Keystones are in, PSSA is out for 11th-grade


Juniors at Greencastle-Antrim High School get to be first. They are the debut class to take the Keystone Exams, which replace the Pennsylvania System of School Assesment for the Class of 2014. The Keystones differ from PSSA significantly, by evaluating knowledge in specific courses, compared to general tests in math, reading, writing and science, said school officials.

The PSSA scores were used to determine Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under the No Child Left Behind law. The Keystone Exams will measure AYP and they also fit into Pennsylvania’s new Common Core Standards, which support success in college and the workforce.

High school principal Ed Rife explained the new program to the school board Oct. 4.

“I’m excited to be making the transition to Keystone,” he said. “For the first time, last year the high school was on the PSSA warning list. We are now off it. The next challenge is the Keystone Exams.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Education switched to the Keystones this year, after plenty of advance notice. They apply to juniors as well as  underclassmen who have taken, or are now taking, Algebra I, English 10 and Biology.

By 2017, all students must demostrate proficiency in the three subjects. They are tested at the end of each class, rather than at a set time in the spring.

“The tests are end-of-course assesments, which make much more sense,” Rife continued. “This year the juniors may have had Algebra I in eighth grade. It will be interesting to see the results.”

Going forward, whenever students in any grade enroll in any of the three classes, they will take the Keystone at the end.

The current juniors and affected younger students will test Dec. 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13. Rife said that would include 526 in algebra, 348 in literature and 341 in biology. Second semester students will test in mid-May. Those numbers would be down to 100 to 150 per subject. The tests are broken into six modules, and G-AHS will host one per day. They include multiple choice and open-ended questions.

The scores were expected back by March, and if students failed, they would have to retake the Keystones. Enrichment courses would be offered inbetween. During the adaptation years, if students failed twice, the school would use other data, such as grades, to determine proficiency. Beginning with the Class of 2017, the students would have to do a project.

Director of education Bob Crider added, “Keystones are higher stakes than PSSA. The Pennsylvania Department of Education is looking at them as graduation requirements.”

The elementary and middle school grades will continue to take the PSSA assesments.