This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Testing might be over for Pennsylvania students this year, but debate about how one of the state’s standardized tests should change is just heating up.
Last week, the state Senate’s Education Committee unanimously passed a bill that would delay when the Keystone Exams, a statewide assessment of literature, Algebra I and biology, would take effect as a requirement for high school graduation.
Update: On Monday, June 15, the Pennsylvania Senate passed the bill, 49-0.
The lead sponsor of that bill, Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, said that even though the tests won’t be required to graduate until members of the Class of 2017 are seniors, the Keystones are already holding back students in his district, particularly those on a career and technical education track.
"The Solanco School District [in Quarryville] is a good example," said Smucker. "Forty-nine percent of their senior class typically attends the Career and Technology Center. The superintendent is telling me that quite a number of those students … would be held back for remediation."
Students have two chances to pass each Keystone. If they fail both times, as nearly a quarter-million have, according to a recent study by Research for Action, the state requires schools to administer remedial classes.
They then must complete a "project-based assessment" or PBA, a kind of computer-based quiz, in order to graduate. That costs districts time and money, for computers and staff.
Smucker called the PBAs "just unworkable," and said that delaying testing will do more than give districts a longer runway. It also gives legislators more time to tinker with the requirements.