Gov. Wolf signs bill allowing tech students to waive Keystone exams

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The Keystone exams will not be a high school graduation requirement for Pennsylvania’s career and technology students.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation Wednesday that allows students in vocational education programs to meet their graduation requirements in other ways, such as obtaining a competency certification in their program of study.

Wolf said the Keystone exams don’t always reflect the reality of a student’s educational experience.

“We are a commonwealth blessed with a wide variety of career opportunities and industries that our young people must enter if we want to stay competitive in the global economy,” Wolf said in a statement. “We want them to be prepared with the necessary skills that employers need in order to allow our industries to thrive, and enable young people to grow their own families right here in Pennsylvania.”

House Bill 202, now Act 6 of 2017, was co-authored by House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) and Rep. Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill/Dauphin).

“If there is another exam that is more indicative of what their educational pathway is and what their skills are – in other words, you can be a great welder. We want you to be a great welder. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to pass the Keystone biology exam to get your diploma,” Tobash said

A law enacted last year delayed the Keystone exams as a high school graduation requirement until the 2018-19 school year.

Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester) has introduced legislation that would eliminate the Keystone Exam and replace it with SATs.

“I do not understand why we are spending over 1.3 billion in the last eight years on these tests and we’re simply saying we’re going to give them but they really don’t count because everyone is going to graduate anyway through the alternate pathways,” Dinniman said.

“I’ll take a closer look at it, but I think what I am doing here and what the Department of Education is trying to do, they’re on the right track,” Wolf said of Dinniman’s proposal.

Matthew Stem, a deputy secretary at the Pennsylvania Department of Education, says lawmakers don’t want the exams to be a barrier to a student’s success. He says lawmakers are looking at other ways to amend the Keystone Exam.

“We believe the Keystone Exams too narrowly define what college and career readiness means for Pennsylvania students and we believe that there are more options to demonstrate readiness, and we look forward to working with lawmakers in operationalizing those,” Stem said.

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