Keystone exams postponed


Students are thrilled to be off the hook for the two years the exams are postponed. Photo by Katherine Wible

School directors are having a weight lifted off their shoulders because of the state Legislature’s approval of a two-year delay in requiring students to pass the Keystone exams in order to graduate. The Keystone Exams are end-of-course tests and a large number of students have had great difficulty passing.

Governor Tom Wolf signed the bill on Feb. 3, 2016 that postpones the exams.

Senate Bill 880, approved by the state Senate, will delay the use of Keystone exams in Algebra 1, Biology and Literature as graduation requirements until 2019.

Instructional coach for grades seven through nine and reading department chair Julie Storm thinks the amount of testing is unfair.

“Eighth grade has to take both the PSSA and the Keystone, so I feel it’s too much testing at point,” Storm said.

Some teachers and school professionals are hopeful that work will be done by the Department of Education during those two years.  

“I think the delay is a step in the right direction, but more than two years is needed to get the curriculum aligned so that it is fair,” Storm said

State Senator Lloyd Smucker, chairman of the Senate Education Committee and sponsor of the bill, shared where he stood in a press release.

“It is time to push the pause button on the timetable for phase-in and work through the honest concerns raised by parents, students and educators,” Smucker said.

Eighth grader Julia Whiting agrees.

“I feel that the Keystones are not an accurate representation of a student’s knowledge,” Whiting said.

Smucker talked about two areas in need of review. He listed project-based assessments and the impact of assessments on career and technology students.

State Senator Andy Dinniman, co-sponsor of the bill, said the Keystone graduation requirement was an “unfunded mandate on schools” and that it hurt the poor and failing schools most.

Meanwhile, there are schools in Philadelphia that don’t have certified biology teachers, or textbooks. Those schools were lacking the curriculum and didn’t include the material. There was no way of preparing for the exam.

The two-year delay will give districts more time to prepare students for the exams and will allow time to evaluate whether the exams are accurately assessing the concepts being taught. The delay will also provide time for the funding to be released.