Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA) Offers Training for Assessment Coordinators (September 17, 2018)

A live webinar training entitled “2019 PASA Getting Ready” will be held on September 25, 2018 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.  This training is sponsored directly by the PA Bureau of Special Education and is separate from the PASA Test Administration training provided by the assessment vendor.  LEAs and service providers are strongly encouraged to ensure participation of the 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 ACs and special education administrators responsible for the implementation of the PASA may register for the training session via the following link: https://paiu.zoom.us/j/766271721. This webinar will be presented through Zoom.  The training will be recorded and posted on both the Pennsylvania Department of Education and Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network websites following the training for staff who are unable to attend. Questions regarding this training opportunity may be directed to Lisa Hampe, Special Education Adviser, at lihampe@pa.gov or 724.425.3000; or Lynda Lupp, Statewide Assessment Coordinator, at llupp@pattan.net or 800.441.3215, ext. 7233.

The Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA) enrollment window is from October 1, 2018 through November 16, 2018 and will not be available after the latter date.  Only students newly identified as Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and PASA eligible or new to the service provider may be enrolled through the PASA vendor after November 16, 2018.  All other requests to enroll students outside of the enrollment window will be directed to the Bureau of Special Education (BSE). The PASA test administration window is from February 25, 2019 through April 12, 2019 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.

PA School Safety Task Force Report Includes Need for More Pupil Services Personnel (August 29, 2018)

On Monday, August 27th, the PA School Safety Task Force released its report at a press conference in Harrisburg. The report is the culmination of information gathering at six regional listening sessions held since March of this year. Governor Tom Wolf and PA Auditor General Eugene DePasquale co-chaired the task force. On Monday, DePasquale stressed the need for more mental health support for students in schools, physical improvements in buildings (e.g., security cameras, door locks for classrooms, and metal detectors), trained armed professionals in schools (not to include teachers), and better means for information sharing between schools and local and state agencies such as law enforcement and social services.

The report also stressed the importance of adequate staffing in the area of pupil services. For example, the report stated that, as of the 2016-17 school year, the average student to school nurse ratio in PA schools was 809:1, the average student to counselor ratio was 387:1, and the average student to school psychologist ratio was 1,164:1. The National Association of School Nurses recommends a student to nurse ratio of 750:1, the American School Counselor Association recommends a student to counselor ratio of 250:1, and the National Association of School Psychologists recommends a ratio of 1,000:1.

The report can be viewed in its entirety at https://www.governor.pa.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/20180827-Gov-Office-School-Safety-Report-2018.pdf or on the PAPSA website by going to the heading “Resources” and its drop-down “Downloads”.

PDE Sends Notification of Amendments to Compulsory Attendance and Truancy Laws Through Act 39 of 2018 (August 26, 2018)

On August 24, 2018 Patricia Hollinger, PDE’s Administrative/Fiscal Officer for the Office for Safe Schools, released a memo via PennLink from Matthew Stem, Deputy Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, titled Amendments to compulsory attendance and truancy laws through Act 39 of 2018.

The memo informs school entities that Act 39 of 2018 (Act 39), which was signed into law on June 22, 2018, includes multiple amendments to the Pennsylvania Public School Code (School Code) and several of those amendments are related to compulsory attendance and truancy laws.  The definition of “educational entity” in Section 1326 of the School Code was also amended.  

Importantly, because of the changes made to the compulsory attendance and truancy laws through Act 39, each charter school, including each regional charter school and cyber charter school, is solely responsible for enforcing the compulsory attendance laws in accordance with the School Code as they relate to students enrolled in the charter school. Charter school responsibilities include ensuring that students and parents/guardians comply with compulsory attendance laws, ensuring that truancy prevention and elimination efforts are implemented, and taking appropriate action when a student enrolled in the charter school is habitually truant. Additionally, a charter school must develop an attendance policy.

The memo can be read in its entirety by visiting the PAPSA website at http://papsa-web.org/wp-content/uploads/Amendments-to-compulsory-attendance-and-truancy-laws-through-Act-39-of-2018.pdf

USDE Postpones State Compliance with Significant Disproportionality Regulations (August 22, 2018)

On August 15, 2018, Ann Hinkson-Herrmann, PDE’s Director of the Bureau of Special Education released a memo titled Postponement of Significant Disproportionality Regulations via PennLink informing recipients of the postponement of the December 2016 amended regulations to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) pertaining to significant disproportionality.  A copy of the memo can be viewed on the PAPSA website in the “Resources” section under “Downloads.” The final rule implementing this change can be found in the July 3, 2018 Federal Register notice.

Hinkson-Hermann explains that the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has postponed by two (2) years the date for states to comply with the Equity in IDEA, or significant disproportionality regulations, from July 1, 2018, to July 1, 2020.  The USDE also postponed the date for including children ages three (3) through five (5) in the analysis of significant disproportionality, with respect to the identification of children as children with disabilities and as children with an impairment, from July 1, 2020, to July 1, 2022. The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), Bureau of Special Education (BSE) will be accepting the delay and will continue to provide support to the local educational agencies. Hinkson-Hermann goes on to say that delaying the implementation date does not disregard this important work and that PDE views the two-year delay as an opportunity for our statewide system of support, schools, and community stakeholders to study and work together to address the broad concerns surrounding the issue of, and the root cause of significant disproportionality.  In fact, during the 2018-19 school year, PDE/BSE will offer training and technical assistance for equitable practices in the areas of identification, least restrictive environment, and disciplinary removals for students with disabilities.  Please refer to the monthly calendar located on the PaTTAN website for training dates. Questions regarding this information should be posed to John Gombocz at jgombocz@pa.gov or 717-772-3745.

State Board of Ed. Makes Terminology Change (August 14, 2018)

On August 1, 2018 Ann Hinkson-Herrmann, Director of the PA Bureau of Special Education sent notice to all LEAs of the change in terminology replacing the term mental retardation with intellectual disability located in 22 PA Code Chapter 14 titled Special Education Services and Programs. To align the Commonwealth’s special education regulations in Chapter 14 to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act regulatory revisions resulting from Rosa’s Law, the State Board of Education through final-omitted rulemaking amended 22 PA Code §§ 14.123, 14.124, 14.125, 14.132, 14.143 and 14.162, by replacing the term mental retardation with the term intellectual disability.  The change in terminology does not affect the meaning or the eligibility determination associated with the term.

The final-omitted rulemaking affects public, private, parochial, or nonpublic schools, including vocational schools, intermediate units, and special education and home education programs and their employees.  The final-omitted rulemaking also affects citizens of the Commonwealth with school-aged children and their children.

In addition to the Chapter 14 terminology changes, documents issued from the Bureau of Special Education (BSE) located on the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN) website will be amended.  Local educational agencies are advised to update the forms they currently use to reflect those on the PaTTAN website. BSE intends to have the forms ready for use with the start of the 2018-19 school year.