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Act 158: High School Graduation Requirement

Act 158 of 2018 (Act 158), which was signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf on October 24, 2018, shifts Pennsylvania’s reliance on high stakes testing as a graduation requirement to provide alternatives for high school students to demonstrate readiness for postsecondary success. Formerly, Pennsylvania’s statewide graduation requirement was more restrictive, requiring most students to pass the Keystone Exams — end of course exams in Algebra I, Literature, and Biology — in order to graduate. Act 158, in conjunction with Act 6 of 2017 (Act 6), expands the options for students to demonstrate postsecondary readiness through four additional pathways that more fully illustrate college, career, and community readiness.

The statewide graduation requirement outlined in Act 6 and Act 158 takes effect for the graduating class of 2022. While there is no statewide graduation requirement for the classes of 2019, 2020, and 2021, local policies also govern graduation. Local policies are not preempted by the current moratorium nor are they limited by the statewide requirement. School entities are encouraged to work with their solicitors to ensure that their high school graduation policies comply with Act 6 and Act 158, which amended section 121 of the Pennsylvania Public School Code, 24 P.S. § 1-121 and affected the implementation of Title 22, Chapter 4 of the Pennsylvania Code. 

Keystone Exams will continue as the statewide assessment that Pennsylvania uses to comply with accountability requirements set forth in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Although a student may not be required to achieve proficiency on the Keystone Exams in order to graduate, students are required to take the Keystone Exams for purposes of federal accountability. Failure to do so will affect a Local Education Agency (LEA) and school’s participation rate.

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