Bill to delay Keystone Exams awaits Wolf signature

Jessica Schladebeck

A bill to delay for two years a requirement that high school seniors pass Pennsylvania's Keystone Exams before graduation has made its way to the governor's desk.


Should Gov. Tom Wolf sign the bill, current high school freshman will become the first required to pass Pennsylvania's Keystone Exams in order to receive their diploma.

The proficiency tests in algebra I, biology and literature were approved as part of Pennsylvania Core standards — similar to the national Common Core — and implemented during the 2012-13 school year. As it currently stands, passing marks on the end-of-course exams are set to become a graduation standard for the class of 2017, or for those who are currently juniors.

Tom Wolf
Gov. Tom Wolf

The bill was first considered in the beginning of June and has since been passed between various committees. It was approved by the House in mid-January, and the Senate unanimously passed it last week.

In addition to delaying implementation, the legislation would also call on the Department of Education to investigate alternative methods for students to demonstrate proficiency — specifically project-based assessments — within six months of the bill becoming a law.

Under current law, students who fail the exams twice are entitled to supplemental instruction and have the option of taking a project-based assessment under a teacher’s supervision. However, most school officials feel the Department of Education has yet to provide clear guidelines for the process.

The Pennsylvania State Education Association voiced their support for the legislation.

"Passage of this legislation continues the progress we’ve been making in Pennsylvania and across the country in moving away from over reliance on standardized tests," said Jerry Oleksiak, the association's president. "Our members know from solid research and from our own classroom experience that forcing kids to take too many high-stakes standardized tests takes time away from actual teaching and real learning."

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at