By: Nathaniel McCloud
A bill recently passed in the State Legislature would extend suspension of the Keystone graduation requirements for high school students though the 2021-2022 school year. Governor Tom Wolf has said that he will sign the bill into law.
The Pa. Public School Code currently requires that students pass the Keystone exams — state standardized tests in Algebra, Biology, and English — to graduate from high school. In Feb. 2016, Governor Wolf signed a bill that temporarily suspended the requirement, but that suspension expired this year. Some schools, including Elizabethtown Area High School, have retained the Keystones as a graduation requirement as district policy.
The new bill, which is sponsored primarily by Sen. Tom McGarrigle, also provides for alternative methods to fill the graduation requirement once it is reinstated, including proficient grades in alternative assessments, like ACT WorkKeys and service-learning projects.
While necessary to comply with federal provisions, the Keystones have proved difficult to implement. Of the students who took the Algebra Keystone at Elizabethtown Area High School in the 2016-2017 school year, just 76 percent received a proficient or advanced score, which is still significantly higher than the state average.
Both Sen. Ryan Aument and Rep. Dave Hickernell, both of whom represent Elizabethtown, voted for the bill. Aument was a sponsor of the bill.