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Date Posted: 07:02:18 07/10/09 Fri
Author: terri
Subject: in PA

the beginning of the end?http://www.philly.com/inquirer/education/20090710_Board_of_Education_unveils_new_testing_proposal.html



Posted on Fri, Jul. 10, 2009


Board of Education unveils new testing proposal
By Dan Hardy

Inquirer Staff Writer

The chairman of Pennsylvania's State Board of Education announced a new proposal yesterday for the creation of statewide end-of-course exams that some high school students would have to take to get diplomas.

The plan gained immediate support from several legislators and education groups that had opposed earlier versions. The board is expected to formally outline the proposal at its August meeting, triggering a yearlong review process.

"It's a breakthrough," said House Education Committee chairman James Roebuck (D., Phila.).

Joseph Torsella, the board chairman, called for the development of 10 tests that could be used as final exams in high school courses, counting for a third of course credit for students who passed.

New tests for reading, algebra, and biology would replace 11th-grade math, reading, and science PSSAs - Pennsylvania's No Child Left Behind tests. Poor test-takers could pass an alternative assessment, with a panel of experts looking at a sampling of their academic work.

The non-PSSA tests would be voluntary; districts could use their own tests instead. Even those that used the tests would not have to require them for graduation.

The plan "represents a new consensus on how to strengthen Pennsylvania's high school graduation requirements while preserving local control and recognizing that one size does not fit all," Torsella said at a news conference in Harrisburg.

The tests, called Keystone Exams, would be phased in starting in the 2010-11 school year; the last ones would be ready in the 2016-17 school year. In districts that adopt them as a graduation requirement, seniors in the class of 2015 would have to pass either the tested courses or a local equivalent in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies.

Students who failed would get remedial help and retake just the parts they did poorly on. The state would develop a model curriculum and diagnostic tools to help identify struggling students; the whole package would cost about $175 million over seven years.

State Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D., Chester), who had denounced several earlier versions of the plan, said yesterday: "This is good news. This is excellent. We've been able to take the concerns that educators and local school boards had, answer them, and still come up with a less expensive and highly validated means of making sure students have met competency standards."

Dinniman said he supported the proposal, as did Senate Education Committee chairman Jeffrey Piccola (R., Dauphin).

The Pennsylvania State Education Association, a teachers union that had opposed earlier Education Department proposals and put forth its own plan, said in a statement that "in light of the significant progress made by the state Board of Education and education stakeholders to modify the Keystone Exams proposal, PSEA will withdraw its opposition."

Timothy Allwein, a spokesman for the state school boards association, which had endorsed an earlier version of the proposal, said that he welcomed the initiative and that the group would look at it over the weekend before making any further statement.



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Contact staff writer Dan Hardy at 610-627-2649 or dhardy@phillynews.com.

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