Bill freeing Pa. students from standardized test graduation requirement advances in Statehouse

(WITF, file)

(WITF, file)

A new bill would scrap the idea that high school students in Pennsylvania need to score proficient on state standardized tests in order to graduate.

That plan, as originally signed into law in 2010, required students to pass Keystone Exams in Algebra, Literature and Biology.  It was supposed to go into effect for the class of 2017, but lawmakers pushed it back multiple times with concerns about student pass rates and the added costs districts were shouldering based on remediation.

Currently, it’s still set to affect the class of 2020.

Now, lawmakers want to offer students three other paths to a state-certified graduation, including one asking students to secure a letter guaranteeing full-time employment or the completion of an internship.

“We were getting a lot of concern from students, parents, school boards, teachers about this,” said State Sen. Tom McGarrigle, R-Delaware, sponsor of Senate Bill 1095.  “One-size-fits-all just doesn’t work today with these children.”

Another option would ask students to score “proficient” on one exam and “basic” on the other two.  Another allows students to graduate if they pass coursework in Algebra, Literature and Biology and also get a satisfactory score on the SAT, ACT, or an industry-based exam like the NOCTI or NIMS.

McGarrigle said much of the push-back he received about the Keystone Exams came from students accepted to Ivy League schools who had “extreme difficulty” passing them.

These new requirements, he said, will also make it easier for students to graduate who are aspiring to trades.

Some, though, believe these new requirements will harm students in low-income districts.

“We’re watering down the standards,” said Donna Cooper, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth.” And what I fear will occur is that the poorer school districts — those with the least resources — will revert back to relying on lower standards for their students so that they can hit higher graduation numbers.”

Other provisions in the bill include granting diplomas to students with disabilities who pass their Individualized Education Program, and to college-bound athletes who achieve at least a 2.0 G.P.A. in N.C.A.A. core courses.

The plan has already passed the state Senate, and moved unanimously out of the House Education Committee earlier this week.

Gov. Tom Wolf has previously indicated his support.

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