Tuesday, August 18, 2009

PA State Board of Education Approves High School Graduation Exit Exams with 14-2 Vote

Pennsylvania's Board of Education voted 14:2 to approve the Keystone Exams, high school graduation competency exit exams, despite the recent resistance by school boards, organizations, and politicians across the state since its proposal a couple of years ago.

The Board of Education's approval should not come as a surprise. The year-long moratorium was lifted in June. Senate Education Committee voted 10:1 to adopt a resolution in support of the most recent version of the Keystone Exam Plan on July 28; the House Education Committee nearly voted unanimously in favor of the high school graduation competency testing process that Governor Edward Rendell and State Education Secretary Gerald Zahorchak believe will ensure that the state's high school students graduate with a meaningful diploma. The recent shift in support of these measures is due to the fact that the plan looks quite different from its original draft.

So, if the No Child Left Behind law hasn't managed to close the achievement gap in seven years, will the Keystone Exams raise or frustrate academic success state-wide?

Three of the ten tests will be administered to high school students during the 2010-11 school year, the others will phase in through 2016. Test scores will count for one-third of the students' final grade. The Keystone Exams come at a production cost of nearly $200 million by an out-of-state company.

Before the Attorney General makes the Keystone Exams "state law" the House and Senate Education Committees along with the Independent Regulatory Commission will have to put their final approval on the proposal.

One has to wonder what role in the voting process did Pennsylvania's 3.2 billion dollar deficit play in the decision process of our "leaders." Did anyone consider the level of success the No Child Left Behind law has had over the past seven years, or lack thereof. Ready or not, it looks like high school graduation competency exams are coming to your school district soon.

Betcha the "politics" of the Keystone Exams makes for good readin'!