In answer to a declaration by the US Surgeon General that vaping is an epidemic across the country, on March 12th the PA House Judiciary Committee unanimously advanced a bill that would close a loophole that allows students to use vapes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems on school property. The bill would also make it a crime to sell such products to persons under the age of 18. HB 97 unanimously passed the House during the 2017-18 legislative session, but wasn’t considered in the Senate.
On Friday, March 1, 2019 PA Deputy Education Secretary Matthew Stem released a Penn*Link titled Participation in State Assessments and Parental/Guardian Rights Afforded Under Chapter 4 and Accountability Under ESSA. In the message, LEAs were reminded that, as the PSSA and spring Keystone testing windows approach, they should be mindful of requirements for participation in state assessments.
According to Deputy Secretary Stem, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) continues to require participation of all students; however, in recognition of special circumstances, USDE provides some flexibility for five percent non-participation. This five percent flexibility is important to Pennsylvania, as Chapter 4 regulations allow parents/guardians to have their children excused from testing due to a conflict with religious belief. Though Pennsylvania regulations permit this excusal, USDE does not recognize this as an allowable reason for non-participation and all students who do not participate due to the allowance in Chapter 4 will have a negative impact on an LEA’s/school’s participation rate, and potentially achievement rate as well. For more information, LEAs are invited to view the webinar: https://youtu.be/kPIWKVDkqII. The provision in Chapter 4 specifically says:
§ 4.4 General Policies.
(d) School entities shall adopt policies to assure that parents or guardians have the following:
(4) The right to review a State assessment in the school entity during the convenient hours for parents and guardians, at least two weeks prior to their administration, to determine whether a State assessment conflicts with their religious belief. To protect the validity and integrity of the State assessments, each school entity shall have in place procedures to be followed when parents or guardians request to view any state assessment. Procedures must be consistent with guidance provided by the Department in its assessment administration instructions. If upon inspection of a State assessment parents or guardians find the assessment to be in conflict with their religious belief and wish their students to be excused from the assessment, the right of the parents or guardians will not be denied upon written request that states the objection to the applicable school district superintendent, charter school chief executive officer or AVTS director.
Parents/guardians are not to be denied their right to have their children excused if they follow proper protocol. Parents/guardians must sign a confidentiality agreement form prior to reviewing the assessment. After reviewing the assessment, parents/guardians must state in writing to the school district superintendent, charter school chief executive officer, or AVTS director that they wish to have their child(ren) excused from the assessment due to a conflict with religious belief. The specific conflict does not need to be stated; simply that it is a conflict with religious belief.
LEAs and schools are encouraged to seek 100 percent participation in the assessments, but please be reminded of parents’/guardians’ rights under Chapter 4.
On February 19, 2019, Ann Hinkson-Herrmann, PDE Director of the Bureau of Special Education, disseminated a Penn*Link titled State Performance Plan Data Requirements – Postsecondary School Survey – Cohort 3, in reference to the accountability requirements under the IIDEA regarding the secondary transition mandate by which each state is to determine, for the state as a whole, the extent to which students are achieving transition outcomes as stated in their Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) (State Performance Plan – Indicator 14). During the 2017-18 school year, LEAs assigned to target sampling Year 3 completed the exit survey. The LEAs assigned to PaPOS target sampling Year 3 need to be aware of the following points as they must fulfill the post-survey requirements during the 2018-19 school year:
- No earlier than one year after the student left school and no later than September 30, 2019, the LEA will need to administer the PaPOS post survey to former students who had an IEP and who graduated, dropped out, or aged out at the end of the 2017-18 school year. (These former students should have been administered the exit survey in Spring 2018.) All this information will be entered by the LEA through the Leader Services online system.
- Intermediate Unit and Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN) transition consultants will monitor the LEA’s progress and assist as needed with the PaPOS procedure.
- The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Bureau of Special Education will provide training on the implementation and electronic submission of the PaPOS target sampling Year 3 to LEAs via a webinar scheduled for April 17, 2019, from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. Please register for this webinar at www.pattan.net.
The 2019-20 CATS Secondary Program Approval file is now open for new secondary CTE program approval requests. The deadline for seeking new program approval is May 31, 2019. CATS can be accessed at the login on PDE’s homepage. The newly updated CATS Secondary Program Approval Instructions are available on the PDE website. Any secondary institution may submit a request for POS approval. Currently, there are 43 POS available on PDE’s website. Questions should be directed to Tammy Keisling, at (717)783-6996 or email email@example.com.
On February 21, 2019, Ann Hinkson-Herrmann, PDE Director of the Bureau of Special Education disseminated a memo via PennLink to all local educational agencies (LEAs) titled Surrogate Parents. The purpose of that Penn*Link was to reemphasize the role and responsibilities of the LEA in identifying unaccompanied homeless youth with disabilities and the need to promptly appoint surrogate parents for these students.
Also, the Bureau of Special Education (BSE), has reviewed and revised the Basic Education Circular (BEC): Surrogate Parents previously issued July 2014. The revised version has replaced the previous version with the same name and includes new information emphasizing the LEA role in identifying unaccompanied homeless youth and the need to appoint surrogate parents. A copy of this BEC can be found on PDE’s website at www.education.pa.gov, Policy and Funding, BECs or on the PAPSA website in “Downloads.”
Lastly, LEAs also are advised to refer to the Surrogate Parent Guidelines for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Eligible or Thought-to-Be Eligible Students located on the PaTTAN website at: www.pattan.net. or on the PAPSA website in “Downloads.” Any questions concerning this topic should be directed to John Gombocz at 717.772.3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.