The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) supports legislation approved today by the Senate Education Committee that provides multiple pathways for students to demonstrate readiness for high school graduation in addition to passing Keystone Exams. Senate Bill 1095 was introduced by Senator Thomas McGarrigle (R-Chester/Delaware) and amended in committee with language offered by Senator Robert Tomlinson (R-Bucks). PSBA urges the Senate to act swiftly on the legislation.
“This proposal allows various assessments and pieces of evidence to be used to show proficiency rather than using Keystone Exams as the sole consideration of student success. The proposal appropriately recognizes the achievement of knowledge and skills relevant to students’ individual career pathways,” said PSBA Chief Executive Officer Nathan G. Mains.
The plan under Senate Bill 1095 is the culmination of extensive discussion and collaboration with leaders in the Senate and the education community, including PSBA, and recommendations from the Department of Education. It revises the current graduation requirement that calls for students to pass the state-developed Keystone Exams in Literature, Algebra I and Biology in order to graduate. Although the graduation requirement was intended to begin in the 2016-17 school year, the General Assembly has delayed the effective date twice, with the mandate now set to become effective in the 2019-20 school year unless a new plan can be enacted.
As amended, Senate Bill 1095 builds a system with multiple pathways for students to demonstrate graduation readiness beyond simply passing each Keystone Exam. Students would meet local grade-based requirements and demonstrate competency through completion of one of these pathways: Option 1) achieve an established composite score based on performance on all three Keystone Exams; Option 2) achieve established equivalent scores on a variety of alternate assessments, achieve acceptance in a registered apprenticeship program after graduation, achieve admission to higher education, or achieve success in dual enrollment/postsecondary courses; Option 3) demonstrate competency through evidence specific to career and technical education (CTE) for students who are CTE concentrators (the bill simply clarifies this option which was passed into law just last year); and Option 4) present rigorous and compelling pieces of objective evidence relating to a student’s career, military or postsecondary objectives that reflect readiness for graduation. The evidence eligible to be presented and the amount of evidence required will be approved by the State Board of Education.
The bill further provides an additional year delay of the graduation requirement as a transition period to the new system, provides that a student with a disability who satisfactorily completes his or her individualized education program shall be granted a high school diploma, provides for the elimination of project-based assessments, places common-sense parameters on supplemental instruction relating to Keystone Exams, and addresses various other related issues.
“The education strategies used by our public schools are rigorous. In creating flexibility in state-level graduation requirements, Senate Bill 1095 recognizes the need for allowing various assessments and pieces of evidence to be used to show proficiency in the knowledge and skills relevant to students’ individual career pathways,” said Mains. “Additionally, students too often lose valuable instructional time to repeat standardized testing and remediation which may not have a bearing on their post-graduation goals and preparation. The provisions in SB 1095 are necessary to finally give clear direction and stability to our schools and children regarding graduation requirements.”
PSBA would like to extend sincere thanks to Senator McGarrigle, Senator Tomlinson, Chairman John Eichelberger (R-Blair) and Chairman Andy Dinniman (D-Chester) for their work on this vitally important issue.