PDH & PDE Officials Highlight Safety and Importance of Vaccination for Children Ages Six Months and Older (July 21, 2022)

On July 20, 2022, Acting Secretary of Health and Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson and Acting Secretary of Human Services Meg Snead encouraged Pennsylvanians to vaccinate their children during a visit to the Dauphin County State Health Center.

The PA Department of Health (PDH), through the Bureau of Community Health Systems, operates a network of state health centers which support public health programs throughout the commonwealth.
Following the approval by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), vaccine providers across the state are now able to provide COVID-19 vaccinations for children six months and older, as well as adults. This approval offers three-dose Pfizer vaccine for children under five years old and a two-dose Moderna vaccine for children under six years old. Both vaccines are approved for children as young as six months.
The departments note that pharmacists across the state are only allowed to provide COVID-19 vaccines to children ages three and older, so parents seeking appointments for children under three should contact their pediatrician, family doctor or other qualified physicians. Parents can also visit vaccines.gov to find a vaccine provider nearest them.

Pfizer’s vaccine requires three doses and is available for children under five and as young as six months. The vaccine uses three micrograms per shot, which is one-tenth of what is used in the Pfizer shot for adults. Children receiving the Pfizer series of shots, should receive the second dose three weeks after the first, and the third shot eight weeks after the second shot.
Moderna’s vaccine requires two doses and is available for children ages six months through five years. The second shot should be administered 28 days after the first dose. Moderna’s vaccine for children under six calls for 25 micrograms per shot, which is one-quarter of the dose given to adults.

To view the press release, which has more info on this story, click here.  

PDH & DHS Mark National Launch of 988 Lifeline (July 20, 2022)

PA Department of Human Services (DHS) Acting Secretary Meg Snead, PA Department of Health (PDH) Acting Secretary Dr. Denise Johnson, and Representative Mike Schlossberg joined together today to highlight the national launch of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline that officially went live on July 16.  

People who call, text, or chat with 988 are now directly connected to the same trained, compassionate crisis response counselors that were accessible through the 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, now rebranded as the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

“Pennsylvanians now have a new, easier way to connect to behavioral or mental health crisis services – a historic step to increase access to life-saving support when people need it most,” said DHS Acting Secretary Snead. “988 can be used by anyone, any time, at no cost, no matter what you are experiencing. Your life matters, so please know that this service is always here to help provide the support that you or your loved ones deserve.” 

“As an OB-GYN physician, I’ve spent my career caring for people, especially during vulnerable times of their lives like the pregnancy and post-partum periods. Providing mental and emotional health assistance is just as important as taking care of a person’s physical health. I have seen firsthand how individuals and families can benefit when they receive help to address their mental and behavioral health needs. The new 988 number will make help that much easier to reach for any Pennsylvanian who is in crisis or who needs help for a loved one,” said PDH Acting Secretary Johnson.  

In 2020, the United States Congress designated the new 988 dialing code to connected callers and texters to Lifeline call centers. Pennsylvania has 13 crisis call centers that collectively serve the entire state. With the national launch of 988, these call centers will continue to provide support for individuals considering suicide, self-harm, or any behavioral or mental health need for themselves as well as people looking for help for a loved one experiencing a mental health crisis. While the majority of calls are triaged and de-escalated without deploying in-person services, in communities where mobile crisis mental health teams are available, the 988 counselor can dispatch the team to provide on-site support and interventions. They are also able to call out police or other emergency services if there is an immediate risk to life or safety. Callers to 988 can also connect with the Veterans Crisis Line or assistance in Spanish. 

Lifeline services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at no cost to the caller. To chat, go to https://988lifeline.org/chat/. While the intent of 988 is to ease access to and knowledge of life-saving mental health crisis resources, the existing Lifeline phone number (1-800-273-8255) will remain available, as well as 911 in the event the individual is experiencing a life-threatening emergency. 

To learn more visit, www.dhs.pa.gov/988.

PDE Unveils Strategic Plan to Recruit and Retain Educators (July 19, 2022)

On July 18, 2022, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) released The Foundation of Our Economy: Pennsylvania Educator Workforce Strategy, 2022-2025, PDE’s strategic plan to recruit and retain more educators across the commonwealth. The strategy was developed after conducting extensive feedback sessions with vested partners across Pennsylvania and contains 50 steps that PDE and its partners will use to address the commonwealth’s educator shortage.

The last few years have been among the most challenging for those working in schools, and the number of new educators entering the profession has declined as a result: a decade ago, roughly 20,000 new teachers entered the workforce each year, while last year only 6,000 did so. To make matters worse, the rate of educators leaving the profession continues to accelerate. This means that schools are having a harder time than ever before in filling critical staff positions.

Additionally, by 2025, the commonwealth’s K-12 population will have higher proportions of students of color, yet less than 7% of teachers in Pennsylvania are people of color. Research has proven that students learn best when they have the opportunity to do so from teachers whose life experience reflects their own. Meeting the needs of the diverse student population will require a significant increase in the diversity of Pennsylvania’s educator workforce.

The Foundation of Our Economy sets forth ambitious goals related to the following five educator workforce focus areas:

  • Meeting the educator staffing needs of rural, suburban, and urban areas;
  • Building a diverse workforce representative of the students we serve;
  • Operating a rigorous, streamlined, and customer service-oriented certification process;
  • Ensuring high-quality preparation experiences for aspiring educators; and
  • Ensuring educator access to high-quality and relevant professional growth and leadership development opportunities.

Additionally, recently approved amendments to the Public School Code will complement the efforts and actions contained in the educator workforce strategy. The bill — negotiated by the Wolf Administration — improves pathways to Pennsylvania certification for teachers prepared out of state, including career and technical education teachers, establishes a Committee on Education Talent Recruitment within PDE to develop programs of study for high school students interested in pursuing careers in education, establishes a Talent Recruitment Grant Program for colleges to increase participation in the education workforce, and waives the Basic Skills assessment for education candidates for three years.

For more information about Pennsylvania’s education policies and programs, please visit the PA Department of Education’s website

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.