Pennsylania reports on education

The recently-published 8th annual State of Education report, compiled by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), presents a comprehensive overview of the current state of public education in Pennsylvania. Drawing from a survey of chief school administrators and analysis of data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the National Center for Education Statistics, the report highlights key indicators of public school performance and the challenges facing the sector.

Read the full report here.

Pennsylvania’s public education landscape is significant, with nearly 1.7 million children, representing 3.4% of the nation’s public school enrollments, attending public schools in the state. The majority, nearly 90%, of school-age children in Pennsylvania attend public schools, including traditional public schools, brick-and-mortar and cyber charter schools, career and technical centers, and intermediate units.

The report underscores several key areas:

  1. Student Achievement: The state is struggling to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels in English Language Arts proficiency, with math and science proficiency also posing challenges. Although there has been some recovery, the pandemic’s impact on learning persists, with over 80% of respondents indicating that students have not fully recovered from missed learning opportunities.
  2. Challenges: The top challenges identified include student mental health needs, staffing shortages, and budget pressures. Two-thirds of districts highlighted student mental health as a primary concern, with nearly half of all students estimated to have some mental health need. Budget pressures are largely driven by mandatory charter school tuition payments, a recurring issue for the fifth consecutive year.
  3. School Finances: School districts face substantial fiscal challenges, with a reliance on local revenues, especially in suburban districts. The growth in mandated expenses like pensions, charter school tuition, and special education has outpaced revenue growth, leaving a significant mandated cost gap. The report also notes that Pennsylvania ranks high nationally in terms of local share of education funding.
  4. Student Mental Health: Identified as the top instructional challenge, nearly half of the students are reported to have mental health needs. The report points to the scarcity of providers as a major barrier in connecting students with necessary services.
  5. School Staffing: Districts across the state report widespread staffing shortages, particularly in areas like special education, secondary-level math, and science. Staff burnout remains a significant issue, although the situation has improved slightly since 2022.

The report offers a detailed view of the state of public education in Pennsylvania, shedding light on the successes, ongoing challenges, and the areas in need of attention and resources. As the state continues to navigate the post-pandemic landscape, the insights from the 2024 State of Education report will be crucial in shaping policies and initiatives to support students, educators, and school communities.

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