The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) released its draft Consolidated State Plan for compliance with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The plan is available for public comment through an online survey until Aug. 31, and PDE will submit the document to the U.S. Department of Education on Sept. 18 for approval. Initial implementation of the plan will begin in the 2017-18 school year, with full rollout by 2018-19.

The Consolidated State Plan includes six sections: Long-term Goals; Consultation and Performance Management; Academic Assessments; Accountability, Support and Improvement for Schools; Supporting Excellent Educators; and Supporting All Students.  Following are selected highlights of the six sections of the plan.

Section 1: Long-term Goals

In this section PDE must describe its long-term goals for academic achievement, graduation rates and English language proficiency.

  1. Academic achievement: Reduce the percentage of non-proficient students by 50 percent by the end of the 2029-30 school year.

Pennsylvania’s long-term goals and measures of interim progress are based on the examination of 2015 and 2016 statewide assessment data from the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) for grades 3-8, Keystone Exams for high school, and the Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA) for students with significant cognitive disabilities in grades 3-8 and high school.


This timeline allows planning to support a cohort across the full span of kindergarten through grade 12, beginning with the kindergarten class in 2017-18 school year, the first full year of ESSA implementation. The goal of reducing the percentage of non-proficient students by 50 percent applies to all schools and students, including each student subgroup. Interim goals were established by dividing the final numeric goals for all students and for each subgroup by 13, representing 13 school years.

  1. Graduation rate: For a four-year cohort, the goal is to increase the percentage of graduates every year, for all students and every subgroup, such that Pennsylvania’s statewide graduation rate moves from the midpoint among states to the top quarter, and ultimately exceeds 92 percent. For a five-year cohort, Pennsylvania seeks to improve graduation rates every year, for all students and for every subgroup, to reach a five-year rate of 93.5 percent by 2030.

Pennsylvania will report both four- and five-year graduation rates and seeks flexibility from USDE to base accountability decisions on the higher of the two rates. This approach reflects the state’s belief that accountability decisions should consider the full efforts of a high school – including efforts to serve older, under-credited students, and traditionally underserved students.

More about the four-year cohort: Drawn from the 2011-12 cohort, the 2014-15 four-year graduation rate baseline for all students is 84.8 percent, which exceeds the national average and demonstrates the high standards established under Pennsylvania’s ESEA Waiver. This goal will reduce by half the gap between the current four-year cohort graduation rate and a rate of 100 percent by 2029-30. Pennsylvania’s proposed measures of interim progress were determined by equalizing the needed growth for all students and for all subgroups over a 13-year span.

More about the five-year cohort: Building on a baseline of 87.1 percent for a five-year cohort, Pennsylvania seeks to improve graduation rates every year, for all students and for every subgroup, to reach a five-year rate of 93.5 percent by 2030. This is a more rigorous goal than the proposed four-year rate of 92.4 percent. This target is based on reducing by half the gap between the current five-year cohort graduation rate and a rate of 100 percent; all student subgroups will be held to the same standard. Interim benchmarks were developed by equalizing the needed growth for all students and for all subgroups over a 13-year span.

  1. English language proficiency: PDE is setting initial interim and long-term goals based on 2015-16 and 2016-17 ACCESS for ELLs data. The initial goal for districts in 2018-19 will be the values at the 25th percentile in this calculation and the long-term goal for 2030 will be the values at the 90th percentile.


Pennsylvania uses the English Language Development Standards (ELDS) and an annual English language proficiency assessment, the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0, as the state’s English language proficiency assessment.

Since research has demonstrated that growth toward attaining English language proficiency is not linear and is based on starting proficiency level and grade, PDE will adopt a system for setting growth targets and determining time to attainment for individual students. The target year for attainment of English language proficiency for individual English learners is based on starting proficiency level (first year ACCESS score). PDE will calculate index scores for schools based on the growth students make or the year in which they attain proficiency. Some additional credit is given for students who exceed their growth targets or attain proficiency before the target year. Also, partial credit is given for student who attain proficiency after their target year.

Based on research and discussion with stakeholder groups, PDE has determined that English learners have attained proficiency when achieving an overall composite proficiency level score of 5.0 on the ACCESS for ELLs, and the maximum number of years that English learners should require to become proficient under normal circumstances is six years.

Section 2: Consultation and Performance Management

The ESSA requires PDE to engage in timely and meaningful consultation with stakeholders in developing its Consolidated State plan. This section details PDE’s efforts in this requirement, and will be updated with additional stakeholder feedback following the formal public comment period.

Beginning in the spring of 2016 and throughout the planning and development of the plan, the department created a working group that met in the spring and summer of 2016 to develop recommendations. Other meetings were held throughout 2017 and 2017 with various groups of stakeholders, members of the General Assembly and the governor. PDE posted information specific to the development of the state plan on its website.

Section 2 of the plan also requires PDE to describe its system of performance management (review and approval) of plans created by local education agencies (LEAs) to meet statutory and regulatory requirements. Pennsylvania uses an electronic eGrant system for the collection and approval of consolidated LEA plans. The template for the consolidated LEA plan has been updated to ensure LEAs have the opportunity to take advantage of the increased flexibility of Title IA, IIA and IV provided by ESSA. Within each section of the consolidated application, LEAs are required to set performance goals responsive to the needs of students and staff. The consolidated application narrative will be updated and aligned to Pennsylvania’s Consolidated State Plan once it is approved by USDE. This alignment will provide LEAs with an opportunity to review and revise narratives and budgets and resubmit for review and approval.

PDE uses an online consolidated monitoring protocol to ensure LEA compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements. In addition to being monitored based on risk designations, LEAs are currently on a four-year monitoring cycle.


During the 2017-18 school year, the Department’s Division of Federal Programs will gather stakeholder feedback on the LEA application from interested stakeholders. In addition, the division will conduct a survey to assess the needs and practical experiences of LEAs in completing the application. This feedback will assist the division in providing relevant technical assistance for LEAs and develop revisions to the eGrant system.

Currently, LEAs are required to set performance goals pertaining to student achievement and report on the progress being made on the goals. This performance data is embedded in each consolidated LEA plan. Beginning with the 2018-19 school year, the Division of Federal Programs will target technical assistance to LEAs based on risk assessment indicators. Indicators include: the size of an LEA’s Title I and Title IIA allocations; previous year program and/or fiscal findings; missing deadlines; and turnover in leadership and financial management systems.

Section 3: Academic Assessments

Reduction of testing time

PDE has worked extensively with its Technical Advisory Committee to evaluate whether the PSSAs in English language arts and mathematics can be shortened without compromising their reliability. The department plans to reduce the English language arts assessment from four to three sections and the mathematics assessment from three to two sections. This will take effect with PSSA testing in 2018.

Advanced math (double-testing of 8th graders)

ESSA allows states to pursue a targeted exemption from the double-testing experienced by many 8th grade students. In Pennsylvania’s case, this flexibility would exempt 8th grade Algebra I students who take the Keystone Exam from taking the 8th grade PSSA mathematics assessment. However, ESSA requires states to administer to these students an additional high school level mathematics assessment. PDE has determined that this would impose new costs on the state without enabling a reduction in overall testing time. Also, the law does not permit extension of this same flexibility to Algebra I students in grades 6 and 7. For these reasons, PDE does not intend to pursue the advanced mathematics coursework exception.

Translation of assessments into languages other than English

Pennsylvania provides accommodated assessments in Spanish for the PSSA math and science tests and the Keystone Exams for Algebra I and Biology. PDE will evaluate the reasonableness of translation of assessment materials in instances where more than 2 percent of a county’s combined public school enrollment speak a specific home language other than Spanish. Any materials translated on the basis of significant populations within a given county would be made available on a statewide basis. The next most commonly spoken home languages are Arabic (2,626), Chinese/Mandarin (2,201), Nepali (1,598), and Vietnamese (1,113).

Section 4: Accountability, Support and Improvement for Schools

In this section, PDE must describe its systems for: 1) system and indicators for state accountability; 2) system for identifying levels of school performance, and; 3) system for identifying schools for comprehensive support and improvement.

Accountability system

The plan includes these five proposed accountability indicators that meet ESSA requirements and state-identified areas:

Indicator 1: Academic achievement (ESSA)

Achievement measures describe the academic performance of students on state assessments of content standards and more specifically, the percentage of tested students (enrolled for a full academic year) scoring Proficient or Advanced on each of the following state assessments: Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) in grades 3-8; Keystone Exams; and the Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA).

Indicator 2: Academic progress (ESSA)

The Average Growth Index relies on students’ prior testing history in an effort to isolate school-level contributions to student learning. Calculations are derived from the Pennsylvania Value-Added Assessment System (PVAAS), which seeks to determine whether each group of students gains, maintains, or declines in overall academic performance in Mathematics (PSSA 4-8 & Algebra I Keystone Exam), English/Language Arts (PSSA 4-8 tests and Literature Keystone Exam), and/or Science (PSSA tests grades 4 and 8 and Biology Keystone Exam).

Indicator 3: Graduation rate (ESSA)

The adjusted cohort graduation rate represents the percentage of students in a school who earn a high school diploma within four or five years. The value represented for the reported year is the graduation rate calculated for one year prior to the reported year due to availability of this data. Pennsylvania’s plan to consider a school’s five-year rate in final accountability determinations recognizes the efforts of schools that serve students who may benefit from additional educational programming, including older and under-credited learners and many special needs students.

Indicator 4: Progress in achieving English language proficiency (ESSA)

The primary goal of this indicator is to provide a view of English learner student growth progress toward, and on-time attainment of, English proficiency as defined elsewhere in this plan. English Learners are expected to attain proficiency in English in up to six years depending on their initial proficiency level. In other words, students with little or no initial proficiency in English are expected to attain proficiency within six years while students at higher initial proficiency levels are expected to attain in fewer years.

The calculation is based on a student’s overall composite proficiency level score from the ACCESS for ELLs, the annual English language proficiency assessment. Individual student growth targets are calculated each year using ACCESS for ELLs scale scores and are based on the amount of growth made and the remaining growth required to attain proficiency by the target year. The expectation of LEAs is that all students make adequate growth each year to remain on a trajectory to attain proficiency on time. Baseline and long-term targets must be calculated using existing ACCESS for ELLs data. Pennsylvania intends to use the statewide performance of English Learners in 2016 as the baseline; the long-term target will likely be performance at the current 75th percentile, although those numbers will be finalized once calculations are complete.


Indicator 5: School quality or student success (Pennsylvania)

  • Chronic absenteeism: The primary goal of this indicator is to incentivize programs and activities that support high rates of attendance for every student. Chronic absenteeism will be calculated based on the number of students who have missed more than 10 percent of school days across the academic year, roughly 18 days in a 180-day school year. Enrollment of less than 60 days of school will exclude a student from that school’s calculation as there has not been sufficient opportunity for the school to apply intervention strategies. A student is considered absent if they are not physically participating in instruction or instruction-related activities on school grounds or at an approved off-grounds location for at least half the school day. Any day that a student is absent for less than 50 percent of the school day should not count as an absence. Chronically absent students include students who are absent regardless of whether absences are excused or unexcused. Whatever the reason for the absence, it represents instructional hours lost.
  • Career readiness: The purpose of this indicator is to highlight how well schools help students explore career opportunities and develop career goals throughout their schooling. This schoolwide indicator represents the percent of students who demonstrate engagement in career exploration and preparation and implementation of individualized career plans through separate, specific measures based on grade level:
  • The percentage of students who, by the end of grade 5, demonstrate engagement in career exploration and preparation, via or a locally designed career exploration and preparation program/curriculum.
  • The percentage of students who, by the end of grade 8, create an individualized career plan and participate in career preparation activities in accordance with District Comprehensive Plans required by 22 Pa Code, Chapter 339.
  • The percentage of students who, by the end of grade 11, implement their individualized career plan and participate in career preparation activities as assessed through ongoing development of a career portfolio.

Student subgroups: Pennsylvania will report subgroup performance for the following five subgroups: 1) All students; 2) Economically Disadvantaged Students; 3) English Learners; 4) Race/ethnicity: African-American/Black; American Indian or Alaskan Native; Asian (not Hispanic); Hawaiian Native or Pacific Islander; Hispanic; Multi-Racial (not Hispanic); White; and 5) Students with Disabilities.  Pennsylvania will not report a separate subgroup for former children with disabilities. This decision is the result of discussion with educators of children with disabilities, review of assessment data of students with disabilities combined with former students with disabilities, and review of best practice nationally.

English learners: PDE proposes to include former English learners in the English learner subgroup calculations for state assessment results for four years after the time of reclassification. PDE proposes a fourth option for recently arrived English learners, who are defined as those who have been enrolled in any public school in the United States for less than 12 cumulative months (not consecutive). “Recently arrived” status would only apply to content area testing in grades 3 through 8 and grade 11. Under this option, recently arrived English learners are afforded the time to acclimate to a new educational environment and to develop the foundational language skills needed for valid measurement of achievement.

  • Year 1: Provide an exception to the participation requirement for ELA and mathematics assessments. For recently arrived ELs who scored below 4.5 overall composite proficiency level on the ACCESS for ELLs during their first year enrolled in US schools.
  • Year 2: Assess ELA and mathematics, but exclude results from accountability and use for reporting only.
  • Year 3: Assess ELA and mathematics, but include results only in the growth indicator.
  • Year 4: Assess ELA and mathematics and fully include results in accountability.

The scores from the ELA, mathematics, and science assessments for any English learner who scores 4.5 overall composite proficiency level or higher on the ACCESS for ELLs the previous year will be fully included in accountability calculations regardless of their time in U.S. schools.

Minimum number of students (N size): Pennsylvania’s proposed minimum number of students (minimum N) to report subgroup information is 20 students. This determination is based on discussions with stakeholders, consultation with Pennsylvania’s technical advisory committee, and review of data concerning the number of schools statewide that would be able to report subgroup information at various proposed N sizes.

PDE is contemplating aggregating data across school years for the small number of schools that would fall below the minimum N for the all student group in any single year.  In addition, the department is considering additional reporting requirements in instances where individual school buildings have an insufficient number of English learners to report accountability data, but subgroup data could be aggregated and reported across buildings (i.e., at the district or LEA level) to reach the minimum N for reporting purposes only.

Annual meaningful differentiation (identifying levels of school performance)

The ESSA requires states to have a system for annual meaningful differentiation of all their public schools, including charter schools. Pennsylvania does not plan to assign specific weights to indicators, either individually or in the aggregate. Rather, PDE’s proposed approach initially considers two dimensions of academic performance which effectively function as a substantially weighted indicator. The plan aligns with the dashboard design of the new Future Ready PA Index.

Pennsylvania’s initial round of Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) determinations (no later than fall 2018) will be based on the four-step process described below. Steps 1 and 2 apply only to Title I schools. Step 3 applies to all schools.

Step 1. Preliminary identification based on academic achievement and growth:  PDE will categorize schools based on position on an achievement/growth plot. The achievement measure will be derived from a weighted average of the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced on state assessments in English language arts and mathematics combined, as derived from at least two years of data. The state will examine achievement in relation to a school’s average growth index (AGI), again as derived from state achievement test data from at least two years. Achievement and growth data will be plotted to allow the state to identify schools exhibiting low performance in both achievement and growth. The resulting subset of schools may be eligible for CSI (or TSI) identification.  

Step 2. Final identification based on additional academic and non-academic indicators: To establish the 5th percentile of schools as required under ESSA, (Section 1111(c)(4)(D) (Identification of Schools), PDE will employ a stratified approach to identify schools with low achievement and low growth that also fall below a specific level of performance on remaining accountability indicators. Any such schools would be identified for purposes of CSI.

Step 3. Identification of additional high schools with low graduation rates: ESSA requires that states identify “all public high schools in the state failing to graduate one third or more of their students.” PDE will identify any such high schools not already identified through Steps 1 and 2 through evaluation of the adjusted cohort graduation rate at or below 67 percent.


Other points of interest

  • School-level participation rates will be published within the state’s annual school report cards. Schools with rates below 95 percent will be required to develop and implement state-approved improvement plans, and may be required to complete a school- or LEA-level assessment audit.
  • For purposes of CSI and Targeted Support and Improvement Schools (TSI) determinations, Pennsylvania will evaluate achievement and other indicator data based on at least two school years. Additional years of data may be utilized in the instances of small schools that fall below the state’s minimum N size.
  • Schools in which no grade level is assessed, and for which no graduation rate data are available, will report chronic absenteeism data and data on the progress of English Learners, as appropriate. Pennsylvania will explore whether valid and reliable accountability determinations are appropriate in these cases.
  • Schools with both elementary and high school grade spans will report all available data and will be treated as high schools for the purposes of CSI identification.
  • Pennsylvania will not make accountability determinations when the number of students is insufficient to support valid and reliable inferences about school performance.
  • In cases of newly opened schools, accountability decisions will be delayed until at least two years of data are available for at least two indicators.

Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) schools

Pennsylvania will identify Comprehensive Support and Improvement Schools (CSI) in the fall of 2018 and every three years thereafter. This timeline ensures that identification of schools is appropriately based on at least one full school year in which ESSA-established indicators and resources are well aligned.

Pennsylvania’s plans for identification of CSI schools are as follows:

Lowest-performing schools: Pennsylvania’s multi-step strategy for identifying the lowest 5 percent of Title I schools is set forth above.

Schools with low graduation rates: Pennsylvania proposes to identify any public school with a five-year adjusted cohort graduation rate at or below 67 percent.

Schools with chronically low-performing subgroups: Pennsylvania will identify this group of schools in the 2019-20 school year based on the three-step process for CSI identification, repeated at the subgroup level. In other words, schools with subgroups exhibiting low performance in both achievement and growth as well as at least one additional factor may be identified for support.

Timeline for CSI schools

  • 2017-18: Data gathering
  • Fall 2018: Initial identification of CSI schools
  • 2018-19: Each CSI school/LEA conduct needs assessment and school improvement planning
  • 2021-22: Consideration of progress at CSI schools for exit or more rigorous intervention
  • 2022-23: More rigorous interventions as appropriate

Exit criteria for CSI schools

Pennsylvania’s proposed accountability plan includes two new indicators (chronic absenteeism and college and career readiness) and an English Learner progress measure that relies on new assessment data. Pennsylvania will finalize uniform statewide exit criteria based on final analyses of these data elements. At a minimum, schools will be required to:

  1. Show measurable progress on at least one accountability indicator such that the school would no longer qualify for Comprehensive Support and Improvement;
  2. Submit an updated improvement plan that details building (and, as appropriate, LEA-level) activities in response to the school-level needs assessment; and
  3. Participate in PDE-sponsored technical assistance activities.

Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) schools

Pennsylvania proposes to identify Consistently Underperforming Subgroup Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) schools based on the methodology for identifying CSI schools. These TSI schools will be identified annually beginning in the 2019-20 school year. The Department will notify LEAs in which one or more buildings are identified for TSI, and will ensure that those LEAs provide timely notification to the identified schools.

ESSA requires that both CSI schools and one of two categories of TSI schools be identified through a normative process – i.e., identifying the state’s lowest performing schools as well as schools with one or more student subgroups exhibiting comparable low performance. Given this framework, Pennsylvania believes that both categories of TSI schools should be initially identified using the same basic methodology to provide clarity for the education community. However, Low Performing Subgroup TSI schools will be identified based on multiple instances of identification over a three-year time frame. Each Low Performing Subgroup TSI school must develop and implement, in partnership with stakeholders, a school-level plan focused on improving student outcomes through evidence-based interventions and additional supports.

Pennsylvania proposes to identify “low-performing” subgroup TSI schools every three years, and requests flexibility to make initial identification in 2019-20 to allow for three years of data from school years in which ESSA was in effect — 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19. As discussed above, TSI low-performing subgroup schools would be identified based on the same methodology as described above, with designation occurring when the school has met criteria for TSI consistently underperforming in at least two of these three years. Exit criteria for TSI schools is that same as for CSI schools.

State funding for low-performing schools

PDE proposes that all Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) schools receive a formula-driven grant during the school year in which CSI identification is first made. This proposed distribution of resources will be based on the Title I, Part A formula, with additional weights applied for schools with a reportable English learner subgroup, in recognition of the fact that these buildings operate under an additional accountability indicator. Every school will receive a second year of formula-driven funding, provided schools make timely and thorough reports to PDE concerning the use of resources to initiate or accelerate one or more evidence-based strategies, as informed by the needs assessment process. During the third and fourth years of CSI identification, schools may be eligible to seek additional school improvement resources through a competitive, transparent process.

Technical assistance from PDE and OCDEL

Pennsylvania will provide technical assistance for LEAs and schools to provide student-, school- and district-level interventions that address both academic and social-emotional barriers to success. PDE will build on its existing infrastructure to implement Pennsylvania’s statewide accountability and school improvement system under ESSA. This infrastructure includes Pennsylvania’s State System of Support (SOS), comprised of 29 regional Intermediate Units (IUs), three branches of the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN), and regional school improvement consultants to provide field-based supports to both CSI and TSI schools. During the 2017-18 school year, PDE will continue to provide professional development and technical assistance to approximately 50 school-based, interdisciplinary teams across the state.

Recognizing the impact that access to high-quality early childhood education can have on a students’ transition to early elementary grades and long-term academic achievement, the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) will also provide technical assistance and supports to low-performing elementary schools.

Rigorous interventions for schools that fail to meet exit criteria

To ensure appropriate, focused and tailored supports for schools that fail to meet exit criteria, PDE may:

  • Partner with returning CSI schools and their LEAs to perform a comprehensive performance audit to compare to the findings of the initial CSI Needs Assessment and identify additional challenges;
  • Require additional PDE approvals of LEA- and building-level expenditures associated with ESSA;
  • Require more frequent updates to PDE and to the school’s community on progress towards interim and long-term goals; and
  • Review and approve an amended comprehensive support and improvement plan that establishes specific interventions for the areas not showing improvement and that provide support for continuation of strategies showing success.

PDE has significant, existing legislative authority to support this work, including the ability to appoint recovery officers and require submission of recovery plans in distressed school districts (Act 141 of 2012). Chief recovery officers have broad discretion with respect to district finance, operations, and staffing, and may close and reconstitute schools, cancel and renegotiate contracts, and direct the locally-elected school board to implement needed reforms.

Locally-developed plans

In addition to state-led recovery efforts, Pennsylvania will permit individual districts to propose a more rigorous, locally-developed plan for interventions in returning CSI schools. This recognizes that the challenges facing a struggling school cannot be disentangled from community and LEA factors such as district leadership, recurring resources, and resource allocation. Locally-developed plans must be approved by PDE.

Periodic review of resources

During the school improvement monitoring process, Pennsylvania will review and assess – and LEAs will have the opportunity to identify – specific resource needs. This information will be reviewed by PDE prior to awarding school improvement funding to ensure adequate attention to potential inequities or funding gaps.

Section 5: Supporting Excellent Educators

This section calls for PDE to describe its current and proposed initiatives related to: 1) educator development, retention, and advancement; 2) support for educators, and; 3) educator equity. Depending on the availability of funds, federal Title II, Part A money may be used for these purposes.

PDE notes that Pennsylvania, like other states, is facing a steep decline in the number of qualified teaching candidates, particularly in rural and urban school districts and for hard-to-staff areas like special education, English language instruction, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math).  Since 1996, the number of undergraduate education majors in Pennsylvania has declined by 55 percent, while the number of newly certified teachers (Instructional I) has dropped by 63 percent since 2010. Of equal concern to the supply and retention of qualified teachers and school leaders is the lack of diversity within Pennsylvania’s educator workforce. In addition to a declining supply of new classroom educators, many Pennsylvania districts also see high turnover rates among school and district leaders. While recruitment is an essential first step, retention, support, and development of educators are equally important strategies for meeting the educational needs of all students.

Educator development, retention, and advancement

Pennsylvania plans to advance an array of educator growth and development systems. Current and proposed new initiatives in this category include:

Current initiatives

Preparing principals for early learning (Eligible Partnership Grants). Pennsylvania is currently funding three Eligible Partnership Grants with a focus on helping principals close achievement gaps in their buildings and provide an emphasis on early learning.

PA Inspired Leadership (PIL) program: System leaders are currently required by statute to participate in this two-year induction program for new principals and assistant principals. This induction is provided through the Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership (PIL) Program and focuses on foundational concepts of school leadership and equity.

Differentiated supports for principals (National SEED Project): Pennsylvania is collaborating with the National Institute for School Leadership (NISL) to create a national credentialing system for principals as part of a National Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant. Through this rigorous program, Pennsylvania will pilot a system to certify individuals as master and lead principals.

Secretary’s Superintendents’ Academy: Launched in May 2016, the Superintendents’ Academy was designed to engage superintendents in the work of improving achievement where significant numbers of students face the challenges of poverty. Academy participants translate their learning into meaningful changes for their districts and communities through Action Learning Projects to be implemented in the home districts of the participating superintendents.

Proposed new initiatives

Educator clearinghouse: PDE intends to create a statewide educator clearinghouse. The clearinghouse would provide a venue to match credentialed teachers with openings in the commonwealth.

Teacher and principal clinical residency programs: PDE plans to support department-approved teacher and leader clinical residency programs through a competitive grant program. This will leverage partnerships between districts and educator preparation programs. These programs would embed at least one year of clinical experience within preparation programs, and would emphasize a residency model in which preparing educators are living and working in the communities and schools where they are learning and serving. Priority consideration will be given to communities that have reported chronic, multiple shortage areas.

Supporting teacher leaders: In conjunction with stakeholders across the commonwealth, PDE plans to develop teacher leader standards to build and implement teacher-leader models. Leveraging Title II, Part A funding, PDE plans to support innovative models and resources aligned to district goals and educator learning needs.

Building principal capacity: Pennsylvania has engaged with the Wallace Foundation, Pittsburgh Public Schools, the School District of Philadelphia, the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, higher education partners, and advocacy groups to identify research-based strategies to support the educator leader pipeline under ESSA. PDE will offer grants to encourage innovative partnerships between educator preparation programs and LEAs to provide targeted learning opportunities for current principals to improve school-based outcomes. To support aspiring school leaders, PDE will offer grants to support similar programming for assistant principals. In recognition of emerging evidence on the role of principal supervisors, PDE plans to use available Title II, Part A funding to implement a statewide principal coaching model.

Supports for educators

Current and proposed new initiatives in this category include:

Current initiatives

Ensuring equitable access to effective educators: In September 2015, Pennsylvania’s State Plan for Ensuring Equitable Access to Excellent Educators for All Students (Educator Equity Plan) was approved by the U.S. Department of Education. Pennsylvania has identified several equity gaps, including root causes, that prevent all students from accessing excellent educators.

Troops to Teachers: Through a $400,000 federal grant managed by the Defense Activity for Nontraditional Education Support (DANTES), Pennsylvania is implementing a statewide Troops to Teachers program to support veterans transitioning from military service into the educator workforce. Through this initiative, Pennsylvania will implement a statewide network of multiple teacher preparation programs in partnership with the commonwealth’s neediest schools as part of the pathway to Pennsylvania teacher certification.


Proposed new initiatives

K-12 educator pipeline: PDE plans to implement a statewide teacher recruitment initiative to encourage high school students to consider teaching as a profession. Through seed grants, PDE would provide technical assistance to support secondary schools implementing curriculum which encourages exploration of teaching as a career. The Department would also support the development of teaching academy magnet high schools across the commonwealth to proactively promote the long-term development of a diverse and talented educator workforce for Pennsylvania.

Paraprofessionals pathway program: In addition to engaging students in the K-12 system to participate in career pathways to the teaching profession, the Department plans to use available Title II, Part A funding to help another potential untapped supply of teachers: paraprofessionals currently working in schools. PDE would use available federal funding to encourage partnership between educator preparation programs and school districts to develop pathways into the classroom for paraprofessionals.

Skills to address specific learning needs

PDE will work with LEAs to provide comprehensive, on-site technical assistance to ensure that students with specific learning needs, such as students with disabilities and English learners, have their learning needs met. Specifically, PDE will provide support to help LEAs and schools analyze data to identify gaps and create responsive interventions. The department would then monitor ongoing progress through both achievement and growth data to ensure that interventions are yielding intended outcomes.


In addition, PDE is working to embed culturally responsive and trauma-informed concepts within professional development programs and resources available for teachers. Implementation will begin in the 2018-19 school year.

Educator Equity

Under ESSA, requirements remain to ensure that all students are taught by excellent teachers; however, the law eliminated the “highly qualified teacher” (HQT) requirements of No Child Left Behind. The ESSA also requires states to ensure that low-income students and students of color are not taught disproportionately by inexperienced, ineffective, or out-of-field teachers.


The department will convene a group of internal and external stakeholders in the fall/winter 2017-18 to evaluate how to operationalize a revised definition of “effective” educators, pursuant to reporting and other requirements of ESSA. Per requirements under ESSA, PDE will use the annual state report card to present data regarding the percentage of teachers identified in each LEA as ineffective, out-of-field, and inexperienced.

PDE has identified equity gaps, noting that, overall, students in poor and high minority schools are more likely to be served by unqualified, inexperienced, or out-of-field teachers, principals, and support staff. Inconsistent leadership and high turnover rates also plague many schools and districts, creating capacity and momentum challenges.

Root causes of equity gaps and strategies for improvement

Limited pool of effective, diverse candidates to fill vacancies: PDE is concerned with the limited pool available to fill critical teaching vacancies, especially in subject areas like math and science, as well as in special education. The department is working with partners to identify opportunities to significantly enhance the quality and diversity of the state’s educator pipeline. PDE is exploring how alternate pathways can serve as sources for diverse teacher candidates, as well as “grow your own” models, among other strategies.

Achievement gaps for historically marginalized subgroups: In May 2016, PDE launched the Superintendents’ Academy, through which approximately 90 superintendents from across the state engaged in a two-year intensive professional development experience focused on establishing systems to address the needs of students in poverty. A second cohort of the academy is forming now to start in September 2017.

Lack of quality professional development opportunities: PDE is also exploring opportunities to improve the quality and accessibility of professional development opportunities focused on effective learning and school administration, including.

New teachers and principals not prepared to perform effectively in low-income and/or culturally diverse schools: PDE is working to provide educator preparation programs with data on the performance of their graduates in the field. The hope is that teacher prep programs will use this data to examine and refine educational delivery. PDE also funded four student teacher pilot programs to assess opportunities to more effectively leverage pre-service experiences.

Fiscal inequity: There is a wide disparity in per-student spending between the poorest and wealthiest school districts in Pennsylvania. The new Basic Education Funding (BEF) Formula enacted in 2016 accounts for district-based factors – such as wealth, tax effort, and ability to raise revenue – along with student-based factors.

Incomplete, missing, inadequate, and/or inaccessible data: PDE is working to collect data from districts and Intermediate Units on teacher vacancies and specific teacher staffing issues, so the state can more accurately assess workforce needs. Additional analysis of retirements and teacher departure are critical to understanding the skills gap schools are facing.

Initiatives to promote equitable access to excellent educators

To the extent that funds are available, Pennsylvania will use Title II, Part A or other funds to support activities related to ensuring equitable access to effective educators for all students, including:

  • Expanding the Quality School Leadership Identification (QSL-ID) process to additional Focus and Priority schools in the transition year 2017-18 and to CSI schools identified thereafter for such schools to have access to improved recruitment and hiring processes, screening tools and selection processes, processes for projecting vacancies and professional development for managers and others involved in the hiring of school principals for all schools.
  • Coordinating ongoing meetings between the state’s approved traditional and non-traditional teacher and principal preparation programs and human resource personnel in Pennsylvania LEAs to better align the supply of teachers and principals with local school needs.
  • Assisting Pennsylvania’s poorest and highest minority schools in developing “grow your own” educator programs.
  • Implementing pilot projects to improve mentoring and induction programs to better meet the needs of teachers and other school staff.
  • Convening teacher preparation programs and LEAs to identify and share effective strategies for supporting and retaining teachers who are teaching in Pennsylvania’s poorest and highest minority schools.
  • Promoting effective strategies for nurturing a school environment that is conducive for all staff to feel safe and secure and for all students to feel safe so they can achieve greater academic success.
  • Convening facilitated workgroups to review and revise Pennsylvania’s secondary certification program guidelines.
  • PDE is also exploring opportunities to improve the diversity of the educator workforce and support districts in recruiting, hiring, and retaining educators who reflect the racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity of their students.

Section 6: Supporting All Students

The department intends to prioritize existing state and federal funding sources, to support the following four priorities to ensure that all children have a significant opportunity to meet academic standards and graduate:

  1. Ensure well-rounded, rigorous, and personalized learning experiences for all students
    1. Increase participation in advanced coursework for all students
    2. Promote equitable access to STEM education
    3. Support meaningful college and career pathways
  2. Address the needs of students through school-based supports and community partnerships
  3. Promote successful transitions in early childhood through postsecondary education
  4. Promote positive school climate and social-emotional learning

LEAs may use Title IV, Part A, and other federal funds, such as Title I-A and Title II-A, to support college and career exploration and advising, including hiring school counselors and other support staff to help all students, and especially underrepresented students, have the information and tools they need to gain awareness of college and career pathways and make informed decisions regarding their postsecondary future.

Parent/family/community engagement

Through federal funds and other available resources, as well as policy and programmatic efforts, the department is working to elevate parent and family engagement at multiple levels.

Other ESSA program-specific requirements

Title I, Part A, Improving Basic Programs Operated by State and Local Educational Agencies: PDE’s Division of Federal Programs developed an “intent to apply” form for all LEAs that have schools which intend to implement a schoolwide plan. If the school has less than 40 percent low-income students, the school is required to complete an additional narrative. All schools implementing a schoolwide plan to use a school-level template through PDE’s online comprehensive planning tool. The schoolwide plan narrative outlines how the program will best serve the needs of students in the school, with an emphasis on those students most at risk of not meeting state standards. It also addresses other school reform efforts, such as improving school climate and coordination with other federal, state, and local services, resources and programs.

Title I, Part C, Education of Migratory Children: The goal of the Pennsylvania Migrant Education Program (PA-MEP) is to ensure that all migratory children99 achieve challenging academic standards and graduate with a high school diploma (or complete a Commonwealth Secondary Diploma/high school equivalency), and, upon graduation, are prepared for postsecondary success.


The PA-MEP is state administered and locally operated in nine project areas and four regions throughout the commonwealth. The planning process that identifies the unique educational needs of migratory children and guides service delivery is Pennsylvania’s Comprehensive Needs Assessment (CNA) and Service Delivery Plan. By federal mandate, the PA-MEP goes through a process every three to five years to review and improve its Service Delivery Plan.

Each year, Pennsylvania’s evaluation report presents findings related to the achievement of or progress toward Service Delivery Plan goals (MPOs) and Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) annual measurable objectives (AMOs). These measures and indicators inform the PA-MEP of the progress of the implementation, improvement, and outcome expectations.

Title I, Part D, Prevention and Intervention Programs for Children and Youth who are Neglected, Delinquent, or At-Risk: PDE works in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, Bureau of Juvenile Justice Services, and other state agencies to provide developmentally-appropriate education and support services for all youth during their time in a correctional facility, as well as transition supports to follow them back into their community and local educational programs.

Currently, educational services are provided through agreements between PDE and local IUs. The staff work together to develop a comprehensive education plan, and an Individual Program of Instruction for every student who enters the correctional facility.

The facility and school also promote the acquisition of a high school diploma or Commonwealth Secondary Diploma or high school equivalency credential. Each facility and school establish a joint Program Effectiveness Committee to develop a plan which includes program specific outcomes. These outcome measures provide for a timely transfer of academic records to the receiving school district at the time of release. These records are to be sent to the receiving school district at the time of or prior to the date of release. PDE or another agency conduct follow-up with youth at agreed-upon intervals after their release from the facility to determine and monitor their academic status. Moving forward, PDE will work to build partnerships to provide support to youth in furthering their academic goals and career development.

The Pennsylvania Academic and Career/Technical Training Alliance (PACTT) is an essential component in Pennsylvania's Juvenile Justice System Enhancement Strategy. The project strives to ensure that delinquent youth receive appropriate academic, and career and technical training opportunities through committed partnerships with residential, community-based and post-placement providers across the juvenile justice community.

Title III, Part A: Language Instruction for English Learners and Immigrant Students: PDE has standardized entrance and exit procedures for English learners that are consistent with federal law. LEAs must utilize a standard home language survey and parent interview to determine which newly enrolling students have a primary home language other than English. For students whose primary home language is not English, an academic records review must be completed to determine if there is evidence of English language proficiency. If no such evidence is found, then the students are screened using one of the WIDA screening tools.

To exit from active English learner status to status as a former English learner, a student must demonstrate the ability to access challenging academic content and interact with other students and teachers both academically and socially in an English language setting. This may be demonstrated by performance on the annual English language proficiency assessment, ACCESS for ELLs. Taken together, the ACCESS for ELLs and the language use inventory produce a single score. If that score exceeds the state-defined threshold, then the student is eligible to be reclassified. Two language use inventories must be completed. An ESL teacher must complete one of the inventories when possible. The other inventory may be completed by a single content teacher or a team of teachers. Each language use inventory produces a single score and the sum of the two inventory scores is added to the ACCESS for ELLs points assigned to determine if the student meets the minimum threshold for reclassification.

Title IV, Part B: 21st Century Community Learning Centers: Pennsylvania’s 21st CCLC program provides enrichment activities in community learning centers during non-school hours, including tutorial and enrichment programs for a wide range of academic subjects during the afterschool hours, evenings, weekends, summer and holidays when school is not in session. Afterschool programs will utilize research or evidence-based practices to provide educationally enriching activities that will be an extension of the regular school day and enhance student academic performance, achievement, and postsecondary and workforce preparation. Programs also promote positive youth development, and offer working parents and families the reassurance of safe, engaging learning spaces beyond the traditional school day. Pennsylvania’s use of federal funds to support these programs will be prioritized to meet the needs of historically underserved students, including: minority students, English learners, children with disabilities, low-income and other students who are typically underrepresented, including, but not limited to homeless, refugee, and migrant students.

Title V, Part B, Subpart 2: Rural and Low-Income School Program: Objectives and outcomes related to this part must be aligned with PDE’s measurable long-term goals as stated in Section 1. LEAs may use Title V, Part B funds to provide students, staff, and families assistance in obtaining measurable goals and objectives which shall align with Pennsylvania’s long-term measurable goals. PDE shall prioritize the allowable use of funds as described in the Rural and Low-Income School Program application. Grant funds awarded to LEAs under this subpart can be used for several activities, including those authorized under Title I, Part A; Title II, Part A; Title III; Title IV, Part A; and parent/family engagement activities. PDE’s aim is to increase the number of LEAs that exercise flexibility under Title V, Part B with the allowable use of funds. PDE shall continue to provide comprehensive technical support to LEAs which may promote the LEAs’ flexibility within the allowable use of funds.

McKinney-Vento Act: The state must continue to identify homeless children and assess their needs. The Pennsylvania Education for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness (ECYEH) Program is structured to ensure that every student identified as experiencing homelessness has an opportunity to receive the support and services they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond. Ongoing efforts include:

Training for schools – The Office of the State Coordinator, housed at PDE, will continue to administer trainings to school personnel, and regions will provide at least two meetings in each county throughout the school year to educate liaisons on the rights and services for homeless youth. Regional offices ensure LEAs have adequate resources and provide technical assistance to ensure that updated policies and procedures are implemented. PDE will meet with new LEA liaisons to help implement appropriate reporting and identifying procedures. Schools are provided with updates and changes to federal law on an ongoing basis.

Revised BEC and other resources — PDE published a revised Basic Education Circular (BEC) in December 2016 that reflected the updated requirements under McKinney-Vento, as amended by ESSA. A copy of the BEC and other information is available on PDE’s website.

Resolving disputes — ECYEH has developed procedures to govern the resolution of disputes regarding enrollment, school selection, homeless status and complaints of non-compliance with legal requirements pertaining to the education for homeless children. If a dispute arises over school selection or enrollment, the child involved must immediately be admitted to the school in which they are seeking enrollment, pending resolution. If the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth is dissatisfied with the LEA’s disposition of a dispute or would like to raise any issue of McKinney-Vento Act noncompliance, they may file a complaint or appeal with a McKinney-Vento or directly to a court of competent jurisdiction.

Removing barriers to credit for courseworkRegional and local liaisons will assist homeless youth in acquiring records from their previous school, which greatly reduces the possibility of losing credits for coursework. Regional coordinators must establish plans with their local LEAs on the acceptance and crediting of partial coursework. The local school district homeless liaison serves as the key contact for school districts, IUs, comprehensive career and technical centers (CTCs), and brick-and-mortar and cyber charter schools.

Access to public preschool programsHomeless children will be afforded access to public preschool programs offered by schools and intermediate units. Whenever possible, age-appropriate children experiencing homelessness are placed in a Head Start program. If it is determined that a younger student should be in a public pre-K classroom, and this classroom exists in a district, that student will be provided this placement.

Access to academic and extracurricular activities — Academic and extracurricular activities can be facilitated by providing transportation, offering tutoring services, and assisting with required uniforms. Facilitating admissions to magnet school and charter school programs can be accomplished by regional coordinators requesting that schools reserve slots for eligible McKinney-Vento students.

Health records — Local liaisons will work with the school of origin to acquire health records for McKinney-Vento students; local liaisons will also school and community health professionals to help McKinney-Vento students receive any additional immunizations that may be required.

Residency requirements — Local liaisons and regional coordinators will acquire documentation from the school of origin. If they are unable to acquire necessary proof of residency, and, after an investigation, conclude that they are eligible for McKinney-Vento services, urban districts will provide a standard enrollment form for families experiencing homelessness. Other LEAs create a form for their schools in consultation with guidance from PDE. Lack of specific residency paperwork will not be a barrier to enrollment.

Lack of birth certificates, school records or other documentation — Regional coordinators and local liaisons will work with the school of origin and the local vital statistics office to obtain birth certificates and school records. Liaisons are required to assist children who do not have documentation of immunizations or medical records to obtain necessary immunizations or necessary medical documentation. Schools must immediately enroll the child, even if he or she lacks records normally required for enrollment, such as previous academic records, medical records, proof of residency or other documentation.

Guardianship issues; required uniforms — Regional coordinators and local liaisons will gather information from parents, guardians, county children and youth personnel, and DHS personnel. Until guardianship is clarified, McKinney-Vento students are eligible to remain at their current school until guardianship has been settled. School districts in which there is located an agency, shelter, group home, or other institution for care of children must admit school-aged children who are living at or assigned to the facility and who are residents of the district or another district in Pennsylvania. This includes children in temporary shelters and homeless children who may reside in hotels, motels, cars, tents, or are temporarily doubled-up with a resident family due to lack of housing. Children unable to establish “homes” on a permanent basis are not required to prove residency regarding school enrollment and must be enrolled without delay in the district where they are presently residing or continue their education in the district of prior attendance.

If uniforms are required by the school, the ECYEH regional and site coordinators will work with school districts to obtain them either from the school districts at no cost or will use McKinney-Vento funds or donations to purchase them.

Share this page