Keystone Exam forms are blamed for incomplete profile woes
By Megan Harris
Published: Monday, Oct. 7, 2013, 11:55 p.m.
Educators and state officials agree Keystone Exams were the culprit in Friday's incomplete online release of the Department of Education's new school assessment system.
Thousands of students, proctors and administrators statewide failed to check the correct box that would indicate whether a student took the test for course credit or to meet federal requirements.
Acting Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq said the state shares the blame for those errors by failing to more clearly outline how to fill out test forms.
School Performance Profiles, the model approved to replace Adequate Yearly Progress goals mandated by No Child Left Behind, were delayed twice as state officials struggled to make corrections and verify basic, building-specific data. Pending those changes, more than 20 percent of the state's 3,000 schools requested that their data and test scores remain suppressed.
“Keystone was a problem, definitely, but they screwed up numbers as simple as how many kids we have in the building, too,” Plum Superintendent Timothy Glasspool said. “When we reported their errors, they told us our complaints were ‘unjustified.' They barely answer the phones as it is. They just didn't want to deal with us.”
Plum and more than 600 schools statewide chose to exclude data for their middle and high schools. Education Department spokesman Tim Eller reported last week that 1,444 other schools requested minor corrections.
“I estimate as many as 25 percent of our students were miscoded, and those are just the schools who saw their scores and decided to fight,” said Jim Buckheit, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.
In development for more than three years, School Performance Profiles feature a score for every school — from zero to 100, or up to 107 with extra credit. Depending on grade level, Keystone Exams account for up to 90 percent of a school's profile score.
“I believe there are many more who saw positive overall scores and decided they don't want to rock the boat,” Buckheit said.
Pennsylvania introduced Keystone Exams two years ago for biology, Algebra I and literature as end-of-course exams rather than the generic 11th-grade test mandated under its former model, the Pennsylvania System of Student Assessment.
The Education Department originally vowed to phase in Keystones, but a budget crunch last year prompted state officials to replace the exams at once.
All high school juniors took the three Keystone tests, even those who had not completed the corresponding courses — many solely to fulfill “adequate yearly progress” requirements still in place prior to federal approval of the No Child Left Behind waiver request in September.
“So whether you were in trigonometry, geometry or intro to algebra, if you were a junior, you took the test,” Buckheit said. “With AYP gone, that shouldn't happen again, but since every student in the state has to take them before they graduate, it could.”
Nearly every high school and some middle schools in Western Pennsylvania excluded themselves from the website's debut. New data will be released in January, Dumaresq said, noting that future Keystone editions will feature more prominent instructions for which boxes to check. Dumaresq is scheduled to hold a news conference on Tuesday to answer questions about the School Performance Profiles release.
Larry Robb, program director at Freeport Area School District, said he knew the changes were coming. The district adjusted its high school curriculum to require biology for all 10th-graders so students will be prepared for the Keystone biology exam, he said.
Alexis Trubiani, spokeswoman for Clairton City School District, blamed the state.
The Carlynton School District joined with its neighbors to schedule a handful of delayed school days so teachers and administrators can review the school's performance data as a group.
“Even with the glitches of releasing information, this is a much more equitable and robust way to access school district performances,” said Scott Koter, Kiski Area assistant superintendent.
Megan Guza, Pat Cloonan, Jodi Weigand and Mary Ann Thomas contributed to this report. Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- Likely $2.3B influx puts PennDOT big-ticket road projects in play
- Man shot by Pennsylvania state police at Pittsburgh International Airport was key witness in Massachusetts murder trial
- Hill District nonprofit’s finances are taking another dive
- Result hazy as historic-building vote nears
- Newsmaker: José M.F. Moura
- Newsmaker: Mary C. Burke
- Pa. child abuse statutes faulted as too narrow
- Newsmaker: Judith Tobe
- Natural history museum in the red
- Schmotzer says he got things done in Baldwin-Whitehall job
- 2 wounded in East Hills shooting