YOUR PROFESSION

Advisory

Achievement Gaps - Alternative Scheduling

As the pressure to reform schools to focus on improving student achievement grows, more and more schools are experimenting with new kinds of scheduling. Generally, schools are examining several different kinds of course schedules that assign students fewer classes a day for a longer period of time. This new scheduling system is most common in secondary schools, but some elementary schools have also experimented with innovative scheduling.


Advisory

Achievement Gaps - Class Size Reduction

Class size reduction has become an important part of efforts to close student achievement gaps.


Advisory

Achievement Gaps - Literacy and Math Coaching

Coaching is school-based professional development that assigns educators with specific knowledge and skills to work with teacher colleagues to improve classroom practice. An effective coach makes teachers' jobs easier by demonstrating how and why certain strategies will make a difference in student learning, and then working alongside teachers to develop the knowledge and skills they need to put those strategies into practice.


Advisory

Achievement Gaps - Maximizing Instructional Time

School districts around the state and country are looking for ways to improve student achievement by increasing instructional time. Some strategies include extending the school day, extending the school year, reducing recess, and re-allocating instructional time from non-tested to tested subjects. Schools have also developed a range of before- and after-school instructional options, including the supplemental services required by No Child Left Behind. President Obama has joined the growing number of policymakers urging longer school days and years.


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Achievement Gaps - Parental Involvement Strategies

Parents and caregivers significantly impact students’ learning (in this Advisory, the term “parent” refers to any primary caregiver), regardless of socioeconomic status, ethnic or racial background, or parents’ education level. As a matter of fact, the most accurate predictor of student academic achievement is the degree to which families encourage learning; communicate high, achievable expectations to children; and become involved in their children’s education.1 Parent involvement also contributes to better school attendance, higher rates of homework completion, lower rates of student violence and substance abuse, fewer placements in special education, higher graduation rates, and higher rates of enrollment in higher education.


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Achievement Gaps - Professional Development

PSEA believes that anything worth doing, and worth directing Title I funds toward, is worth doing very well. Too often, however, teachers, support professionals, and educational specialists find that professional development is poorly supported, poorly planned, poorly implemented and disconnected from their job responsibilities and other professional development.


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Achievement Gaps - Professional Learning Communities

A professional learning community is a school where teachers and administrators continuously seek and share new learning in order to increase their professional effectiveness. Professional learning communities are based on the belief that learning is more fruitful when it is undertaken in a collaborative environment, where participants can test their ideas, challenge each others’ assumptions and process new information together. When done right, professional learning communities can be a powerful professional development tool and can be a critical force in school improvement and change.


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Act 48 Validity: My teaching certificate states it’s good for 99 years – what happened?

Recently we have received many inquiries as to why Pennsylvania teachers now have to meet Act 48 Continuing Professional Education requirements in order to keep their certificates valid. In response to these inquiries, our Legal Division has researched this issue and provides the following insight.


Advisory

Act 85 and the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program

In June 2012 Governor Corbett signed Act 85 which amends the Tax Reform Code of 1971 to establish the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program. The Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program gives corporations significant tax credits for contributing to an “opportunity scholarship” program that provides grants to students who reside within the attendance boundaries of a “low achieving school.” The “opportunity scholarship” can be used to pay for a student from a low achieving school to attend a participating nonpublic school or a participating public school outside of the student’s home district.


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Administration of Medication

Guidelines for educators about students' medications.


Advisory

Analysis of Teacher Evaluation Regulations

On June 22, 2013, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) published regulations pertaining to the new teacher evaluation system. The regulations clarify several issues related to the new system, including the implementation timeline and the weights of specific data elements. These regulations apply to all non-charter public school classroom teachers working on Instructional I and II certificates. Regulations pertaining to the evaluation of education specialists must be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin by June 30, 2014.


Advisory

Assessment Security and Administration Update

PSEA staff recently attended training for District Assessment Coordinators (DAC) and School Assessment Coordinators (SAC) provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and Data Recognition Corporation (DRC). The training was conducted in preparation for the spring 2013 administration of the PSSA and Keystone Exams. During the training, PDE provided several updates and new information concerning assessment security and administration. The following information is provided as a resource for PSEA members. It is not intended to be an exhaustive list of test security and administration issues and should not take the place of training provided by the DAC and SAC. PSEA staff members from the Field, Education Services, and Legal Divisions will continue to review information from PDE and provide guidance related to assessment to members as needed.


Advisory

Certification Update - Teacher Information Management System (TIMS)

On December 9, 2011, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is expected to open its new certification management system. The Teacher Information Management System, or TIMS, will be an online system for applying for certification, checking an individual's certification status, and updating the contact information of a certificated individual. It will replace the current Teacher Certification System (TCS).


Advisory

Charlotte Danielson's Framework for Teaching

Danielson's Framework forms the basis of the PDE teacher evaluation forms 426, 427 and 428, as well as the new performance evaluation system being piloted by Pittsburgh Public Schools. PDE has stated its interest in using the Pittsburgh model as a basis for any redesign of teacher evaluation.


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Discipline and Students With Disabilities

Information for educators on dealing with student misconduct and discipline with regard to special education students.


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Education Improvement Initiative - 4 Sight Benchmark Assessment

The 4 Sight Benchmark Assessment is a series of student assessments that are linked to PDEs Assessing to Learn: PA Benchmark Initiative. Districts work with their Intermediate Units (IU) to complete application to participate in the 4Sight Program, and when accepted into the program they receive training in the 4Sight Program from their IU. Participation is voluntary for all districts except for those that have applied for Educational Assistance Programs (EAP); EAP districts must participate in the 4 Sight Benchmark Assessment program.


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Education Improvement Initiative - Assessment Anchors and Adopt-an-Anchor Program

Assessment Anchors. Pennsylvania’s assessment anchors are one of several tools the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has developed to help teachers, schools, and districts align curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices to the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) and the state’s academic content standards. Since 1999, teachers have been trying to adopt and adapt curricula and instructional materials to correspond with the state standards, but teachers have noted that the standards are often too broad and too numerous to be the basis for meaningful decisions about curriculum and instruction.


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Education Improvement Initiative - Getting Results!

Getting Results! is a data-based school improvement planning framework developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). All schools designated by PDE as in school improvement or corrective action (meaning the school has not made “adequate yearly progress” on the PSSA for two or more consecutive years) are required to prepare a school improvement plan. These schools may choose to use Getting Results! as a planning framework or use another district-approved framework that meets federal and state requirements. Schools that are not required to prepare an improvement plan may find Getting Results! useful in their strategic planning process.


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Education Improvement Initiative - Leading for Learning

Leading for Learning! is a framework for district improvement planning developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). It is designed to meet the district planning requirements defined by both Chapter 4 and the No Child Left Behind Act. It is also designed to coordinate with the Getting Results! school improvement planning template and has been used as the instructional core for PDE’s new Electronic Strategic Planning process.


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Education Improvement Initiative - Pennsylvania Achievement Gap Effort (PAGE 1)

The Pennsylvania Achievement Gap Effort (PAGE 1) is a three-year effort spearheaded by the Pennsylvania State Board of Education in partnership with the Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units (PAIU) and the Education Trust (Ed Trust). This effort is a response to persistent achievement gaps in Pennsylvania and an attempt to eradicate them.


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Education Improvement Initiative - Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership Initiative

The Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership Initiative is a statewide, standards-based leadership development and support system for school leaders at all levels. The initiative is intended to build capacity among school leaders by focusing on what they need to know and do in order to guide and direct instructional improvement and improvements in student achievement. Studies about school quality and student achievement consistently show that leadership is a critical part of great teaching and learning.


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Education Improvement Initiative - Project 720

The Pennsylvania Department of Education, with the support of the Governor’s Office and the State Legislature, administers Project 720 (named after the number of days in four years of high school), a three-year, $4.7 million voluntary state grant program to create high schools that are student-centered, results-focused, data informed, and personalized in the delivery of services to students. All high schools that receive Project 720 grants need to sign on to a standardized high school reform agenda.


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Education Improvement Initiative - Reading First

The Reading First Initiative is a voluntary six-year program designed to help all children read well by supporting scientifically-based, comprehensive reading instruction for children in Kindergarten through third grade. The program is designed to support proven methods in teaching, screening, diagnosis and monitoring of reading difficulties among children as well as high quality professional development for teachers.


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Education Improvement Initiative - Student Tutoring Programs

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has developed several different student tutoring programs as part of their plan to close achievement gaps among subgroups of students and bring every student to proficient or above in reading and math.


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Education Improvement Initiative - The Distinguished Educator Initiative

The Distinguished Educator (DE) Initiative is a program developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) that assigns experienced educators to assist struggling districts in planning and implementing effective school reform. Distinguished Educators work through the Capital Area Intermediate Unit (CAIU) on behalf of PDE. As necessary, CAIU assigns teams of DEs to work with districts that need targeted technical assistance to improve student achievement.


Advisory

Elimination of Social Security Numbers for Act 48 Reporting

Effective July 1, 2013, the Professional Personnel Identification Number (PPID) issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) will be the sole identifier used to report Act 48 hours.


ESP Advisory: Flexible Instructional Days

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) recently approved a pilot program for local education agencies (LEAs) to seek approval from PDE to offer flexible instructional days (FIDs) as alternative methods of instruction. This program is in response to requests by LEAs to offer online learning as make-up days due to inclement weather. A LEA may only apply to use five FIDs per year unless an exception is provided by PDE. LEAs were able to begin submitting their request to use FIDs beginning November 3, 2014 and there is no deadline date for these requests.


Advisory

Evaluation of Non-Teaching Professionals

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has released regulations governing the implementation of the new Educator Effectiveness System for "nonteaching professionals." Nonteaching professionals in the Commonwealth will participate in the Educator Effectiveness System beginning in 2014-15 unless existing local contract language delays implementation of the new evaluation system.


Advisory

Flexible Instructional Days

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has recently approved a pilot program for local education agencies (LEAs) to offer up to five "flexible instructional days" annually. PDE defines "flexible instructional days" (FIDs) as days during which educators "employ non-traditional strategies to provide a continuity of instruction on regularly-scheduled school days during which circumstances necessitate an alternate approach." This pilot program is in response to LEA requests to offer online learning during days when instruction would otherwise be canceled due to inclement weather. In order to participate in the pilot program LEAs must submit a plan and application to PDE and receive approval. The application process opens on November 3, 2014, and permission to operate a program, if granted, will span a period of three years.


Advisory

House Bill 1352 & Act 48 Continuing Professional Education

The General Assembly of Pennsylvania recently passed, and Governor Corbett signed, House Bill 1352, which amended the School Code. Included in the bill was an amendment that sus-pended the Act 48 continuing professional education credit requirements for two years and called for the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a review of the cost and benefits of the continuing professional education program. The suspension will take effect on August 29, 2011.


Advisory

New Educator Evaluation System

As a part of an Omnibus School Code bill, the Pennsylvania Legislature has passed a new law pertaining to educator evaluation. The law establishes the framework for a new evaluation system, which will be implemented for classroom teachers beginning in the 2013-14 school year and "non teaching professional employees" in 2014-15.


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New Federal Supplemental Student Aid Programs

The Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005 (HERA) has created two new higher education student aid programs to begin in the 2006-07 academic year. These programs, the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) and the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grant, provide between $750 and $4,000 a year to qualifying students. PSEA members who are school counselors and others who help students with course selection and career planning should be aware of these new grant programs.


Advisory

Parents as Paraprofessionals for Their Own Children

Occasionally a Local Education Agency (LEA) and a parent agree to allow the parent to take an additional role in the education environment as a paraprofessional or personal care assistant (paid or unpaid) for his or her own child. There are pros and cons to such an arrangement. This advisory was developed to help members navigate the new relationship between professional staff and parents created by such assignments. It identifies issues that must be clearly communicated between parents and administrators and teachers at the beginning of the assignment. It suggests that roles should be discussed and clearly defined in advance, and encourages consideration of short- and long-term expectations and outcomes.


Advisory

Pennsylvania Receives $41.3 Million Race to the Top Grant

Pennsylvania has been awarded $41,326,299 in competitive federal Race to the Top program. The funds will be allocated over four years. A significant focus of the grant will be the statewide implementation of a new teacher evaluation system based upon the current statewide teacher evaluation pilot.


Advisory

Pennsylvania School-Based ACCESS Program

Pennsylvania has replaced Leader Services as the statewide vendor for the Pennsylvania Special Education School Based ACCESS Program beginning July 1, 2012. The new vendor is Public Consulting Group (PCG). According to Pennsylvania's Bureau of Special Education, PCG also has a contract with New Jersey and has been working with the School District of Philadelphia since 2003. The company was founded in 1986 and its website indicates that PCG has 39 offices in the U.S., Canada and Poland.


Advisory

Pennsylvania's Approved ESEA Waiver

Pennsylvania has applied to the U.S. Department of Education and received a waiver from several mandates contained in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This waiver grants states flexibility in exchange for comprehensive state plans that meet specific requirements and relieves Pennsylvania from major components of ESEA's accountability system.


Advisory

Pennsylvania's School Performance Profile

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is unveiling a new "School Performance Profile" (SPP) website as a part of its effort to create a new "public school report card." Pursuant to Pennsylvania’s application for an NCLB waiver, all public schools will be graded with a new School Performance Profile (SPP) that includes measures of student achievement, student academic growth, closing student achievement gaps, and other factors such as graduation or promotion rate and evidence of rigorous course offerings. SPPs will be published annually on the Department of Education’s website to help parents, community members, and business leaders gauge the academic quality of schools locally and across the Commonwealth.


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Pooled Trust Programs for Persons with Disabilities

Legal information and resources about pooled trust programs.


Advisory

School Improvement Grants

The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) has issued regulations for School Improvement Grants (SIG) in the current fiscal year. The SIG program is contained in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and is intended to improve student achievement in Title I schools. In 2010 the program is being used to distribute funds from the federal State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (which is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act); consequently the available funding for SIG has increased from approximately $0.5 billion last year to $3.4 billion this year.


Advisory

State Board of Education Approves Changes to Academic Standards and Assessment Regulations

The State Board of Education approved changes to the Chapter 4 Academic Standards and Assessment regulations on September 12, 2013, and PSEA anticipates that they will be published as final. The final document responds to some concerns raised by the governor, legislators and members of the public. These changes to the Chapter 4 Regulations will go into effect upon final review by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC).


Advisory

Strategies for Handling Unrealistic IEP Goals

The purpose of this advisory is to provide members with a framework for thinking about the measurable annual goals (MAGs) that will be included in a student’s IEP; discuss how to prepare for the IEP meeting in which those goals will be discussed; suggest how to write realistic measurable annual goals; and introduce some notes of caution.


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Student Records

Legal information about student records for educators.


Advisory

Teacher Evaluation: Applying the New System to Specific Categories of Educators

PDE is working with educators from across the Commonwealth to adapt the new rubric to reflect the different work of several categories of professional assignment. As described in this advisory, specific elements of the new system will reflect the professional assignments of special educators, licensed professionals, education specialists, and educators assigned to positions in ESL, gifted, and library sciences.


Advisory

Teacher Information Management System (TIMS) Update - December 2011

TIMS is a central data collection and processing website for Pennsylvania educators. It contains in-formation related to professional educators, certification, disciplinary actions, and Highly Qualified Teacher qualifications. It links employment and continuing education information to an educator’s professional record, while also allowing educators to provide and update information needed to keep their certificates valid and active.


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Teaching Students With Disabilities - Advice to Educators

Questions and answers about IEP issues, liability, recognizing students with disabilities, and other issues relevant to educators teaching Special Education students.


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Teaching Students with Disabilities - LRE, Educational Placement and the Gaskin Settlement

Information about Least Restrictive Environment for educators.


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Teaching Students with Disabilities: Asperger's Syndrome and Autism - An Overview

Information on Asperger's Syndrome and Autism for educators.


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What Steps Can Members Take to Raise Concerns About Special Education Students?

Questions and answers for educators about concerns about Special Education students.



Member Advocacy Center


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