Pennsylvania Ignores Testimony and Keeps Keystone Exams as Graduation Requirement

Sad news for anyone who had hope that the PA Board of Education would heed the warnings of school boards, superintendents, principals, teachers, civil rights groups, parents & students...

"The State Board of Education approved a controversial plan... to require all Pennsylvania students to pass proficiency tests in science, math, and language arts before graduating. The 13-4 vote to approve the so-called Common Core standards came after state officials said they would limit the proficiency tests to public schools, and agreed not to impose a statewide curriculum or reading lists, or expand the collection of students' personal data."

Read more here.

"The standards are a voluntary initiative, so far adopted by 45 states, that establishes proficiency requirements for kindergarten through 12th grade in the three core areas. Tests in composition, civics, and government would be added later."

They are "voluntary," but states can't compete for $110 Billion in Federal Race to the Top Money, unless they sign on to the Common Core State Standards.

Six concerns (and there are many more) about the tests include:

1. Developmentally inappropriate standards in the early years.

"The core standards being proposed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers are off the mark for our youngest learners. We at Gesell Institute call for a new set of standards for Kindergarten through Grade 3 that adhere to solid principles of child development based on what research says about how and what young children learn during the early years, birth to age eight. The proposed standards for Kindergarten through grade 3 are inappropriate and unrealistic. Policy must be set based on hard data and not on unrealistic goals surrounding test scores."
2. Common Core Standard aligned state exams (Which are Keystones Exams in PA) especially hurt special education students, English-language learners, Black and Latino students and widen the achievement gap in NY. 
"According to the Annenberg report, schools with the highest concentration of special-education students saw a 64% decrease in reading scores and 72% decline in math scores. Those with the most English-language learners dropped by roughly 70% in both reading and math.
Black and Latino students suffered a 56% decrease in reading scores and more than a 60% decrease in math scores from 2012 to 2013, according to the report."

3. If we want our kids to"compete...locally, nationally and internationally..." like Govornor Corbett does, why aren't we following China's lead?

"No standardized tests, no written homework, no tracking. These are some of the new actions China is taking to lessen student academic burden. The Chinese Ministry of Education released this week for public commentary. The The Ten Regulations to Lessen Academic Burden for Primary School students are introduced as one more significant measure to reform China’s education, in addition to further reduction of academic content, lowering the academic rigor of textbooks, expanding criteria for education quality, and improving teacher capacity." Read more here.

4. Our voices are ignored by our Governor and his appointed State Board of Education. This includes public testimony by Charles E. Madden, III, who has served as a Director on the Radnor Township School Board for 18 years. 

He testified that, "Radnor Township School District has always been, and continues to be, a high-achieving district serving a community that expects excellence and adherence to the highest standards of education for our students. Families move to our community so that their children can attend Radnor schools. Earning a 'Radnor' diploma means something, to those who earn it, to the colleges and employers who seek Radnor students, and to all community members who, whether they have kids in the schools or not, contribute to that education."

Both high-achieving districts and students, along side struggling districts and their students are being affected by these tests.

5. Civil Rights Groups, like the NAACP call this a "Quiet Massacre."

Only about one-third of students from grades 3-8 passed the new common core aligned math and reading proficiency tests in NY, down from nearly a two-thirds in 2012. The new tests are more closely aligned to academic standards adopted by nearly every other state, but critics say children weren't properly prepared to the roll out.

Read more here.

Joan Duvall-Flynn, ED D, Education Committee, PA State Conference NAACP states,

"Members of the State Board of Education sit quietly and unknown, but wield immense power over the families of Pennsylvania and the lives of the young. The public has not elected them.  By and large, the public does not know who they are or what they do. And yet, this appointed body controls whether or not our young can move into the future of their dreams and create a stable life.  How? This State Board manipulates, through the regulations it passes, what must be taught in school and who can leave high school with a diploma that will allow them to access further training, careers, or the military."

She continues, "The13 members of the Board who voted on the Keystone requirement know and are fully aware that a single test-score does not reflect a student’s knowledge, ability or potential. They know clearly that the Corbett cuts in funding to public education have caused chaos in school districts across Pennsylvania. They know that many districts cannot provide the materials, technology, supports or human resources needed to prepare all students equally or well."

 Even affluent districts will suffer greatly from the financial burden of this unfunded mandate. 

If it looks like politicians are making decisions without children's best interest in mind, if it smells like politicians are making decisions about education without any expertise in education, if it sounds like politicians are trying to waste our public tax dollars...

Need I say more?


  1. These tests just add to the already heightened stress level on our students, and it will only get worse - it's horrific:

    "Beginning with the class of 2017 – this year’s ninth grade class – students will be required to pass three Keystone Exams – Algebra I, biology and literature – or a comparable assessment to obtain a high school diploma. The class of 2019 – this year’s seventh grade class – will be required to pass four Keystone Exams – Algebra I, biology, literature and composition. The class of 2020 – this year’s sixth grade class – and beyond will be required to pass five Keystone Exams – Algebra I, biology, literature, composition, and civics and government."


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