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Assessment and Accountability

Statewide High School Graduation Requirement

Senate Bill 1095 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 2022. 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. 

Learn more about Pennsylvania’s statewide graduation requirements.

State Assessment System

The Pennsylvania state assessment system is composed of assessments and the reporting associated with the results of those assessments.  The assessment system includes the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA), the Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA), the Pennsylvania Accountability System (PAS), the Pennsylvania Value-Added Assessment System (PVAAS), the Keystone Exams (end-of-course), Classroom Diagnostic Tools (CDT) and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).  

Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA)

Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) includes assessments in English Language Arts and Mathematics which are taken by students in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. Students in grades 4 and 8 are administered the Science PSSA.  The English Language Arts and Mathematics PSSAs include items that are consistent with the Assessment Anchors/Eligible Content aligned to the Pennsylvania Core Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics.  The Science PSSA includes items that are aligned to the Assessment Anchors/Eligible Content aligned to the Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Science, Technology, Environment and Ecology.

Keystone Exams

Keystone Exams are end–of-course assessments in designated content areas.  The Keystone Exams serve two purposes: (1) high school accountability assessments for federal and state purposes, and (2) a component of the statewide high school graduation requirement for students beginning with the class of 2022.  The Algebra I and Literature Keystone Exams include items written to the Assessment Anchors/Eligible Content aligned to the Pennsylvania Core Standards in Mathematics and English Language Arts.  The Biology Keystone Exam includes items written to the Assessment Anchor/Eligible Content aligned to the enhanced Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Science.

English Language Proficiency assessment

Federal Law requires annual assessment of English language proficiency for all English Learners.  The state English Language Proficiency assessment aligns with Pennsylvania's core standards and the English Language Proficiency Standards and must measure progress on the attainment of English for each language domain, i.e., reading, writing, speaking and listening.

Classroom Diagnostic Tools (CDT)

The Pennsylvania Classroom Diagnostic Tools (CDT) is a set of online assessments, divided by content area, designed to provide diagnostic information in order to guide instruction and remediation. The CDT reporting system is fully integrated in the Standards Aligned System (SAS). It assists educators in supporting student academic strengths, and areas in need of improvement, by providing links to classroom resources. The diagnostic reports feature easy-to-follow links to targeted curricular resources and materials, including units and lesson plans found within the SAS system. The CDT is available to districts at no cost.

Pennsylvania Alternative System of Assessment (PASA)

Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA) is a statewide alternate assessment designed for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. Specifically, it is intended for those who are unable to participate meaningfully in the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) even with accommodations. By administering the PASA to students with severe disabilities, schools achieve compliance with federal laws and the Pennsylvania School Code that require that all students participate in the statewide accountability system.

Pennsylvania Accountability System (PAS)

The Pennsylvania Accountability System (PAS) applies to all public schools and districts. It is based upon the State's content and achievement standards, valid and reliable measures of academic achievement, and other key indicators of school and district performance such as attendance and graduation rates. The Pennsylvania Accountability System meets federal and state requirements

Pennsylvania Value-Added Assessment System (PVAAS)

The Pennsylvania Value-Added Assessment System (PVAAS) is a statistical analysis of Pennsylvania (PA) state assessment data, and provides Pennsylvania districts and schools with growth data to add to achievement data. This lens of measuring student learning provides educators with valuable information to ensure they are meeting the academic needs of groups of students, as well as individual students.  PVAAS is one of a cadre of tools provided to districts from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Districts and schools use PVAAS (growth data), in conjunction with achievement data, to make sure students are on the path to proficiency and beyond.

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the national representative assessment of what America's students know and can do in core subject areas. Teachers, administrators, parents, policymakers and researchers all use NAEP results to assess progress and develop ways to improve education in America. Performance is reported by groups of students, e.g. by total, by gender, by racial and ethnic groups, and by participation in special programs such as those servicing students with special needs and limited English proficiency.

Required Federal Reporting Measures (RFRM)

As part of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and No Child Left Behind (NCLB), Pennsylvania's ESEA waiver was approved on Aug. 20, 2013. The purpose of the RFRM is to report federal reporting measures as identified in the waiver. The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) "must prepare and disseminate an annual report card (ESEA section 111(h)(1) and (h)(2)".

Kindergarten Entry Inventory

The Kindergarten Entry Inventory offers teachers an instructional strategy for understanding and tracking students' proficiency across both cognitive and non-cognitive domains at kindergarten entry. The Kindergarten Entry Inventory is aligned to the Pennsylvania Early Learning Standards and Pennsylvania Core, and therefore it complements and can help improve existing assessments and teaching practices.

SAT and ACT Scores