Keystones challenge Susky students

The Keystones have replaced the PSSA’s, affecting grades 7-11 in the subjects of Math, English, and Science.

The junior class will be the most heavily affected this year as their scores are the only scores held accountable by the state this academic school year. Sophomores will also take it once this year in order to attempt scoring proficiently prior to their junior year. If they do, they will not have to retest again  unless they chose to do so.

The Keystones  will count as a graduation requirement across the board, requiring proficient scores or higher in each subject area prior to graduation.  Algebra I scores will need to be within the  1500-1545 range, Biology scores within the  1500-1548 range, and the Literature scores within the  1500-1583 range for proficiency.

If students do not demonstrate proficiency on any of the Keystone exams, they will have to participate in supplementary instruction prior to re-taking the Keystone/module via a separate course added to their schedules. If they do not pass, they will have one chance to retake it again in their senior year.

Junior Melissa Futrell realizes she will have to take initiative  to prepare for the upcoming test.

“I think the Keystones are definitely more advanced than the PSSA’s were… I think they really raised the bar with this test. [By[ having to score proficient or not being able to graduate is going to make juniors focus more,” said Melissa Futrell. “I think we [will] have to think more abstractly…”.

In preparation and in order to reach the Adequate Yearly Progress, or A.Y.P., standards this year,  teachers across the disciplines will conduct remediation lessons for the sophomore and junior classes in order to review  skills and materials on the Keystone test.

Even though teachers cannot know what is definitely on the test, Sheila Bedell, the head of the English department, will teach the curriculum in relation to what the English department as a whole has been told through the administration and has researched via materials issued by the state.

“On the test, there will be both fiction, …non-fiction, and…more literary element work than on the PSSA’s. We do not know what’s on the test for sure though until the test actually comes out,” said Bedell. “Everything that’s on the test is fair game for everyone that takes it. They will have to analyze, compare, and think about the text.”

The Math department is also refocusing for the Keystones.

Since students that have recently taken Algebra I  have a better chance of scoring proficient or advanced, Math teacher Tim Scripko, thinks this will boost scores. “Annual/yearly progress will start raising more and more… because these kids only have to focus on one part of the subject instead of many. Also, they’ll be taking it more than once,” said Scripko.

Science teacher Barbara Nealon also feels positive about the specific discipline areas that Keystones will focus on.

“Personally, I think the Keystones will be better than the PSSA’s because, in this case, students only have to worry about one topic of science, which is Biology,” said Nealon.

Since sophomores still may have to take the test twice,  Anastasia Kuznetsova also realizes the need for more effort on the student’s part and  has  begun to prepare herself mentally. “Taking the practice Keystone in Middle School let me have a little bit of an idea of what’s going to be on there this year. Right now, reading more non-fiction books is my main priority,” said Kuznetsova. “PSSA’s were easier because I felt like I could finish quicker. The material on the test [was content] we learned in the past years, and for the Keystones, it’s [based more] on things we learned that year, making it more difficult.”

While primarily affecting the Science, English, and Math departments, it will not affect the Social Studies department at this point in time  due to lack of state funding for the creation of a Social Studies section of the test.

The Social Studies department will head the major research projects this year for each grade level, while the rest of the faculty (excluding English, Math, and Science teachers) will strive to incorporate data driven lessons and skills needed to succeed on the Keystones.

Tests will start for juniors and sophomores on Jan. 9-23, and in the spring, it will continue from May 13-23.