New Exams Require New Policy

Lack of clarity on the part of the state has caused the Warren County School District to make revisions to policies regarding academic standards and graduation testing requirements.

While plans are still in place at the state level for the Keystone Exams, end-of-course tests that are replacing the PSSA at the high school level, to be graduation requirements in 2017; the tests are still required now as a means of accountability for the school district.

Superintendent Dr. William Clark explained at Monday’s meeting of the board of directors that the intent of the Keystone Exams was that they were to be administered, “as a student is exiting out of the course,” noting that is a, “timely time to take,” the test.

The problem?

All juniors took the tests last year in literature, biology and algebra regardless of when they originally took the course.

“Part of the problem is that the schools are still being held accountable on the Keystones even though students (are) not held accountable,” Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Gary Weber said. “Because of the timing of it, some students had to go back and take it even though they had the course two years prior.”

He noted the Exams do, “provide us with valuable feedback on what we’re doing. We’re being held accountable for those results.”

For the board on Monday night, that meant two policy revisions.

The first altered the policy on academic standards to simply say “state” standards instead of a specific series of standards. The state is in the process of overhauling standards to fit with the nation-wide Common Core movement but the state board of education has yet to approve those standards, even though the district has been bringing its curriculum in line with the new standards.

The second policy addressed the testing issue. While the policy was previously amended to incorporate both the Keystone Exams and the PSSAs, that has been changed to, “the student must meet state assessment requirements.”

“The language that you see that has the strike through… (those tests) were going to be requirements,” Director of Administrative Support Services Amy Stewart said. “The state pulled back so you’re seeing a lot of language in these policies. Instead of spelling out the specific requirements, (general language was included) so we don’t have to touch these as often.”

The board unanimously approved both policy revisions.