Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Alternative to Keystone Exams Floated

A coalition of parent, teacher and education advocacy groups have presented an alternative to the graduation tests proposed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The department’s proposal would require seniors to pass a series of tests before they can earn a high school diploma. The proposal dubbed “Keystone Examines 2.0” by the ad hoc “Coalition for Effective and Responsible Testing” would create tests that would be given as part of a course and would be a portion of an overall grade. It would also provide for other alternative means of proving competency in a given subject. The goal is to address some of the concerns voiced by the members of the coalition. Among them; the high-stakes tests are unfair to some students, the tests could lead to higher drop out rates, the gatekeeper tests are not a fair assessment system and the tests would take away from the time teachers spend on items not on the test but important to future success. Under the proposal the tests would be reviewed by teachers, administrators and the state and then assessed to make sure they are providing a good indication of future success. Keystone Examines 2.0 also would prevent the tests from becoming mandatory until they are approved as an alternative to the PSSA tests. The current proposal has the test becoming mandatory in 2015. State Senator Andy Dinniman has scheduled a meeting between the State Department of Education and those in opposition to the plan with the goal of finding a compromise between the two plans. That meeting is set for next week.

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