members to wear “well-fitting” masks at school if they live in communities where COVID-19 community transmission levels are high. Similarly, the CDC no longer recommends routine testing in K-12 schools unless COVID-19 community transmission levels are high in the area.

In addition, the CDC has asked school administrators to ensure that masking polices accommodate students with disabilities or those who are immunocompromised saying, “Students with immunocompromising conditions or other conditions or disabilities that increase risk for getting very sick with COVID-19 should not be placed into separate classrooms or otherwise segregated from other students.”

Similar to routine testing, the CDC is no longer advising students or staff members who are exposed to the virus to quarantine. Instead, the agency’s new advice is that people who were exposed wear face coverings for 10 days and get tested.

Students and staff members who experience symptoms like a cough, fever or sore throat should head home and get tested immediately, the CDC said. For people who are at risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19, the agency recommends consulting their doctor.

Those who test positive should isolate at home for at least five days. Afterward, isolation depends on whether they continue to exhibit symptoms or test positive for the virus.

Students and staff members sick with the virus don’t have to get a negative test result to end isolation, but it could shorten the number of days they should wear a mask after getting sick.

Generally, the CDC recommends students and staff continue wearing a mask for 10 days after symptoms began to show.

Source: NPR

CDC streamlines COVID-19 guidance (August 12, 2022)

On August 11, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that it is streamlining its COVID-19 guidance to help people better understand their risk, how to protect themselves and others, what actions to take if exposed to COVID-19, and what actions to take if they are sick or test positive for the virus. COVID-19 continues to circulate globally, however, with so many tools available to us for reducing COVID-19 severity, there is significantly less risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death compared to earlier in the pandemic.

“We’re in a stronger place today as a nation, with more tools—like vaccination, boosters, and treatments—to protect ourselves, and our communities, from severe illness from COVID-19,” said Greta Massetti, PhD, MPH, MMWR author. “We also have a better understanding of how to protect people from being exposed to the virus, like wearing high-quality masks, testing, and improved ventilation.  This guidance acknowledges that the pandemic is not over, but also helps us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives.”

In support of this update CDC is:

  • Continuing to promote the importance of being up to date with vaccination to protect people against serious illness, hospitalization, and death. Protection provided by the current vaccine against symptomatic infection and transmission is less than that against severe disease and diminishes over time, especially against the currently circulating variants. For this reason, it is important to stay up to date, especially as new vaccines become available.
  • Updating its guidance for people who are not up to date on COVID-19 vaccines on what to do if exposed to someone with COVID-19.  This is consistent with the existing guidance for people who are up to date on COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Recommending that instead of quarantining if you were exposed to COVID-19, you wear a high-quality mask for 10 days and get tested on day 5.
  • Reiterating that regardless of vaccination status, you should isolate from others when you have COVID-19.
    • You should also isolate if you are sick and suspect that you have COVID-19 but do not yet have test results.
      • If your results are positive, follow CDC’s full isolation recommendations.
      • If your results are negative, you can end your isolation.
  • Recommending that if you test positive for COVID-19, you stay home for at least 5 days and isolate from others in your home.  You are likely most infectious during these first 5 days. Wear a high-quality mask when you must be around others at home and in public.
    • If after 5 days you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication, and your symptoms are improving, or you never had symptoms, you may end isolation after day 5.
    • Regardless of when you end isolation, avoid being around people who are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 until at least day 11.
    • You should wear a high-quality mask through day 10.
  • Recommending that if you had moderate illness (if you experienced shortness of breath or had difficulty breathing) or severe illness (you were hospitalized) due to COVID-19 or you have a weakened immune system, you need to isolate through day 10.
  • Recommending that if you had  severe illness or have a weakened immune system, consult your doctor before ending isolation. Ending isolation without a viral test may not be an option for you. If you are unsure if your symptoms are moderate or severe or if you have a weakened immune system, talk to a healthcare provider for further guidance.
  • Clarifying that after you have ended isolation, if your COVID-19 symptoms worsen, restart your isolation at day 0. Talk to a healthcare provider if you have questions about your symptoms or when to end isolation.
  • Recommending screening testing of asymptomatic people without known exposures will no longer be recommended in most community settings.
  • Emphasizing that physical distance is just one component of how to protect yourself and others.  It is important to consider the risk in a particular setting, including local COVID-19 Community Levels and the important role of ventilation, when assessing the need to maintain physical distance.

Actions to take will continue to be informed by the COVID-19 Community Levels, launched in February. CDC will continue to focus efforts on preventing severe illness and post-COVID conditions, while ensuring everyone have the information and tools, they need to lower their risk.

The agency is no longer recommending “test-to-stay” policies for schools, when unvaccinated children exposed to someone with COVID-19 could stay in school as long as they tested negative instead of having to quarantine.

Sarah Lee, a school health expert at the CDC, said the agency removed the “test-to-stay” guideline because the agency no longer recommended quarantine broadly. But she said on a press call that schools could still consider using widespread testing during outbreaks or during periods of high COVID-19 prevalence for events like sport tournaments and proms or for after school breaks.

This updated guidance is intended to apply to community settings. In the coming weeks CDC will work to align stand-alone guidance documents, such as those for healthcare settings, congregate settings at higher risk of transmission, and travel, with today’s update.

U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee proposes 13% increase for K-12 in FY 2023 (July 31, 2022)

On July 28, 2022, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee proposed a 13% increase for K-12 in fiscal year (FY) 2023. The proposed spending plan includes $20.1 billion for Title I grants and $15.3 billion for special education grants. Also included in the FY 2023 bill is $12 billion for Head Start. As per the plan, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) would receive $49 billion for federal K-12 education programs, which is an increase of about $5.5 billion, or 13%, over FY 2022.

All proposed amounts are at lower levels than a House Appropriations Committee plan and President Biden’s request. 

For more information, click here.

USDE Answers Call for ARP Funds Use Strategies (July 10, 2022)

In answer to President Biden’s call for more schools to invest in strategies to accelerate academic recovery using American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds and to galvanize more Americans to serve their communities by becoming tutors and mentors to help address the impact of missed instruction on our nation’s students, the USDE announced that it will build on the progress school communities made this year in helping students and families recover from the pandemic. Those actions include: 

Launching the National Partnership for Student Success and recruiting 250,000 new tutors and mentors – USDE is joining forces with leading education, youth, and service organizations to launch the National Partnership for Student Success (NPSS), a new coalition that will support the expansion, launch and improvement of high-impact tutoring, mentoring and other programs to make up for lost instructional time, and support student mental health and overall wellbeing. The NPSS is run through collaboration between USDE, AmeriCorps, and the Johns Hopkins Everyone Graduates Center. 

Expanding the USDE’s Best Practices Clearinghouse to share best practices around academic and mental health recovery efforts – The Best Practices Clearinghouse will highlight and celebrate evidence-based and promising practices implemented by states, schools, and school districts using ARP funds to support learning recovery, increased academic opportunities, and student mental health. The updated Best Practices Clearinghouse is the next phase of the Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse that was launched in Spring 2021.

Empowering parents and school communities with knowledge about how their school is using and can use federal funds to provide the necessary academic and mental health supports – In June, the USDE launched the National Parents and Families Engagement Council to facilitate strong and effective relationships between schools and parents, families, and caregivers and has now put out a call to states and school communities to contribute to the revamped Best Practices Clearinghouse. USDE has also updated an interactive map to make state and local plans for ARP funds more accessible to families.   

To view the USDE announcement in its entirety, click here.
For additional information on the USDE’s announcements click here