- Total Enrollment 1,726,809
- Schools 2,990
- Economically Disadvantaged Students 44.8%
- Students with Disabilities 18.5%
- English Language Learners 3.5%
- Students Attending Urban Schools 19%
- Students Attending Rural Schools 27.1%
- Graduation Rate 86.6%
Data source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Common Core of Data (CCD). Graduation Rate data are from 2016/17; all other data are from 2017/18.
State Story March 2020 – April 2021
Dr. Pedro Rivera had served as Pennsylvania's appointed Secretary of Education for over five years when Governor Wolf announced all K-12 schools would close on March 16, 2020. Noe Ortega took his place in Oct 2020 and helped support schools implement their return to school plans.
Initial Decisions and Approach
- Based decisions on core values of equity and inclusion.
- Prioritized continuity of education and the health and safety of students and staff.
- Communicated proactively and frequently, both internally and externally, to guide decision-making and ensure stakeholders were informed.
SEA and LEA Role Delineation
- The SEA provided guidance to LEAs and allowed them to customize their plans and request resources as needed.
- The SEA invested in an online platform for districts and families who did not have internet access.
Supportive Partners or Resources
- Engaged frequently and directly with LEA and Higher Education stakeholders.
- Also engaged with Intermediate Unit executive directors and leaders from other agencies such as the Departments of Health and Agriculture.
- Also relied on guidance and resources from CCSSO and other state chiefs.
- Leaders remained flexible and nimble to respond to shifting scientific information about the virus.
- Focused on continuity of education and working closely with the Department of Health.
- Worked on understanding what the “new normal” should look like.
What Comes Next
- Continue to build trusting relationships across the state and nation in the interest of education.
- Ensure equitable staff, student, and community safety, knowing this will require a great deal of resources.
- Be better prepared to support the community during any next potential crisis.
- Advocate for the continued investment in public education.
August 2020 – December 2020
Re-Opening Plan Implementation
At the start of school in fall 2020, Secretary of Education Noe Ortega said COVID-19 rates were quite varied across Pennsylvania. In early 2021, the rates rose to alarming levels, which required the SEA to reset in-person education parameters and provide more clear guidance on how to safely return to in-person learning.
Status of School Models
- Grounded on evidence-based guidelines for spacing, local health metrics, and vaccine availability.
- When metrics improve, in-person learning begins with elementary schools and special populations. As conditions continue to improve, secondary students are brought in.
Recover and Rebuild
Recovering and rebuilding in Pennsylvania meant gradually bringing more students back for in-person instruction, which was accelerated through increased availability of the vaccine, as well as preparing to leverage Federal funding and technical assistance to ensure students would have equitable access to instructional opportunities.
Priorities (January 2021)
- Continue making decisions through cross-agency hubs.
- Provide clear guidelines on learning models to assist with local decisionmaking.
Recover and Rebuild Section Two
Collaborating with LEAs
- PA’s 29 Intermediary Units (IU) served as regional educational service agencies that support over 500 public school districts and 2,400 non-public schools.
- IUs helped connect SEA and LEA leaders to create trust, efficiency, and quick action.
- Secretary Ortega asserts that IUs have created a lasting structure to address regional problems.
Recover and Rebuild Section Three
- Provided devices to students through unused assessment funds.
- Created non-digital instructional resources for those without a device or broadband.
- Acknowledged that instructional inequities existed prior to the pandemic.
Recover and Rebuild Section Four
Investing Relief Funds
- Pennsylvania set aside and administrative funds must go through legislature.
- Secretary Ortega is focusing on needs not covered by existing funding.
- Post-secondary needs are factored into the entire budget process.
Planning for Summer and Next Year
- Engaging stakeholders to identify needs.
- Framing the ARP discussion around equity.
- Examining and understanding what did and did not work to move forward.