Governor Tom Wolf on June 21, 2017 signed House Bill 202, known as Act 6, into law. The bill, sponsored by House Speaker Mike Turzai, amends the Public School Code to allow students in career and technology education (CTE) to demonstrate proficiency and readiness for high school graduation in an alternative pathway, and removes the statutory requirement for the Keystone Exam on that student population.
“Whether they are working and learning in the classroom, in the lab, in the shop, in the field, or in the garage, our young people are always striving and succeeding across a wide variety of fields,” Governor Wolf said. “With this measure, Pennsylvania will recognize that diversity and will no longer hold all students to the standard of a Keystone Examination, which too often doesn’t reflect the reality of a large sector students’ educational experience.”
“We continue to recognize the importance of providing multiple avenues for students to demonstrate educational achievement, especially for students enrolled in career and technical education,” said Speaker Turzai. “This law will ensure our career and technical education system is flexible enough to adapt to the needs of emerging industries, is accountable to ensure every child has a chance to succeed, and is providing robust support for our educators. The bill passed the House and Senate with broad bi-partisan support, and I am very appreciative that the Governor has signed this important legislation into law.”
“With this legislation, we are addressing some simple facts: Our economy is starved for workers with skills in the trades and not every student is best suited for academic education pathways,” said Rep. Mike Tobash. “We recognize that knowledge is valuable and different types of knowledge are important for students, employers and our economy.”
Act 6 implements one of four recommendations made by the Pa. Department of Education (PDE) pursuant to Act 1 of 2016, which paused the Keystone Exam graduation requirement for a period of two years (delayed until the 2018-2019 school year). Specifically, Act 1 required PDE to investigate alternative options for a state level graduation requirement and provide those recommendations to the General Assembly.
The four options for students to demonstrate proficiency and post-secondary readiness are as follows:
- Achieve an identified composite score, based on performance across all three Keystone exams (Algebra I, Biology, and Literature)
- Achieve equivalent score(s) in standards-based subject matter content area(s) on one of the alternate assessment approved by PDE
- Demonstrate competency in standards-based subject matter content through course grades or assessments plus, for students who are identified as Career and Technical Education (CTE) Concentrators, demonstrate evidence of readiness for postsecondary success through the National Occupancy Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI)/National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) Skills assessments or Competency Certificates; and
- Demonstrate competency in standards-based subject matter content through course grades or assessments plus evidence related to postsecondary plans that demonstrate readiness to meaningfully engage in those plans.
Passage and enactment of this bill, which addresses the third recommendation above, supports Governor Wolf’s position that passing a high school exit exam is not the sole valid measure of proficiency and career readiness, and that Pennsylvania should take a more holistic approach by enabling students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills through multiple valid measures.
“We are a commonwealth blessed with a wide variety of career opportunities and industries that our young people must enter if we want to stay competitive in the global economy,” Governor Wolf added. “We want them to be prepared with the necessary skills that employers need in order to allow our industries to thrive, and enable young people to grow their own families right here in Pennsylvania.”