Partners Post: September 2018

September is National Literacy Month

September is Literacy Month

September is National Literacy Month, a time to encourage the young people in your life to go to the library, pick up a good book, and explore new worlds.

By getting books in the hands of kids, you can help engage these young readers in their learning and help them see how their school, community, and the world are connected. That is one way that parents, educators, and other caring adults join forces to meet the needs of the whole child.

Looking for some good book recommendations?

Read together

When it comes to books for young readers, there are many titles that everyone knows — and many more that often remain hidden treasures. We asked PA educators, support professionals, and retired educators to recommend great titles for your young readers. Here are some of their suggestions:


“Remembering Vera” by Patricia Polacco (author/illustrator)

Recommended by Denise Kennedy, Upper Darby Education Support Professionals Association


"Elephant & Piggie: The Complete Collection" by Mo Willems (author/illustrator)

Recommended by Shawnee Wood, kindergarten teacher, Lakeview Education Association

"The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein (author/illustrator)

Recommended by Jane Bedell, retired teacher, Lehigh County PSEA-Retired


"Freckle Juice" by Judy Blume (author) and Debbie Ohi (illustrator)

Recommended by Carol Yanity, reading specialist, Cumberland Valley Education Association

"Junie B. Jones: Complete First Grade Collection" by Barbara Park (author) and Denise Brunkus (illustrator)

Recommended by Bridget Seery, learning support specialist, Highlands Education Association


"Schooled" by Gordon Korman

Recommended by Tammy Hahn, teacher, Wilson Education Association

"In the Time of the Butterflies" by Julia Alvarez

Recommended by Michael Bichko, teacher, Northgate Education Association

Find more recommendations and reading resources at

Meet the new teacher

Whether it's back-to-school night or a parent-teacher conference, make the most of the time you have with your children's teachers. It should be more than an afterthought — another thing to rush to before or after work.

Pennsylvania educators suggest you consider asking the following questions during parent-teacher meetings:

  • How can I support my child to help him/her be successful in school?
  • What kind of skills will my child learn and be required to master by the end of the year?
  • What can I do to ensure that my child is getting the most out of his/her education?
  • What are some resources that can be used at home to provide help for my child if he/she is struggling throughout the year?
  • How do you, the teacher, prefer to be contacted?
  • How much homework should the students expect to see on a regular basis?
  • Where can I find my child's assignments and curriculum online?
  • What are ways you will challenge my child in the year ahead? 

Take proactive steps to ensure school safety, writes PSEA President Dolores McCracken

School safety is a shared responsibility

Following the tragic school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, PSEA President Dolores McCracken asked the educators and support professionals who belong to PSEA to send in their ideas to make our schools safer places to teach and learn. Within just one week, she received nearly 1,000 thoughtful replies from across Pennsylvania.

Read McCracken’s op-ed in PennLive on the progress we’ve made so far in enhancing school safety in Pennsylvania.

Every Student Succeeds Act awaits educators and students


As the 2018-19 school year continues to move into full swing for students, educators, and parents, the PA Department of Education is continuing to implement the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan.

Congress reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as ESSA in 2015. At its core, ESEA and its newly authorized version, ESSA, is a civil rights law. It focuses billions of dollars in federal resources on policies and programs that the federal government believes are most likely to improve achievement, particularly among the country’s most vulnerable students.

The passage of ESSA presented Pennsylvania with a once-in-a-decade opportunity to reshape public education policy in the commonwealth and secure significant federal funds for PA public schools. Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration has made good use of that opportunity by working with educators and parents to develop a comprehensive, forward-thinking state ESSA plan. The plan was approved by the U.S. Department of Education earlier this year and now is into full implementation across the state.

ESSA and PA’s approved plan take an important step in the right direction for students, parents, and educators by moving away from the singular focus on standardized test scores toward a more holistic and transparent perspective of school success.

In looking at ways to create a more holistic school evaluation tool, the Pennsylvania Department of Education worked with stakeholders to develop the Future Ready PA Index. Future Ready will soon be unveiled and serve as Pennsylvania’s one-stop location for comprehensive information about schools, using a dashboard model to highlight progress on multiple indicators, including student growth, English language proficiency among ELL students, incentives for career awareness instruction beginning at the elementary level, and increased emphasis on student access to course offerings such as AP, IB, college credit and CTE programs of study.

ESSA also acknowledges the critical role parents and other stakeholders play in student success and school improvement efforts by requiring that they are involved and consulted in the development of new education plans and the implementation of the law. Parents and families are essential partners in education, and research shows the positive impact on student outcomes when families and schools work together.  

If you’d like more details on how parents and families can meaningfully engage in the process at the local level, check out the National PTA website for ESSA tips.

Less time testing, more learning

More time 2 teach

Educators, students, and parents agree that our schools spend too much classroom time on standardized testing and test prep — time that would be better spent on teaching and learning.

Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) testing time is later in the year, so students have more time to prepare. Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration reduced the time spent on PSSA testing from three weeks to two weeks. Students in grades three through eight will spend an average of 20 percent less time on statewide testing, and 25 percent less time on math, English language arts, and science sections.

The reduction of testing time will ease the stress placed on our students and will allow them and their teachers to focus more on learning than on testing. For more information, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s PSSA Testing web page.

Senate bill removes heavy focus on testing  

The Pennsylvania Senate voted unanimously to approve a bill sponsored by Sen. Tom McGarrigle that removes the heavy focus on standardized testing — a great step forward for both students and educators.

Senate Bill 1095 was approved by the House Education Committee on Sept. 24 and now awaits a final vote in the PA House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 1095 would provide Pennsylvania students with additional options to fulfill high school graduation requirements beyond the high-stakes Keystone Exams. Students who do not score proficient on the Keystone Exams would be able to demonstrate their readiness to graduate through alternative routes.

“Sen. McGarrigle’s bill recognizes that standardized tests aren’t the only way to measure students’ abilities and provides options to measure students’ readiness for post-secondary education,” said PSEA President Dolores McCracken.

The Keystone Exam graduation requirement is on hold until the 2020-21 school year. The alternate graduation options in Senate Bill 1095 would take effect when that delay expires.

Read more about SB 1095.

Wolf administration announces second student innovations challenge

Innovate - Save Lives

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is inviting high school students in grades 9-12 to participate in the second Innovations Challenge.

The contest encourages students to use their problem-solving, creative, and strategic-thinking abilities to solve real-world transportation challenges. Regional winners will be selected from PennDOT’s Engineering Districts. Those winners move on to a statewide competition in Harrisburg where an overall winner will be selected.

PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said, “Through PennDOT’s Innovations Challenge, we are inviting high school students to become an active part of the solution in helping develop innovative ways to tackle this real transportation concern.”

If you would like to participate in the Innovations Challenge, learn more at PennDOT’s website.

Score A+ savings with Access 

As a subscriber to Partners Post, you are eligible for Partners Benefits, including savings through PSEA’s Access Savings program.

As you get into the back-to-school season, don’t forget that PSEA’s Access to Savings program has you covered from head to toe! You’ll find great deals on shoes, apparel, and accessories at the following retailers:

  • Foot Locker
  • Dressbarn
  • Sally Beauty
  • GH Bass
  • Crazy 8

Get your student ready for less. You’ll be able to find everything you need from paper to arts and crafts, electronics, and more:

  • Apple
  • Office Depot/Office Max
  • DELL
  • Adobe
  • Discount School Supply
  • Lakeshore Learning Store
  • Vistaprint
  • Books a Million

 Be sure to use Access to indulge in delicious deals and scrumptious savings. From your favorite local café to popular national chains, there is something for every palate. You can also save on groceries using our grocery coupons for the days you want to pack a lunch: 

  • Macaroni Grill
  • Quizno’s
  • Grocery Coupons

Go to the Partners Benefits page to get started with these great back-to-school savings.


Partners Post: 2018-19

Partners Post: 2017-18

Partners Post: 2016-17


Sign Up for Partners' Emails

Get the latest news and information from Partners for Public Education.

Email address: