On Wednesday, February 3, 2015, Governor Wolf signed Senate Bill 880 into law, now known as Act 1 of 2016, which provides at least a two-year window for education officials to work problems that arose from using a high-stakes exam to determine high school graduation eligibility.
The new law suspends until the 2018-19 school year the use of an end-of-course Keystone Exam – or state approved alternative – as a graduation requirement. However, the Keystone Exam will continue to be administered since it is required to meet federal accountability rules.
Applying the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement, approved by the State Board of Education in 2013, has been the source of criticism from school districts, education groups and others who didn’t like the high-stakes nature of the exams.
District officials also have complained that the project-based assessment alternative for large numbers of students who couldn’t pass the Keystone Exams in Algebra I, Biology I and literature couldn’t be implemented by the time next year’s seniors graduate, which is when this requirement was to begin taking effect.
In addition to delaying the use of Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement, the legislation also requires the Department of Education to investigate alternative methods for students to demonstrate proficiency for graduation beyond just the use of the Keystone Exams and present a report of its findings within six months to the majority and minority chairmen of the House and Senate Education Committees.
In preparation for this report, the Department of Education will meet with stakeholders to discuss how to improve the process, examine the necessity of a definition of college and career readiness that all students must meet in order to graduate, and study the graduation requirements of other states.
School districts will need to keep a watch on whether the Keystone Exam returns as a graduation requirement for the 2018-19 school year or subsequently. We will keep you informed regarding any updates concerning this matter. Please contact us if you have any questions and/or need further assistance.