Higher Standards and Lower Achievement? An Evaluation of Pennsylvania’s Keystone Exams


  • Adam McGlynn Temple University Press




As the requirement that students pass three Keystone Exams to graduate from high school was set to take effect, a new round of criticisms arose over the adoption of this assessment system. While the Keystone Exams better align with the new Pennsylvania Core Standards as compared to their predecessor, the Pennsylvania System of Student Achievement, low passage rates especially among low-income and minority students have been cited as a reason to delay implementation of the graduation requirement. This work uses OLS regression analysis to explain which factors are most predictive of school-level performance on the Algebra I, Biology, and Literature Keystone Exams. It finds that race, socioeconomic status, and a school’s English Language Learner and special education populations drive performance on the exams. The work concludes by discussing possible policy interventions for the Keystone Exam program going forward.