New graduation policies in the Warren County School District are going back to the drawing board.
Approved last month, this year's sophomore class was to be the first class to fall under the new policy, the major shift being the institution of Keystone Exams, year-end exams designed to assess student knowledge is a series of core courses.
"In this instance, the graduation requirements policy was passed earlier," Director of Secondary of Education Gary Weber told the Curriculum, Instruction and Technology committee last week. "The state has been wavering on their requirements on graduation."
The proposal previously passed indicated "In order to graduate from the District, the student must demonstrate proficiency in the Keystone Exams in Algebra I, Literature and Biology, and such other subjects as shall be determined by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, no later than grade 11."
That marks a shift in the timing of the tests.
Previously, with the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSA, students would be eligible for graduation if they received a proficient score on the mathematics, writing and reading tests anytime during their junior or senior year.
If a student does not score in the proficient range under the PSSA model, they will be administered the Metropolitan Achievement Test (MAT 8), the District's approved alternate assessment.
That option disappeared in the new policy.
"Students who do not score at the proficient level or above on the Keystone Exams by the end of their grade 11 year will be required to participate in the state-developed Project Based Assessment, which shall be the District's approved alternate assessment," according to the policy.
"The Project Based Assessment shall be administered during their senior year, or earlier...Students must achieve a defined scaled score to achieve proficiency on this assessment no later than their junior or senior year," the policy says.
"In an effort to be proactive, that policy was brought before the board," Weber said. "The state has changed what they want. (We) want to be able to take the policy and bring it in line."
"The current policy and the way it reads, students have taken biology who would then have to take the Keystone Exam," board vice-president Donna Zariczny said. "Are we going to at least try to put something in the policy so that knowing when these (exams) are coming into play, transitioning to be able to take them prior to this deadline?"
"Biology is causing the angst among the staff," Weber said. "We're also in the process of realigning the curriculum to be in line with the common core."
Superintendent Brandon Hufnagel explained that the "biggest issue" with this policy is that students will be required to take a biology exam rooted in the common core standards that were not in place when they took the course. "The state is not requiring us to have biology as that graduation requirement. We feel it would be better to hold off until we align with the common core."
"Based on current PDE requirements for graduation, the administration would like to revise those policies and return to the December CIT with recommendations for those changes," a summary on esbpub.wcsdpa.org said.