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Department of Education provides additional information on new law allowing students to repeat grade due to pandemic

The Pa. Department of Education is providing more information about a new law that will let students repeat a grade due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Parents and guardians now have the option to decide if their kid should repeat a grade level.  

“It gives them the option so that their child doesn’t keep moving forward having been hindered by a loss of academic success in 2020," said Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46)

The bill was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf and would only apply to the 2021-2022 school year. 

“Parents know their kids. parents know if their child actually did the work and actually absorbed any of the information they need to absorb and benefited from anything from their academic year 2020," said Senator Bartolotta. 

Kate Storm, the mother of a first grader and sixth grader says it should be a joint effort. 

“They would have a pretty good idea because they’re teachers and their in the environment of a classroom on a normal basis socially and academically if the child is ready to advance and also the child should have a say because now they’re going to be split from their friends and the parents should have something to say because they are the parents the legal guardian and parents should always have a say," said Storm. 

Chris Lilienthal, the Assistant Director of Communications of the PA State Education Association said in a statement:

The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted student learning over the past year, and it is absolutely necessary that we put the instructional needs of students first. Schools will have unprecedented federal resources to address delayed learning and the mental health needs of students in the new school year. Our educators are ready to step up and do everything they can to get their students back on track.

Where parents believe that repeating a grade is best for their children, we encourage them to reach out to their children’s principal, educators, or other school leaders to discuss all the options. Educational professionals are the experts, and their insights may be helpful to parents making this difficult decision.

The new law may be particularly beneficial for students with disabilities, especially those students who are over 21 years of age. By giving students with special needs who are 21 the opportunity to enroll for the 2021-22 school year, this new law recognizes that these students may need more time to prepare for life after graduation. That extra year of working on life skills will better position older students for transitioning from a school setting to adult employment and independent living.

Parents have until July 15 to make the request with their respective schools. 

You can read the full release from the Pa. Department of Education here:

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) today provided information on a new law that permits parents, guardians, and students over the age of 18 to elect to have their children or themselves repeat their grade because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On June 30, 2021, Governor Wolf signed Act 66 of 2021 into law. This law allows students who were enrolled during the 2020-21 school year to repeat their grade level to make up for any learning loss due to the pandemic, even if the student met requirements to be promoted to the next grade level.

Additionally, Act 66 allows students with disabilities who were enrolled during the 2020-21 school year to attend a school during the 2021-22 school year and receive services detailed on their most recent Individualized Education Program (IEP) with full protections under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These students are defined as those who turned 21 during the 2020-21 school year or turned 21 between the end of the 2020-21 school year and the beginning of the 2021-22 school year.

As required by Act 66, PDE developed and posted on its website a standard form for parents, guardians, and students at or over the age of 18 to notify school entities of their plan to remain in the current grade level and/or school for the upcoming school year. The completed form must be signed and submitted to the student’s district and/or school by July 15, 2021.

Act 66 applies to the following school entities: school district, Intermediate Unit (IU), charter or cyber charter school, regional charter school, nonpublic school, approved private schools, career and technical education centers, and chartered schools for the deaf and blind.

There are additional resources available to mitigate learning loss due to the pandemic including the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ARP ESSER). ARP ESSER will provide Pennsylvania with $4.9 billion in emergency funding to support the long-term work of education recovery. At least 90 percent, or $4.5 billion, of the fund will be distributed to eligible public-school districts and charter schools, with each entity receiving an amount proportional to the federal Title I-A funds received in 2020. Recognizing the differential effects of the pandemic and related challenges, PDE encourages schools to leverage ARP ESSER funding, as well as earlier rounds of federal emergency aid, to accelerate a return to in-person learning, while also planning for the long-term.

PDE offers a toolkit and a professional learning series to school leaders and educators to help address students’ learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Accelerated Learning through an Integrated System of Support” provides a voluntary process and research for school leaders to consider in preparing for the upcoming school year that addresses the academic and emotional well-being of students. 

More information on Act 66 and answers to common questions can be found on PDE’s website.

More information on ARP ESSER is available on PDE’s website: education.pa.gov/ARPESSER.

More information on the Accelerated Learning toolkit and professional learning series is available on PDE’s website: education.pa.gov/AcceleratedLearning.

For more information about Pennsylvania’s education policies and programs, please visit the Department of Education’s website

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