PDH Receives $2 Million Federal Grant To Improve Student Health And Academic Achievement (September 10, 2023)

Students across the Commonwealth will benefit from a $2 million federal grant to implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model. Funding will be awarded to the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PDH) and Erie’s Public Schools through 2028 to create a template that other schools can adopt. 

Establishing healthy behaviors during childhood is easier and more effective than trying to change unhealthy behaviors during adulthood. Schools play a critical role in promoting the health and safety of young people and helping them establish lifelong healthy behaviors. The WSCC model focuses on ten components that schools can emphasize as they see fit:

-Physical education and physical activity
-Nutrition environment and services
-Health education
-Social and emotional climate
-Physical environment
-Health services
-Counseling, psychological and social services
-Employee wellness
-Community involvement
-Family engagement 

In collaboration with several partners, PDH will offer statewide training, convene a statewide school health coalition, and support the implementation of WSCC in Erie’s Public Schools from 2023-2028. Erie was selected based on its size, demographics, and readiness to implement the program. Other districts will be able to take advantage of the free trainings and professional development opportunities that the grant will help develop and support.

Erie’s Public Schools will begin implementing the WSCC model in the 2023-2024 school year with the hiring of the district’s first wellness coordinator. Over the course of the next five school years, the district will revive its district wellness council, strengthen community partnerships, and annually assess and improve health policies, programs, practices, and curriculum in the areas of physical activity, school nutrition, school health services, and emotional well-being. PDH will collaborate with Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), Division of Food and Nutrition Programs and Division of Instructional Quality; Slippery Rock University, School Wellness Education Program; Pennsylvania Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE PA); Pennsylvania Intermediate Units (IU); University of Pittsburgh, Office of Child Development; Erie City School District; and, Deanna Philpott, School Wellness Consultant from PA School Wellness to implement the required grant strategies.

PDE Unveils PA MASLOW Initiative To Support Postsecondary Students (September 10, 2023)

On September 5, 2023 the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) joined students, faculty, and advocates at Cedar Crest College to announce the launch of a new program to support Pennsylvania postsecondary students – PA MASLOW: A Hierarchy of Collegiate Basic Needs. PA MASLOW is a cross-agency partnership that expands upon the mission of PDE – ensuring every student not only has access to education, but that the education pursued provides them with support and resources to create optimal learning environments. This initiative will engage postsecondary institutions in several pillars of work, including: digital equity, housing and transportation, mental health, personal needs, adult student needs, and safety and belonging.

Collegiate Basic Needs are important at every institution of higher education across the Commonwealth, including public two- and four-year institutions, private, not-for-profit institutions, and business trade and technical schools. 

Students in higher education institutions throughout the Commonwealth and nation experience anxiety and other mental health issues, food insecurity, housing insecurity, sexual violence, and more. While PDE has existing programming that speaks to finding solutions to these needs, PA MASLOW will provide an opportunity to expand and scale this work, as well as collaboration among institutions of higher education. PA MASLOW is a comprehensive guide to supporting postsecondary students, translated from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Basic Needs, which includes physiological, safety and security, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization needs. By addressing these basic needs in a more individualized approach, we can ensure that learners have everything they need to be successful and complete their credential.

To access PA MASLOW info from PDE, click here.

Governor Highlights Free Breakfast Accomplishment (September 10, 2023)

On September 8, 2023 Governor Josh Shapiro visited Maple Point Middle School in Bucks County to join students for breakfast and highlight budget investments in the universal free breakfast program, which ensures students have access to healthy meals to start their day.

The 2023-24 budget includes a $46.5 million increase to provide universal free breakfast to Pennsylvania students and free lunch to all 22,000 students who are eligible for reduced-price lunches through the National School Lunch Program. Thanks to this budget, nearly 1.7 million students across the Commonwealth will receive free breakfast.

“I proposed providing free breakfast to Pennsylvania students in my first budget address because I believe our children need to start the day with a nutritious meal – and I know they can’t learn on an empty stomach,” said Governor Shapiro. For more information on the investments made in this commonsense, bipartisan budget, visit shapirobudget.pa.gov.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month (September 9, 2023)

All month, mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies, and community members unite to promote suicide prevention awareness.

National Suicide Prevention Week is the Monday through Sunday surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day. It’s a time to share resources and stories, as well as promote suicide prevention awareness.

World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10. It’s a time to remember those affected by suicide, to raise awareness, and to focus efforts on directing treatment to those who need it most.

BSE Memo on PASA 1% Threshold and Timelines Released by PDE (September 7, 2023)

On September 7, 2023, Carole L. Clancy, Director of the PDE Bureau of Special Education, disseminated a PennLink memo titled Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA) and the 1% Threshold Justification: Tiered System of Oversight and Monitoring of LEAs. The memo states that the PA Department of Education, Bureau of Special Education (BSE) must meet regulatory requirements of the US Department of Education (USDE) relative to participation of students with disabilities in statewide systems of assessment for accountability. To meet requirements, the BSE implements the following tiered system of oversight and monitoring of local education agencies (LEAs). Regulatory requirements, the tiered system of oversight and monitoring rationale, and required actions of LEAs are included here. Adherence to the guidelines and timelines set forth by the BSE are required.

Regulatory Requirements
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to ensure participation of students with disabilities in statewide assessments in two ways:

  • Requires that no more than 1 percent of the total tested population of students in each grade and subject participate in an alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards.
  • Requires that 95 percent of students, including students with disabilities, participate in statewide assessments.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) requires states to ensure that all children with disabilities are included in general assessments with accommodations or alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards. IDEA requires states to develop a State Performance Plan (SPP) which describes how states are improving educational outcomes for students with disabilities and complying with the IDEA. Student participation and performance on statewide assessments (SPP Indicator 3) includes a 95 percent participation target for students with IEPs.

Tiered System of Oversight and Monitoring Rationale and Procedure
The BSE developed the three-tiered system of oversight and monitoring as required by ESSA to monitor the participation rates of students in the Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA). The submission process for LEAs has been updated this year to include all three tiers in one form/survey submission. The new process allows the LEA to review the previous school year’s PASA participation data prior to enrolling students for testing this year, and ensure only those students who meet all 6 of PA’s Eligibility Criteria are enrolled to take the PASA.

What is the “1% Threshold”? How are the 1 Percent and 95 Percent participation rates calculated?
The 1% threshold is the term used by the BSE to identify those LEAs who exceed the 1 percent participation rate allowance per ESSA. The calculation is explained during annual training. LEAs will continue to provide their anticipated participation rate for the 2023-24 school year. However, an LEAs identification in tiered monitoring will be based upon the LEAs actual participation rate data from the 2022-23 assessment cycle. BSE will provide each LEA with their 2022-23 participation rate data and tier status.

1% Threshold Tiered System of Oversight and Monitoring Timeline and Resources
The evaluation of the 1% threshold is based on all students belonging to the LEA, including students who are educated in out-of-district placements. The Special Education administrator for every LEA will receive two separate email communications from BSE in September.

  • LEA Special Education Administrators will receive the first email with LEA’s 2023 testing data and tier designation on September 18,2023. The data will include the LEA’s 1 percent PASA participation rate, as well as the overall 95 percent participation rate for students with disabilities (i.e., Pennsylvania System School Assessment, PASA, and Keystone Exams).
  • The second email will be sent to the LEA Special Education Administrator on September 20, 2023. This email will include a personalized survey link to submit the required responses for the tier they have been identified. All survey responses are due to BSE by October 16, 2023.

Each tier includes more extensive questions and data review within the survey. Survey questions will be dependent on the tier designation. LEAs in Tier 3 will engage in an intensive needs review with BSE personnel in addition to completing the survey. A list of LEAs who anticipate exceeding the threshold in the 2023-24 assessment cycle will be made publicly available on the PDE website, in accordance with 34 CFR 200.6 (c)(3) regulations. Any LEA that exceeds the 1% threshold may be subject to further review by BSE.

The updated 2023-24 PASA 1% Threshold Tiered System of Oversight and Monitoring form can be accessed on the Bureau of Special Education Assessment page here: ESSA 1.0 Percent Threshold Justification Requirements (pa.gov).

Special Education leaders can access full information and training on this requirement by viewing “2023-24 PASA Getting Ready: What Special Education Administrators Need to Know about PASA DLM Participation and 1 percent Compliance Requirements”. This asynchronous webinar will be posed by September 8, 2023 on the BSE Assessment page: Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA).

Questions on this requirement can be directed to Lisa Hampe at [email protected] and/or Lisa Hauswirth at [email protected].

Please contact [email protected] if you had a recent change in the assigned Special Education Administrator for your LEA to ensure the email notifications are sent to the correct individual.