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School District projects 22 percent graduation rate in 2017

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

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In two years, Pennsylvania students will have to pass three standardized tests — the Keystone Exams — to graduate high school.

Right now, 65 percent of Philadelphia School District students graduate in four years, but District officials expect a big drop when the Keystone Exam requirement comes into full effect.

"While our graduation rate remained steady last year, extrapolating from current seniors, only 22 percent of the Class of 2017 will graduate on time," said a report published by the District in January. That estimate is based on the number of current seniors on track to pass all three Keystone Exams and obtain the requisite class credits to graduate this spring.

In 2008, Gov. Ed Rendell’s administration introduced the Keystone Exam as the state Graduation Competency Assessments (GCA). The state Board of Education approved the graduation requirement in 2009. Since then, use of the Keystone tests to determine graduation has triggered debate at the state and local level.

States use graduation requirements to assess school performance and ensure that graduates are prepared for college or the workforce. Fully 70 percent of students at the Community College of Philadelphia need to redo high school-level course work before moving on to college-level classes.

Under Gov. Tom Corbett, the number of tests to be rolled out in schools was reduced from 10 to three: biology, Algebra I and literature. The Corbett administration also pushed back the year when the tests would officially count toward a student’s graduation to the 2016-17 school year, meaning that current high school sophomores will be the first class affected.

Getting ready for the tests

Philadelphia is not alone in posting test scores that would lower its graduation rate.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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