February 20, 2015

PSEA urges state legislators to fix the Keystone Exams

PSEA believes that using Keystone Exams as a high-stakes graduation requirement creates negative consequences for students and takes graduation decisions away from local school districts and educators who know students best. 

 Keystone Exams Testimony - Feb 2015 
(Pictured: Oleksiak, Miller)

PSEA Vice President Jerry Oleksiak and Cumberland Valley teacher Jake Miller delivered that message in their testimony before the House Education Committee at a Feb. 12 hearing regarding the state's academic standards and the Keystone Exams. 

"For years, PSEA has maintained that it is inappropriate to base high school graduation decisions on state test results rather than the complete academic record of a student over the course of his/her academic career," Oleksiak said. "High-stakes exit exams are associated with increased dropout rates; narrowed curricula; decreases in student motivation to learn; and disproportionate harm to some of our most vulnerable students – those living in poverty, minority students, English language learners, and special needs students."

Miller, an American History teacher, described the ways high-stakes exit exams can hurt the overall education of his students. "To the student who fails these exams, the fallout can be absolutely awful. Those who fail the Keystone are placed in remedial courses to ensure that they will pass the exam. Oftentimes, these courses come at the expense of elective courses – like art, technology education, agriculture, engineering, and more."

Read the full testimony at www.psea.org/testimony

Oleksiak reiterated PSEA's position that Pennsylvania should return to using Keystone Exams as end-of-course exams, reversing the Corbett administration's decision to make them high-stakes exit exams in 2013. He emphasized the importance of allowing local school districts to make decisions about graduation eligibility.

"Educators are professionals. They know their students well. They know students' strengths and weaknesses. They know which students freeze on a standardized test, but can give content-rich presentations in class. They know which students have innate leadership skills, which students struggle to do their best work in the morning, but shine by afternoon, and which students collaborate exceptionally well in groups. Local school leaders know what the local community expects of their schools. Maintaining high standards at the state level while returning graduation decisions to the local level is an important step to help all students achieve."

Learn more about the Keystone Exams at www.psea.org/keystoneexams




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