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Identifying Needs of Underserved Students

Describe your State’s 2-3 highest priority academic, social, emotional, and/or mental health needs for the remainder of the 20202021 school year (if applicable) and for the 2021-2022 school year related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on each of the following student groups:

  1. Students from low-income families,
  2. Students from each racial or ethnic group (e.g., identifying disparities and focusing on underserved student groups by race or ethnicity),
  3. Gender (e.g., identifying disparities and focusing on underserved student groups by gender),
  4. English learners,
  5. Children with disabilities (including infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities eligible under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA]),
  6. Students experiencing homelessness,
  7. Children and youth in foster care,
  8. Migratory students, and
  9. Other groups disproportionately impacted by the pandemic that have been identified by the SEA (e.g., youth involved in the criminal justice system, students who have missed the most in-person instruction during the 2019-2020 and 20202021 school years, students who did not consistently participate in remote instruction when offered during school building closures, and LGBTQ+ students).

To the extent possible, this description should include data on indicators such as estimates of the academic impact of lost instructional time,1 chronic absenteeism, student engagement, and social-emotional well-being.

Table A1. Highest Priority Needs by Student Group.2

Student Group Highest Priority Needs for the 2021-22 School Year
Students from low-income families
  • Social and emotional wellness
  • Lack of connectivity in remote learning, leading to loss of instruction and learning
  • Attendance and engagement with school and academics
  • Food insecurity of families

Students from each racial or ethnic background used by the state for reporting purposes 

(Stakeholders provided input on the needs of three student groups on the basis of race or ethnicity: Black, Asian, and Hispanic students. Analysis in the right-hand column reflects this feedback.)

Black or African American students:

  • Social and emotional wellness – including equity and trauma-informed services
  • Use of technology and lack of connectivity in remote learning, leading to loss of instruction and learning
  • Attendance and engagement with school and academics due to effectiveness of remote instruction and increased lack of connectivity to school and interventions

Asian students:

  • Provisions for safety from hate, bullying, and harassment due to targeted hatred toward Asians during the pandemic
  • Trauma-informed practices and mental health supports due to increased harassment of Asian individuals during the pandemic
  • Understanding that Asian students are not a monolithic group and that the myth of a model minority is a myth: Asian students are in need of individual assessment of academic skills, academic tutoring, and social-emotional supports, as are other students
  • Promotion of acceptance, celebration of diversity

Hispanic or Latinx students:

  • Attendance and engagement with academics
  • Lack of connectivity in remote learning
  • Social and emotional wellness
Students by gender
  • Students need teachers who are "mirrors" of their gender in fields where certain genders are underrepresented (e.g., science, math, history): according to one stakeholder, "representation matters."
  • Inclusive school culture on the basis of gender
  • Staff training and awareness to mitigate gender bias and stereotyping
English Learners
  • Loss of language learning and proficiency, particularly in oral English development. A recent World-class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) study of language growth indicated speaking and listening were disproportionately impacted from March 2020 to May 2021
  • Social and emotional wellness
  • Equitable access to core content. ELs require higher levels of support to engage in academically rigorous instruction.
Children with disabilities
  • Social and emotional wellness, mental health
  • Transition support, as students return to in- person instruction
  • Lack of necessary technology and knowledge of how to operate the technology
  • COVID-19 Compensatory Services, including effective assessments and remediation strategies to target areas of regression and learning gaps
Students experiencing homelessness
  • Increased lack of identification due to remote learning
  • Lack of school engagement leading to poor academic progress
  • Increased need for mental health services
Children and youth in foster care
  • Interruption of academic services.
  • Lack of educational stability
  • Social and emotional wellness, mental health
Migratory students
  • Technology: lack of necessary technology and knowledge of how to operate the technology, technology fatigue/burnout with language barriers exacerbating these challenges
  • Attendance and engagement with school and academics
  • Lack of social-emotional and academic supports
Other groups of students identified by the state (e.g., youth involved with the criminal justice system, students who have missed the most in- person instruction during the 2019–20 and 2020–21 school years, students who did not consistently participate in remote instruction when offered during school building closures, LGBTQ+ students)

Adjudicated Youth:

  • Access to technology at the state correctional and other adjudicated youth facilities
  • Safety – access to one-way delivery of digital content
  • Continuity of learning experience between facility and sending LEA
  • Social and emotional wellness, mental health, trauma-informed instruction

LGBTQ+ students:

  • Safety and belongingness in an inclusive, welcoming school environment
  • Safe spaces such as student organizations to express themselves
  • Social supports (acknowledging that fear of harassment is a barrier to socializing), emotional supports, and mental health supports
  • Counseling and mental health support staff
  • Relationships with trusted adults, and the need for training for staff to implement trauma- informed and inclusive practices in school

Students enrolled in career and technical education (CTE) programs at area career and technical education schools (CTCs)3:

  • Lack of access to broadband
  • Social and emotional support
  • Need for in-person instruction to provide for hands-on academic and technical education

Students experiencing homelessness prior to the pandemic experienced chronic absenteeism, decreased student engagement, and decreased social-emotional well-being due to housing instability. COVID-19 school shutdowns in the spring of 2020 in Pennsylvania left students already academically, socially, and emotionally vulnerable at even greater risk due to the immediate elimination of social contacts, services, extracurricular activities, and in-person engagement that allows educators and other paraprofessionals the ability to view signs of distress and neglect that are not as easy to view in online learning environments.

The pandemic also illuminated inequities in the provision and use of educational technology. Many families were overwhelmed because they did not know how to help their students connect or how to monitor their progress. Students also experienced technology fatigue/burnout and did not want to participate in online supplemental programs, such as tutoring. Language barriers and parent/caregiver lack of English fluency exacerbated these challenges as parents/caregivers struggled to read and understand materials sent home.

Many families in particularly rural areas did not have access to internet services. Currently,there are at least 53,000 households and over 500,000 Pennsylvanians (students and teachers)with no connectivity or limited connectivity to the internet. In addition, Pennsylvania has approximately 650,000 learners under the age of five who could be living in homes or attending early learning centers with poor connectivity.

Where connectivity issues negatively influenced engagement, a lack of engagement in turn negatively influenced attendance. Repeated absences sent many families to truancy court, and fines were levied. Some students were frustrated with online learning and did not log on. Others had other responsibilities, such as working or providing childcare to younger siblings while parents worked. Many older students needed to work to assist their families and have essentially dropped out of school.

Many students felt isolated and experienced stress while learning online; they could not socialize or access peer-to-peer supports. This caused many students to begin to exhibit signs of depression or anxiety. In addition, students experienced familial illness or personal loss.

On ARP ESSER questionnaires, 37 percent of respondents identified social, emotional, mental health, and student relationships as the top priority for support, and Pennsylvania Teachers Advisory Committee urban, suburban, and rural focus groups identified these areas as top priorities as well. Not being in a structured and safe learning environment created learning loss, particularly for ELs. ELs were not able to learn English as well as they would have through immersion in the language at school.

To serve adjudicated youth, Pennsylvania has six diploma-bearing correctional facilities with 259 learners; 37 percent of these learners have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).

Pennsylvania has an additional 11 private residential rehabilitation institutions supported by nine Intermediate Units (IUs). As determined through focus group conversations with Adjudicated Youth Facility Educators, as well as Remake Learning, KnowledgeWorks, andPDE-led statewide listening sessions, 75 percent of American Rescue Plan (ARP) questionnaire responses identified social, emotional, and trauma-informed learning and relationship building as either a top or second priority, and 21 percent identified academics or learning loss as the key issue for adjudicated youth.

1 For the purposes of the plan, "academic impact of lost instructional time" refers to "learning loss" experienced by students as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as referenced in the ARP Act and the CRRSA Act.

2 Priorities identified in the right-hand column of this table reflect analysis of stakeholder input and other data and research. These include statewide administrative data, responses gathered through PDE's ARP ESSER questionnaire and through focus groups, an independent analysis of school district responses to school closures, results of regular feedback sessions with key informants including intermediate unit leadership and leaders of charter schools and cyber charter schools, and responses received during the plan's public comment period.

3 Forty-seven percent of CTC students are economically disadvantaged, and 31 percent of CTC learners are students with disabilities.