PA postpones use of Keystone exam as graduation requirement

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has officially delayed the requirement for students to pass the Keystone exams in order to graduate.

The state House and Senate had unanimously approved the two-year delay, and Wolf signed Senate Bill 880  on Wednesday.

The bill prohibits the use of the Keystone exam as a graduation requirement until the 2018-2019 school year, but still allows the Keystone exams to be administered in schools, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

Initially, Keystone exams — which measure a student’s proficiency in algebra, literature and biology — were set to become a statewide high school graduation requirement for the class of 2017.

The standardized test is broken up into two modules for each subject, which the press release stated has a “significantly higher number of students” not meeting passing levels on one or both of the modules.

“While we should have high academic and educational standards in the commonwealth, there have been issues with the implementation of the Keystone exams,” said Wolf in the press release.

Prior to the bill delaying the graduation requirement, if a student were to not pass the Keystone exams once, schools would be required to offer supplemental instruction. If a student were to fail a second time, schools were required to assist the student in a standardized Project Based Assessment.

The state concluded that both supplemental instruction and the Project Based Assessment are “expensive and time consuming” because of the amount of students requiring additional support.

Approval of the bill came from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, and the Pennsylvania State Education Association, according to an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Steve Robinson, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, told the Post-Gazette the continued practice of standardized tests as graduation requirements limits educators.

“The use of exams to grant or deny a diploma is unfair because it does not allow for teachers to consider other measures of student performances and the needs of diverse learners in determining proficiency,” Robinson said.

Additionally, Senate Bill 880 will require state officials from the Department of Education to review different methods of testing students’ readiness for graduation within the next six months and report to the House and Senate education committees.

“My administration is currently engaging teachers, administrators and students, community leaders, stakeholders and advocates from around the state to develop a comprehensive school accountability system that will support schools and help Pennsylvania students succeed,” Wolf said.

PublicSource intern Sabrina Bodon can be reached at sbodon@pointpark.edu.