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House, Senate Approve Plan To Delay Keystone Exams


The state Senate approved a House-passed bill Thursday, delaying the requirement that Pennsylvania high school students pass standardized tests in order to graduate. 

This will give lawmakers more time to review and make changes to the Keystone Exams.

Beginning in 2017, high school seniors would have needed to pass exams in math, biology and a language to graduate. If students failed those exams after two tries, then they could take a project-based assessment to demonstrate their knowledge of one of those subjects. Senate Bill 880 will delay the requirement until the 2018 - 19 school year.

Gov. Tom Wolf has indicated that he will sign the legislation.

Sen. Andy Dinniman (D – Chester), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, is a sponsor of the bill. He said that the Department of Education has not funded school districts in a way to properly implement and administer the assessment program.

“We know that over $3 million has already been spent without results to show for the spending of that money. If you’re going to spend money, spend it on teaching, not simply testing and that requirement,” he said.

According to Dinniman, as of March of 2015, 126,000 students had failed at least one of the exams. He also said that over the past four years, it was clear that the Keystone exam system was “flawed.”

“This was bad policy,” he said. “It was bad policy that every educational organization in this state objected to; yet it continued.”

Sen. John Wozniak (D – Cambria) said that the Keystone Exams aren’t necessarily an accurate assessment.

“The problem being, is that many of the teachers, and even the parents, have realized that too many school districts are teaching to the test and using that as the barometer and not really the knowledge of a student,” Wozniak said.

The state Department of Education has been given six months to investigate and report its findings to the Senate on alternatives for determining student proficiency for high school graduation. The bill states that the report must include improvements for evaluating project-based assessments.

“I think we need to sit down (and) really talk with the teachers, the parents and come up with a concept of what really constitutes a quality education. And how do we quantify that; what type of testing, what type of grading do we need to do,” Wozniak said.

The changes will not eliminate the Keystone Exams, because the federal government requires students to take three evaluation exams for graduation.