Month: June 2015

RFA Releases Analysis of 2013-14 Data on Keystone Exams


Report Release: Pennsylvania’s Keystone Exams:
An Analysis of 2013-14 Publicly-Available Data 

Beginning with the class of 2017, Pennsylvania students’ performance on Keystone exams will play a major role in whether they receive high school diplomas.

This policy, and the state’s move toward test-based accountability, has been controversial. Many supporters believe that exit exams will ensure greater equity in academic expectations statewide, while opponents contend that exit exams will narrow curriculum, burden both teachers and students, and negatively impact graduation rates–especially for disadvantaged students.

Earlier this year, test results for the 2013-14 administration of the Keystones were released; the results provide an initial indication of how students are performing.

RFA’s analysis of these data found:

  • The percentage of students scoring proficient on their first attempts on the Keystone exams ranged from 52 (Algebra) to 62 percent (Literature). 
  • Traditionally-disadvantaged students experienced particular difficulty: first administration proficiency rates ranged from 43 percent (Literature) to 31 percent (Biology).
  • Statewide, more than a quarter-million re-tests resulted in another round of below-proficient scores. Twice-failed exams trigger a requirement for districts and charters to administer labor-intensive alternative, project-based assessments.
  • If graduation requirements were in full effect today, a broad range of districts across the state–urban, rural, and suburban–would need to administer a high volume of alternative assessments.

The rollout of the graduation requirements policy is complex, and some challenges in the first years of implementation are to be expected. Still, the assessment results bear careful watching. Read the brief for more.

RFA Featured in Education Week

This week’s edition of Education Week is focused on the opt-out movement, and features an interactive section called “Inside Opt-Out: The Pushback Against Testing.” An RFA commentary piece, authored by Jessica Beaver and Lucas Westmaas, is featured, as is a multimedia activity based on a simulation of opt-outs from our PACER brief. You can read the Ed Week feature here: