Alexander responds to Dinniman’s Bill to Stop Standardized Tests as Graduation Requirements

On January 16, in the press release, State Senator Andy Dinniman announced he would introduce legislation to eliminate Keystone Exams as a graduate requirement.

The Keystone Exams are end-of-course assessments, designed by groups of educators from across the state, assess proficiency in the subject areas of Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Literature, English Composition, Biology, Chemistry, U.S. History, World History, and Civics and Government. However, only Algebra I, Literature, and Biology are currently being tested at this time.

The Keystone Exams are one component of Pennsylvania’s new system of high school graduation requirements. Keystone Exams will help school districts guide students toward meeting state standards.

In Dinniman’s press release, it was announced that he will introduce legislation to end passage of the Keystone Exams as high school graduation requirements because (in his opinion) they will only widen the growing gap between financially distressed and more affluent high schools.

Today, I emailed State Senator Andy Dinniman my objection:

I am writing this morning to voice my opposition to your attempts to stop Standardized Testing as a Graduation Requirement, as stated in a Press Release on your website.

I am a School Board Member at the Octorara Area School District, and I know all too well the financial burden it places on Schools.

I believe one of the biggest issues with education in America is that children are just pushed through the system, regardless if they are learning or not. There needs to be speed bumps.

Octorara’s Biology Keystones are in the tank, and we have a big problem. You are right when you say that it is costing School Districts, and it is a heavy burden for District’s like the one I serve, but the people of our community (in my opinion) need a wakeup call.

Removing the Keystones as a graduation requirement only protects poor performing schools. It does not help children. Without the tests being a requirement, they can be ignored, downplayed, or dismissed. The issue of poor performance becomes a subjective opinion, rather than an objective reality.

I am not writing today on behalf of the entire Octorara Area School Board, only expressing my own personal opinions. However, it is my hope that you reconsider your position, and not move forward with attempts to remove the Keystone tests as a graduation requirement.

Timothy Alexander
Octorara Area School Director
Cell: 484-881-2778

You can email State Senator Andy Dinniman your questions, comments, and concerns at or contact him at his West Chester Office at (610) 692-2112.


6 thoughts on “Alexander responds to Dinniman’s Bill to Stop Standardized Tests as Graduation Requirements

  1. Tim – As a parent I have concerns regarding the Keystones. We have a child who is earning “A”‘s in all of his honor level classes yet had his teachers gone strictly by his standardized test scores – he would have been in the academic level classes for the last two years. He does not perform well on them even though he knows the material. While he passes them, his scores don’t reflect what he has already proven he knows through his classroom work. And as he approaches the upper grades and the difficulty of the work / testing increases he may not pass them. I’m sure we are not the only parents with a child like this. My other concern is that our school currently uses three different tests to evaluate each child’s progress through out the year – I’m wondering how there is any time left to actually teach. And with the end all, be all of the Keystones – are we just going to have kids being taught for these tests? Doesn’t this limit the teachers ability to bring creativity and a love of learning into the classroom?

    • I appreciate your comments and concerns.

      In my own experience, I had teachers back in high school that weighed their final exam so heavily that if you didn’t pass the final, you didn’t pass the course. The Keystones are nothing more than a final exam.

      However, the way I perceive the Keystones is similar to the many 3rd Party tests to get a professional license or certification.

      When your son graduates, if he decides to go on to nursing school (as one example) and does well in school, but then fails the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing exam, would you blame the school or would you blame the test?

      Would you be comfortable with receiving care from a nurse that could not pass their state exam? Fortunately, it is a choice you would not have to make because the person would not have a licence. The Keystones, in contrast, work to ensure that a high school diploma is actually worth the paper it is written on.

      A Technical School graduating students that the students then tested as poorly as our Biology Keystones would be under government investigation and probably shut down.

      There is truly only one way to prove a student has learned what is being taught, and that is testing… but that is not to say it is the students fault if they fail the test. It has been discussed in Education Committee meetings that classroom grades are not a good measure of what a student has actually learned.

      If one of the requirements of Biology is that a student should be able to calculate the probability of eye-color for the offspring of parents with dissimilar eye-color, and the teacher did not spend sufficient time teaching it and then evaluating if the concept is truly learned, then that is not the student’s fault. The student may have done a project or class-work that got him/her an “A” for it, but that doesn’t mean they actually learned the material… and that is the goal of Keystones, ensuring the material is actually learned.

      • As a healthcare professional I know many, many nurses who have passed their nursing boards with flying colors and have no business being near a patient – ever. In many cases they may be able to recite their knowledge back from a book to pass a test but have zero ability to apply it in a clinical setting. The nursing program at the Pa College of Health Science was just placed on probation because 80% of the nurses in the last graduating class didn’t pass the boards…yet having worked with many of them on the hospital floor – they had very strong clinical skills. I’m not sure it’s such a black and white issue..or that ability to pass or fail a standardized test should be the main marker required for graduation. And on a side note..I completely agree with David Jones’ comment 🙂

  2. I do not believe the Keystones are the most pressing problem for our schools. In my opinion it is the tax inequities. I wonder why the Senator is not as passionate and willing to move to eliminate the property tax, which is much more pressing an issue than the Keystones?

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