Milk Carton Shortage Affects Nation’s Schools (November 9, 2023)

A widespread paper milk carton shortage is affecting school cafeterias across the country the country, as school districts have begun to send messages to their families and communities about how they are either currently managing or preparing to navigate serving milk without half-pint cartons. Schools are required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to offer milk at all school breakfasts, lunches, or suppers served to students.

According to K-12 Dive, in an October 25, 2023 memo to child nutrition directors, the USDA acknowledged that schools in multiple states are dealing with milk supply chain challenges specifically due to packaging issues. As a result, the USDA said state agencies may allow schools impacted by milk supply shortages to serve meals without milk or with an alternative form of milk during this emergency period. 

In Pennsylvania, Galliker’s Dairy Company is working with schools to find solutions and packaging alternatives, The company serves more than 1.3 million school meal containers per week and has established a School Milk Helpline to assist schools working with the milk producer.

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PA Board of Ed Holds 377th Meeting (November 8, 2023)

On November 8, 2023, the PA Board of Education held its bi-monthly meeting. Board Chair Karen Farmer White opened the meeting and, after the meeting minutes for September 13, 2023 were approved, she turned it over to PDE Ed. Sec. Khalid Mumin for a report from him and Deputy Secs. Dr. Kate Shaw and Dr. Carrie Rowe.

Dr. Mumin announced that results for the 2023-24 PSSA and PASA testing are now available online. He stated that, with each passing year, performance and scores will continue to improve. Dr. Mumin also stated that, although Act1A  has been approved for the 2023-24 state budget, negotiations to pass the rest of the budget are ongoing, Those yet-to-be-approved items include a number of important education line items. In addition, Basic Education Funding Committee hearings are underway across the state.

Dep. Sec. Shaw reported that postsecondary sector work groups are now gathering data and information for recommended improvements. She also reported the PA Maslow program is now receiving national recognition.

Dr. Rowe followed up with her report, featuring assessment results that show PA students having a slight increase in performance data. She also pointed out that, due to the Future Ready Index, data are more in-depth and allow for more than just a single summative number score. Results are being released today (11/8/23).

Dr. Rowe then turned over her report to PDE Bureau of Curriculum Director Brian Campbell, who explained the affect of waivers on Keystone Exams scores, which were “banked’ along with the waivers, and many students were not required to take the test, ultimately affecting test results for at least two more years. In fact, Algebra scores will be adversely affected. However, with regard to PSSA test results, data released today show a 3% to 7.5% increase in math scores, but we are still not up to pre-pandemic levels. ELA scores show some gains, but the pre-pandemic gap in these scores is a much smaller one to close.

Campbell also reported that online participation is increasing, but has not yet reached pre-pandemic levels. He also highlighted the advantages of online test participation (e.g., more secure, discreet, user friendly, and free of onsite administration issues). With regard to accountability, Campbell said we are still suffering from attendance issues, but the graduation rate is up, the career standards benchmark has increased, and there is an increase in English Language Learners Growth and Attainment from 22% in 2021-22 to 29% in 2022-23.

A report on the Teacher and School Leader Effectiveness Committee was given by Sandra Dungee Glenn. She stated that PDE’s annual report on certifications shows the number of certifications and permits issued by PDE between 2011-12 to the present. There is currently an alarming rise in emergency certifications. Presently, IU 13 researchers are looking into the certification process. She also reported that there is a significant increase in the number of intern programs in the state. There is also a need to reduce the length of time the hiring process takes. Lastly, Glenn reported that there may be recommended revisions to Chapter 13 Section 354 coming in the future.

Dr. Lee Williams reported on behalf of the Academic Standards/Chapter 4 Committee, saying that 2026-27 school year is the targeted time to put revisions into practice.

Chairperson White reported that final omitted amendments with regard to the use of the term Intellectually Disabled to replace the term mentally retarded will now be submitted as a matter of law.

A highlight of the meeting were reports by student Board members, which had those present praising the decision to include students in the makeup of the Board.

The meeting ended with the unanimous approval of a petition by the Delaware County Community College (DCCC) to hold a public hearing on the Springfield School District’s petition to withdraw as a local sponsor of the DCCC.

Immediately following the Board of Ed. Meeting, the Career and Technical Education Committee met. During that meeting, Mr. Judd Pittman discussed the Perkins Act and the Perkins V Four-year State Plan. He stated that PDE has released a revised competitive equipment grant process today (11/8/23). He also reported that 23 schools are up for Perkins monitoring this year and 56 schools have participated in acclaimed professional development activities for vulnerable students. Lastly, he reviewed the goals of the Perkins V plan.

The meeting concluded with the unanimous approval of the application for a five-year re-accreditation of the Schuylkill Technology Center. 

BSE PennLink to LEAs provides Revised Entry Level Credential of Competency Checklist for the 2023-24 School Year (November 4, 2023)

On November 2, 2023, PDE Bureau of Special Education (BSE) Director Carole L. Clancy, sent a PennLink to all LEAs titled Revised Entry Level Credential of Competency Checklist for 2023-2024 School Year. The message states that for the 2023-2024 school year, the BSE is introducing a revised Special Education Paraprofessional Entry Level Credential of Competency Checklist. This revised checklist aligns with the updated Council for Exceptional Children’s seven core competencies for knowledge and skills for pre-service preparation, ongoing professional development, and performance assessment of paraprofessionals.

Per 22 Pa. Code § 14.105, instructional paraprofessionals are required to meet one of the following qualifications:    
(i)       Have completed at least two years of postsecondary study;    
(ii)      Possess an associate degree or higher; or    
(iii)     Meet a rigorous standard of quality as demonstrated through a state or local assessment.

The Entry Level Credential of Competency Checklist serves as the state assessment and satisfies the third pathway under 22 Pa. Code § 14.105. If a paraprofessional in a local education agency chooses this path, their supervising administrator must document the paraprofessional’s attainment of the seven competencies outlined in the Special Education Paraprofessional Entry Level Credential of Competency Checklist and submit the form to the PA Department of Education, Bureau of Special Education. Upon review and approval of the submitted documents, the applicant will be issued an Entry Level Credential of Competency.

Additional options, beyond the Entry Level Credential, are currently being developed and will be available prior to the start of the 2024-2025 school year. 

Please note, starting next school year (2024-2025), the Bureau of Special Education will only accept applications using the revised Entry Level Credential of Competency Checklist. The checklist must be completed electronically and emailed to [email protected].

For questions about the revised Entry Level Credential of Competency for Special Education Paraprofessionals, please email [email protected].

PA Nonprofit: Three Ways to Create a Disability-inclusive Curriculum (November 4, 2023)

As interest in disability-inclusive curricula grows, in April 2023 the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) announced the creation of a Disability Inclusive Curriculum Pilot Program to instruct K-12 students on the political, economic, and social contributions of individuals with disabilities. Under the program, schools can apply for up to $30,000 in grant funding to implement disability inclusive curriculum. In addition, the nonprofit Disability Equality in Education, based in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, has developed a curriculum and lesson plans vetted and evaluated by people with disabilities. The goal is the challenge the stigma of disability in education as well as to help to build empathy and understanding for those with disabilities.

For more from K-12 Dive, click here.

To learn more about the Disability Equality in Education program, click here.

USDE Title IX Rules Changes Delayed Indefinitely (November 3, 2023)

Citing an overwhelming number of comments to sift through, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) missed its October deadline to finalize two proposed sets of Title IX regulations (i.e., athletics and broader Title IX guidance). The original deadline was actually May 2023, and USDE has yet to announce a new date of anticipated release.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) must review the proposed rules before they are finalized, which is expected to add another 90 days to the process once OMB receives the proposals. At this time, Trump era rules remain in place.

Source: K-12 Dive