Students in the class of 2015 and 2016
do not have to take the Keystone exams
School districts can require students in the class of 2015 and 2016 to take the Keystone exams in Algebra 1, Biology and Literature and they can also have a school district policy that states students must score proficient or higher. However, PA School Code Chapter 4 allows for parents to opt out their children based on religious beliefs. Chapter 4 also states that the parental opt out request cannot be denied.
§ 4.4. General policies. (complete text here)Students in the class of 2015 and 2016 who opt out of the Keystone re-test should be removed from all remedial Keystone classes immediately. Here is a sample letter that can be sent to the superintendent, principal and teachers:
(5) If upon inspection of State assessments parents or guardians find the assessment 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 to the applicable school district superintendent, charter school chief executive officer or AVTS director.
Pursuant to Pennsylvania Code Title 22 Chapter 4, section 4.4 (d)(4)(5) I am hereby exercising my right as a parent to have my child, [Name], excused from Keystone testing because of religious beliefs. Please remove [student name] from the Keystone Algebra 1 class immediately.
I am aware that the School Board can approve a policy that students are required to pass the Keystone exams. However, School Districts do not have the authority to override the state law, in this case PA School Code Chapter 4.
For your convenience I have provided you below with School Code Title 22 Chapter 4, section 4.4 (d)(4)(5). Please note where it states: “... parents or guardians find the assessment 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”.
Thank you for your attention in this matter and for immediate removal of [student name] from all Keystone classes.
Sincerely,The entire process to opt out of the Keystone exam is explained HERE - you might want to read this process prior to reading the FAQ below.
Page 9 of the 2015 Handbook for Assessment Coordinators is from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and also explains the entire opt out process.
Keystone Exam FAQ
Do I need to explain my religious beliefs with specific questions from the PSSA test on my opt out letter?
No. A parent simply states "because of religious beliefs." This is all that needs to be included in the letter:
Pursuant to Pennsylvania Code Title 22 Chapter 4, section 4.4 (d)(4)(5) I am hereby exercising my right as a parent to have my child, [Name] excused from Keystone testing because of religious beliefs.
Parents must sign a confidentiality agreement. If they state anything specific from the Keystone exam, THEY WILL BREACH THE CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENT. Parents cannot, by nature of the confidentiality agreement, write specifically what they oppose for religious reasons on the Keystone exam.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education explains this, see page 4, question 10 at Chapter 4 FAQ.
So, as long as a parent or guardian reviews the state assessment and provides a written statement providing his/her written objection for religious purposes (however vague that objection may be), the child must be excused from the assessment. PDE will not provide an opinion as to what is a proper religious objection.This false statement, and other similar false statements have been given to parents from their school districts (see above paragraph for clarification):
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has made it clear that any objection to the testing materials for religious reasons must be specific in nature, must note the specific question or questions that are objectionable and the specific, religious reason for your objection. Please note a general statement of religious objection does not meet the intention of this review and will not be considered for possible exemption.