Making Grade On Keystone

The Warren County School District is now formally putting programs into place that will help with remediation efforts for students who were not successful on the Keystone Exams.

Last year was the first year that high school juniors were assessed on the Keystone Exams, a series of end-of-course exams aligned to the Pa. Common Core standards, which replaced the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSA.

While the state required the tests to be given in Algebra 1, Literature and Biology, the state failed to provide clear guidance on what should be done with students who did not pass. Through the latter part of the prior school year, the district provided remediation to students during homeroom but did not have formal remediation efforts in place.

As the result of two items approved by the Curriculum, Instruction and Technology Committee last week and forwarded to the full board for action, that is about to change.

The first is a new course, or planned instruction, for Keystone Essential Algebra 1, modules 1 and 2. “This is an updated course that we’ve added for Keystone remediation,” Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Gary Weber said. He explained that this will be a replacement for other math courses that students might be taking and focuses specifically on the information and processes that are tested.

Board Vice-president Donna Zariczny asked whether the course would be offered in a traditional classroom environment or digitally.

“It is a standard course with a teacher behind it,” Weber said.

The second piece forwarded to the board was new software called Study Island.

“We need a program that we can look at for Keystone remediation,” Weber explained. “Not all students can take the Algebra course. We are providing remediation through homeroom now. (The) Career Center kids, some don’t have a homeroom.”

When reviewing this software, Weber said that he learned from the Intermediate Unit that “Study Island is heavily used across the IU. That’s really what prompted me to look at Study Island.”

In addition to offering a complete Keystone remediation program, the software also has K-12 components and a career readiness piece. He noted that benchmarks are also incorporated in the software and it would provide “additional resources for students to have. (It) would be open to all kids (and) has a lot of functionality.”

“We are able to get a pretty good deal through Study Island for a three-year package,” Weber said. “(I) had the money budgeted if that was the way we needed to go.”

He said he budgeted $126,000 for such software and the quote from Study Island came in at $111,870.89.

While the software is multi-faceted, “the priority is to be able to do the Keystone remediation and be able to go from there,” Weber said, noting that professional development prior to implementation would take time. “(It) wouldn’t be up for the beginning of the school year,” he said of the software if purchased. “Training days are built into this.”

He explained that his goal would be to “get this up and running” during the first semester. “In terms of prioritizing, I have to get it to the high schools first.”

Board President Arthur Stewart asked if this software could be used to replace other items or if this program is purely for remediation.

“It does for more than just remediation,” Weber said. “I think that’s where the resources in the classroom come into play. We looked at some of the cuts we’ve made… I see down the line being able to slowly migrate out of some of those programs and into this.”