Exam Information for Parents
For this reason, we wanted to let you know about changes that are being made across the Commonwealth in the way schools are measured for academic accountability. The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) recently released information about the Keystone Exams and the implementation phase of this measurement tool. The Keystone Exams are course assessments designed to evaluate proficiency in academic content. Beginning in 2012-2013, the Algebra I, Literature, and Biology Keystone Exams replaced the Grade 11 PSSA tests in mathematics, reading, and science for purposes of satisfying No Child Left Behind (NCLB)/Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements. Keystone Exams will be utilized as a graduation requirement beginning with the students in the class of 2017, and for AYP in a student’s junior year only.
In the event that a student does not achieve a score of proficient or advanced on one or more of the Keystone Exams, he/she will need to participate in a retake. PDE has established three testing windows each year (i.e., winter, spring, and summer) for this purpose. Therefore, students will have the potential opportunity to retest and will be notified by the school district as needed.
The assessments are divided into two modules and will take approximately 2 to 2.5 hours to administer. Additional information will be sent home from the buildings as we near the testing dates. Until that time, please don’t hesitate to contact your child’s counselor or principal if you have any questions. We also invite you to visit www.education.state.pa.us or www.pdesas.org for more information as the Pennsylvania Department of Education continues to update its process for the Keystone Exams.
Q: What are Keystone Exams?
Keystone Exams are state mandated end-of-course tests intended for students in the Class of 2017 and beyond to demonstrate proficiency in core subjects. The expectation is that all students will pass these tests in order to graduate. There is a secondary purpose of the Keystone Exams as well. The Keystone Exams in Algebra I and Literature will be used to determine the high school’s AYP status each year. The Keystones will replace the PSSA for juniors.
Q: What subjects have a related Keystone Exam?
English Language Arts, Algebra I, and Biology are the first three Keystone Exams to be implemented. The State will be developing other exams as part of the graduation requirement in future years which include but are not limited to Composition (in 2019), and Civics and Government (in 2020). The State will also develop five Keystone Exams that will be available for voluntary use. These exams are Geometry, U.S. History, Algebra II, Chemistry, and World History.
Q: How are Keystone Exams related to high school graduation requirements?
Students graduating in 2017 and beyond must demonstrate proficiency in English Language Arts, Algebra I, and Biology. Students graduating before 2017 will be required to take the Keystone Exams for AYP purposes but their results will not be counted towards their graduation requirements.
Q: My child took Algebra I last year. What happens if a student in the class of 2017 or beyond has completed a course before the test is offered?
The regulations state that students who have demonstrated proficiency on a Keystone Exam prior to their junior year will have their scores banked until they reach grade 11.
Q: Can an individual student opt out of a Keystone Exam?
No. The regulations do not permit this.
Q: Does this mean that the State will be applying test results from middle school students to high school graduation requirements?
Yes. If a student completes a course aligned to a Keystone Exam during the middle school years, the proficiency outcome is used to determine eligibility for a high school diploma.
Q: Can a student earn credit for a course by passing a Keystone Exam without taking the course?
The District has no plans to enable students to earn credit for a course by examination at this time.
Q: What happens if a student is not proficient?
Students who do not pass the Keystone Exam score will receive remedial instruction and must retake the Keystone Exam until a passing final course grade is achieved. After two unsuccessful attempts, students will be eligible to demonstrate proficiency through the completion of a project-based assessment that will be scored by a team of regional teachers. Additional information explaining this process will be provided to those as needed.
Q: Will there be testing accommodations for students with special needs?
As with the PSSA tests, students with special needs may take Keystone Exams with accommodations listed in a student Individualized Education Plan (IEP), subject to any limitations the State applies to a particular test.
Q: Will colleges and universities view success on Keystone Exams as an advantage during the college admissions process?
Current information counselors have shared about college acceptance patterns indicates that State test results are not yet important factors in acceptance decisions. However, failure to reach proficiency impacts graduation, which obviously has an impact on college acceptance.
Q: Will Keystone Exams replace the PSSA tests?
Yes, the Keystone Exams replaced the PSSA tests as of spring 2013.
Q: Will my child be prepared for Keystone Exams?
District courses aligned with Keystone Exams are designed to address the requirements of these tests.