HARRISBURG (March 15) – Following the passage of legislation to delay the implementation of the Keystone Exams as graduation requirements, the Pennsylvania Department of Education recently clarified the current status of the exams and related requirements for school districts, state Senator Andy Dinniman said.
“Parents, teachers and students are asking what is next for the Keystone Exams,” Dinniman, who serves as minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, said. “I want to remind everyone that Senate Bill 880 (Act 1 of 2016) was just the first step in our efforts to repeal and roll back the exams as graduation requirements. There is much more work ahead.”
As required by the act, the Department of Education is investigating and developing alternatives in addition to the use of the Keystones Exams as graduation requirements. The department has six months to issue a report of its findings and recommendations to the legislature on the following:
- Alternative methods for students to demonstrate proficiency for graduation in addition to the Keystone Exams and project-based assessments.
- Improving and expediting the evaluation of the project-based assessments.
- Ensuring that students are not prohibited from participating in vocational-technical education or elective courses or programs as a result of supplemental instruction.
The department is implementing an outreach plan to solicit feedback from stakeholders across the state to accomplish these tasks.
In addition, Dinniman said the Department of Education clarified that the Keystone Exams will still be given to students due to federal requirements. However, students graduating prior to 2019 are no longer required to pass them in order to get a diploma. Similarly, students will not be required to undergo retesting, project-based assessments, or supplemental instruction unless they elect to do so.
Dinniman, who has been a vocal critic and opponent of the Keystones as graduation requirements since they were first proposed as such in 2012, said he will continue to fight against the use and proliferation of make-or-break standardized tests, as well as the excessive testing protocols currently in our schools.
“High standards are commendable and needed in our schools, but implementing high-stakes exams without essential support, resources or planning is not the way to improve learning and achievement,” Dinniman said.
Last month, Governor Wolf signed Senate Bill 880 into law as Act 1 of 2016. The legislation put a two-year hold on the high school graduation requirement associated with the Keystone Exams in order to give the legislature and the Department of Education time to explore more effective methods of student assessment.
Previously, high school students beginning with the class of 2017 (current juniors) would have to pass Keystone Exams in three subject areas (Algebra I, Biology and Language Arts) in order to earn a diploma. While the three exams are required by the federal government for evaluative purposes, state education officials in the previous administration arbitrarily tied them to high school graduation.