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Statewide High School Graduation Requirement

Senate Bill 1095, 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 graduation requirement was more restrictive, requiring most students to pass the Keystone Exams — end of course exams in Algebra I, Literature, and Biology.  Senate Bill 1095 will expand the options for students to demonstrate postsecondary readiness using four additional pathways that more fully illustrate college, career, and community readiness.

The statewide graduation requirement takes effect for the graduating class of 2023. While there is no statewide graduation requirement for the classes of 2019, 2020, and 2021, students, parents, and guardians should reference local policies governing graduation, which are not preempted by the moratorium on the statewide requirement. Beginning in the 2021-22 school year, the statewide graduation requirement will apply, as will any other locally-established policies and requirements.

Additionally, Keystone Exams are the statewide assessment that Pennsylvania uses to comply with accountability requirements in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Each state is expected to achieve 95 percent participation on its statewide exams.

Students can meet the statewide graduation requirement by:

  • Scoring proficient or advanced on each Keystone Exam - Algebra I, Literature, and Biology. 
  • Earning a satisfactory composite score on the Algebra I, Literature, and Biology Keystone Exams. The passing composite score will be available in August 2019.
  • Earning a passing grade on the courses associated with each Keystone Exam, and satisfactorily complete one of the following: an alternative assessment (SAT, PSAT, ACT, ASVAB, Gold Level ACT WorkKeys), advanced coursework (AP, IB, concurrent enrollment courses), pre-apprenticeship, or acceptance in a 4-year nonprofit institution of higher education for college-level coursework.
  • Earning a passing grade on the courses associated with each Keystone Exam, and pass the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI) or the National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS) assessment in an approved Career and Technical Education concentration.
  • Earning a passing grade on the courses associated with each Keystone Exam, and demonstrate readiness for postsecondary engagement through three pieces of evidence from the student’s career portfolio aligned to student goals and career plan. Examples of evidence will include ACT WorkKeys, SAT Subject tests, AP, IB and concurrent coursework, higher education acceptance, community learning project, completion of an internship, externship or co-op or full-time employment.

Historical Context

Pennsylvania students take Keystone Exams in Algebra I, Literature, and Biology as end-of-course exams, regardless of grade. Students are required to take the Keystone Exams to meet federal accountability requirements. Beginning with the graduating class of 2017, passage of these exams in Pennsylvania was also intended to serve as a statewide graduation requirement. In order to address implementation and policy challenges, the legislature enacted a series of moratoriums on the use of Keystone Exams as a statewide graduation requirement through Act 1 of 2016, Act 55 of 2017 and Act 39 of 2018. Act 1 of 2016 also required the Department of Education to provide a report of PDE's recommendations regarding state graduation requirements. PDE concluded that the existing graduation requirement too narrowly defined postsecondary success and recommended a requirement that more accurately recognizes the varied pathways to postsecondary success by offering options for students to demonstrate readiness. Those recommendations formed the basis for Senate Bill 1095, which was passed by the General Assembly with unanimous support and was enacted into law by Governor Tom Wolf on October 24, 2018.

Learn More

View resource materials, reporting information, accommodations information, and more on our Keystone Exams page.