Keystone Exams to Replace PSSAs

By Amarilis Pacheco-Cruz

Beginning with the 2012-13 school year, students will no longer be taking the PSSAs because the tests have been replaced by the Pennsylvania Keystone Exams.

The Keystone Exams are end-of-course tests that are intended to assess students’ proficiency in the subjects Algebra 1, Literature and Biology. Keystone exams are similar to a final exam in college.

Because the exams are brand new, there are concerns about how to prepare students.

“I think the Keystone is going to be very hard for our high school students,” said Penn Manor School District Assistant Superintendent Dr. Cheryl A. Shaffer at the school board meeting on October 1.

“I am concerned about the Algebra 1 Keystone Exam that may cover more material and ask questions in a different way than we normally do in our Algebra 1 course,” said math teacher Jen Kroesen. “It is a good opportunity for us as teachers to review our curriculum and make any necessary updates. It will also put more accountability on the students to study and pass the exam.”

Starting in 2017, students will be required to pass the Keystones in order to graduate from high school. Beginning with the class of 2019, students will also take a composition test, and the class of 2020 will take an additional test in civics. The composition exam will be first given in the 2015-16 school year and cvics in 2016-2017.

There is current legislation that is being proposed that would make Keystone Exams in Algebra II, Geometry, Chemistry, US History, and World History available as an option to schools. But at this point, this is only being proposed.

According to Dr. PhilGale, Penn Manor High School principal, the school is taking a number of steps to prepare students to take the Keystone exams.

“We are having students take full year courses in English and math at this time and may have students take full year classes in Biology,” said Dr. Gale. “We are also offering the Keystone Prep Sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays for students who do not have English or math during the fall semester.“

Teachers at the high school are also taking steps to help students prepare for the exams.

“In order to prepare my students this year for the Algebra 1 exam in my Geometry courses, I am doing practice problems for warm-ups. This is a good review and a way to re-teach material these students may not have seen for up to two years,” said Kroesen. “I have chosen warm-up questions based on the sample problems and standards that will be covered in the Keystone exam.”