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Keystone Exams

Keystone Exams are state-developed end-of-course assessments in designated content areas of Algebra I, Biology and Literature. Based upon Chapter 4 regulations, each Keystone Exam will be designed in modules that reflect distinct, related academic content common to the traditional progression of coursework, which serves two purposes:

1. High school graduation requirements for students beginning with the class of 2017.

2. High school accountability assessments for federal and state purposes.

All public and charter high schools in the State of Pennsylvania are held accountable for the participation and performance of all students in the Keystone Exams to satisfy the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The Algebra I and Literature Keystone Exams include items aligned to the Assessment Anchors/Eligible Content aligned to the Pennsylvania Core Standards in Mathematics and English Language Arts. The Biology Keystone Exams includes items aligned to the Assessment Anchor/Eligible Content aligned to the Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Science. All Keystone Exams consist of two modules that will include multiple-choice, constructed response, or open-ended questions.

A student who has not demonstrated proficiency on a Keystone Exam after one attempt shall be offered supplemental instruction until the student can demonstrate proficiency in the subject area through the Keystone Exam.

If a student is unable to demonstrate Proficiency after two attempts on a KEYSTONE EXAM, the student may supplement a Keystone Exam score through satisfactory completion of a Project Based Assessment. Students with IEPs may supplement a Keystone Exam through satisfactory completion of a Project Based Assessment after one unsuccessful attempt. Additional information and sample PBAs can be found at:

When a student begins a Project Based Assessment, s/he is assigned a Tutor who provides content area support as the student progresses through the project. Each project is broken into tasks that may have one or two activities. At the end of each task, there is a checkpoint. When a task is completed, the student submits the task to the Tutor electronically. If the Tutor deems the work satisfactory, the student may move forward on the project. If the work is unsatisfactory, the Tutor provides remediation so the student can redo the activity and resubmit. For seniors, projects must be submitted no later than January 15th of the senior year. This will allow for resubmission if the project is deemed unsatisfactory.

A student or his/her parents cannot opt out of the Project Based Assessments for religious reasons as allowable for Keystone Exams. Chapter 4 of PA State Education Law defines a state assessment as “A valid and reliable measurement of student performance on a set of academic standards as measured by the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment or the Keystone Exams,” thus, the religious opt out does not apply to Project Based Assessments.

More information on the Keystone Exams, along with released items, can be found in the PA Department of Education’s Standard Aligned System (SAS) at: