Keystone Mixed Bag

The scores from the first round of Keystone Exam testing have been released.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, “The Keystone Exams are end-of-course assessments designed to assess proficiency” in a series of specific subject areas. Currently, students are assessed through this new format in Algebra I, Literature and Biology.

Similar to the Pennsylvania System of Scholastic Assessment (PSSA) that the Keystone Exams replace for high school juniors, students can score into one of four ranges: Below basic, basic, proficient and advanced.

For the Warren County School District, the results vary by building, but are largely positive at the district level.

At the district level, the district outperformed the state in terms of the below basic range, by 1.6 percent in biology, 5.2 percent in Algebra I and 2.4 percent in Literature. The district’s proficient scores also exceeded the state average in each exam, by as much as 7.1 percent in Literature, but the advanced scores came in under the state average by as much as 5.4 percent in Literature.

A proficient score, or above, is required for a passing designation.

In Biology, only 41.6 percent of students achieved such as passing score, which barely beat the state average, which was 41.5 percent. Similar trends can be found in Literature where the district outpeformed the state average at 70.5 percent, against a state average of 66.8 percent, and in Algebra with 57 percent of students scoring proficient or above, also surpassing the state average of 54 percent.

Building-level data presents more of a mixed bag of results.

At Eisenhower, a 7 percent improvement over the state average was seen in students scoring proficient in Biology while a 10 percent jump can be seen in Ike’s Algebra I proficiency numbers.

Warren Area High School also exceeded the state average in proficient and advanced in Biology, surpassing the state average by a combined 3.7 percent.

At Sheffield, 72.9 percent of students that took the Biology test fell into the basic or below basic realm, 14.5 percent above the state average.

Also at Sheffield, 67.8 percent of students did not achieve a proficient or advanced score in Algebra I, 21.8 percent above the state average.

Just one student at Youngsville, and no students at Sheffield, tested in the advanced levels on the Biology exam at Youngsville.

But what do these results mean?

According to PDE Press Secretary Tim Eller, the results from these exams will be used to determine Adequate Yearly Progress, the accountability measure instituted by the Bush-era educational reform No Child Left Behind.

But these numbers are not final numbers. Additional testing windows for the same three exams are scheduled from May 13-24 as well as one during the summer, July 29-Aug. 2.

WCSD Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Gary Weber said at board committee meetings last month that the district is working to facilitate remediation for those students who did not score proficiently in preparation for the next testing window.

Attempts to contact district administration for additional comment were not returned.

The concern has been raised previously that the Keystone Exams assess information that students may have learned two to three academic years ago.

The state doesn’t see a distinct difference.

“When 11th grade students took the PSSAs, they were assessed on content that they had two to three years before. So in that regard, there is no difference,” Eller said. “Also, the department requested permission from the U.S. Department of Education to only give the Keystones as end-of-course exams, thereby exempting this year’s 11th-grade class, and the federal government denied the request.”