News

Keystone exam delay called 'big step'

Written by Angie Mason/York Daily Record | Jan 22, 2016 10:17 AM
keystone_exam.jpg

Framed by Edquina Washington, left, director of community relations for York City, and Eric Holmes, the York City School District superintendent, Pedro Rivera, the state education secretary, addresses a group of community members at Goode K-8 School. Educators, parents and students were included in the discussion.(Photo: Jason Plotkin, York Daily Record)

Delaying the Keystone exams as a grad requirement will allow Pa. to look at other ways of measuring student success.

(Undated) -- A delay in making the Keystone exams a graduation requirement will allow the state to look at other ways of measuring student success, the state education secretary said Thursday.

The Senate recently approved a bill, already approved by the House, that would delay making the Keystone exams a graduation requirement by two years, until the Class of 2019. Gov. Tom Wolf has said he plans to sign the bill.

At an education roundtable held Thursday at Goode K-8 School in York, Rivera said the delay is "a big step in the right direction."

"While we support the Keystones as an indicator, and we support high standards ... as a great tool, we also realize there are many measures we want to take into account when we're identifying and really ensuring our students are prepared for life, career and college," he said.

The state is talking with community members about that and also looking at making the School Performance Profile system more holistic and less reliant on state tests, he said.

David Thomas, director of York County School of Technology, told Rivera the school is working hard on the Keystone exams and scores are improving.

But he knows, he said, that no matter how hard they work, some students just aren't going to pass those tests for reasons like major test anxiety.

Students who may not pass the Keystone exams are the same ones who will score in the advanced range on the NOCTI, nationally recognized industry based assessments, he said. They'll leave school ready for jobs as welders or diesel mechanics, who can make good salaries.

The two-year delay is nice, Thomas said, but "hopefully when it does come back around, we have some doable alternatives," such as substituting the NOCTI or a project.

"I don't want to have some student who can go make $50,000 as a welder and not be able to not have a high school diploma when they leave because they can't pass the biology test," he said, adding that the tests are "very difficult."

Rivera said the state has been getting feedback on graduation requirements and won't make decisions in a vacuum.

"There will absolutely be multiple pathways to graduation," he said.

Still, Rivera asked, how do you ensure students and stakeholders are taking assessments seriously? They don't want to hold back a future welder, but they want to make sure students taking algebra I are learning algebra I.

"It's that balance," he said.

Students from William Penn Senior High School in York weighed in on the Keystones, too.  Sophomore Dejah Martin said more students should be pushed to take them earlier, because passing some in her freshman year opened the door to more class options for her. Rivera said those kinds of curriculum decisions are being discussed in York.

Later, Dejah said it was nice to be part of the event and she thinks students should be more involved in those kinds of discussions.

"Just to see people in charge really do care," she said.


This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between WITF and the York Daily Record

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