Press Releases

Thursday, July 30, 2015 3:06 PM

Click on the link below for the presentation Deputy Secretary Stem shared this afternoon at PDE's PSSA Webinar.


Thursday, July 30, 2015 10:33 AM

Educators across Pennsylvania blasted the state's standardized exams as time-consuming, stressful for students and not an accurate gauge of what students learn.
Click here for full article.

Source: Allentown Morning Call, July 29, 2015; PSBA Daily Edition, July 30, 2015.

Thursday, July 30, 2015 10:32 AM

Concerns about the statewide testing of students in Pennsylvania dominated an hours-long hearing Wednesday before the House Education Committee.
Click here for full article.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 30, 2015; PSBA Daily Edition, July 30, 2015.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015 8:19 AM

Wednesday, July 29th is Call to Action for Public Education Day! Join us and tell YOUR lawmakers to go back to Harrisburg to pass a budget that begins to solve the state’s public school funding crisis, which is causing layoffs and cuts in academic programs at school districts across the state.

It only takes 5 minutes and makes a HUGE impact. Instructions here:

Click on this link to interact with your legislators:

Twitter pic campaign for fair funding

Thursday, July 23, 2015 2:23 PM

The following link will take you to a zip file of the documents referenced in the PennLink sent by Deputy Secretary Stem earlier today [and also posted on the PA Principals Association website]:

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Department of Education will be holding a webinar on Thursday, July 30, 2015, from 1:00 to 2:30 PM.

This webinar will focus on the outcomes of the 2015 PSSAs. It will provide an overview of the process used to determine the 2015 PSSA cut scores, the impact those scores will have on students and educators and next steps in communicating with families, stakeholders and the community about the new PSSA.

Please register for 2015 PSSA Overview and Outreach on Jul 30, 2015 1:00 PM EDT at:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Thursday, July 23, 2015 10:16 AM

The message below was sent by JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), recognizing Pennsylvania (and Illinois) for our influence in regards to the Senate vote on ESEA reauthorization.    

Thank you both for your participation in the Advocacy Alert related to the Senate vote on ESEA reauthorization. We had 194 people send letters to Senators through our Principals Legislative Action Center. Illinois and Pennsylvania were the states with the most member action. Illinois with 34 letters; Pennsylvania with 26 letters. Thanks for all you do to promote the advocacy agenda that serves all of us.  

JoAnn Bartoletti
Executive Director

Thursday, July 23, 2015 9:50 AM

Dear Colleague,

Today you will be receiving the student data files for the 2015 PSSA, and I want to assure you that we at the Department of Education understand the broad and significant impact these scores have on students, parents, teachers, administrators and communities.

This time last year I was an educator in the field and have not forgotten what is at stake with these results.

Over the course of the last several months, the PDE team has met with hundreds of administrators, educators, and stakeholders to engage in thoughtful dialogue around the best ways to serve students, and those conversations have been both informative and productive. 

There are many opportunities for our current system to be refined and improved; however, please remember that nearly all of the issues related to standards, assessment, and accountability are codified in statute or regulation. Therefore, it will take time, and require extensive dialogue and input among stakeholder groups to achieve these revisions to the system. PDE is committed to taking the time and making the effort necessary to engage in the change process, and we look forward to continuing to collaborate in the weeks and months ahead.

Later today, you will be receiving your student data files to gain a preliminary sense of your students’ achievement on the new PSSA. You will also be receiving support documents from the Department to aid you in communicating with your stakeholders as questions arise regarding the new assessment and its outcomes.

Like you, our singular goal is to ensure the success of students throughout the Commonwealth. As we prepare them to be college and career ready, PDE pledges to provide the support to achieve this collective goal. 


Matthew S. Stem
Deputy Secretary
Department of Education



Tuesday, July 21, 2015 8:49 AM

Quality early learning programs can improve the health and lifetime success of children exposed to extreme stress in their early years.

In childhood, fleeting stress can be positive, helping children build resilience and problem-solving abilities. Other stress is tolerable if supportive adults help buffer the effects.  In the early years, different parts of the brain develop the circuitry for vision and such executive functioning skills as working memory, problem solving, and planning. Problems in those areas are easier to correct if caught early because of the brain’s plasticity. That’s when positive reinforcement, such as the sound of an adult reading aloud or babbling back and forth, can encourage the brain to strengthen its circuitry. But plasticity can have a flip side, when stresses derail healthy development, and the lack of positive reinforcement causes the brain to prune away the unused connections – even those that would have facilitated such positive activities as reading and problem-solving.

An intriguing study from University of Wisconsin, asking children to spot the point in photo arrays where happy expressions changed to fearful and sad, showed that children who had experienced early life adversity were likelier to sense the signs of looming anger. The “constant activation of alarms” is a hallmark of toxic stress, causing more wear and tear on the heart and reducing neural connections when the brain should be building new ones.

As adults, children exposed to toxic stress are prone to such adverse health outcomes as greater likelihood of heart attacks and out-of-control eating. But the effects can be minimized if children are exposed to nurturing, stable, and engaging environments.

In the scale of life, positive experiences can outweigh the negative, tipping the child’s scale toward good outcomes. But some children are more sensitive to stress than others. Moving the fulcrum on the scale affects its disposition toward the positive or negative, and the accumulation of positive experiences and coping skills can shift the fulcrum to help children achieve positive outcomes.

Capabilities that help to promote brain development and resilience include focusing attention, planning ahead, behavior regulation, controlling impulses, adjusting to new circumstances, and problem-solving so that children learn to recognize difficulties and brainstorm ways of dealing with them.

These are all particularly good things to focus on because they’re positive.  The child will use circuits to do these things again and again and again, and those circuits will be strengthened, but they’ll also shift the fulcrum. If children learn these skills, they will be much more sensitive to positive things in their life and much more able to deal with negative stresses.

Stable, caring adult relationships, such as those found in quality early learning programs, make a world of difference in the developing child’s ability to cope with stress. They help children build mastery of executive functioning skills and self-regulation. A community that offers structure such as this can help children no matter what is going on in their personal lives.

SOURCE:  Dr. Judy Cameron, Professor of Psychiatry, Director of Science Outreach, University of Pittsburgh, as shared at the PA Early Learning Investment Commission (ELIC) Summit of April 15, 2015, in Harrisburg, PA. For more information and the full recording of Dr. Cameron’s presentation see the PA ELIC website:

Monday, July 20, 2015 11:06 AM

Click here for article.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 19, 2015 12:00 AM.

Thursday, July 16, 2015 11:15 AM

Congress has finally taken significant action to enact a full reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – also known as the No Child Left Behind Act – that will provide teachers and principals with the support they need to offer a high quality education for every student.

This afternoon, the Senate will vote on final passage of the Every Child Achieves Act (S.1177). We are asking you to send an email to your senators now to let them know that you support S.1177 because it will ensure that students and all educators will be better off than under the current No Child Left Behind-test-and-punish laws and regulations.

While the bill is not perfect, it represents a bipartisan comprised renewal of the law that is important for the nation’s education system. NAESP, in collaboration with the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the American Federation of School Administrators, were pleased to see several of our recommendations included in the bill the Senate will vote on:

  • The elimination of Adequate Years Progress (AYP) measures and the 100 percent proficiency requirements
  • Clarification of the term “School Leader” as the principal of an elementary, middle, or high school
  • Inclusion of use of funds in Title II for a “School Leader Residency Program”
  • Updated school leadership focused activities to improve the recruitment, preparation, placement, support, and retention of effective principals and other school leaders in high-need schools
  • The removal of the unworkable school turnaround models that are required under the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program regulations
  • The continued disaggregation of subgroup data and reporting
  • Allowable use of local Title II funds to develop induction and mentoring programs that are designed to improve school leadership and provide opportunities for mentor principals and other educators who are experienced, effective, and have demonstrated an ability to work with adult learners, as well as provide “personalized” professional development for educators
  • Includes coordinated services and alignment with early childhood education, as well as use of funds to support professional development for principals in leading Pre-K-3 alignment in their learning communities

As a leader in your school and in your community, your voice is extremely powerful in this debate. Please take a moment to take action and send an email to your senators in Congress to urge them to vote YES on passage of S. 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act. While a sample letter has been provided for you, we strongly urge you to personalize the letter where possible.

Click here to send a letter to your senator.

Thank you for your leadership and advocacy in improving public school education for all children.


The NAESP Advocacy Team

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