AG report: Unnecessary standardized tests cost Pa. taxpayers $18 million |

AG report: Unnecessary standardized tests cost Pa. taxpayers $18 million

Deb Erdley
Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale

Pennsylvania taxpayers are paying nearly $18 million a year for unnecessary standardized tests administered to high school seniors across the state, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale charged in a report issued Wednesday.

The 18-page report “Where did your money go?” examines the costs associated with the Keystone Exams. DePasquale said his office found that the state paid the Data Recognition Corp. $17.6 million last year to administer and score the exams.

DePasquale said the state designates the test as a graduation requirement even though the federal law that mandated such testing lapsed in 2015 and many states have since replaced their state-specific tests with the SAT or ACT college admissions tests.

DePasquale said between 2015 and 2021, Pennsylvania will have spent nearly $100 million on the exams.

“When the federal law changed in 2015, why didn’t Pennsylvania begin to phase out the Keystone Exams? I could understand if they used them for a short time after that, but it’s been four years,” DePasquale said.

Mark DiRocco, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, said his group has stopped short of taking an official stand on the issue.

Although the exams are no longer specifically required, DiRocco said the U.S. Department of Education still requires states to administer a standardized test that aligns with its state education standards.

“I think many school administrators and principals would be OK with moving away from the Keystone Exams. The real question is how much would that cost and do other tests align to state standards sufficiently that the Department of Education would accept them,” DiRocco said.

DePasquale said eliminating the exams would save money and give teachers more time to focus on key instructional goals.

“Pennsylvania should aggressively explore using a nationally recognized test that can open new doors for students rather than continuing to spend money on an exam that is no longer required,” DePasquale said. “For less than what Pennsylvania spends on the Keystone Exams, it could instead pick up the tab for every high school student to take the PSAT or SAT.”

His auditors estimated the state could administer the SAT to every junior and senior in Pennsylvania for $13.3 million and add in the PSAT for all freshmen and sophomores for another $3.1 million.

“Not only would this change benefit families who now have to pay out of pocket for their children to take these nationally recognized tests, it could help students who are not on a college track discover that they could succeed in college and possibly change the course of their future,” DePasquale said.

In addition to the Keystone Exams, the Data Recognition Corp., which has headquarters in Minneota, also oversees the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests. It has collected $533 million for its services in Pennsylvania over the last decade, DePasquale said.

Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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