Lawmakers Eye More Changes To High School Graduation Exams

HARRISBURG (KDKA/AP) — More bills are emerging in the Pennsylvania Legislature to end or loosen a requirement that students pass the Keystone Exams to graduate high school.

One bill unveiled Tuesday would allow school districts, not the state, to decide whether to use the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement.

Assistant superintendent with North Hills School District Jeff Taylor is a firm believer that testing should be based on the student’s needs.

“For some students, going through a career and technical center, the Keystone Exam does not really meet their needs,” Taylor said.

Another bill would expand the reasons that students can opt out of the tests to include philosophical or health concerns, in addition to religious objections.

“Another one of these bills recently introduced refers to replacing the Keystone Exam with the SAT,” Brian Stamford, the Director of Curriculum and Assessment at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit said.

Taylor is also in favor of this.

“We are just very pleased the Legislature is looking at giving school districts more flexibility because I think it would be very helpful for many school districts if they had more local control,” Taylor said.

Both bills are backed by the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union.

Stamford said the Keystone Exam has been a federal requirement for years. Only recently, the state of Pennsylvania changed the law and now students in the 2018-19 school year must pass the test in order to graduate from high school.

The Keystone Exam shows proficiency in algebra 1, biology and literature.

“As an alternative to that, students may complete project based assessments, but these project based assessments are very time consuming and staff intensive for school districts,” Stamford said.

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(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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