Friday, August 8, 2014

Keystone Exams are Sabotaging Students Education

How the Common Core Keystone Exams are 
Sabotaging Students Education

  • Teachers are using classroom time for test prep instead of focusing time on true educational instruction which leaves students with less time to improve their grades, class rank and GPA
  • College admissions, in state and out of state, DO NOT consider the Keystone Exams for admissions in any capacity
  • College admissions DO consider academic record (GPA, honors/AP courses taken, class rank) and SAT/ACT scores
  • The Keystone Exams DO NOT count towards student classroom grades, class rank or GPA

My daughter is going into 10th grade, is an honor’s student with a 3.8 GPA and plans to go to college.  She is in the graduating class of 2017, which means she is subjected to the new Common Core aligned Keystone Exam graduation requirement. 

During the school year she spent 20% of classroom time in Algebra 1 on test prep for the Keystone Exams, plus 2 days for the test (90 minutes each day).  That is a total of 6 weeks of class time for a single test!  Two weeks prior to the test were spent wholly on test prep.  On the first day of the exam, due to the test schedule, she missed her Honors World History final review.  This is a class that she needs to maintain high grades throughout the year to be considered for AP History for the upcoming year.

I assumed the Keystone Exam was important.  Since my daughter is planning to go to college I wanted to make sure she knew how important this test was.  I called a few college admission offices an asked them to clarify how much ‘weight’ is given to the Keystone Exam.  The reply was unanimous:  NONE.

From Pennsylvania State University Undergraduate Admissions:

We do not consider the Keystone exam for admission to Penn State.  Our decision is based 2/3 based on high school academic record (GPA, honors/AP courses taken, class rank) and 1/3 is SAT/ACT score.

The Keystone Exams are not considered, at all, in any capacity, for college admissions!

Regardless, Pennsylvania students are now required to pass three Keystone exams that are not considered by colleges for admission.   My daughter, even with a 3.8 GPA and Honor’s student taking AP classes, could have her entire school career wiped out by not scoring proficient on one single test resulting in her not getting a diploma.

Our students currently spend approximately 6 weeks per class on test prep for each exam plus 1-2 days for testing.  That is 32 classroom days or 20% of their school year in a class on a single exam that is not considered by college admissions!!  This is valuable time teachers and students could be using to improve GPA scores for college!  

If that isn't nonsensical enough, as I was waiting to get my daughters score for the Keystone Exams I learned that the school district gets the scores by mid-July.  Students will get the scores by the first week of September.  Why the delay? 

The Keystones are not graded in the typical way - 85/100 does not = 85% or a grade of B. Cut scores are used AFTER the tests are scored.   The student scores statewide are put in order.  A group of selected individuals will discuss and determine where the rage will fall.  That is why they use proficient, advanced or basic in scoring, these words cover the range that is not determined until after the tests are scored. So they have the raw scores and just need to determine where to cut them and apply basic/proficient/advanced.

This is from John Weiss who is the Director, Pennsylvania Department of Education, Bureau of Assessment and Accountability.  Here he clarifies the cut-score process of the Keystone Exams:

After the initial administration of an assessment, the tests are scored and given a scaled score.  The tests are then arranged in order of scores.  Pennsylvania educators then participate in a Standard Setting activity where they determine the cut off points between each performance level (Advanced, Proficient, Basic, and Below Basic).  The range of scaled scores is then determined to identify each performance level.

So the score students receive on the Keystone Exams is subjective, can be politically driven and is left to the whims of a select group of a few people. It might be that alot of kids pass the Algebra Keystone this year so that folks back off proposed legislation to untie it to graduation requirement.  Or, it might be that alot of kids fail and the common core reformers will come in and save our students with remedial classes like they did in New York State last year.

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