PDE Provides Update on Statewide Assessments; Uncertainty Remains (February 15, 2021)

In a “Dear Colleague” letter dated February 12, 2021, PA Deputy Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Matthew S. Stem provided an update on the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s (PDE) planning for statewide assessments required by the Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Noting that the update is “long overdue,” he said that PA would be heading “down one of two paths within the next two weeks”. Those two paths are:

1.  If the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) changes direction and invites state waivers from school year 2020-21 assessment administration, PDE will carefully consider such an option and will likely quickly survey local education agency (LEA) leadership to gather data that could inform such a waiver request. At this time, PDE is not requesting this information because it is unclear what requirements USDE would include in a waiver process, should one become available.

2.  If the USDE requires states to move forward with assessment administration, PDE will quickly issue guidance that balances, to the greatest extent possible, the complexities of statewide testing during the pandemic and safety considerations for students, staff, and families. In the event Pennsylvania moves forward with Spring testing,the testing windows would be:

        PSSA: April 19 -May 28, 2021

        PASA: March 8 -May 7, 2021

        Keystone Exams: May 17 -June 25, 2021

Within these windows, schools would not be required to test all students in a cohort at one time. Schools could test smaller groups for the sake of social distancing, thorough cleaning, and other prescribed safety protocols. Any school that remains in a remote or hybrid learning situation in March, and cannot safely provide face-to-face Keystone exams during the extended Winter Keystone window,would plan to test those students during the Spring window.

In closing, the letter states that PDE will continue to monitor developments every day, and will do its best to communicate a definitive path forward by the end of February 2021.