PSEA supports Keystone Exams 2.0
PSEA strongly supports a new plan released today dealing with the high school exit exams. The new proposal, called “Keystone Exams 2.0,” addresses concerns of PSEA members.
A broad-based coalition representing parents, teachers, school administrators, special-needs students and minority groups joined with legislators on April 22 in a Capitol news conference to announce their support for an alternative to the proposed “Keystone Exams” high school exit tests.
The Coalition for Effective and Responsible Testing called for a new dialogue with state officials of the Department of Education, on an alternative plan the groups have named “Keystone Exams 2.0.” PSEA is a member of the coalition.
“This proposal takes the best of assessment research, work in other states and the previous Keystone Exams plan, to create a system that helps students achieve, makes high school diplomas meaningful, and is measurable,” said Caroline Allen, president of the Pennsylvania PTA, one of the organizations in the coalition.
Coalition members were joined at the Capitol news conference by state Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D-Chester), and state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia).
PSEA Treasurer Jerry Oleksiak, spoke on behalf of PSEA in support CERT plan at the news conference. Oleksiak, a special education teacher in the Upper Merion Area School District, said, “The CERT proposal provides for high-quality end-of-course exams that will help children, and will also help school districts that need to improve their local assessment systems. That’s the best way to ensure a meaningful high school diploma.”
The CERT group is backing a plan that would create a system of end-of-course final exams for high school students, to be created by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, worth no more than 20 percent of the student’s final grade, combined with a local assessment option. Unlike previous proposals by state officials, the Keystone Exams would not be high-stakes exit exams; passing would not be a state graduation requirement.
The PDE had previously proposed regulations requiring students to take subject-specific “graduation competency assessments” in addition to the already mandated Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests in reading, writing, math, and science. Students would have to pass one set of these state tests to graduate. Beginning in 2014, students who failed to score proficient on the PSSAs would have been required to take and pass the GCAs or risk being unable to graduate. PDE also previously proposed limiting the use of local assessments to standardized tests.
In March 2009, in light of legislative opposition, PDE, the chair of the State Board of Education, and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) announced an agreement as an alternative: a battery of new GCA tests, re-named “Keystone Exams.”
The PSBA/PDE/SBE proposal, negotiated without public input, would impose the high-stakes “Keystone Exams” on school districts through a cost-prohibitive system of tests, remediation, and validation.
Stinson R. Stroup, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, explained that the major problem with the GCA and Keystone Exams 1.0 is the punitive, high-stakes nature of the tests. “The previous proposal would not accurately measure whether a student is ready to graduate,” Stroup said. “The previous plan would not help students improve or reach graduation; in fact research in other states has shown that these types of tests increase dropout rates. They do not help children prepare for college or the work force.” PASA is backing the CERT plan.
The CERT group includes: Pennsylvania PTA; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People-PA; Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators; Pennsylvanians for the Education of Gifted Students; American Federation of Teachers-PA; Learning Disabilities Association of Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania Association of Career and Technical Administrators; Pennsylvania Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development; Pennsylvania Association of Agricultural Educators; Pennsylvania Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals; Pennsylvania Association of Pupil Services Administrators, Pennsylvania State Education Association; Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools; Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education; Pennsylvania Middle School Association; the Autism Society of America-PA; and National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest).
Details of the plan and remarks from the news conference are on PSEA.org. Please check back to PSEA.org for updates on Keystone Exams 2.0.
Video: PSEA Treasurer Jerry Oleksiak's remarks at the Aprill 22 news conference.