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For Students

Pennsylvania Keystone Exams

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Keystone Exams are end-of-course assessments designed to assess proficiency in the following subject areas: Algebra 1, Biology, and Literature. 

The revised Chapter 4 Regulations stipulate that students must earn an Advanced or Proficient score on the Algebra 1, Biology, and Literature Keystone Exams as a requirement for graduation beginning with the Class of 2017, and results will appear on students’ transcripts.  For any exam(s) on which students do not initially demonstrate proficiency, students will be provided with remediation opportunities and will be required to retake the exam(s) next year.  After two unsuccessful attempts at earning a proficient score on a specific Keystone Exam, a student may opt to complete a state-mandated Project-based Assessment to meet the graduation requirement in the related content area.  The Project-based Assessment will be based on the same Assessment Anchors and Eligible Content as the Keystone Exams. 

In addition to the scores serving as a part of the new graduation requirements, all students’ results have an impact on school and district accountability measures; all students must participate in Keystone Exams by the end of Grade 11.  It is important to note that once a student scores Proficient or Advanced, per the Pennsylvania School Code, he or she will not be able to retake that Keystone Exam in an attempt to achieve a higher score. 

 As we continue conversations regarding how these changes will affect students at Wissahickon High School, we will continue to make decisions that provide our students with excellent educational experiences, yet meet the mandates of the state.


Spring 2015 Keystone Testing Schedule:



Administered to Students Enrolled in

Assessment Dates

Wissahickon Middle School

Algebra 1 Keystone

End of Course: Algebra 1

May 14 & 15, 2015




Administered to Students Enrolled in

Assessment Dates

Wissahickon High School


End-of-Course: Honors/Academic

Grade 11 Retakes as needed

May 13 & 14, 2015

Literature Keystone

End of Course: Lang/Lit/Writing II all levels

Grade 11 Retakes as needed

May 15 & 18, 2015

Algebra 1 Keystone

End of Course: Algebra 1/Algebra 1B

Grade 9/10/11 Retakes as needed

May 20 & 21, 2015











It is vitally important that our students are in attendance and do their very best on these assessments.  Please avoid any conflicts such as appointments and/or trips during the administration timeframes.  Thank you for your support throughout the Keystone testing sessions - if you have any questions, please contact your child’s building principal.


Electronic Devices

A Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) policy has been instituted regarding the use of electronic devices during the administration of all State assessments, which includes both the PSSA and Keystone Exams.

In an era of cell phones, smartphones and other electronic devices which can easily photograph and instantly share photographs, confidential and secure test materials can be easily compromised. Not only is it expensive to replace a compromised test item, the material contained in the PSSA and Keystone Exams is copyrighted property of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Copying or duplicating the material from the assessment, including the taking of photograph, is a violation of the federal Copyright Act.

Students are not permitted to have cell phones, smartphones, E-readers, Nooks, Kindles, iPads, iPods, tablets, camera-ready devices, and any other electronic device which can be used to photograph or duplicate test materials, access the internet and/or communicate with others during the administration of the PSSA or Keystone Exams.  We encourage you to have your child leave such items at home on assessment days.  During the weeks prior to the assessment dates, administrators and teachers will remind students not to bring electronic devices that could be disruptive and/or could take a photo of the assessment.  If your child brings any such device to school on a testing day, the student will be required to leave the device in his/her locker or the Test Administrator will collect the devices in the testing room as required prior to the start of testing.  If your child uses the device in the testing room in any way, your child will be subject to discipline per District and school policies. We thank you in advance for your cooperation and attention to this matter.


Keystone Exam Information for Parents and Guardians

The following Frequently Asked Questions provide a general overview of the Keystone Exam administration.

What are the Keystone Exams?

The Keystone Exams are end-of-course assessments designed to evaluate proficiency in academic content. Beginning with the class of 2017, students must demonstrate proficiency on the Algebra I, Literature, and Biology Keystone Exams to graduate. Students will be offered multiple opportunities to take the Keystones throughout their high school career. If a student does not achieve a proficient score by the end of Grade 11, a Project Based Assessment developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education would need to be completed as an option for meeting state graduation requirements.

Who will participate in the Keystone Exams?

In 2012–13, the Algebra I, Literature, and Biology Keystone Exams replaced the 11th-grade Pennsylvania System of School Assessments (PSSA) in math, reading, and science for purposes of student, educator, and school accountability. Students should take the Keystone Exams at or near the end of a Keystone-related course. The students’ results are banked until their junior year for accountability purposes and until their senior year for graduation purposes. Some students who previously completed a Keystone-related course but did not take the Keystone Exam will also participate for accountability purposes. Additionally, students who take a Keystone Exam and do not score Proficient may re-take the exam.

When will the exams be offered?

The Keystone Exams will be administered three times each year—winter, spring, and summer. Specific administration dates will be published by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Who decided what Keystone Exams should measure?

Groups of educators from across Pennsylvania chose the areas of knowledge on which the Keystone Exams are based. The groups included teachers, supervisors, curriculum directors, and college specialists. These groups also reviewed, edited, and approved exam questions.

What is assessed on the Keystone Exams?

Pennsylvania adopted the Pennsylvania Core Standards, standards aligned with expectations for success in college and the workplace. The Keystones are designed to measure these standards.

How long is a Keystone Exam administration?

There is no time limit for a student to complete a Keystone Exam. Each Keystone Exam should take the typical student 2 to 3 hours to complete. There are two modules on each test, and each module (or Test Session) of the Keystone Exam should take 1 to 1.5 hours to complete. Districts can administer the Keystone Exam modules across two days or divided across the morning and the afternoon of the same day.

What are the available formats for administering the Keystone Exams?

The Keystone Exams are available in both online and paper/pencil formats. Districts will determine if online, paper/pencil, or both formats will be used locally. Makeup exams will also be administered in either online or paper/pencil format.

Will students have an opportunity to experience online testing before taking a Keystone Exam online?

Tutorials and online training programs have been developed for the Keystone Exams. The PA Online Assessment Student Tutorial uses pictures, motion, and sound to present visual and verbal descriptions of the properties and features of the PA Online Assessment system. Students are allowed to repeat the Student Tutorial as often as desired and needed. The Online Tools Training (OTT) provides an introductory experience using the PA online assessment software allowing students to observe and try out features of the PA online assessment software prior to the actual assessment. Within the OTT, students also have the opportunity to practice typing responses in a narrative format, graphing functions, and entering equations using an equation builder tool. The online exam also has a “Help” feature that is available to the student during the exam.

What types of questions are on the Keystone Exams?

The Keystone Exams will include multiple-choice questions and constructed-response, or open-ended, questions. For each Keystone Exam, approximately 60 percent to 75 percent of the total score will be from multiple-choice questions and 25 percent to 40 percent of the total score will be from constructed-response questions.

How are the written responses to constructed-response questions scored?

The written responses for constructed-response questions are scored by evaluators trained in applying a pre-determined scoring system. Scores are based on content only. Spelling and punctuation are not included as part of the scoring process. Most constructed-response questions require students to show their work or explain their reasoning. These

Keystone Exam questions will ask students to explain, analyze, describe, or compare. Some questions will also require students to perform calculations or create graphs, plots, or drawings.

How are the results reported?

Keystone Exam scores will be processed as quickly as possible and provided to the districts. Two copies of the individual student report for all Keystone Exams will be sent to the school districts and charter schools. One copy should be sent home to parents/guardians; the other is kept by the school/ district. School-level reports will be used for curricular and planning purposes. School districts and charter schools may publish the results of Keystone Exams for each school. The state will also release school-by-school exam data.

May parents see the Keystone Exams?

Parents and guardians may review the Keystone Exams if they believe the assessments may be in conflict with their religious beliefs by making arrangements with the School Test Coordinator in the two weeks prior to the start of the testing window.  Confidentiality agreements must be signed, and no copies of the Keystone Exams or notes about exam questions will be permitted to leave the school. If, after reviewing the Keystone Exams, parents or guardians do not want their child to participate in one or all of the exams due to a conflict with their religious beliefs, they may write a letter specifying their objection to the school district superintendent or charter school CAO prior to the beginning of the exam(s) to request their child be excused from the exam(s).


Keystone Exam Student Reports

The Pennsylvania Keystone Exams are administered in the winter and the spring in the areas of Algebra 1, Literature, and Biology.  Individual student reports are provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and are mailed home to participating students at the middle school and high school.

The State requires all non-proficient students to receive remediation in the corresponding Keystone content area, and all non-proficient students will retake the exam as many times as necessary to demonstrate proficiency before the end of their Grade 11 year.  Wissahickon has implemented meaningful intervention opportunities for students who did not achieve an overall proficient score on a Keystone Exam.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has provided interpretation guides to assist in understanding the individual student reports. Links to those documents are included below.  Please contact your child’s school if there are questions related to your child’s Individual Student Report.  


Keystone Exam Student Report Interpretation Guides









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