Auditor General Eugene DePasquale on Wednesday released a report pushing for Pennsylvania to drop the Keystone Exams and instead help students pay to take the SATs.
DePasquale’s reason for the change is that Pennsylvania is losing money by offering a secondary level test that it is not required to provide. Federal law requires that all states administer a secondary-level standardized test, but in 2015 when the No Child Left Behind Act was replaced, that option no longer had to be the Keystone Exams.
The auditor general said 12 other states have since transitioned away from state-specific tests, with some simply offering the SAT or ACT.
School officials agree too much stock in standardized tests can do more harm than good.
Pennsylvania continues to offer and pay for Keystone Exams, with the state expecting to spend $100 million on the tests between 2015 and the expected end of the most recent contract in 2021, he said.
“Pennsylvania should aggressively explore using a nationally recognized test that can open new doors for students rather than continuing to spend money on an exam that is no longer required,” DePasquale said in a news release. “For less than what Pennsylvania spends on the Keystone Exams, it could instead pick up the tab for every high school student to take the PSAT or SAT.”
According to the auditor general’s report, the 2018-19 cost per student for the full SAT with the essay portion was $64.50, though bulk prices may be available, potentially bringing the test cost down to $48 per test, or $36 for SATs without the essay portion.
The health of a school is like the health of a person.
DePasquale said that with the reduced SAT price, it would be $1.2 million less than the $17.6 million the state paid Data Recognition Corp.for the Keystone Exams and classroom diagnostic tools in the 2017-18 school year.
“Not only would this change benefit families who now have to pay out of pocket for their children to take these nationally recognized tests, it could help students who are not on a college track discover that they could succeed in college and possibly change the course of their future,” DePasquale said.
In his report, DePasquale recommended the General Assembly request that the U.S. Department of Education provide funding for all required standardized tests, that the state Department of Education explore secondary students taking the SAT or ACT over Keystone Exams, that the PDE identify every dollar that DRC says it is owed in federal and state funds, that all state government contracts be easily accessible through channels established by state law, and that the PDE log and make public the curriculum each school district uses to ensure all students have access to a curriculum that does not put them at a disadvantage when taking standardized tests.