WEST CHESTER (May 2) – State Senator Andy Dinniman announced today that his success in limiting the Keystone Graduation Exams to just the three required by the federal government will save Chester County schools millions in taxpayer dollars.
Dinniman, who led the fight to limit the implementation of the Keystone Graduation Exams, said that preliminary estimates from five of Chester County’s 12 school districts – Downingtown, Owen J. Roberts, Spring-Ford Tredyffrin-Easttown and West Chester – show that adding two more tests would cost, in total, more than $1 million.
District officials recently provided Dinniman with approximate figures showing how much their respective schools would have spent on staffing, textbooks and materials and curriculum restructuring in preparation for the two additional tests.
“These figures back up what we have been saying all along,” Dinniman said. “In imposing these exams on local schools, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission completely ignored the substantial cost burden they are putting on the backs of our local school districts – costs that would surely be passed on to taxpayers in the form of significant property tax hikes.
“And these represent very conservative estimates from only five districts. Multiply that by the 500 school districts across the Commonwealth for an idea of how massive this unfunded mandate would have been had we not succeeded in limiting the Keystones to three tests,” he added.
The federal government, through Pennsylvania’s No Child Left Behind Waiver, requires that the Commonwealth implement the Keystone Exams in three subjects (Algebra I, Literature and Biology) for evaluation purposes. In 2013 and over Dinniman’s “no” vote, Pennsylvania’s Board of Education called for the addition of two more Keystone Graduation Exams (English Composition and Civics) in the 2019-2020 school year.
But fortunately, as a result of legislative pressure from Dinniman and other lawmakers, as well as local school districts, Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq recently indicated that the department would not pursue the implementation of the additional exams. In fact, Dinniman had already introduced Senate Bill 1244, legislation that would do just that – limit the Keystone Graduation Exams to the three required by the federal government – before she announced the department’s decision. The bill had 15 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle and was on its way to passage in the Senate Education Committee.
While Dinniman called the move a victory against the expansion of standardized testing and unfunded mandates in schools, he said he will be introducing legislation to ensure that the three required exams are not tied to high school graduation.
“In the wake of our success in limiting the number of exams, we will now work to see that they are not tied to graduation. Under federal law, we have to give the three exams, but the state Department of Education has failed to make the case as to why they should make or break a student’s graduation,” Dinniman said. “Perhaps we can now move away from the focus on testing instead of teaching. Graduation should be based on a student’s total high school record, not three high-stakes, standardized tests.”