Updated April 2023
Several years ago, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) introduced the Keystone Exams to replace the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) for high school students. The Keystone Exams are end-of-the-course assessments designed to measure mastery of the standards in Algebra I, Biology, and Literature. Once a student has taken a course that contains the Keystone eligible content, they are assessed via the corresponding Keystone Exam regardless of their grade level in high school.
2023 Keystone Exam Testing Dates
- Cedar Cliff High School – May 15 through May 17, 2023
- Red Land High School – May 15 through May 22, 2023
Keystone Exam Overview
- If your child is expected to take a Keystone Exam, you will be notified by their high school and receive details about the specific testing dates and times.
- All students currently enrolled in a Keystone course will be scheduled to take the corresponding Keystone exam this spring.
- Students who were enrolled in and failed a Keystone exam previously may have an opportunity to retake the exam.
Graduation Requirements and the Five Pathways for Graduation
Effective with the graduating class of 2023, students have the option to demonstrate postsecondary preparedness through one of four additional pathways that more fully illustrate college, career, and community readiness. The pathway options are outlined below and additional information can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Education website
as well as the District website
We realize understanding the requirements and different options available can feel overwhelming. Our counselors and administrators are here to assist you and your child in determining a pathway option that best meets his/her skills, interests, and abilities.
- Pathway 1 – Keystone Proficiency Pathway - Scoring proficient or advanced on each Keystone Exam - Algebra I, Literature, and Biology.
- Pathway 2 – Keystone Composite Score Pathway - Earning a satisfactory composite score of 4452 on the Algebra I, Literature, and Biology Keystone Exams. The student will earn proficient or advanced on at least one Keystone Exam and score at least basic on the other two Keystone Exams. No exam score can be below basic.
- Pathway 3 – Career & Technical Education Concentrator Pathway - Earning a passing grade on the courses associated with each Keystone Exam for which the student did not achieve proficiency and attainment of an industry-based competency certification related to the CTE Concentrator’s program of study. Common examples of this are passing the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI) or the National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS) assessment in an approved Career and Technical Education concentration. Demonstration of a high likelihood of success on an approved industry-based competency assessment or readiness for continued meaningful engagement in the CTE Concentrator’s program of study also qualify.
- Pathway 4 –Alternative Assessment Pathway - Earning a passing grade on the courses associated with each Keystone Exam for which the student did not achieve proficiency and satisfactorily completing one of the following: an alternative assessment (SAT, PSAT, ACT, ASVAB), advanced coursework (Advanced Placement Exams or concurrent enrollment courses), pre-apprenticeship, or acceptance in a four-year nonprofit institution of higher education for college-level coursework.
- Pathway 5 – Evidence-Based Pathway - 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 SAT, Advanced Placement Exams and concurrent coursework, higher education acceptance, attainment of an industry-recognized credential, community learning project, completion of an internship, externship or co-op or full-time employment or satisfactory compliance with the NCAA’s core courses for college-bound student athletes with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0.
Additional Background Information on Keystone Exam Implementation
PDE initially required all students, beginning with the Class of 2017, pass the Keystone Exams or complete a state-developed graduation project in order to graduate. After a series of implementation and policy challenges, the legislature enacted a series of moratoriums on the use of Keystone Exams as a statewide graduation requirement. During the process of delays in mandating student proficiency on the exams, Senate Bill 1095
was signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf shifting Pennsylvania’s reliance on high stakes testing as the only means to meet the graduation requirement to provide alternatives for high school students to demonstrate readiness for postsecondary success.
The options permitted under Act 158
expand the possibilities for students to demonstrate postsecondary readiness using pathways that more fully illustrate college, career, and community readiness. The alternative pathways take into account individual student’s strengths, interests, and career goals while requiring the student to meet or exceed locally-established requirements and to demonstrate competency through other valid and accountable measures.
We recognize the magnitude of the information provided in this letter. Should you have questions regarding the Keystone Exams or graduation requirements in general, please call Cedar Cliff (717-737-8654) or Red Land (717-938-6561) and ask to speak with your child’s school counselor or building administration. If you prefer, you can also email your child's counselor directly by opening PowerSchool and selecting the "Class of ____ " course your child is enrolled in and from there click the envelope icon.
Dr. Nick Butt
Director of Student Services