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For Parents

For Students

Pennsylvania Keystone Exams

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is moving forward with the implementation of the Keystone Exams, which are
end-of-course assessments designed to assess proficiency in the following subject areas: Algebra 1, Biology, and Literature. Pending funding, PDE also plans to implement Keystone Exams in English Composition and Civics and Government within the next couple of years.

The Keystone Exams are made up of both multiple choice and open-ended response questions. The Office of Teaching and Learning has begun planning conversations regarding how this change 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.   

More information will be made available to parents/guardians throughout the course of this school year.


2014 Keystone Administration

The Keystone Exams will be administered during the spring testing window in the areas of Algebra 1, Biology, and Literature. All students must participate in Keystone Exams by the end of Grade 11 in order to satisfy No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements. In addition, the newly revised Chapter 4 Regulations stipulate that students must demonstrate proficiency on the Algebra 1, Literature, and Biology Keystone Exams as a requirement for graduation beginning with the Class of 2017. Students who do not achieve a proficient score will be offered multiple opportunities to retake the Keystone Exams.

Students currently enrolled in Keystone related courses will take the spring Keystone Exams as end of course assessments, as well as students in Grades 9, 10, and 11 who did not achieve a proficient score on a previously administered Keystone Exam. The tables below show the specific testing dates for each Keystone Exam being administered at both the Middle School and the High School.

Spring 2014 Keystone Testing Dates:



Administered to Students Enrolled in

Assessment Dates

Wissahickon Middle School

Algebra 1 Keystone

End of Course: Algebra 1

May 12 & 13, 2014




Administered to Students Enrolled in

Assessment Dates

Wissahickon High School

Literature Keystone

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

Grade 11 Retakes as needed

May 12 & 13, 2014

Biology Keystone

End of Course: Biology Honors/Academic

Grade 11 Retakes as needed

May 14 & 15, 2014

Algebra 1 Keystone

End of Course: Algebra 1/Algebra 1B

Grade 9/10/11 Retakes as needed

May 21 & 22, 2014











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 feel free to contact your child’s respective building principal or the Curriculum Office.

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 are notifying you of this policy in advance and encourage you to have your child leave such items at home on assessment days. 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.

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 they may be in conflict with their religious beliefs by making arrangements with the School Test Coordinator once the exams arrive at the school. 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).

Spring 2013 Keystone Exam Student Reports

 The Pennsylvania Keystone Exams were administered in May in the areas of Algebra 1, Literature, and Biology.  Individual student results for participating students at the middle school and high school will be mailed home between September 16, 2013 and September 18, 2013.

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 administered during the winter or spring testing sessions in the 2012-13 school year.  In addition to receiving remediation, any student who was not proficient on the Algebra 1, Literature, and/or Biology Keystone Exams will be retested in January 2014. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has provided interpretation guides to assist you in understanding the individual student reports. Links to those documents are included below.  Should you have any questions related to your child’s Individual Student Report, please contact your child’s guidance counselor.  


Keystone Exam Student Report Interpretation Guides









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