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Pennsylvania 1.0 Percent Requirement Compliance Plan Update- February 2023 

In accordance with Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), related to participation in an alternate assessment aligned with alternate academic achievement standards (AA-AAAS), the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) submits this update to its current 1.0 Percent Requirement Compliance Plan. 

Part 1- Historical Context 

PDE submitted a 1.0 Percent Compliance Plan to the United States Department of Education (USDE) in August of 2019 in response to the June 2019 letter from USDE. USDE responded with a letter in February of 2020. The letter outlined the state's requirement to submit 2020 testing data to EDFacts showing improvement, or the state would be subject to additional consequences as outlined in the letter. In March of 2020, all statewide assessments were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, PDE was not able to submit 2020 testing data. However, PDE did submit an update to its 1.0 Percent Compliance Plan to USDE in August 2020, which outlined the work that continued in Pennsylvania to address the 1.0 percent threshold requirement even during the pandemic. 

USDE issued an October 29, 2021 letter to all states providing guidance on seeking a 1.0 percent waiver or extension for the 2021-22 school year. This letter verifies states cannot seek a 1.0 percent waiver for the 2021-22 school year if the state did not meet the 95% participation requirement in the 2018-19 and 2020-21 school year. PDE did not meet the 95% participation requirement for the 2018-19 and 2020-2021 testing cycles. Therefore, PDE was again not able to apply for a waiver for the 1.0 percent threshold requirement. Another update to the compliance plan was submitted to USDE in December 2021. 

PDE remains committed to addressing the 1.0 percent threshold requirement with all Local Education Agencies (LEAs) across the Commonwealth. Even during the unprecedented circumstances related to the pandemic, PDE continued to implement a comprehensive actionable plan to address the 1.0 percent threshold requirement throughout the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years and continues to update and implement actions to address statewide assessment participation compliance for the 2022-23 school year. The following information serves as a third update to PDE's Compliance Plan of Action, outlining participation data and the additional measures the state is implementing during the 2022-23 school year to address statewide assessment participation compliance. 

Part II- PA Participation Data 

Table 1

  2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22
AA-AAAS % Reading2.01%N/A2.3%2.0%
AA-AAAS %     Math2.02%N/A2.0%2.1%
AA-AAAS % Science2.00%N/A2.2%2.2%
Total Participation (ALL Students) Reading           96.85%N/A70.46%92.3%
Total Participation (ALL Students)  Math96.93%N/A73.66%92.8%
Total Participation (All Students)  Science96.00%N/A71.95%90.4%
Total Participation *(SWD) Reading93.72%N/A66.69%88.5%
Total Participation (SWD) Math93.65%N/A68.29%88.3%
Total Participation (SWD) Science92.95%N/A65.81%85.9%

*(SWD) – students with disabilities 

As outlined in the chart above, Pennsylvania does not show a substantial decrease in the percentage of students who participate in the state's AA-AAAS, PASA (Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment). However, the sharp decrease in participation in statewide assessments after the pandemic is believed to be a contributing factor to the stagnant AA-AAAS participation rates. All testing was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2020-21 school year, testing resumed but Pennsylvania was granted some flexibility related to accountability and reporting requirements for that year from USDE. Students who were not able to take the end of course Keystone Exams (Pennsylvania's grade 11 state assessment) due to the pandemic were granted an exemption from accountability reporting. Likewise, these students were granted a certain reprieve related to statewide graduation requirements. Therefore, many students chose not to participate in the assessment. Keystone Exams are end of course exams and are taken in different grades by different students, but student scores are banked until grade 11. Accordingly, the Keystone exemption continues to affect relative participation in grade 11. No such exemptions were granted for students taking the PASA. Particularly in Math, grade 11 percentages of students taking PASA are larger than percentages at any other grade. In Math, PASA students comprise 3.2% of the 11th grade tested population. This is more than 1 percentage point larger than any other grade in Math. Science is similarly affected, with 3.1% of the 11th grade tested population taking PASA. Like Math, this is over 1% more students tested with PASA compared to other tested grades. English/Language Arts (ELA) appears to be unaffected by the exemption. PASA students comprise 1.9% of grade 11 students in ELA, which is comparable to the values across grades.  

In order to gain a fair comparison of AA-AAAS participation rates, PDE provides enrollment data across the last four school years. Although testing was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, enrollment for that year was completed prior to the cancellation of testing. Therefore, it can be concluded that enrollment numbers were reflective of all students who were eligible to participate in the AA-AAAS in 2020. PA shows a decrease of over 3,200 students enrolled to participate in the AA-AAAS over the course of a four-year span. 

Table 2

PASA Enrollment 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22
# students enrolled to take the AA-AAAS21,70719,978


As outlined in PDE's original compliance plan and updates, a heavy focus was placed on training the field to understand the state's AA-AAAS eligibility criteria. Schools and teams are provided guidance on what the state considers "red flag" disability categories and why, by definition, students in these disability categories should not be qualified to take the AA-AAAS. 

Pennsylvania shows a continued reduction in the percentages of students tested in these disability categories from 2019 to 2022. Students in the categories of Emotional Disturbance and Speech and Language account for less than 1% in 2021-22. 

Table 3

PASA Red Flag Disability Categories Participation 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22
Specific Learning Disability
Emotional Disturbance
Speech and Language (as a primary disability)


Part III - Summary of Actions to address 1.0% Compliance in PA

The following represents a summary of actions implemented by PDE during the 2022-23 school year in accordance with the state's 1.0 Percent Compliance Plan of Action and updates. The original compliance plan and all updates can be accessed on the PDE Bureau of Special Education Assessment webpage: ESSA 1.0 Percent Threshold Justification Requirements.

  1. 95% Participation for Students with Disabilities - PDE recognizes the importance of the 95% participation requirement for all students, including students with disabilities (SWD), to participate in statewide assessment. Prior to the 2020 pandemic, Pennsylvania met this requirement in the "all" student subgroup but did not in the SWD subgroup. Overall participation remains depressed relative to pre-pandemic numbers. While participation rates improved from the 2021 to 2022 testing cycle, Pennsylvania did not meet the 95% participation requirement for all students and the SWD subgroup in the two years following the start of the pandemic. The failure to meet this requirement has precluded PDE from securing a waiver for the 1.0 percent threshold requirement. Therefore, PDE is taking additional steps to ensure LEAs across the Commonwealth come into compliance with this regulation. 
    • The current Pennsylvania Consolidated State Plan stipulates schools with participation rates below 95% are required to develop and implement state approved compliance plans. On January 5, 2023, PDE issued a letter to all LEAs that failed to meet the 95% participation requirement in the 2022 testing cycle.  These LEAs were required to submit a plan of action to PDE by January 31, 2023, outlining the steps they will take to come into compliance with the 95% participation requirement. 
    • The Bureau of Special Education (BSE) also updated the state's criteria used to identify LEAs as a Tier 2 (Targeted) status in the state's current 3-tiered system of oversight and monitoring. The new criteria include compliance with the 1% threshold requirement and the 95% participation requirement for SWD. See the full details of this update below.
  2. Tiered System of Oversight and Monitoring – Pennsylvania implements a three-tiered system of oversight and monitoring to address 1.0 percent threshold compliance with LEAs across the state.
    • Tier 1 Universal Monitoring:  LEA 1.0 Percent Threshold Justification- The first tier includes a required 1.0 Percent Justification submission for all LEAs.  The Special Education administrator associated with each LEA receives an email from BSE with a personalized survey link to submit their anticipated PASA (Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment) participation rates for the upcoming testing cycle. LEAs who anticipate exceeding the 1.0 percent threshold are required to submit justification and assurances in their survey submission. The BSE requires LEAs to submit this information by the end of December of each school year. In compliance with the requirement in 34 CFR 200.6(c)(3)(iv) to make the information submitted by an LEA justifying the need to assess more than 1.0 percent of its students with an AA-AAAS publicly available, provided that such information does not reveal personally identifiable information about an individual student,  PDE posts the list of LEAs who exceed the 1.0 percent threshold annually.  
    • Tier 2 (Targeted) Monitoring: Additional Training Justification and Assurances - Tier 2 (targeted) LEAs are identified by the BSE based upon excessive or concerning PASA participation rates. Historically, Tier 2 (targeted) LEAs were identified based upon an alternate assessment participation rate of 2% or higher. For the 2021-22 school year, BSE identified LEAs based upon those who exceed the 1.0 percent threshold and who tested students in the "red flag" disability categories of learning disability, emotional disturbance, and speech and language impairment.

      BSE again updated its Tier 2 (targeted) LEA identification criteria in the 2022-23 school year. This year, a two-pronged approach was used to identify LEAs as a Tier 2 (targeted) status. LEAs that exceeded the 1.0 percent threshold in 2022 and did not meet the 95% participation requirement (90% or less) for students with disabilities participating in statewide assessment have been identified.  A total of 105 LEAs were identified as a Tier 2 (targeted) status for the 2022-23 school year. These LEAs are required to ensure a minimum of two individuals (one Special Education Administrator and one Building Administrator) view a training on state assessment participation for students with disabilities. These LEAs also must submit a completion survey on behalf of the LEA to the BSE by February 24, 2023. See the links below for the recorded training, training PowerPoint and associated handout:

The training requirements and materials can be accessed on the BSE Assessment webpage: ESSA 1.0 Percent Threshold Justification Requirements. 

    • Tier 3 Focused Monitoring:  Intensive Needs Review – The Intensive Needs Review process began in the 2018-19 school year and continues to be implemented by PDE annually. The BSE identifies LEAs to participate in a required 'Intensive Needs Review' process based upon excessively high AA-AAAS participation rates of 4% or more. These LEAs are required to participate in an Intensive Needs Review process that includes data and IEP submissions to the BSE. For the 2022-23 school year, 14 LEAs have been identified as Tier 3 (focused) and are working directly with BSE personnel to submit their Intensive Needs Review data protocol and IEPs for review.

      The 14 LEAs identified in Tier 3 this year include three very large districts.   Providing intensive support to these large districts has the potential to move the Pennsylvania numbers significantly given the volume of students affected. 

Part IV- Training and Technical Assistance 

PDE continues to provide training and technical assistance to the field regarding state assessment compliance. 

  • BSE and PaTTAN (PA Training and Technical Assistance Network) provide continued training and technical assistance to include specific information on the 1.0 percent requirement to LEAs. The annual PASA Getting Ready 2022-23 webinar includes information for Special Education Administrators on test administration and 1% Compliance. During this webinar, the state's PASA Eligibility Criteria: Decision Making Companion Tool for IEP teams is reviewed. The IEP team must be able to answer 'yes' to all six eligibility criteria questions in this tool in order for a student to qualify for the AA-AAAS. 
  • BSE and PaTTAN representatives also provide training and support to various stakeholders across the state to include the topic of state assessment participation compliance and AA-AAAS eligibility decision making. To date information and training were provided to the following groups/organizations during the 2022-23 school year:
    • Robert Morris University Virtual Special Education Conference - "The Why, Who, When, What, Where, and How of the PA Alternate System of Assessment" – October 2022
    • PA Fellowship – "Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment for Students with the Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities", November 2022
    • Philadelphia Charter School Training - "State Assessment Participation and the PASA DLM", November 2022
    • PAIU (Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units) – PASA and 1% compliance updates are provided on a regular basis during these monthly meetings
  • BSE provides a Compliance Monitoring for Continuous Improvement (CMCI) system as part of the required cyclical special education monitoring in Pennsylvania. A component of the special education cyclical monitoring includes statewide assessment participation. LEAs now have access to a data dashboard that provides their AA-AAAS participation rate and their SWD overall participation rate. This data dashboard provides a platform for the LEA to easily see if they are meeting the 1.0 percent threshold requirement and the 95% participation requirement for SWD. BSE reviews LEA data and issues corrective action for compliance issues with participation in state and local assessment where applicable.

PDE's mission is to ensure that every learner has access to a world-class education system that academically prepares children and adults to succeed as productive citizens.  As evidenced in the current compliance plan and updates, PDE remains committed to moving into compliance with the requirement of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) that limits the percentage of students that a State may assess with an AA-AAAS to no more than 1.0 percent of all assessed students in the grades assessed in a State for each subject. In addition, PDE recognizes the need to come into compliance with the 95%participation rate requirement found in 34 CFR 200.6(c)(4)(ii)(B), ensuring that 95% of all students, including students with disabilities, participate in state assessment.  

Moving forward, PDE will continue the current actions aligned with the state's 1.0 Percent Compliance Plan of Action and implement additional measures to strengthen the plan based on the most pressing needs evidenced in annual statewide assessment participation rates for students with disabilities. The steps below include planned updates that will be added in the future: 

  • The 3-tiered system of oversight and monitoring will continue in Pennsylvania with adjustments made annually where applicable. PDE reviews and analyzes state assessment participation data annually and determines adjustments based upon data trends and how to best capture LEAs with the greatest need in the state's required oversight and monitoring process.  
  • PDE is planning to streamline its 1.0 percent justification process further by providing data directly to schools. The current system requires the LEA to review their anticipated AA-AAAS participation rate for the upcoming testing cycle and provide justification if they plan to exceed the 1.0 percent. Data analysis of the justification submissions show that some LEAs are not interpreting and reporting their data accurately. Therefore, PDE is investigating how the most current testing cycle data can be provided directly to the school, requiring them to submit justification if they exceeded the threshold in that year.
  • As noted in this update, LEAs that did not meet the 95% participation requirement were required to submit a plan of action to PDE, which will analyze those submissions and follow up accordingly. 
  • PDE will continue to analyze student score data on the AA-AAAS. Performance level labels in the AA-AAAS include Emerging, Approaching the Target, At Target and Advanced. Advanced is described as "the student demonstrates advanced understanding of and ability to apply targeted content knowledge and skills represented by the Essential Elements." While examining 2022 individual student scores, there were 794 students who received a score of Advanced in ELA and 1,342 students who received a score of advanced in Math. Of these students, 315 received a score of Advanced in both subjects.  Of the students who received a score in Science, 185 were at the Advanced level. As the focus in training shifts to interpretation and decision-making using PASA Dynamic Learning Maps score reports, IEP teams may use this information when considering the state's six eligibility criteria for participation in the AA-AAAS or the general assessments. 
  • Continued training and technical assistance will be provided annually to ensure students with disabilities have access to an equitable curriculum and assessment system that prepares them for future success. The emphasis will continue to focus on students participating in state assessment and ensuring they are taking the "right" test according to the state's AA-AAAS eligibility criteria and guidelines.