Next year is when all students in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are expected to be proficient in reading and math, according to the federal educational reform No Child Left Behind.
But direction on what that will look like, and how those students are to be assessed, has been slow to trickle down from the state, leaving school districts in challenging positions where the requirements are not yet known.
"(There is) pressure out there on kids, teachers, administrators about what is going on out there," Warren County School District Acting Superintendent Amy Stewart said. "The junior class that we are dealing with now, those juniors are being handled in a completely different way that we haven't talked about."
Stewart said direction from the state has been less than thorough.
"The state has been slow...and somewhat incomplete, in giving directions regarding their testing," she said.
The key shift for high school testing has been a move from the Pennsylvania System of Scholastic Assessment (PSSA) to Keystone Exams, end-of-course assessments that will assess performance in a given course, rather than in skills such as reading or math as in the PSSA.
This year, Keystone Exams in Literature and Algebra I will be used to determine Adequate Yearly Progress, the annual measure of proficiency that is intended to lead to 100 percent attainment next year.
Stewart said the district is "just getting results of the tests back" for students who took them in a testing window late last year. "Administration (is) trying to figure out how to handle those results."
The exams have posed a challenging dilemma a student who took Algebra I as a freshman is now expected to recall, and score proficiently, on a Keystone Exam as a junior.
"The state is saying remediation is needed, but the state is not saying what that should look like," said Stewart. "They (administration) are struggling with how we do that in the middle of the year. They have their hands full."
Stewart explained that meetings are happening in the district's high schools to "try to figure out when kids have time" for extra instruction in these areas. "Students are going into homeroom to do remediation," she said.
Proficiency for this year is 89 percent in math and 91 percent in reading on the PSSA but "the percentages are not even set on these Keystone Exams," Stewart said.
"The game is now changing on how we're going to meet AYP and what these children will have to do to be successful, Stewart said, explaining that AYP will be replaced by a "school performance profile."
Stewart said parents of students who will need remedial work will be notified this week. "We're starting, we're stating that now," she said.