Act 55: PDE Reminds LEAs of New Grad Requirements (July 19, 2022)

On July 18, 2022, Dr. Jeffrey Fuller, PDE Acting Deputy Secretary, disseminated a PennLink messafe to all LEAs titled Act 55 Amendment to the State Graduation Requirement; State Board of Education Action Amending State Graduation Requirement. He states that the purpose of the memo is to inform LEAs of two significant changes to the statewide high school graduation requirements and that PDEencourages LEAs to take them into account before scheduling students for retests in the summer and winter Keystone Exam windows. Those changes are:

1. Two Score Keystone Composite
Act 55 of 2022 amends the Pennsylvania School Code to further assist students in meeting statewide high school graduation requirements. Effective immediately, any student may graduate via the Keystone Composite Pathway provided the student:

2. Extension of the Pandemic as an Extenuating Circumstance
On September 9, 2021, the Pennsylvania State Board of Education approved the addition of the COVID-19 pandemic to the list of extenuating circumstances for which pathway-specific graduation requirements may be waived by a chief school administrator for students in the graduating classes of 2023, 2024, and 2025. Each student granted a waiver must complete locally established, grade-based requirements for academic content associated with each Keystone Exam in which the student does not have a numeric or non-numeric Proficient/Advanced.

If waivers exceed more than 5% of the graduating class, the school entity may be required to submit an improvement plan or be subject to an audit.

Refer to the SAS Graduation Toolkit for additional information on non-numeric scores, locally established grade-based requirements, waivers, and other related topics. Questions may be submitted to ra-edgradrequirement@pa.gov.

LEAs are advised to  note that the Tracking ToolSAS Toolkit, and PDE website are in the process of revision but will not reflect these changes immediately. Please check back for updates and emerging details on PDE Open Office Hours and training opportunities available late summer/early fall.

July 2022 State Board of Ed. Meeting: Former Sec. Rivera Re-joins the State Board (July 13, 2022)

Former PA Secretary of Education Dr. Pedro Rivera re-joined the State Board of Education, assuming the position of Chair of the Council of Higher Education. He was warmly welcomed by State Board Chair Karen Farmer White and those in attendance.

At its meeting, the Council of Basic Education discussed and approved the final omitted technical amendments and correction of any typos to Chapters #11 (Student Attendance) and 12 (Students and Student Services) of PA Code Title 22 C.S.A. – Education, recommending its passage to the State Board for approval. The State Board thus approved those omits during its subsequent meeting.

The Council of Basic Ed. also announced that, as is required, Chapter 4 standards will be advertised in the PA Bulletin on July 16th for review.

Acting PA Ed. Sec. Eric Hagarty expressed his sincere thanks to Gov. Wolf and the General Assembly regarding the passage of a budget with historical increases in education including, but not limited to, a $525M increased in basic education funding through the fair funding formula; a $100M increase in Special Ed.; a $100M increase in school safety; and a $100M increase in student mental health.

PDE Executive Deputy Sec. Dr. David Volkman announced that the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan is on track to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in September 2022. The State Board was also informed that previous ESSA pandemic-related waivers regarding accountability are no longer in place for 2021-22 school year reporting.

The State Board also approved its 2023 calendar, which will be posted on the PDE website.

PDE: New Eligibility Guidelines for Free and Reduced School Meals Announced for the 2022-23 School Year (July 11, 2022)

On July 8, 2022, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released federal income eligibility guidelines for free and reduced-price school meals and free milk for July 2022 through June 2023. Schools and other institutions and facilities use the guidelines to determine eligibility for the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Special Milk Program for Children, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the Summer Food Service Program.

As schools begin to transition from use of nationwide waivers, which in the 2021-2022 school year included the option to serve free meals for all students, the importance of determining individual student eligibility is vital to ensure eligible students receive school meals at reduced or no cost. 

To apply, households receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) need only include the SNAP or TANF case number on their application. Households enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) may qualify for free or reduced-price school meals and should complete a Household Meal Benefit Application. Other households can find more information on the commonwealth’s COMPASS website

Click here to view the updated annual income eligibility guidelines, which are effective July 1, 2022, until further notice.

Gov. Wolf Signs Budget with Historic Increase in Ed. Funding (July 10, 2022)

On Saturday, July 9, 2022, Governor Tom Wolf signed a 2022-23 budget that, in his words, “makes a historic $1.8 billion increase in education funding — bringing the total investment my administration has made in education at all levels to more than $3.7 billion.” The historic $1.8 billion investment increase in education is seen as solidifying Gov. Wolf’s commitment to education. In fact, the Wolf Administration has increased education funding by more than $3.7 billion since 2015.

This year’s $1.8 billion increase includes: 

  • $525 million increase through the Fair Funding Formula. On average Pennsylvania schools will see their funding increase by 8 percent. 
  • $225 million increase for Level Up to provide targeted support to the 100 most in-need school districts, ensuring that every child in Pennsylvania has the opportunity to thrive and succeed through equal access to a high-quality education no matter their zip code. 
  • $100 million increase for Special Education. 
  • $79 million increase for Early Education through Pre-K Counts and Head Start. 
  • $220 million for public higher education. 

The budget also includes funding to help make Pennsylvania communities safer through increased security and grassroots violence interruption efforts, including:

  • $100 million increase for School Safety Grants to ensure children learn and grow in safe, healthy environments.
  •   $50 million for Gun Violence Intervention and Prevention programs to promote grassroots efforts for safer communities. 
  • $105 million for violence prevention, public safety, and safer communities. 

To view the press release, 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