EPLC Education Notebook

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    The Pennsylvania State Board of Education's Meetings on May 16-17

    The Pennsylvania State Board of Education met last week to consider changes to numerous regulations: certification of professional personnel (Chapter 49), special education (Chapter 14), gifted education (Chapter 16), and academic standards (Chapter 4). The Board also received an update on the statewide education costing-out study it previously hired Denver-based consultants Augenblick, Palaich and Associates, Inc. (APA) to conduct. The Board was directed to supervise the study by Act 114 of 2006 in which the General Assembly called for an analysis of the resources necessary to education all children to attain the state's academic standards.

    Costing-Out Study

    APA presented an Interim Report on Pennsylvania's Costing-Out Study, which will be completed in November. The Interim Report does not present any findings or conclusions, but outlines APA's work to date.

    APA is using four approaches to determine the basic cost per student necessary to prepare all Pennsylvania students to meet the state's academic standards: 1) successful school districts; 2) professional judgment panels; 3) evidence-based; and, 4) a cost function econometric analysis. For a description of each methodology, see the January 26, 2007 edition of the EPLC Education Notebook at www.eplc.org/notebook2007/January26.html.

    To date, APA has obtained data needed to determine which districts will be defined as "successful" for the successful school districts analysis and is working to establish a final list of these districts to begin analyzing their costs.

    The consultant also has worked with the State Board's project manager to identify professional judgment panel participants from among the nominations submitted that provided a balance of regional representation and district size. Three professional judgment panels focused on school-level resource needs were conducted in March, followed by two panels focused on resource needs for special needs students in April, and four panels focused on district-level resource needs in May. A final, statewide professional judgment panel will be held later this summer. Additionally, APA had been conducting informal meetings with school board members, business representatives and other interested parties in various regions across the state to gather further input.

    The consultant also is developing research-based school improvement scenarios focused on improving student achievement that 100 Pennsylvanians will be asked to react to in a web-based simulation as part of the Evidence-Based approach. This web-based activity will take place in late May and June. Finally, the consultant's econometric approach is just getting underway. For more information about the study or a copy of APA's interim report, contact the State Board of Education at (717) 787-3787.

    Certification of Professional Personnel (Chapter 49)

    The Board gave final approval to Chapter 49 revisions that realign the state's teacher certification system. The final form regulations include substantive changes to the initial draft, in response to comments from Senate and House members.

    Beginning January 2013, certificates would be issued in early childhood (grades preK through 4), early childhood/middle level (grades 4 through 8), and secondary (grades 7 through 12). The Board revised its initial proposal to extend the early childhood certificate through grade 4 and provide a one-year overlap between the early childhood and elementary/middle certificates to alleviate staffing concerns created by the previously proposed preK through grade 3 certificate.

    Also beginning in 2013, special education certificates will be issued for grades preK through 8 and for grades 7 through 12, rather than the current special education certificate that covers all grades. However, the board revamped its original proposal to require all special education teachers to be dually certified to provide more options in the content area in which special education teachers may seek additional certification. Individuals seeking a Special Education PreK-8 certificate must also obtain certification in one of three areas: early childhood, elementary/middle, or reading specialist. Individuals seeking a Special Education 7-12 certificate must also obtain either a secondary certificate or a reading specialist certificate. Additionally, the regulations create a certificate for Special Education Hearing Impaired, Visually Impaired and Speech/Language Impaired that would be applicable for all grades (preK through 12).

    The regulations allow the Secretary of Education to grant exceptions to these new certificates on a case-by-case basis and to grant statewide exceptions, if necessary, for a limited time to alleviate any staffing issues that may arise. Further, the regulations provide for an accelerated program through which individuals who possess an early childhood certificate can earn an additional elementary/middle certification, and vice versa.

    The changes also require prekindergarten teachers to be certified in early childhood if they are employed by a community provider with which the school district contracts to provide preK services. Prekindergarten teachers must obtain the certificate within five years of the start of services (for new contracts) or within five years of these regulations taking effect (for current contracts).

    These certification changes do not apply to current teachers.

    The regulations also provide for training in teaching special needs students and English language learners. Prospective teachers must receive at least 9 credits or 270 hours of training in accommodations and adaptations for diverse learners in inclusive settings and at least 3 credits or 90 hours of instruction in meeting the needs of English language learners. Colleges and universities must integrate these requirements into their teacher education programs by January 1, 2011. Individuals seeking a Vocational Instructional Certificate I must complete at least 3 credits of 90 hours of instruction in working with diverse learners; individuals seeking a Vocational Instructional Certificate II must complete at least 6 credits or 180 hours in working with students with disabilities and at least 3 credits or 90 hours in teaching English language learners.

    Schools also must include activities focused on teaching diverse learners in inclusive settings in their induction programs for new teachers. Finally, a school entity must offer all teachers the opportunity to participate in ongoing professional development focused on teaching special needs students and English language learners. This represents a change from the Board's earlier proposal that would have required all teachers to receive ongoing professional development in working with diverse learners.

    A copy of the revised final form Chapter 49 regulations will be made available soon at www.pde.state.pa.us/stateboard_ed/cwp/view.asp?a=3&Q=76688&stateboard_edNav=|5466|&stateboard_edNav=|b (the version of Chapter 49 posted as of this publishing does not reflect the most recent updates to the regulatory proposal).

    Special Education (Chapter 14)/Gifted Education Chapter 16) Regulations

    The State Board gave preliminary approval to proposed changes to Chapter 14 (Special Education Services and Programs), which would strengthen the rights of students with disabilities to be educated in regular classroom settings with supports. Revisions to Chapter 14 were necessary to comply with recent changes to the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the settlement of a long-standing court case in Pennsylvania (Gaskin Settlement Agreement). The Board faced a June deadline to show the federal government it is making progress on these regulatory changes or face losing federal funding for special education.

    Among other things, changes to Chapter 14 would:
    • provide state criteria for identifying specific learning disabilities;

    • set forth response to intervention procedures and establish that response to intervention is optional for districts;

    • provide for a resolution session as an initial step in a due process proceeding;

    • prohibit the use of face-down prone restraints and require local reporting on the use of restraints.
    The changes also would emphasize the participation of students with disabilities in general education curriculum and require that IEPs be based on state academic standards or state-approved alternate standards.

    The Board also announced its intention to adopt revisions to Chapter 16 (Special Education for Gifted Students). These regulations address a plan for identifying children who are gifted and in need of specially designed instruction, developing programs, and conducting on-site monitoring to ensure program implementation.

    For a copy of proposed changes to Chapter 14 and Chapter 16, see www.pde.state.pa.us/stateboard_ed/cwp/view.asp?a=3&Q=76688&stateboard_edNav=|5466|&stateboard_edNav=|.

    Academic Standards (Chapter 4)

    The Board also approved numerous changes to Chapter 4, which governs Academic Standards and Assessment. Included are changes that clarify existing regulations requiring school districts to develop and file with PDE a strategic plan every six years. The changes also would hold vocational technical education students to the state's academic standards and require students who complete approved vocational-technical programs to complete the appropriate assessments under the Pennsylvania Skills Certificate Program or another occupational competency assessment approved by PDE. See a complete copy of the approved changes to Chapter 4 at www.pde.state.pa.us/stateboard_ed/cwp/view.asp?a=3&Q=76688&stateboard_edNav=|5466|&stateboard_edNav=|.

    Grant Applications

    The Board has applied for two new major grants under the federal National Math and Science Initiative. The first would provide $13 million over the next six years to support efforts to increase students' math and science scores, and the second involves a partnership with Temple University to train math and science teachers.

    Student Representation on the State Board

    The Board also reported its intention to hold a stakeholders meeting in late June to discuss the issue of student representation on the Board. The Board recently received a $15,000 grant from the National Association of State Boards of Education to support consideration of this issue.

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