What are the Keystone Exams all about?

A look into the controversial statewide assessment

PA Dept. of Education

Lance Jenson, Student Writer

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As the latter half of the 2019-2020 school years kicks off, January begins Keystone season at local schools statewide. The month marks the beginning of a period in which public schools are given state assessments for their students to participate in, allowing these institutions to create a benchmark for their curriculum. Similar to the PASAs and PSSAs, the Keystone Exams assess the proficiency of students grades 8 and 10 in Algebra I, Biology, and Literature. These assessments are provided by the state in compliance with federal law regarding curriculum.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Keystone Exams were first introduced in the 2012-2013 school year and were made to help schools, AVTSs, and charter schools gather information about how well their students were receiving and retaining information in classes they were taking. Student performance on the exam would be an indicator of these schools on whether or not to adjust the utilization of their resources to help better prepare their students for the future. In recent years, the state expects 95% of its students to participate in these exams to meet the standards of the Every Student Succeeds Act, a federal law changing education policy to be more inclusive of pupils’ individual experiences.

Originally a state graduation requirement for the class of 2017, students must score proficient or advanced on the Keystone Exams to receive their diploma. Since then, the requirement has been levied, as the PA Congress put a moratorium on it. This caused a lot of unrest and confusion over what the expectations of students were in regards to high school. As of S.B. 1095, signed October 24, 2018, the graduation requirement is set to affect the class of 2022. Proficiency in the exams requires a score of at least 1500 in all subjects, and to score advanced students need 1546-1800 for Algebra I, 1549-1800 for Biology, and 1584-1800 for Literature.

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