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Changing the Finish Line: Implications of new graduation requirements in the School District of Philadelphia

PERC research is produced through collaboration between researchers from Research for Action and the School District of Philadelphia’s Office of Research and Evaluation. For more information, please visit

New graduation requirements, enacted in 2018 by Pennsylvania’s Act 158, are intended to codify high standards for all students and improve student achievement across Pennsylvania while also taking into account student strengths, interests, and career goals. Act 158 outlines five pathways to meeting this requirement, two of which—the Keystone proficiency and Keystones composite pathways—require demonstrating proficiency on Pennsylvania’s end-of-course subject exams for Literature, Algebra, and Biology.

Just over one-third of students in the historical sample achieved Keystone scores sufficient to pass the Keystone graduation pathways under the new policy. An additional 10% of students would have almost met graduation requirements through Keystone pathways, needing to earn a Basic on only one additional exam to meet the Keystone requirements to graduate, had they been in place.

For the high school graduating classes of 2018 and 2019, only 35% of students would have met the Keystone graduation pathways requirement if Act 158 had been in place.

Source: Administrative data from the School District of Philadelphia, SY2014-15 – SY2018-19

Read the report to find out more and explore implications for the School District of Philadelphia