The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Latest News

November 27, 2012

Pa. students to take 1st Keystone Exams soon

PHILADELPHIA — School districts statewide will begin administering new standardized tests next week in math, English and science, exams that eventually all students will have to pass to earn a high school diploma.

The first wave of Keystone Exams starts Monday. Districts will begin testing all juniors in algebra 1, literature and biology; students in lower grades who have finished courses in those subjects will take the exams as well.

For 11th-graders, the Keystones replace the longstanding tests known as the PSSAs, or Pennsylvania System of School Assessment. Scores will have no bearing on students' academic records.

However, this year's eighth-graders will need to pass all three exams by their senior year in 2017 to graduate from high school.

Some districts are wary of the change. Students who took practice Keystone tests last year did not do well: less than 40 percent scored well enough to pass algebra I and biology, while about half made the grade in literature.

The suburban Philadelphia district of Council Rock is among those giving the exams next week. One concern is that many 11th-graders took algebra 1 so long ago that they need refresher lessons, Superintendent Mark Klein said.

The bigger issue, Klein said, is that while the district had a general idea how students would perform each year on the PSSAs, it's hard to predict how the new exams will match up with class material and teaching.

"We don't have a baseline for Keystones," he said.

State officials have attributed the poor showing on practice Keystones to unaligned curricula. Education Department spokesman Tim Eller said schools have been slowly shifting instruction toward the Common Core standard, on which the Keystones are based.

The tests, considered end-of-course assessments, are not pegged to a grade level. They feature multiple-choice and short-answer questions and are not timed; each exam is expected to take two to three hours. Students who fail any test can retake it multiple times.

The first Keystone testing window runs from Monday through Dec. 14. Other testing dates are Jan. 9-23, May 13-24 and, for summer school, July 29-Aug. 2.

Beginning with the juniors' results this year, state officials want English and math Keystones to replace the PSSAs for calculating the federal benchmark known as AYP — or "adequate yearly progress." Federal officials have not yet sanctioned the change, but Eller said the state expects approval since the Keystones are more rigorous than the PSSAs.

Starting with the class of 2019, students will have to pass Keystones in algebra 1, literature, biology and composition. For the class of 2020, students must pass those four plus a test in civics/government.

As funding allows, more Keystones will be developed in subjects such as chemistry, geometry, algebra 2 and world history. Those could be used for additional graduation requirements as districts see fit, Eller said.

State regulators first approved the Keystones in 2009. The tests were originally supposed to count as part of a student's course grade, but that is no longer true.

___

Follow Kathy Matheson at www.twitter.com/kmatheson

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News
  • Boston doctors can now prescribe you a bike

    The City of Boston this week is rolling out a new program that's whimsically known as "Prescribe-a-Bike." Part medicine, part welfare, the initiative allows doctors at Boston Medical Center to write "prescriptions" for low-income patients to get yearlong memberships to Hubway, the city's bike-share system, for only $5.

    April 16, 2014

  • treadmill-very-fast.jpg Tax deduction for a gym membership?

    April marks another tax season when millions of Americans will deduct expenses related to home ownership, children and education from their annual tax bill. These deductions exist because of their perceived value to society; they encourage behaviors that keep the wheels of the economy turning. So why shouldn't the tax code be revised to reward preventive health?

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Why Facebook is getting into the banking game

    Who would want to use Facebook as a bank? That's the question that immediately arises from news that the social network intends to get into the electronic money business.

    April 16, 2014

  • Classes to resume at Franklin Regional High School

    April 16, 2014

  • 10 things to know for today

    April 16, 2014

  • Search teams will send unmanned sub to look for missing Malaysian airliner

    Teams searching for a missing Malaysian airliner are planning for the first time to send an unmanned submarine into the depths of the Indian Ocean to look for wreckage, an Australian official leading the multi-nation search said Monday.

    April 16, 2014

  • bank1 West End bank robbed

    The West End branch of AmeriServ Financial was robbed Tuesday morning, two days before the branch is scheduled to close.

    April 15, 2014 2 Photos

  • weather_2 Old Man Winter returns to area

    Just when you think we’ve finally escaped the cold temperatures, winter swoops back in to remind us it’s not going away just yet.

    April 15, 2014 2 Photos

  • City seeks support for sewer revamp

    The city is looking for backup from the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority in spreading what they call “true” facts and figures regarding the city’s encompassing sewer revamp.

    April 15, 2014

  • Airport gets lift with $180G grant

    The John Murtha Johnstown–Cambria County Airport needs to replace some basic maintenance equipment: a pickup truck, painting machine, chain saw, weed eater, hand tools and more.
    So, on Tuesday, the airport’s authority agreed to accept Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Bureau of Aviation grant money that already has been tentatively allocated.

    April 15, 2014

Poll

Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads