GLSH Prepares for Changes in Standardized Tests: Keystone Exams

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Starting in the 2012-2013 school year at Greater Latrobe Senior High, students will be making the switch from taking PSSA tests to Keystone exams, which will eventually replace the PSSAs altogether. Sophomores and juniors will take the first tests on December 4-5. These will be followed up by the Algebra 1 tests on December 11-12. Many changes will come with this that will have a definite effect on the current students and future students of the Greater Latrobe School District.

Switching from the tried and true PSSAs to a new test can present a bit of an obstacle, but Mrs. Gacik, a tutor in the English department, didn’t express any concern over the matter. “The Keystone exam is a higher level of thinking,” she said. The questions will go a bit more in depth and present more of a challenge to the students. “That’s a great challenge.”

The PSSAs aim to gauge what students should know at various grade levels. It measures what the students are able to retain, while also determining how effective schools are in helping the students learn. PSSAs The individual scores  assist teachers in identifying which students may require help and to evaluate each child’s strengths and weaknesses. The overall scores for the school provide information for the curriculum, improvement, and planning.

The Keystone exams are similar to the PSSAs in that they aim to achieve many of the same goals. Keystones measure student progress and ability in particular subjects. This is to ensure they’re where they need to be academically. However, Keystones differ from the PSSAs in that the only subjects being tested in the 2012-2013 school year are biology, literature, and algebra 1.

Perhaps even more importantly, passing the Keystones will eventually be mandatory for graduation. Beginning with the class of 2017, earning at least a “proficient” on the exams will dictate whether or not students will graduate.

If students don’t pass the Keystones the first time they are taken in December, they will be required to retake them until they pass. Because of the “No Child Left Behind” act, 100% of students must be “proficient” in reading and math by 2014. If the school fails to meet this standard, the district goes under “revision,” meaning it’s being supervised for improvement. If proficiency isn’t achieved three years in a row, students are legally allowed to attend another school of their choice free of charge.

Mrs. Gacik talked about the upcoming Keystones exams and preparation for them. The teachers are getting the students ready “just by being in the classroom and practicing skills.”

Teachers are also also helping to target the areas of need in each class. Students have been practicing skills that are expected to come up on the Keystones through the use of Study Island and the online practice test, Classroom Diagnostic Tools. It’s hoped that  “the students are noticing the types of materials their teachers are going over and they feel a little bit more comfortable.”

With the changes in testing, some adjustments must be made for both the students and teachers. However, with all the help that’s available to students, such as practice tests, and tutoring, achieving great scores is within reach for everyone.