Keystone Exam Changes Coming Soon

The way the state measures 11th graders’ academic progress is expected to change this year.

Under a plan that must be approved by the federal Department of Education, juniors will take state-developed Keystone Exams in algebra I, biology and literature instead of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) test this school year.

Passing the exams will be a graduation requirement for The Class of 2017, current eighth-graders.

“The positive thing with them is that they are more subject specific,” said Matthew Curci, Superintendent in the Apollo-Ridge School District. “I think the intent is good in trying to get some standardization as far as what’s expected of a student before they graduate.”

However, Curci and other educators in the Alle-Kiski Valley caution against using a one-time assessment to gauge student learning. Some worry that such a “high-stakes” test isn’t the right approach.

“I think the true value is whether there was (academic) growth, not an arbitrary cutoff,” said Tom Rocchi, interim superintendent in the New Kensington-Arnold School District.

Starting with this year’s eighth-graders, students will take the Keystone Exams as an end-of-course assessment. Their scores will be “banked” until their junior year.

The scores will count toward whether districts meet federal academic standards, known as making Adequate Yearly Progress, beginning this school year.

Click here to read the full article by Jodi Weigand, published on TribLive (September 9, 2012)

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