A top Pennsylvania official would like to see the state replace the Keystone exams with the SAT.
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Pennsylvania taxpayers are still spending tens of millions of dollars every year on the Keystone Exams, which have not been federally required for four years.
Federal law requires that all states administer a secondary-level standardized test; however, since 2015, when the No Child Left Behind Act was replaced, the state-specific Keystone Exams were no longer required. But rather than phase out the state-specific tests – which at least 12 other states have done – the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is still paying the tests’ creator, Minnesota-based Data Recognition Corp., tens of millions of dollars each year to administer and score the Keystone Exams, according to DePasquale.
“Pennsylvania should aggressively explore using a nationally recognized test that can open new doors for students rather than continuing to spend money on an exam that is no longer required,” DePasquale said. “For less than what Pennsylvania spends on the Keystone Exams, it could instead pick up the tab for every high school student to take the PSAT or SAT.”
Between 2015 and 2021, Pennsylvania will have spent nearly $100 million on the Keystone Exams, according to DePasquale.
“When the federal law changed in 2015, why didn’t Pennsylvania begin to phase out the Keystone Exams? I could understand if they used them for a short time after that, but it’s been four years —and if PDE completes the current contract they will have spent nearly $100 million,” DePasquale added.
Pennsylvania students could have instead been taking a nationally recognized test such as the SAT or ACT – which is shown to improve the rate at which students attend post-secondary education – at a lower cost than what has been paid for the Keystone Exams.
“Not only would this change benefit families who now have to pay out of pocket for their children to take these nationally recognized tests, it could help students who are not on a college track discover that they could succeed in college and possibly change the course of their future,” DePasquale said.
Many school district officials do not realize that the Keystone Exams, administered to all public high-school students in Pennsylvania, are not and will never be a graduation requirement, DePasquale said. Eliminating the Keystone Exams would allow teachers to spend more time instructing students on key concepts.
“There is much talk among educators about the Keystone Exams being a graduation requirement, but that never materialized,” DePasquale said. “In fact, under a state law enacted last year, passing the Keystone Exams is simply one of many means by which students can prove themselves ready to graduate.”
DePasquale announced last month that he is running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives 10th Congressional District.