Delay in Keystone Exam program still sought
By Jodi Weigand
Published: Sunday, June 2, 2013, 12:16 a.m.
With questions still swirling about proposed changes to state-mandated curriculum and student assessment, Alle-Kiski Valley school district leaders say Senate Democrats' call to halt the implementation isn't such a bad idea.
In mid-May, senators said they want Gov. Tom Corbett to stop the process in order to give the Legislature time to thoroughly review a state Department of Education proposal.
The department wants to use the Keystone Exams as a high school graduation requirement for the Class of 2017 and adopt the PA Common Core, a nationally developed set of academic standards.
There are currently three Keystone Exams, which are rigorous, end-of-course type exams in Algebra I, biology and English literature.
This is the first school year that students statewide took the tests.
“The tests are all relatively difficult,” said Valley High School Principal Jon Banko, “and if the teacher says a student has done a satisfactory job (and passes the course), and then to have the state turn around and say the kid can't graduate because they didn't pass that test … It's a tough pill for districts to swallow.”
Senate leaders said it could cost districts statewide an additional $300 million to implement the Keystones and new standards.
But the Education Department contends costs associated with the new standards would be offset by the elimination of some current requirements.
Following the request from Senate Democrats, Corbett consulted with the Legislature and directed the Education Department to recommend minor modifications to the regulations, said department spokesman Tim Eller.
He asked the State Board of Education to consider the amendments in July, Eller said. If approved, the regulation changes would go to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, then to the attorney general.
The State Board, on which the House and Senate education committee majority and minor leaders have seats, works with the Education Department to develop and adopt regulations for basic and higher education.
Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon County, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, intends to schedule a committee hearing as soon as possible to get more information on the proposed mandates.
“I want to get to what's this really going to cost, and get real information and dispel misinformation,” he said. “There is so much misinformation surrounding this. I want to make sure we're doing what is best for students.”
Making the tests a graduation requirement has been in the works for some time now. So many districts, believing the changes were certain, already have taken steps to prepare by revising curriculum and creating remediation classes for students who fail a Keystone.
“We get samples of what will be on the Keystone Exams and will make sure that they are covered in our curriculum,” said Matt Kruluts, K-12 principal in the Leechburg Area School District. “We have spent a lot of time organizing our courses to meet the needs of the Keystone Exams.”
New Kensington-Arnold School District Superintendent John Pallone, a former state representative who was on the House Education Committee, said he is against high-stakes testing.
“I was not in favor of using standardized testing as a criteria to establish success and graduation,” he said during his tenure in the Legislature. “I probably still don't agree that the standardized test alone should be the sole measure for graduation or not. … It can't be any one factor saying, ‘You're going to accomplish or you're not.' ”
That's one reason why Sen. Jim Brewster, D-McKeesport, who represents much of the A-K Valley, introduced legislation to create a bipartisan commission to review and recommend changes to the state's current student assessment methods.
His bill is part of the Senate Democrats' efforts to review the Common Core and Keystones.
“I have made it clear that I think standardized testing is flawed, and it has been for quite some time,” Brewster said. “If you're a teacher and you have a class with a number of students with learning disabilities, they take the same test as a teacher with all accelerated students.
“That, in and of itself, should tell you it's not a fair test.”
He believes the state needs to listen to education stakeholders when developing a test to assess students' basic skills.
“What I suggested is to make (the commission) bipartisan, include teachers, parents, students, the (Pennsylvania) School Boards Association, unions and superintendents,” Brewster said. “We need to stop dictating what's good for somebody else.”
Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writers Brian Rittmeyer and Tom Yerace contributed.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Agreement nears on Springdale police chief’s duties
- A-K Valley students offer F.R. Strong support
- Bronze flower vases stolen from cemetery
- Watch out for the freeze
- Leechburg adds 2 part-time police officers
- Burrell school board reviews security plan
- Cheswick fire truck to arrive in June
- Boy, 15, charged with trying to rob gas station in Harmar
- Lower Burrell hires officer from Arnold
- Peregrine falcons hang around Tarentum Bridge
- Allegheny Valley considers switching architects for Colfax assessment