Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How To Opt Out of the Keystone Exams

Section 4.4 of Title 22, Chapter 4 provides for the rights of parents to excuse their child from the Keystone exams if they find the assessment to be in conflict with their religious beliefs.  It is important to note that no religious affiliation or discussion is required to be shared with the school district, simply state that you are opting out based on "religious beliefs".

STEP 1:  
Parent request in writing to the building principal to review exam within two weeks of exam.  

 Dear Superintendent,
Pursuant to Pennsylvania Code Title 22 Chapter 4, section 4.4 (d)(4) I am hereby exercising my right as a parent to have my child, [NAME], excused from Keystone testing because of religious beliefs.
Two weeks prior to the testing window, exams must be made available for review.  School districts must provide a convenient time for the review.  Parents will need sign the 'Parent Confidentiality Agreement' that simply states they will not share what is on the test with anyone

STEP 2:  
Parent reviews test at school.

STEP 3:  
Parent provides written request to be excused from test to the Superintendent. Can be worded same as first letter, stating that that you reviewed the exam.

Dear Superintendent,
On [Date] I had the opportunity to review the Keystone exam and pursuant to Pennsylvania Code Title 22 Chapter 4, section 4.4 (d)(4) I am hereby exercising my right as a parent to have my child, [Name] excused from Keystone testing because of religious beliefs.  
STEP 4:  
Superintendent reviews the request - this request cannot be denied.

School personnel must provide an alternative learning environment for the student during the assessment and complete the “Non-Assessed Students” grid by selecting “Student had a parental request for exclusion from the assessment.”


Although there is no other apparent reason for student non-participation in the exam, this category is provided for the rare exception. The most notable rare exception is student refusal to participate at the time of testing. Refusal represents a defiant act on the student’s part despite school personnel’s every effort to obtain compliance. If you have exhausted all options and believe you have a case that fits into the “Other” category, complete the “Non-Assessed Students” section by marking “Other.”

This is the letter I wrote:

We are writing today to formally inform the district of our decision to refuse to allow our daughter to participate in state standardized assessments for the 2013-2014 school year.  Pursuant to Pennsylvania Code Title 22 Chapter 4, section 4.4 (d)(4) I am hereby exercising my right as a parent to have my child, [Name], excused from PSSA/Keystone testing because of religious. 
In no way is our decision to opt out of these high stakes tests a reflection of our perception of [School District] or the teachers.  We are satisfied with the quality of education our daughter has received.  Our disappointment in this matter is with the current school reforms in the form of the Common Core Standards and the increase in high stakes standardized testing.  These state and national policies put forth by politicians and corporations have corrupted the process of education in our schools.
High stakes standardized tests do nothing to improve creative thinking, meaningful learning, and dynamic teaching. This national and statewide emphasis on standardized testing is a waste classroom time and taxpayer's money that could otherwise be spent on valuable educational opportunities. The latest trend is to link these standardized test scores to the rating system for their teachers.  Using the state standardized test scores as a percentage of an educator's effectiveness rating is unfair to everyone involved. There are too many factors that influence a student's ability to answer the test questions correctly, and it is in no way an effective tool for determining how effective a teacher is.  

It is our hope that sometime in the near future our students can be rescued from these ill conceived test-driven educational policies, and our schools and teachers will be free to teach children as they always have: with a heartfelt desire to see young children grow and develop intellectually to the best of their abilities.

§ 4.4. General policies.

(4)  The right to review a State assessment in the school entity during convenient hours for parents and guardians, at least 2 weeks prior to their administration, to determine whether a State assessment conflicts with their religious belief. To protect the validity and integrity of the State assessments, each school entity shall have in place procedures to be followed when parents or guardians request to view any State assessment. Procedures must be consistent with guidance provided by the Department in its assessment administration instructions. If upon inspection of a State assessment parents or guardians find the assessment to be in conflict with their religious belief and wish their students to be excused from the assessment, the right of the parents or guardians will not be denied upon written request that states the objection to the applicable school district superintendent, charter school chief executive officer or AVTS director.

Chapter 4. Academic Standards and Assessments

Found at this link:


  1. Can I opt my student out of Keystone testing at the beginning of the school year?

    1. Yes, you can send a letter opting out of the Keystones. You will need to review them at a later time (within 2 weeks of administration is when schools have them). I opted my daughter out on the first day of school last year bc I wanted to opt her out of test prep also.

  2. If I opt my child out of the Keystone's will he be penalized with regards to his graduation? Will he have to do some other testing in order to graduate?

  3. Hi Dawn,
    I have opted out for two years. My daughter just graduated a cyber public charter and my son is entering 9th grade. My daughter was "allowed" to graduate, but without testing my son may not be able to, unless he takes and passes the PBA. I may decide to continue with cyber school or choose to begin a homeschool program. We are "on the fence". I would like support from homeschooling moms with older boys.
    Due to the educational model our family has chosen, we have been seen as the enemy by traditional schools and home schools. The cyber schools see us now as adversarial due to our choice to opt out, since schools take a demerit. When parents opt out, the school administration has told us their school gets a "strike" that hurts their standing with the PDE. So, in essence, the PDE has pitted the opt out parent against the school because by exercising our right we are not just able to abstain. Our choice hurts the school. We are already at odds with the cyber school we may choose to join. The principal has discouraged us from joining.
    Why was the system set up to give us a choice that automatically hurts schools?

  4. Do I have to opt my son out of the Keystones every year?

  5. I am a homeschooling mom. My daughter and I have been having a hard time with different math curriculums so we decided she would take math, and math only at the high school. Can I copy the letter above and have her hand it in to her teacher or the counselor she was assigned to so she doesn't have to take the test?

    1. Yes you can. Since she will likely graduate with a homeschool diploma she does not need to take the Keystone exams. I would sending an email to the teacher that your daughter is a homeschooler and won't be taking the Keystone - she is not a public school student.