Pennsylvania Senate Democrats want the Governor to eliminate the use of Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement-according to a report in the Tribune Review on May 14. Why the request? Folks who follow education issues will not be surprised to learn the request is based on the claim that schools do not have the resources to administer the test. The Education Secretary says other requirements are being waived or eliminated so resources will be freed up so there should be no net increase in costs.
But there is a deeper issue here. School districts in Pennsylvania spend $150,000 to $250,000 to teach kids for 13 years. A large share of that money comes from the Commonwealth coffers. Moreover, the state, for good or ill, is the creator of school districts, empowers them to levy taxes and maintains a substantial degree of regulatory control over the schools and has a commensurate responsibility to insure that graduates from Pennsylvania achieve a minimum level of educational proficiency.
When SAT scores and PSSA scores are so weak in many districts, the state has an obligation to take steps to address the problem. Requiring tests in order to get a diploma that purports to tell colleges or employers that the student has achieved a 12th grade level of proficiency seems entirely reasonable. Furthermore, there is no reason for administrators and teachers to be unable to arrange the time and place to administer the Keystone Exams. The argument that resources are not available implies teachers and administrators are incompetent. Is that really the argument public education hardline defenders want to use?
Are union work rules or prerogatives really the source of objections? Or is it the bigger problem of the failure of so much money to produce educated children and the politicians’ need to deny the culpability of the unions and education establishments for the failures?