New Pa. tests to assess high school competency

    Seventh graders in Pennsylvania’s public schools will face new high school graduation requirements. State regulators approved the controversial new exams in December.

    Seventh graders in Pennsylvania’s public schools will face new high school graduation requirements. State regulators approved the controversial new exams in December.

    Listen:
    [audio: 100112sptest.mp3]

    Teacher’s unions, education advocates and some school boards fought hard against the new regulations. But the state board of education recently approved the use of exams toward graduation.

    Now, current seventh graders will take an exam after completing certain high school classes, such as Algebra I and II. The exam will then account for a third of the class grade. The tests will cover math, social studies, science and English.

    Joe Torsella is chairman of the Pennsylvania state board of education.

    Torsella says, with 500 separate school districts employing their own graduation standards, the new rules are meant to create a uniform basis for earning a high school degree.

    Torsella: So there’s been a lot of conversation around how do you make a diploma mean what it says. And, how do you make a diploma in the 21st century mean the same thing for a student in one corner of the state as it does for a student in the opposite corner.

    Students who do not pass have the option of retaking the test. Beginning with the students now in seventh grade, the exams will replace the current standardized 11th grade tests.

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