A new law has given career and technical education students in Pennsylvania a pathway to graduation that doesn’t include the state’s exit exams.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed House Bill 202 into law last week. It allows students who concentrate in CTE programs of study to avoid taking the state’s Keystone exams if they can demonstrate proficiency in other ways.
“Whether they are working and learning in the classroom, in the lab, in the shop, in the field, or in the garage, our young people are always striving and succeeding across a wide variety of fields,” Gov. Wolf said in a statement the day he signed the new law.
“With this measure, Pennsylvania will recognize that diversity and will no longer hold all students to the standard of a Keystone Examination, which too often doesn’t reflect the reality of a large sector students’ educational experience.”
Without a move from state policymakers, students will have to have to pass the Keystone exams in algebra, biology and literature in 2018-19 to earn their diplomas. State lawmakers in 2016 put a two-year hold on that requirement while the state rethinks its graduation requirements. In the meantime, students still take the exams; they’re just not required for graduation.
The new law lets career-and tech-ed “concentrators"—students who take clusters of related CTE courses—to demonstrate proficiency by completing the academic requirements in Keystone-exam subjects, and earning an industry-recognized credential or showing “readiness for continued meaningful engagement” in their chosen program of study through tests, course grades or other evidence of mastery.
The new law puts into practice one of four recommendations made by the Pennsylvania Department of Education after state legislators asked the agency to explore diploma alternatives. The other recommendations, still pending, are allowing students to show proficiency through other tests or with a composite score across three Keystone exams, or using a combination of course grades and tests.
For more stories on states’ use of exit exams, see:
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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.