- Casey Ward
The field tests of these newest state exams, which will assess students on Algebra II, Geometry and English Composition, are scheduled to premiere in May. This year, students will also be given the exams for Algebra I, Biology and Literature, with these tests counting towards graduation starting with the Class of 2013.
As the Keystones are now a required part of every school system, the state has offered district personnel several different options about how to administer this exam. BHS chose the stand-alone option. If a student passes a class but fails the Keystone for that course, he or she will have to complete a project that will count toward graduation. If a student fails a course but passes the Keystone, he or she will retake the class but will not retake the Keystone.
With these new exams on the way, adjustments in the classroom will have to be made. “I think there’s going to be a change in the curriculum. I think we have to look at how our curriculum is written and how it is aligned with the state standards and the Common Core standards,” says Superintendent Dr. Cosmas Curry.
Jennifer Oiler, the Director of Elementary and Secondary Education, also sees the differences that will eventually alter how information is given to students. “The fact is that Pennsylvania is adopting the Common Core standards and we need to align our curriculum so it is ready if any curriculum change comes,” says Oiler.
The Common Core standards are educational guidelines of what students should know in order for them to be successful later in life. “Essentially what we have with the Keystone exams is a transition to the Common Core standards,” says Social Studies teacher Philip Burrell as he describes the addition of the Keystones.

When taking the Keystone exams, students should anticipate new demands with the testing formats that are based on subject content rather than a test of problem solving skills. “They are very challenging, and they are very rigorous,” states Oiler.
A good way to prepare for this test is to be dedicated to school work. “Take your education very seriously. Prepare, take good notes, review often and be disciplined,” says Dr. Curry.
Oiler believes the difference between these two tests is what they focus on. “The Keystone exams are subject specific, whereas the PSSAs are more general in its content, its reading, its writing, its science. The Keystones are specific within it so it’s Algebra I, it’s Algebra II, it’s Biology.”

Currently, the PSSA remains more crucial for the current freshman, sophomore and junior classes than the Keystone because of the instability of the Keystone exam. However, for the classes of 2015 and beyond, the Keystones will be more significant.
These exams play a heavy impact on a student’s future. “I think the way the Keystones are tied into graduation is where it’s going to affect students,” says Oiler.

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The Red & White Bloomsburg High School Bloomsburg, PA
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