Senate Bill 1095, which was signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf on October 24, 2018, shifts Pennsylvania’s reliance on high stakes testing as a graduation requirement to provide alternatives for high school students to demonstrate readiness for postsecondary success. Formerly, Pennsylvania’s graduation requirement was more restrictive, requiring most students to pass the Keystone Exams — end of course exams in Algebra I, Literature, and Biology. Senate Bill 1095 will expand the options for students to demonstrate postsecondary readiness using four additional pathways that more fully illustrate college, career, and community readiness.
The statewide graduation requirement takes effect for the graduating class of 2022. While there is no statewide graduation requirement for the classes of 2019, 2020, and 2021, federal regulations still require schools to participate in state assessments. In addition, the Pine-Richland graduation policy requirements stipulate that students must demonstrate mastery of the PA Core Standards on the Keystone Exams or local assessments. Keystone Exams are end-of-course assessments designed to assess proficiency in three subjects: Algebra I, Literature and Biology. Keystone Exams are one component of Pennsylvania’s system of high school graduation requirements and help school districts guide students toward meeting state standards.
Keystone Exams are typically taken during the spring of the year in which a student is enrolled in the given course. Students must demonstrate proficiency in each of the three Keystone Exams. If a student does not receive a score of “Advanced” or “Proficient” on a Keystone Exam, the student is permitted to retest during designated windows established by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Students who score below proficient on any Keystone Exam are encouraged to complete a corresponding Keystone supplemental instruction course. Pine-Richland High School offers two options for remediation: USA Test Prep and a face-to-face course on an A/B day schedule (Algebra and Biology only). Decisions about the appropriate intervention are made on an individual student basis.
Per regulations, students may become eligible to take a Keystone Exam prior to taking the course by scoring at the advanced level on the relevant PSSA assessment immediately preceding that course. If a student is eligible to “pretest” a Keystone Exam and scores at the proficient or advanced level on that test prior to taking the course, the student will not need to retake the Keystone Exam after taking the course. A student will not receive course credit on the high school transcript based on their performance on a Keystone Exam “pretest.” In the areas of Biology and Algebra 1, a student “pretesting” at the Advanced level can move to the next course in the sequence.
For example, a seventh-grade student may be enrolled in a Pre-Algebra course. If that student scored at the Advanced level on the sixth grade PSSA Mathematics assessment, he or she will be offered the opportunity – if desired – to attempt the Keystone Exam for Algebra 1. The student would take the Algebra 1 Keystone Exam prior to taking the course. If a Proficient performance level is earned, the student’s score is “banked” for graduation purposes and may not be retaken later. If an Advanced performance level is earned, the student may “skip” the Algebra 1 course and move directly to Geometry as an eighth-grader. A student will not receive course credit on the high school transcript for the “skipped” course.
Parents/guardians have the right to review any state assessment to determine whether the assessment conflicts with their religious beliefs. That review must occur on school grounds according to the procedures outlined by the PDE. In asserting a religious objection to the assessment, a parent/guardian must explain their objection in their written request for excusal. Per Pine-Richland graduation policy #217, students who do not take the Keystone Exam(s) under the parental opt-out provision must score at the proficient level or above on the local assessment.