HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A state panel has approved regulations that set tougher standards for Pennsylvania students in order to graduate from high school.

Thursday's 3-to-2 vote by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission represents near-final approval for what's called the Pennsylvania Core Standards and assessments associated with the standards, including Pennsylvania's Keystone Exams for high-school students.

The standards still require a legal review from the state attorney general's office.

Students in the class of 2017 - current high-school freshmen - will be the first to have to demonstrate their understanding of literature, biology and algebra in order to get a diploma under the new standards.

Joan Benso of the nonprofit Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children says the regulations will ensure that Pennsylvania students are academically prepared for 21st century careers.