Governor reevaluates Keystone Exams


A student prepares for her standardized exam in May. Kennedy Sheriff is in 9th grade and will take the Biology Keystone.

Molly Gutshall, Reporter

On Oct. 18, Tom Wolf, Governor of Pennsylvania tweeted about possible new changes to the Keystone Exam for high school and middle school students. The Keystone Exams are end-of-course assessments designed to test student knowledge in certain subject area. The Keystone Exams were at one point a component of Pennsylvania’s new system of high school graduation requirements. Keystone Exams were first originated to help school districts guide students toward meeting state standards. Wolf tweeted, “Standardized tests don’t often reflect overall learning. Evaluating students holistically is a priority for my admin. That’s why I am excited to sign into law new alternatives to the Keystone Exam graduation requirements. We will share more information before the law takes effect.”

In February of 2016, Wolf signed Senate Bill 880 into law. This delays the graduation requirement for the Keystone Exams, for two years or until the 2019-2020 school year. In addition, Wolf signed House Bill 202, known as Act 6, into law. This is a bill that amends the Public School Code. In other words, it allows students in career and technology education to demonstrate proficiency and readiness for high school graduation in an alternative pathway. Therefore it removes the need for the Keystone Exam.

Bethany Pagze, English teacher who gives the Keystone Exams, said, “I feel confident in the measures that we take to prepare our students for the current Keystone exam.” However, Pagze does indeed think a change to the Keystone is necessary. Pagze said, “Anyone who knows anything about assessments understands that just one assessment never truly shows what one student knows. I would love to eliminate the test entirely and utilize portfolios of students’ work as a graduation requirement. ”

Robyn Euker, the director of curriculum and instruction at Big Spring supports Wolf’s decision to provide an alternative pathway instead of the Keystone Exam. Euker said, “Just because you’re not a strong test taker, doesn’t mean you’re not prepared and ready for graduation. A test given on one time, on one day during your high school career should not dictate whether or not a student graduates.” Euker believes that the change is long  time coming and something she thinks is a step in the right direction.

Emily Young, a biology teacher at Big Spring has been giving the Keystone for three years. Young said, “I believe having an alternative option to an exam provides students with various strengths and learning styles- the ability to demonstrate what they’ve learned in a manner that best suits them.”

Laney Noreika, freshman at Big Spring High School took the Algebra Keystone last year. Noreika said, “Test taking has never been something I enjoy, and is something I have never really found to be necessary when there are other ways like presentations and speeches to test my knowledge.” Noreika has yet to take the Literature and Biology Keystone in her future years at the high school.