HARRISBURG (October 15, 2018) – The Pennsylvania legislature today passed a key bill to provide alternative pathways to graduation in place of the controversial Keystone Exams, state Senator Andy Dinniman said.

“After nearly a decade of working to stop the excessive and expensive Keystone Exams, we’ve now succeeded in ending the ridiculous graduation requirement associated with them,” Dinniman, who serves as minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, said. “I hope we can build on the victory as we continue to roll back the proliferation of standardized testing in our schools and return the focus of education from testing to teaching.”

Under current law, beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, high school students will have to pass the Keystone Exams in three subject areas (Algebra I, Biology and Literature) in order to earn a diploma.

Under Senate Bill 1095, students have several alternative ways to graduate, besides passing the Keystones. They include successful completion of locally established grade-based course requirements in conjunction with a combination of other alternatives, such as:

  • Proficiency on the SAT, PSAT or ACT.
  • Passage of an Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exam. 
  • Completion of a dual enrollment program.
  • Completion of a pre-apprenticeship program.
  • Acceptance to an accredited four-year nonprofit institution of higher education.
  • Completion of a service learning project.
  • A letter of full-time employment.
  • An acceptable score on a Work Keys assessment.

Senate Bill 1095 also delays the use of the Keystones until the 2021-2022 school year.

The Senate unanimously adopted the bill today, concurring to amendments made in the House. It will now to the governor’s desk and he is expected to sign it into law.

Dinniman said the bill, sponsored by Senator Tom McGarrigle, marked an important step in the fight against the Keystones, but that the battle is long from over.

“Remember, the Keystones have been delayed and the graduation requirement associated with them has been stopped, but they will still be required in Pennsylvania schools for federal accountability,” Dinniman said. “Meanwhile, we know they are expensive, redundant and unnecessary and I will continue to work to end them once and for all.”

Dinniman noted that earlier this year the Senate passed Senate Resolution 322 to study the effectiveness of standardized testing, including the Keystone Exams and SATs, and their use as indicators of student academic achievement, school building performance, and educator effectiveness.

He pointed out that replacing the Keystones with a standardized test that many students already take, like the SAT, would result in fiscal and educational benefits.

“We know that nearly three-quarters of all high school students already take the SAT, the SAT is aligned with our curriculum, and the federal government will accept the SAT,” he said. “Furthermore, using the SAT in place of the Keystones will open up college scholarship and post-secondary opportunities to thousands of students who may not be able to afford it on their own.”

In fact, the Coatesville Area School District is already providing the PSAT free to all 10 and 11th grade students and the SAT free to all 11th grade students with tremendous results. Students also receive, at no cost to the district, a free personalized SAT study course from Khan academy. As a result, Coatesville is seeing students who would never have had the opportunity to take a college entrance exam now planning to go on to higher education.

Dinniman also said that lawmakers also need to take a closer look at the current system of teacher evaluation, which is too narrowly focused on the results of standardized tests in only a few subject areas.