State Sen. Andy Dinniman and nearly every school superintendent in southeastern Pennsylvania oppose the proposed Keystone Graduation Exams and have asked Pennsylvania’s IRRC (Independent Regulatory Review Commission) to vote against the exams on Nov. 21.
Fully 58 of the 61 superintendents and all four intermediate unit directors serving students and taxpayers in Chester, Montgomery, Delaware, and Berks counties believe there are “major challenges and concerns with the current implementation strategy of the Keystone Exams and Pennsylvania’s school accountability system,” according to the signed letter delivered to IRRC commissioners on Nov. 4.
In addition, many local school districts have passed resolutions opposing the Keystone Graduation Exams, including the Great Valley School District, Tredyffrin-Easttown School District, Radnor School District, and Haverford School District. Last week, the Coatesville School Board unanimously passed a resolution opposing the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s general approach toward the standardization of education.
The school districts’ concerns include new, substantial costs to local taxpayers in the hundreds of millions of dollars; the inherent unfairness of the proposed high-stakes tests; a complete lack of direction from the Pennsylvania Department of Education over how to implement and use the Keystone Exams; and perhaps most importantly, the negative impact that preparing for and taking so many required standardized tests has on public schools – many of which are performing excellently.
Radnor school officials, for example, say that “the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA), including the Keystone Exams, does more to interfere with our mission than to help."
“Radnor Township School District has always been, and continues to be, a high-achieving district serving a community that expects excellence and adherence to the highest standards of education for our students,” said school board member Charles E. Madden III to lawmakers at an August 26 hearing, noting the district’s 95 percent college and advanced-schooling rate. “There is no benefit to students or teachers when instructional days are lost reviewing for these tests. … There is no benefit to the taxpayers when the costs of administering these tests far exceed any value to our district.”
The Keystone Graduation Exams are conservatively estimated to cost local taxpayers $300 million statewide. West Chester Area School District officials say they face $250,000 in new annual costs for the Keystone Biology Test alone.
Like the Radnor school board, the West Chester school board is preparing to soon pass its own resolution opposing the proposed Keystone Graduation Exams.
Dinniman said, “School boards and top school officials, from Avon Grove to Norristown to West Chester, call the Keystone Graduation exams an unfunded mandate that will rob local taxpayers of money and students of important classroom time.
“While we are all for accountability and we are all for higher academic standards, we stand united against the Keystone Graduation Exams and the bogus hope they give in the false name of accountability and higher standards,” Dinniman said.
Dinniman’s most recent effort against the Keystone Graduation Exams is his filing of seven Right-to-Know requests asking the Pennsylvania Department of Education for how individual school districts fared in the trial Keystone Exams given last year and relatedly, how much individual school districts might have to spend to retest and remediate students who do not test well.
“I filed the Right-to-Know requests because Pennsylvania is on the cusp of placing a new burden on its students and stands ready to do so without knowing the cost to local school districts and their taxpayers,” Dinniman said. “Not only are they detrimental to our students’ education; they are the ultimate example of another unfunded mandate being placed on local taxpayers.”