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Legislation to Change Keystone Exam Requirements

Passing the Keystone Exams might never become a requirement to graduate from high school in Pennsylvania. The State Senate Education Committee has approved legislation that would leave it up to school districts to determine the effects of not passing the exam.

Currently Pennsylvania has started to implement the exams, but if Senate Bill 1450 is not passed the tests will determine if a student can graduate starting in 2017.

“Certainty there is much more that needs to be looked at in terms of an overall student’s career in school and whether they’ve been successful or not, and having it all rely on the results of a test certainty puts a lot of pressure on that process” said Steve Robinson, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA).

The exams became law without a vote of the full House and Senate in March of 2013. The Department of Education proposed the exams, and then the House and Senate Education Committees approved them, and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission gave final approval.

Right now the exams will start off with requiring students to pass biology, algebra and language arts in order to graduate in 2017, then more requirements will be added as time goes on if the bill is not passed.

Every Pennsylvania district is still required under the bill to implement the test and will still receive a report on how the students did.

“This doesn’t take the Keystone exams away. We’re still doing the Keystone exams. It’s just the local school districts can decide if they want them to be graduation exams or not,” said bill sponsor Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon).

Folmer says that the bill does still require schools to remediate students who fail the exams, but the schools can then decide the best plan for action. He voted against the Keystone Exams back when the proposal was in the Education Committee. The tests were not funded by the state, but rather left the individual districts to fund the tests themselves, and Folmer says it was just another test that would require more work for the districts.

“We have had thousands of protests from school districts, from parents, from businesses, from superintendents, about this exam,” said minority committee chair, Andy Dinniman (D-Chester).

The bill is heading to the Senate floor for a full vote.