USC school board to vote on changes to graduation requirements

Published Feb 26, 2013 at 10:15 am (Updated Feb 26, 2013 at 10:15 am)

Upper St. Clair School Board is expected to vote March 11 on recommended changes to graduation requirements that are necessitated by the elimination of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams and their replacement with Keystone Exams.

Eloise Stoehr, supervisor of pupil personnel services, and Louis Angelo, associate principal of the high school, presented proposed changes to the board on Feb. 25.

The proposal for the 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years would effect students currently in ninth, 10th and 11th grades, according to Stoehr.

With the demise of the PSSA tests, the recommendation is to change the graduation requirements to now include achieving a level of proficiency on three Keystone Exams. The exams would be given in the subjects of Algebra I, Biology and English Literature.

Stoehr said the exam is offered by the state in May, July/August, and December.

Under the proposal, USC students would take the exams in May of the year that they completed study of the subject in that particular exam.

Stoehr said that would typically have the Algebra I Keystone Exam being taken in May of the eighth grade year, the Biology Exam in May of the ninth grade year and the English Literature Exam in May of the 10th grade year.

She said the proposal would have any student not achieving a score demonstrating proficiency in a subject re-take the test at the next time it was offered during the school year. For example, a test that was not passed in May would be retaken in December, rather than in the summer.

Before taking the test for a second time, Stoehr said students will be expected to participate in a web-based remediation program in that subject.

She said that while current requirements limit to two the number of times a student may take the PSSA test in order to pass it, students could be permitted to re-take the Keystone Exams whenever it is offered until the end of their 11th grade year. However, the proposal is to continue to limit it to two times.

Stoehr said the proposal is to allow students to graduate without gaining proficiency in a Keystone Exam subject after the second attempt if the student has completed the 45 credits that are currently required for graduation.

The proposal exempts current 11th graders from having to take any of the exams a second time, since they still do not have their scores from their initial test in December, and there would not be sufficient time for remediation before a May test.

School board member Harry Kunselman asked what the remediation costs the district.

Angelo said remediation cost the district about $1,000 this year, when only math and English were tested for in the PSSA.

Biology has been added as a subject for the Keystone Exams, and for the next few years some students will be taking the exams in some cases years after they studied that particular subject.

Stoehr said for that reason, the district is likely to have to offer more remediation than in the past – at least for the next few years. Therefore, the costs are not yet known.

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