Keystone FAQ's

  • DASD Keystone Exam Information

    What are the Keystone Exams?

    The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has developed Keystone Exams to serve as end-of-course assessments designed to evaluate proficiency in academic content. Beginning with the Class of 2023, students must demonstrate proficiency on the Algebra I, Literature, and Biology Keystone Exams to graduate or they must fulfill one of the alternate pathways to graduation. Students will be offered multiple opportunities to take the Keystones throughout their high school career.

    Each Keystone is divided into two parts called modules: Module 1 and Module 2. Student scores are based on points earned from the two modules combined. The scores are then broken down into the following categories: Advanced 1546-1800, Proficient 1500-1545, Basic 1439-1499, and Below Basic 1200-1438.


    What is assessed on the Keystone Exams?

    Pennsylvania created Algebra I, Biology, and Literature standards in 2014. Keystone Exams are designed to measure student achievement toward learning these standards.


    How do I interpret my student’s performance results on the Keystone Exam?  

    PDE has published a report interpretation guide to explain student scores on the Individual Student Report.  The goal for students is to pass these exams with proficiency or better.


    What impact do the Keystone Exams have on DASD?

    The Keystone Exams are used for three purposes: student, school and teacher accountability. The results of these exams are gathered and published annually as part of the Future Ready PA Index. Additionally, the Keystone Exams are used towards the ESSA report card, are incorporated into the evaluation of each teacher and principal, and are used for local and national ratings.

    Act 158 of 2018 provides alternatives to Pennsylvania’s statewide graduation requirements.  However, this does not necessarily absolve students from sitting for the three end-of-course Keystone Exams.  Effective for the graduating class of 2023 and beyond, students have the option to demonstrate postsecondary preparedness through various pathways, after having taken the traditional Keystone Exam(s) once as required for school district participation rates. 

    Act 13, revises the Act 82 Educator Effectiveness (EE) process used to evaluate professional employees in PreK-12 education across Pennsylvania beginning in the 2021-2022 school year. Keystone scores are one aspect of the data that contributes to the overall rating of a teacher.


    Who will participate in the Keystone Exams?

    Students attending and graduating from a Pennsylvania public high school participate in taking these exams.  Students take the Keystone Exam at or near the end of a Keystone related course: Algebra I, Biology and Literature (10th grade English). The students’ results are banked until their Junior year for state and federal accountability purposes and Senior year for graduation purposes.


    Do students transferring into DASD from a private or parochial school need to take Keystone Exams?

    If a student was in a private or parochial school and has taken any one of the three tested courses (Algebra 1, Biology, or [10th grade] Literature) prior to coming to DASD, they will need to sit for the affiliated Keystone Exam.  In such situations, administration will work with school counselors to review incoming student records to determine if and when a student is eligible to test.  


    How were the Keystones affected during the 2019-2020 school year?

    Due to the Covid -19 pandemic, the statewide graduation requirement with the Keystone proficiency has been postponed and now only applies to the Class of 2023 and beyond. Current seniors (Class of 2022) are exempt from the Pennsylvania State Graduation Requirement.

    As a result of Act 136, any student who was scheduled to take a Keystone Exam in the Spring of 2020 has been determined proficient on that exam if he/she/they passed the related course. This applies only to students who were enrolled in Algebra I, Biology and/or Literature (10th grade English) during the 2019-2020 school year.

    Students whose parents declined the opportunity for them to take any of the Keystone Exams during the 2020-2021 school year can participate in the Keystone Exams the following school year to keep multiple options for fulfilling the PA graduation requirements (i.e. Proficiency on each exam; Obtaining a composite score of 4452).


    What do I do  if my student is absent during testing?

    If your student is absent during the entire testing window (actual testing and make-up days), the testing booklet is coded as absence.  This then impacts the school’s and district’s participation rate.  If your student is in the Class of 2023 or beyond, he/she/they are required to complete the Keystone Exam(s) they are eligible for during the next testing wave before they can follow another Act 158 Pathway to graduation. 

    Families should notify the school ASAP regarding any absences during state testing.


    Can my child opt out of the Keystone Exams?

    Parents must review the Keystone Exams per state regulations (PA Code 22, Chapter 4.4) and opt their children out of each state testing based on the assessment(s) being in conflict with their religious beliefs. Students in the Class of 2023 and younger who opt out due to religious reasons are still required under state law to demonstrate proficiency on the Keystone content in each of the assessed areas using an alternative pathway in place of the exams.


    Is there a difference between “refusal to test” vs. “opting out of testing?”  If so, what does a refusal to test mean?

    Yes, there is a difference.  The “opt out” option is specific to religious rationale.  A “refusal” is when a parent declines the opportunity for their student to participate in the end of course Keystone.  The Federal and State governments have established  accountability requirements for such state testing, and therefore, failure to comply will affect the school district and our school’s participation rate.  NOTE: A “refusal” does not include students with identified medical situations at or just prior to the time of testing and extends through the length of the entire testing window (including make up dates).  


    Will my child be prepared to take the Keystone Exams?

    DASD School Board approves curriculum for all courses, including those affiliated with Keystone Exam courses, which are aligned with Assessment Anchors defined by Eligible Content standards sanctioned by PDE.  Throughout the school year, DASD faculty provides various opportunities for students to demonstrate meaningful academic progress within the curriculum that is tethered to PDE standards.  While preparation for Keystone Exams is embedded within the curriculum, students may receive additional resources and materials to review in advance of testing.  To best prepare for such testing, students are encouraged to demonstrate their best efforts by attending and engaging in class.  


    Is a student required to retake the Algebra I Keystone Exam again in high school if they score proficient in middle school?

    No, once students score Proficient or Advanced, regardless of the grade in which they take the Keystone course, they have satisfied the state requirement for that content area.


    How many times can a student take a Keystone Exam?

    If a student does not score at least Proficient after taking a Keystone Exam at the end of the course in the spring, he/she/they can retest during the Winter Wave administration of the Keystone Exams. Students can meet the statewide graduation requirement by completing one of the Pennsylvania Graduation Requirement pathways after multiple/three attempts of the Keystone Exams.

    For students who’ve taken the Keystone Exam(s) once already and did not achieve a proficiency or better rating, we will utilize the most achievable pathway options identified in Act 158.  If your student is in this situation, we want to keep as many practical options on the table.  


    Will my child receive accommodations on the Keystone Exams?

    Students receive accommodation as outlined in their IEPs or 504 plans, subject to any limitations the state has placed on a particular test.  While all Keystone Exams are untimed assessments, students typically complete a testing module within 2-3 hours.


    What are the PA Graduation Requirement Pathways?

    Act 158 of 2018 provides alternatives to Pennsylvania’s statewide graduation requirements.  However, this does not necessarily absolve students from sitting for the three end-of-course Keystone Exams.  Students in the Class of 2023 and beyond will have the flexibility to meet statewide high school graduation requirements through one of the following pathways to illustrate their college, career, and community readiness: (

Act 158 Pathway Graphic

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