Pennsylvania Department of Education

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More than 600 educators from Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York gathered in McKees Rocks at Montour Elementary School on Tuesday for a conference on technology education.

Ideological Debate Over Low-Performing School Underlies PA's Education Compliance Plans

Sep 25, 2017
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Every state in the U.S. was required to submit a proposal to the federal government by last week on how it will comply with the new federal education law, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

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Pittsburgh Public Schools students are graduating from high school at lower rates than the national average, according to state and national reports.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

  Gov. Tom Wolf created a new charter school oversight body through the state Department of Education on Wednesday, nearly two years after his gubernatorial campaign promised charter reform.

The Division of Charter Schools will be composed of a director, who has yet to be hired, plus three staffers. They're tasked with making sure the laws, processes and information already in place are followed, and that the data charter schools submit to the department is accurate and timely, Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan said.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers / Flickr

  The Pennsylvania Department of Health  and the Department of Education announced Thursday a joint proposal to revise immunization regulations for school children.

Health Secretary Karen Murphy and Education Secretary Pedro Rivera said this week they want to better protect students’ health by requiring students to finish all immunizations within the first five days of school. If guardians fail to complete that schedule, a written note from a doctor outlining the plan to immunize the student must be submitted to school officials within the first five days of class.  Currently families have up to eight months to make sure school children have their vaccinations.

A new audit from the state's auditor general gives the Pennsylvania Department of Education poor marks for how it deals with academically struggling schools and special employees.

The report, covering mid-2010 to mid-2015, finds that the agency failed to provide special help to most poor-performing schools unless it was expressly required by federal law.

The new scores were adopted in 2012 to assess and compare schools. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said during a press conference Tuesday that merely labeling sub-par schools is of little service.

State’s Auditor Backs Off Department Of Education

Dec 16, 2014

It appears the tensions have subsided, at least for the moment, between the state Department of Education and the commonwealth’s fiscal watchdog.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale blasted the agency earlier this month for being uncooperative with a performance review.

But he said more recently that the department has begun sending timely responses – beginning with one that was due last Tuesday.

“For the first time in the history of our audit of the Department of Education they met a deadline of supplying information,” said DePasquale.

Of the 51 schools in the Pittsburgh Public Schools district rated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, only 16 of them met or exceeded the state’s goal of have all schools obtaining at least 70 points on a 0-100 scale.

One of the perks of being a kid in the winter is the “snow day,” but a new program being introduced in Pennsylvania may make those even more coveted than they are now.

Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq has announced that a Flexible Instructional Days pilot program is now open to schools.

“What this does is it provides alternatives for schools across the commonwealth to offer anything from cyber to digital-based learning in place of students being able to physically be in the classroom,” said department spokesman Timothy Eller.

When the new General Educational Development (GED) high school equivalency test took effect on Jan. 1st, 2014, more than 40,000 Pennsylvanians were left stranded, with only portions of the old test complete, and no way to transfer their credits. Those adults faced losing all their progress and starting over from the beginning.

State Representatives Hal English (R-Allegheny) and Joe Hackett (R-Delaware) worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Education to solve this problem.

Despite its lengthy waiting list, the Environmental Charter School at Frick Park (ECS) was recently denied permission to expand by the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) Board of Directors.

ECS is a K-8 school created in 2008 to provide alternative education with a focus on the environment. According to ECS Director of Innovation and Development Nikole Sheaffer, the school has a yearly waiting list of 400 to 500 students, and sought to expand to serve that demand.

The death of a 55-year-old mother of seven has led to the proposal of new legislation in the PA Senate, which would eliminate sending parents of frequently truant children to jail.

Some school districts in Pennsylvania have a policy where a child who is absent without an excuse for an excessive number of days must appear before a magisterial district judge, and the parents of the child could be fined.

About 15 to 20 percent of Americans has dyslexia, a disorder that results in slow or inaccurate reading, poor spelling and writing or confusing similar words.

But many cases go undetected, making schooling difficult for those who have it.

A new bill that aims to address this issue just passed the House and Senate this week and awaits Gov. Tom Corbett’s signature.

According to Senator Sean Wiley (D-Erie), the bill enables the Pennsylvania Department of Education to establish a Dyslexia Screening Pilot Program.

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, there were as many as 20,000 concentration camps during from 1933 to 1945 — used for forced labor, transit camps and even killing centers for 11 million victims.

But many don’t believe this actually happened, and others just simply never learned about it.

That’s what House Bill 1424 — which just passed the Senate this week — aims to fix.

Acting Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq is finalizing the process that will allow some Pennsylvanians to get their GED without having to start the exam process from scratch.

Starting this year, the National GED Testing Service replaced its 2002 exam with the 2014 GED. Thousands of people in the commonwealth had completed one or more parts of the 2002 exam, but the change meant that rather than using the score of the already-completed portion, they’d have to start the process over.

Now, that has been changed.

“The safety of students is always our number 1 priority,” says Larry Celmer, assistant principal of Cambria County’s Forest Hills Elementary School, one of 110 public schools across the state to receive a “Safe Schools” grant.

The Department of Education awarded a total of $2.6 million to implement programs to prevent and reduce incidents of violence in schools.

A $3.9 million state grant program that will assist Pennsylvania school districts in hiring police officers has officially begun.

The program is awarding districts with money that must be used to strengthen school safety procedures.

With the funds, districts are expected to place a school resource officer or school police officer within the building or buildings in the district, Pennsylvania Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller said.

How are Pennsylvania school districts spending your tax money?

SchoolWATCH, a bill aimed at answering that question, was approved by the House of Representatives Monday.

It would direct the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to create a website displaying the revenues and expenditures of traditional public, charter and cyber school districts in the commonwealth.

The legislation’s author, Representative Jim Christiana (R-Beaver), said they want to create an “easy-to-use” database.

New Bills Push for School Spending Transparency

Oct 7, 2013

Legislation proposed by state Rep. Jim Christiana (R-Beaver) would require the Pennsylvania Department of Education to create an online database where people could search the state’s public schools’ finances.

House Bills 1411 and 1412, known as SchoolWATCH and CharterWATCH, would create an online system similar to PennWATCH, a state website with information on government spending in Pennsylvania.

Christiana said every public school’s expenditures, including charter and cyber schools, would be searchable online.

In the spring, Gov. Tom Corbett postponed implementation of the Pennsylvania Common Core Standards, citing concerns from lawmakers and public. Corbett asked the State Board of Education and lawmakers to review the standards and make any modifications they deem necessary.

Corbett Orders Short Delay to Tweak Common Core

May 22, 2013

Gov. Tom Corbett has ordered a delay in the adoption of new high stakes standardized tests for public schools in Pennsylvania.

The new Pennsylvania Common Core standards were supposed to be implemented in July. The class of 2017 would need to pass the subject-specific tests before graduating.

But Education Department spokesman Tim Eller says the postponement won’t result in any major changes.

A state senator has said he wants information about financially ailing school districts so the state can help out before it’s too late.

Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny) met with state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis asking for information on all school districts that have been designated for financial watch status or identified for monitoring.

The problem, however, isn’t that the Department of Education (DOE) is withholding a list from the senator, but Tomalis told Brewster the problem is there currently is no complied list of schools in trouble.

Shannan Muskopf / Flickr

A growing protest movement has triggered discussions about our country's emphasis on public school standardized testing. According to parents such as Kathy Newman, a Pittsburgh Public School parent, CMU English professor and volunteer coordinator for the grassroots education group Yinzercation, the pressures and stakes of assessments like the PSSAs are too high. So they're opting their kids out. Kathy joins us for a discussion about how standardized testing impacts the quality of a public school education.

It’s April, and for many school children in Pennsylvania, that means it’s time for tests.

The Pennsylvania Systems of School Assessment (PSSA) is an annual standards-based test. Students in grades 3 through 8 and grade 11 are assessed in reading and math. Grades 5, 8 and 11 are assessed in writing, and grades 4, 8 and 11 are assessed in science.

The tests have no bearing on students’ grades, and some parents are questioning the need for the PSSA.

The Pennsylvania Campaign for Achievement Now (PennCAN) has released report cards for every public school in the state as well as lists of the state’s top elementary, middle and high schools.

The education reform organization graded schools in five categories: student performance, subgroup performance (minority and economic status), achievement gaps (how student performance compared to subgroup performance), performance gains and high school graduation rates.

After Years of Debate, Keystone Exams Get Passed

Mar 25, 2013

After more than four years of debate and revision, the Keystone Exam will more than likely be coming to schools across Pennsylvania.

After receiving approval by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the regulations will now go to the House and Senate Education committees and Independent Regulatory Review Commission for consideration.

The exam plans however, come with some new regulations — the Pennsylvania Common Core Standards. These new requirements must be implemented across the state in English, arts and mathematics by July 1.

Education Secretary Wants to Cut Backlog of Complaints

Mar 4, 2013

The head of the Pennsylvania Department of Education is looking for a way to solve a buildup of complaints against schoolteachers. 

About $775,000 is being requested to pay for additional lawyers to investigate teacher complaints and help fund the state commission overseeing teacher certifications. The funding will come from an increase in the teacher certification fee.

Education Secretary Ron Tomalis said the funds will help clear up a pile of roughly 500 cases in which teachers face misconduct allegations.