Special Ed. Certification Bill Heads to Governor (October 12, 2018)

On October 12th, House Bill 1386 as amended by the PA Senate was passed by the PA House and has been sent to Gov. Wolf to be signed into law. The bill changes the way special education teachers are certified and changes the grade spans and age levels for certification of special education instructional certificates combining the current special education certificates into one category. Further, all special education certificates issued after Dec. 31, 2021 would cover PK-12, or up to age 21, with no additional content or dual certification required.

Acknowledgments to PSBA

Secretary Rivera Announces Grants to Benefit Deaf-Blind Students (October 10, 2018)

On Friday, October 5th, PA Education Secretary Pedro Rivera announced that the Commonwealth will receive a $1.75 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) to improve services to students who are deaf and blind. According to Rivera, “This funding will provide resources to schools, educators, and families to help them provide equitable instruction to students who are deaf-blind.”
Currently, PA educates 602 deaf and blind students from birth to 21 years old and have varying degrees of hearing and vision loss, which are often complicated by other disabilities.
According to the PDE, the Bureau of Special Education applied for the federal funds to implement the state’s Deaf-Blind Project, which provides resources to support schools, educators and families of those students. Rivera said the project is designed to address the complex needs of educators and families through a multi-tiered system, including implementing a regional model using the state’s intermediate units to establish deaf-blind resource teams; providing qualified paraprofessionals and interveners with training geared toward addressing needs of deaf-blind students; and facilitating family participation and engagement strategies to connect them with state and national resources. It will also evaluate education and employment outcomes for deaf-blind students.

PA House Amends SB 1095, Sends Back to Senate (October 10, 2018)

On Tuesday, October 9, 2018 the PA House, after amending the bill, voted 191-0 to pass its version of SB 1095 that provides students with alternative opportunities for high school graduation in lieu of passing the Keystone Exams.
Under the amended bill, a student could earn a diploma in a number of ways. For example, they could earn a diploma if they meet their LEA’s grade requirements and either achieve what the State Board of Education determines to be a passing score on the SATs; pass the military entrance exams; gain acceptance into a four-year college; or secure a full-time job that aligns with their career plan, doing an internship, and satisfactorily completing a pre-approved community service project.
The PA House also placed additional reporting requirements on school districts that would raise “red flags” that would evidence chronic systemic problems that may exist, including if the number of waivers to the graduation requirements that a superintendent gives exceeds five percent of the membership of the graduating class. Further, under the amended bill the graduation testing requirement would remain in moratorium until the new requirements take effect in 2020-21.
The amended bill now returns to the Senate for concurrence on the changes made by the House. Gov. Tom Wolf is supportive of the bill and plans to sign it if it comes to him. In addition, if signed into law, the proposed statewide graduation requirements would take effect starting with this year’s freshman class.
According to the amended bill, a student would earn a diploma if s/he:
• Attains a proficient or advanced score on the three Keystone Exams in Algebra I, biology and literature.
• Attains a proficient score on at least one of the Keystone Exams and at least a basic on the other two and have the combined scores of these exams meet or exceed a state-specified score determined to be acceptable.
• Meets or exceeds local grade requirements in areas tested in the Keystone Exams and one of the following: attain at least a state-specified passing score on the SAT, PSAT, ACT, Advanced Placement exam in any subject area, international baccalaureate exam in any subject area, earn a gold or platinum score on a Work Keys certificate exam that determines career readiness, pass the military entrance exam, complete a dual enrollment course in any subject area, complete a pre-apprenticeship program, or gain acceptance into a four-year higher education institution and show evidence of the ability to handle college-level work.
• Meets or exceeds local grade requirements in areas tested in the Keystone Exams and obtain an industry-based competency certification related to the career and technical education student’s program of study or demonstrates a likelihood of success in an industry-based competency exam.
• Meets or exceeds local grade requirements in areas tested in the Keystone Exams and three pieces of evidence demonstrating “readiness for meaningful postsecondary engagement” consistent with the career plan that students, starting this year are required to develop. The evidence must include one of the following: a silver score on the Work Keys exam, a state-specified acceptable score on the SAT, acceptance into community college or postsecondary institution other than a four-year college and proof of ability to handle college-level work, attaining an industry-recognized credential, attaining at least a state-set score on an Advanced Placement exam or international baccalaureate exam, or completing a dual enrollment course. Additionally, this option allows for the following to be evidence of graduation readiness: completion of a pre-approved service learning project, attaining a proficient or advanced score on a Keystone Exam, a letter guaranteeing full-time employment, completion of an internship/externship/cooperative education program, attaining at least a 2.0 in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s core courses for college-bound student athletes, or meeting or exceeding local grade requirements in any science, technology, environment and ecology course.
• Satisfactorily completes the program developed by an individualized education program (IEP) team in the case of a student with disabilities.

Acknowledgments to PennLive

PDE Reminds LEAs to Report Expenditures Relating to Exceptional Students (October 2, 2018)

Last month, Ann Hinkson-Hermann, Director of PDE’s Bureau of Special Education, notified LEAs that according to Act 16 of 2000 (24 PS §13-1372(8)),  school districts and charter schools must report the number of students with disabilities for which expenditures were between $1 and $25,628.39; between $25,628.40 and $51,256.79; between $51,256.80 and $76,885.19; and $76,885.20 and over for the prior school year. This report will now be collected at the student level through PIMS using the Student Fact Template for Special Education Act 16 Funds.  The template will be collected during Collection #1 (October 1 through October 11, 2018).  Data is to be based on expenditures incurred during the 2017-18 school year. Guidelines regarding the Act 16 reporting can be found at the following link:  Act 16 Information. The Student Fact Template for Special Education Act 16 Funds can be found in the PIMS manual at the following link:  PIMS Information. Please note that failure to complete the Student Fact Template for Special Education Act 16 Funds report may have an adverse effect on your agency’s special education funding. Questions regarding this reporting requirement may be emailed to ra-edseact16@pa.gov.  A copy of this information is being provided to each intermediate unit so they may assist school districts and charter schools with report preparation, as needed.

PDE Notifies LEAs Regarding Restraint Information System Collection (October 2, 2018)

Recently, Ann Hinkson-Herrmann, Director of PDE’s Bureau of Special Education, notified LEAs that the 2018-19 school year Restraint Information System Collection (RISC) is open for data entry. The system was enhanced to give local educational agencies (LEAs) greater opportunity to provide both more detail about restraints and to analyze trends in reducing the use of physical restraints on students. The Bureau of Special Education continues to require LEAs to report the restraints that occurred in each quarter. This reporting process encourages LEAs to report their restraints in a more timely manner, which in turn, will help LEAs monitor patterns of episodic behaviors and address them accordingly. Questions regarding the RISC should be directed to either of the following Special Education Advisers:  Keith Focht at 717.783.6921 or kfocht@pa.gov or Pat Haglund at 814.662.2662 or phaglund@pa.gov.