Bill to Halt Pennsylvania Keystone Exams Focus of House Education Committee Hearing

HARRISBURG – In a dual effort to ensure students in Pennsylvania’s public schools are receiving a quality education and that taxpayer dollars are being used wisely, the state House Education Committee conducted a hearing focused on House Bill 1506, which is sponsored by Rep. Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill/Berks) and seeks to halt the state Department of Education (PDE) from the development and implementation of further standardized testing for nine years.

“Pennsylvania’s public school system needs to meet quality standards and be held accountable for the results that it’s producing, but at what cost?” asked Tobash. “While I agree that measurement and accountability are necessary for achieving a positive education process, I do not believe that standardized testing should be the focal point of education. Without knowing the potential outcomes and unintended consequences, pausing this exam process could be beneficial to everyone.”

The Commonwealth has developed and implemented three Keystone Exams, costing taxpayers approximately $70 million over a six-year period. These exams are currently fulfilling the federal requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Current law states that an additional seven exams will be developed.

“By pausing the development and implementation of the last five exams, our schools will have more time to adapt to the first five exams and the corresponding Pennsylvania Core Standards, and the state will have more time to get feedback on the results to better understand any unintended consequences of the tests,” said Tobash.

Tobash’s bill would extend the time period for the development of the remaining five Keystone Exams by prohibiting their development and implementation prior to the 2022-23 school year.

Testifiers from Tuesday’s hearing included Joan Benso, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children; David Patti, Pennsylvania Business Council; Dr. Kelly Austin, Penn State Schuylkill; John Powers Jr., Ash/Tech Inc.; Dr. Andrew Smarkanic, North Schuylkill School District; Dr. Michelle Guers, Blue Mountain School District; Tiffany Reedy, Pottsville Area High School; and Larry Wittig, state board of education and Tamaqua Area School Board.

“There is a disconnect between what’s being taught and what might also be an option,” Powers explained to the committee. “We’re going to lose a lot of kids, a lot of future craftsmen, and a lot of future invention. I am not going to ask someone who walks in my business looking for a job what they scored on their Keystone Exams. I want to know that he or she took the time to learn a skill, whether it be in physics, engineering, machining or programming. I need to know they know how to work through a problem.”

“I don’t think there is any superintendent in the state who would say that we don’t need to test our curriculum to make sure we’re teaching our students appropriately, and making sure our taxpayer dollars are being used wisely,” said Smarkanic following the hearing. “But I think the important thing is that not all kids test the way the test is set out to judge them.”

House Bill 1506 is currently in the House Education Committee.

“The bottom line is that we all want our graduates to have satisfactory knowledge in the subjects of reading, math, writing, science and history, but there is so far no evidence that the Keystone Exams are producing that result,” said Tobash. “I remain committed to our students and our taxpayers as I move forward with my proposal.”

For more information on House Bill 1506 or any state-related issue, visit RepTobash.com or Facebook.com/RepTobash or call his district office in Schuylkill Haven at 570-385-8235.

~ News Release via Representative Mike Tobash ~
~ 125th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives ~

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