Editorial: Pennsylvania should get rid of Keystones

Elizabeth Vojt, Reporter

Since 2015, Pennsylvania has spent nearly 100 million taxpayer dollars on Keystone exams. Despite the well-meaningness behind the tests, they have failed to be proved useful in over five years, and at this point are nothing more than a waste of money.

Pennsylvania must eliminate the Keystone exams and switch to administering either the SAT or ACT.

Keystones are administered by the state of Pennsylvania for three courses: algebra 1, biology, and literature. 

These exams are paid for almost entirely with taxpayer dollars. According to the PA Auditor, Pennsylvania receives over $20 million from the federal government to use for standardized testing, but almost all of this money goes towards the PSSA’s rather than the Keystones.

Until 2015, these exams were required by the federal government as a part of the No Child Left Behind Act. However, the act was replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, making the tests optional.

Even after the federal law changed, Pennsylvania continued requiring all students to pass the test. However, Governor Tom Wolf passed Act 158 of 2018, which made Keystones just one of many ways students can prove they are ready to graduate.

Many states have abandoned the state-specific Keystones previously required by the government in favor of more useful tests. Since the 2015 change in legislation, at least 12 states have been administering the SAT or ACT to all students to fulfill the secondary-level standardized test requirement.

If Pennsylvania joined in in administering these tests to all students, it would likely increase the number of Pennsylvanians who choose to attend a higher level of education. 

“Not only would this change benefit families who now have to pay out of pocket for their children to take these nationally recognized tests, it could help students who are not on a college track discover that they could succeed in college and possibly change the course of their future,” said Pennsylvania Auditor General DePasquale in a 2019 report.

The SAT and ACT are also significantly cheaper than the Keystones. Should Pennsylvania choose to make the switch, they could save millions of dollars per year.

While Keystones cost about $17.6 million per year, both the Pre-ACT and the ACT could be administered to all high school students for just over $12.6 million. The PSAT and SAT would cost $13.1 million.

You can find your legislator here and contact them about your concerns with Pennsylvania continuing to administer the Keystone exams.