Friday, March 11, 2011

Keystone Exams Update and FAQs

Update August 31. 2012

Keystone Exams: During the 2011-2012 school year, PSSA training, testing and retesting impacted 45 instructional days in my school district.  That was just under 25% of the school calendar.  For 2012-2013 we anticipate that 106 instructional days, or 57% of the academic calendar will be impacted.
Pennsylvania Department of Education – Standards Aligned Systems website
Pennsylvania’s State Assessment System Proposed Transition to Keystone Exams July 2012
More info from PDE on Keystone Exams:

Update August 11. 2012
Originally Published: 8/11/2012
Districts worry about timing of Keystone Exams
Officials favor new tests but fear subjects may not be fresh in kids' minds
David Mekeel Reading Eagle
High school juniors may have to dig deep into the recesses of their memories in the upcoming school year, thanks to a new state testing system.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has announced the new Keystone Exams will replace the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSA, tests for 11th-graders. The state has used the PSSAs to meet testing requirements in the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Update August 7, 2012 
The Keystone Exams will be administered starting in the spring of 2013 and will replace the 11th grade PSSA tests beginning in the 2012-13 school year.
Frequently Asked Questions on Keystone Exams
Coatesville Area School District Updated: 7/23/2012
In July 2012, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) released additional important information about Keystone Exam implementation.  As a District, we feel that it is important to keep our parents and community informed as to the educational changes that will impact their children. As a result, we have created a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Keystone Exams is provided below.

PA Department of Education July 2012

Pennsylvania’s State Assessment System

Proposed transition to the Keystone Exams (36 slides)

Update July 17, 2012:

New Keystone Exam Test Requirements Shake Up Cheltenham and Other School Districts
Cheltenham Citizen’s Call (no by line) Posted on July 17, 2012
Last May the PA State Board of Education set in motion a process for establishing the state’s new Keystone exams as the yardstick that will determine whether high school students measure up to graduation standards. The plan was to phase in the Keystone tests with the graduating class of 2017 being the first to be required to pass or “show proficiency” on three of the end-of-course exams: Algebra I, biology and literature. An earlier proposal had the class of 2015 being the first required to pass the exams for graduation.
Last Tuesday, however, a Department of Education (DEd) directive landed on the desk of school administrators across the state, including that of Cheltenham’s Assistant Superintendent Michael Lowe, which added a new wrinkle to plans for the roll-out of the Keystones, which are designed to be rigorous, end-of-course assessments. The updated timeline for all grade levels included testing for next year’s 11th graders in Algebra I, biology and literature.
Prior to last week’s announcement it had been understood that 11th graders in 2012-13 would be getting a pass on the tests, having to take neither the Keystones nor the PSSAs. However, DEd reversed course and instituted the testing requirements for the 11th graders as a part of the measure of schools’ “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind law.
According to Cheltenham Board President Tina Viletto, the change has left school districts scrambling on two counts. First, how do they fairly and appropriately test 11th graders in subjects that they may have taken as long as three or four years ago? (Algebra I is typically taken in eighth grade and biology in ninth grade.) Second, with the switch to the Keystone course-specific testing from the more generalized skill-based PSSAs, how do districts measure AYP from one year to the next with the switch to a radically different test? 

Update May 11, 2012 Keystone Exams:

State Board of Education favors reducing graduate requirement tests

By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 11, 2012 12:34 am

With $23.2 million already invested in developing mandatory state tests for high school graduation, the state Board of Education has voted to move forward with the exams but to require fewer of them.  The state board Thursday recommended considering changes to the plan it passed in 2010 for Keystone Exams. The plan had called for the state to develop 10 Keystone Exams in various disciplines and require students to be proficient in six of them.
But on a 13-0 vote, the board favored reducing the number of exams required for graduation to five. It also called for developing five others that would be voluntary -- if enough money is available.
The change isn't final until it goes through the regulatory process, including input from the public, state legislators and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission.

Update March 27, 2012: 
Pa. Senate Education Committee shows its disapproval to Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed changes to the Keystone exams

By JAN MURPHY, The Patriot-News  Published: Tuesday, March 27, 2012, 2:30 PM

The Senate Education Committee showed how serious its opposition is to Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposal to change the Keystone Exam state testing program.

The committee passed two bills intended to give lawmakers some leverage in ongoing talks with the Corbett administration, which wants to trim the number of course-specific Keystone exams being developed from 10 to 3. It is proposing to keep the Keystone exams in Algebra I, biology and literature, but drop the ones proposed in social studies

Update: February 7, 2012 (as part of Governor Corbett's 2012-2013 Budget Proposal
PR Newswire also reports that this budget allocates $15.4 million to implement Keystone Exams, which are rigorous, end-of-course assessments for high school students. The number of exams will be reduced from 10 to three and the requirement for them to be factored into a course grade will be eliminated. However, beginning in 2017, successful completion of the Keystone Exam or a project-based alternate will be required for graduation from high school.

Updated January 16, 2012: Click here for items tagged "Keystone Exams" at the Harrisburg Patriot News website:

Update: Friday, 22 July 2011 19:09
Keystone Exams process "goes to sleep" for a year Written by  Mary Wilson
Raise your hand, high school student readers, if you love budget cuts. 
The Department of Education doesn't have enough money to administer the Keystone Exams this year.   The Keystones are spankin'-new state tests that could have hit classrooms this coming academic year, at the discretion of school districts.  There are ten prototypes, for ten different subjects, but only three are pencil-ready: algebra I, literature, and biology.

Keystone Exams Update (March 2011)
(From the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District website)

An important message about Keystone Exams was recently received from the Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Ronald Tomalis.
Key points are noted below:
  • Algebra 1 students in grades 8 and below will be required to take the Algebra 1 Keystone Exam in May 2011 as previously announced. All students participating in the May Algebra 1 testing will be deemed proficient regardless of individual scores.
  • Fiscal constraints at the State level will delay the implementation of additional Keystone Exams.
  • No Keystone Exams will be administered in the 2011-2012 school year. Students who complete Algebra 1, World Literature (Composition Keystone Exam) and Biology in 2011-2012 will be deemed proficient by the State in these subject areas without taking the exam.
  • During the 2012-2013 school year, Keystone Exams in Literature, Composition, Algebra 1 and Biology will be administered.
  • The Department of Education still intends to fully implement all Keystone Exams, but on a delayed schedule.  

Here is the March 8th, 2011 letter from Acting Secretary of Education, Ronald Tomalis followed by some Keystone Exam FAQs provided by the Department of Education:

Dear Superintendents, I.U. Executive Directors, Charter School Administrators and CTC Directors,

The 2011-2012 State Budget proposal presented by Governor Corbett today includes many difficult decisions to address a significant budget shortfall. While the Department remains committed to the new system of high school graduation requirements that took effect just over one year ago, fiscal constraints will delay implementation of certain provisions, including the use of Keystone Exams during the 2011-2012 school year.

The Governor’s proposal reflects a one-year pause in the development and implementation of Keystone Exams. It is important to note that this delay will not adversely impact students.

Fortunately, in developing this initiative the State Board of Education anticipated that fiscal challenges might require course corrections in implementation of the reform and included a waiver provision to ensure that no student is negatively affected by a delay in implementation.

The additional time also will allow districts to make certain that local curriculum is fully aligned with the content assessed by Keystones and to provide associated professional development.

The Department’s work on other components of the new high school graduation requirements – including development of the project-based alternative assessments – will continue to move ahead. Additionally, the voluntary model curriculum, classroom diagnostic tools and other SAS resources – key components of the broader reform – will continue to serve students and schools
during 2011-2012.

Attached, we’ve provided a Frequently Asked Questions document that responds to potential questions surrounding the implementation of Keystone Exams. Thank you for your ongoing support in implementing this initiative, and for all your work on behalf of Pennsylvania’s school children.

We’ll continue to be in touch.

Ronald J. Tomalis
Acting Secretary of Education

Keystone Exams FAQs

1. Is the PDE still going to implement the new system of high school graduation requirements?

Yes; however, fiscal constraints will delay implementation of certain provisions,
including the use of Keystone Exams during the 2011-2012 school year.

2. Why the delay?

The delay is a result of a combination of factors including the $20 million cost
anticipated for 2011-12. In addition these exams are rigorous and early results from the field tests and Class Diagnostic tests indicate that providing schools with an additional year to align their curriculum to this more challenging content is necessary. Lastly, the project-based assessment component of the Chapter 4 regulations requires additional time for development and field testing.

3. When will the specific Keystone Exams be available?

During 2012-2013, the following exams will be available: Literature, English
Composition, Algebra I, and Biology. A Social Studies Keystone will be field tested in 2012-2013 for use during 2013-2014.

4. When will the Keystone Exams replace the grade 11 PSSAs?

The PSSA will continue through 2012-2013. We expect the Keystones to be approved and in use for AYP during 2013-2014. This timeline aligns precisely with the transition plan for the newly-adopted Pennsylvania Common Core Standards.

5. Will PDE still provide supports to districts?

Yes. The Voluntary Model Curriculum, Classroom Diagnostic Tools (CDT), and other SAS resources will not be impacted by the one-year delay in Keystone Exam development and administration.

6. How will this change in the schedule impact students in the Classes of 2015, 2016, and beyond?

The State Board’s rulemaking provides adequate flexibility in the language of Chapter 4 Regulations:

“Students who will graduate in the 2014-2015 school year or thereafter, who successfully complete courses… for which Keystone Exams or local validated assessments were not available at the time the course was completed, shall be deemed proficient for purposes of this section.”  Essentially, these students are exempt from the state proficiency requirement. Local district requirements will not be impacted.

7. Is there a guarantee of funding for Keystones to continue in 2012-2013?

The Keystone Exams create an opportunity for consistency in the rigor of requirements for all students in Pennsylvania public high schools prior to graduation therefore, it is imperative that we continue with this effort. PDE remains committed to the Keystone program and expect it to continue subject to annual funding.

8. Should School Districts continue, as planned, to participate in the spring 2011 Keystone Exam testing program?

Yes. It is important to participate for two reasons. First, the data will be used to set the cut scores for the performance levels. Second, districts will receive useful Keystone Exam results for the students who participate.

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