Replacing Keystone Exams with SATs recommended in Pennsylvania Auditor General’s report

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania's Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is recommending the Keystone Exams be replaced with SATs. The  Auditor General releasing the results of an audit into the state's standardized testing, which he says it not cost effective.

His report following an audit of the state's standardized testing program recommends replacing the Keystone Exams with the SATs.

“College may not be for everyone, and we understand that and respect that," said DePasquale. "But at least having this SAT taken would give more students the option to know what they could do if they wanted to go down that path.”

DePasquale believes the change would not only benefit students, but would save the state at least $1 million per year. In the last 10 years, the report states the Pennsylvania Department of Education spent about $500 million to a Minnesota-based data recognition company to administer PSSAs, now known as the Keystone Exams.

“We have to get better at negotiating contract terms. We have to get better at this," said DePaqsquale. "We have very ample evidence that the company was basically dictating the price of the contract as opposed to the other way around.”

It would be up to the Department of Education to switch from Keystone Exams to SATs, and it would need approval by the federal government. However, since 2015, when the No Child Left Behind Act was replaced at least 12 states have switched from state specific testing, to the SAT or ACT.

“One test could have a benefit for a child’s future, one test does not. One test is more cost effective, the other is not," said DePasquale. "And one test would actually help low income students cover the cost so they can actually take a test they may not otherwise be able to afford to take to let them know what opportunities may be out there.”

Matthew Stem, PDE Deputy Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education issued this statement in response to the auditor general's report:

The auditor general’s document ignores significant reforms Pennsylvania made to standardized testing in recent years. In addition to shortening the PSSA and administering it later in the school year to better serve students, the Wolf Administration has reduced costs associated with standardized testing by 30%, including the cost of the Keystone Exams.

Testing is federally required in English language arts, mathematics, and science, and any change in our assessment system requires federal approval. PDE has always been receptive to considering a high school exam other than the Keystone Exams, provided the process is educationally sound, fiscally responsible, compliant with federal law, and allows Pennsylvania educators to continue to apply their professional judgment.

As of today, no state has fully met the federal requirements to use the ACT or SAT for federal testing purposes. Currently, the Keystone Exams are the only assessment aligned to Pennsylvania’s state-level standards and fully federally approved to use in the commonwealth.

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