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Pennsylvania 1.0 Percent Requirement Compliance Plan Update- December 2021 

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.

PDE submitted a 1.0 Percent Compliance Plan to the US Department of Education (USDE) in August of 2019 in response to the June 2019 letter from USDE.  USDE responded to PDE's 1.0 Percent Compliance Plan with a letter in February of 2020. The letter outlined the state's requirement to submit 2020 testing data to Ed Facts 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 PA 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. While PDE does not yet have 2021 testing data confirmed, the state anticipates that it did not meet the 95% participation requirement for the 2021 testing cycle and can confirm the requirement was not met in 2018-19. Therefore, PDE submits this update to outline the work that continues in Pennsylvania to address the 1.0 percent threshold requirement, and some preliminary 2021 enrollment data that shows a positive movement toward the state's goal of coming into compliance with the 1.0 percent requirement.

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 school year and continues to update and implement actions to address 1% compliance for the 2021-22 school year.

PDE representatives are active participants in the technical assistance opportunities offered through the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO), including the 1% Community of Practice and regular meetings with a core team from NCEO. Additionally, PDE staff participate in the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards (SCASS) Assessing Special Education Students (ASES) quarterly meetings. The guidance provided through these opportunities has been greatly valuable to PDE in the development and implementation of the state's compliance plan.

Part I- Summary of Actions to address 1.0 Percent Compliance in PA

The following is a summary of actions implemented by PDE during the 2020-21 school year and continued to the 2021-22 school year in accordance with the state's 1.0 Percent Compliance Plan of Action.

  1. Test window extension- PDE extended the 2020-21 statewide general and alternate assessment windows through September 30, 2021. This extension gave schools the opportunity to maximize test participation by allowing students to test over the summer and early Fall. Schools throughout the commonwealth had varying plans for return to in-person instruction for students. Some schools that were fully virtual during the original testing window were able to test students who returned to in-person instruction over the summer and early Fall through the extended window.

    PDE recognizes the importance of all students participating in statewide assessments including students with disabilities. While the extension of both testing windows was a heavy lift logistically, the state implemented this action with both test vendors in order to maximize opportunities for students to participate in the assessment. 

  2. Training and Technical Assistance- Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM), served as the state's new alternate assessment and vendor for the 2020-21 school year. PDE's Bureau of Special Education (BSE) in conjunction with DLM successfully rolled out a fully virtual asynchronous training plan that included all necessary information for enrollment and test administration.

    In addition to the training related to the new test administration and procedures, BSE and PaTTAN (PA Training and Technical Assistance Network) also provided training and technical assistance to include specific information on the 1.0 percent requirement to LEAs. The PASA Getting Ready: Annual PASA Updates and 1% Compliance for LEAs recording and related resources can be accessed on the BSE and PaTTAN websites.  A training specific to the PASA (PA Alternate System of Assessment) and 1.0 percent threshold requirement was presented at the 2021 HELIX (High Expectations for Students with Low Incidence Disabilities) statewide conference. 

    Additional training and outreach regarding 1.0 percent compliance continues to be conducted by BSE and PaTTAN representatives through annual participation in Intermediate Unit Directors meetings, Approved Private School Networking meetings, and Special Education Leadership trainings. A training entitled 1.0 Percent Participation Threshold Compliance: Making Appropriate PASA Eligibility Decisions is shared with LEAs to review key points in understanding the 1.0 percent federal requirement and guidance for IEP teams to use the state's criteria to make AA-AAAS eligibility determinations. 

    PDE recognizes the role of parents and families in the IEP team decision making process. Continued support and resources are developed to empower parents with accurate information regarding the AA-AAAS and how the decision for their child to participate may affect instruction and future goals. The Parent Guide to the PA Alternate System of Assessment: Answers to Questions Frequently Asked by Families resource was updated for the 2020-21 school year to include added focus on the importance of participation in statewide assessment.  

  3. Tiered System of Oversight and Monitoring – PA implements a 3-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 (PA 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 exceeded the 1.0 percent threshold annually.   The list will be updated in January of 2022 to reflect the LEAs who submit justification survey information indicating they plan to exceed the threshold this year.

  • Tier 2 Targeted Monitoring: Additional Training Justification and Assurances - Tier 2 LEAs are identified by the BSE based upon excessive or concerning PASA participation rates. Historically, tier 2 LEAs were identified based upon an alternate assessment participation rate of 2% or higher.  For the 2021-22 school year, BSE will identify 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. The criteria for tier 2 identification in 2021-22 is being updated to target those LEAs who continue to qualify and assess students on the AA-AAAS in these disability categories. Students who meet the PA Chapter 14 definition of these primary disability categories in accordance with §14.123 and   §14.124 (Evaluation and Reevaluation) and § 14.125.(Criteria for the determination of specific learning disabilities) typically do not meet the state's definition of a student with the most significant cognitive disability, as outlined in the PASA Eligibility Criteria . These LEAs will be required to complete and submit additional information and assurances to the BSE via a Tier 2 Survey by February 28, 2022.

  • Tier 3 Focused Monitoring:  Intensive Needs Review – The Intensive Needs Review (INR) 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. 

    The chart below outlines progress made toward 1.0 percent compliance among LEAs who participated in the tier 3 Intensive Needs Review process over the last three school years.  The analysis looks at 34 LEAs who were identified as tier 3 across 2018-19, 2019-20, and 2020-21.  A comparison of the AA-AAAS participation rate in the year the LEA was identified, and the 2020-21 enrollment data shows most of these LEAs are decreasing their AA-AAAS percentage rates to move toward compliance with the 1.0 percent threshold requirement.  32 LEAs in the group decreased their participation rates, 2 increased their participation rates (although increases were small at .22% and .45%), and 0 LEAs stayed exactly the same.  The 2 LEAs with increased rates will be identified again the 2021-22 tier 3 oversight and monitoring process.  Improvements in percentages were dramatic in some cases, with a decrease in percentages of up to 9.33%.  The average decrease across all 34 LEAs was 2.78%.

 Part II:  Preliminary 2020-2021 AA-AAAS Participation Data

PDE is currently analyzing 2020-21 state assessment participation and performance rates, with a plan to submit official Ed Facts data in January of 2022. The data at the time of this submission is preliminary due to state assessment windows being extended through September 30th. PDE recognizes that while every effort was made in 2021 to maximize student participation rates, this was not a typical year for instruction and testing due to circumstances related to the pandemic. Therefore, the final participation rates should be interpreted with caution. 

In order to gain a fair comparison of AA-AAAS participation rates, PDE provides enrollment data across the last three 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. The numbers of students enrolled in the state's AA-AAAS are decreasing each year, which implies that the state is likely to be moving in the right direction toward 1.0 percent compliance. Since the inception of the PA's 1% Compliance Plan of Action, a total of 3,122 students have been removed from the AA-AAAS annual enrollment numbers.

PASA Enrollment
​# students enrolled to take the AA-AAAS

The enrollment data is also reviewed by 'red flag' disability categories. PDE's compliance plan training includes a focus on decreasing the number of students who are enrolled and participate in the AA-AAAS who have a primary disability category of specific learning disability, emotional disturbance, or speech and language impairment, as students who meet the PA Chapter 14 definition of these disability categories likely do not meet the state's AA-AAAS eligibility criteria. The review of this data also shows PDE appears to be moving in the right direction toward its goal of decreasing the number of students who participate in the AA-AAAS, especially students in the red flag disability categories. As shown below, the percentage of students enrolled to participate in the PASA with a primary disability category of specific learning disability decreased from 8.8% in 2018-19 to 3.9% in 2020-21. Likewise, the percentage of students with a primary disability of emotional disturbance decreased from 1.8% to 0.9%. Students with a primary disability of speech and language dropped from 0.7% to 0.3%.  Across the 3 disability categories, this amounted to a total decrease of 1516 students in red flag disability categories who were eligible for the AA-AAAS.

According to the preliminary data available at this time, PDE is showing evidence that it is progressing toward compliance with the federal 1% regulation. The state is committed to ensuring that only students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, as outlined in the state-defined PASA eligibility criteria, participate in the AA-AAAS. PDE also recognizes the importance of meeting the 95% participation requirement for all students and students with disabilities. The work to address compliance with both state assessment participation regulations will continue in Pennsylvania.