Top Bar

Lower Merion School District


Keystone Exams

Assessment Information

Where is The District in terms of changes due to ACT 158?

Recently in October of 2018, our Governor signed Senate Bill 1095 into law. Senate Bill 1095 amends the Public School Code by establishing alternative pathways for high school graduation and making other changes. Testing is still a requirement for Districts and Schools in Pennsylvania and students are still required to take these exams. What has changed is that students do not have to acquire “proficiency” or higher on the exams in order to graduate; However, it is the District’s commitment to prepare every student for post-secondary education, career, and life and will continue to support students in the demonstrated area of need through targeted, remediated support. 

Specifically, students will continue to take the Literature Keystone Exam at the conclusion of 10th grade. In advance of and during 10th grade, students will continue to be screened for reading support in a lab setting. If a student is not proficient on the Literature Keystone, he or she will continue to receive supplementary literacy support.
Students will continue to take the Algebra Keystone Exam. If a student is not proficient on the Algebra Keystone Exam, he or she will continue to receive supplementary Algebra support.
Students will continue to take the Biology Keystone Exam at the conclusion of the 9th grade biology course.  Guaranteed supplemental instruction in Biology is available to students in advance of the Keystone Exam.

Changes to Keystones and Project-Based Assessments

What has changed in terms of PDE requirements?

Since obtaining “Proficiency” on Keystone Exams are no longer required for graduation, the Project-Based Assessments will no longer be required by either the Sate of Pennsylvania or the District.

What has stayed the same?

Keystone Exams in Literature, Algebra I, and Biology are still required to be administered by the school district and taken by students. These skills are still necessary for college readiness. The district still has a responsibility and expectation to provide support for students who are not yet proficient.

Can students opt-out of Keystone Exams now that the graduation requirement has changed?

No. The expectations for students taking the exams have not changed. The procedures for requesting a religious exemption from the exam have also remained the same.

Where can I find more information on the Keystone Exams?

To view more information regarding the Keystone Exams, please visit the Pennsylvania Department of Education's website

Keystone Testing Windows

Pennsylvania Department of Education Logo

Preliminary Keystone Exams Testing Window 2018-2019

Assessment Dates
Winter: Wave 1 December 3-14, 2018
Winter: Wave 2 January 7-18, 2019
Spring May 13-24, 2019
Summer July 29-August 2, 2019

Preliminary Keystone Exams Testing Window 2019-2020

Assessment Dates
Winter: Wave 1 December 2-13, 2019
Winter: Wave 2 January 6-17, 2020
Spring May 11-22, 2020
Summer July 27-31, 2020


What are the Keystone Exams?

The Keystone Exams are end-of-course assessments designed to evaluate proficiency in academic content. Beginning with the class of 2020, students must demonstrate proficiency on the Algebra I, Literature, and Biology Keystone Exams to graduate. Students will be offered multiple opportunities to take the Keystones throughout their high school career.

Who will participate in the Keystone Exams?

In 2012–13, the Algebra I, Literature, and Biology Keystone Exams replaced the 11th-grade Pennsylvania System of School Assessments (PSSA) in math, reading, and science for purposes of student, educator, and school accountability. Students should take the Keystone Exams at or near the end of a Keystone-related course. The students’ results are banked until their junior year for accountability purposes and until their senior year for graduation purposes. Some students who previously completed a Keystone-related course but did not take the Keystone Exam will also participate for accountability purposes. Additionally, students who take a Keystone Exam and do not score Proficient may re-take the exam.

When will the exams be offered?

The Keystone Exams will be administered three times each year—winter, spring, and summer. Specific administration dates will be published by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Who decided what Keystone Exams should measure?

Groups of educators from across Pennsylvania chose the areas of knowledge on which the Keystone Exams are based. The groups included teachers, supervisors, curriculum directors, and college specialists. These groups also reviewed, edited, and approved exam questions.

What is assessed on the Keystone Exams?

Pennsylvania adopted the Pennsylvania Core Standards, standards aligned with expectations for success in college and the workplace. The Keystones are designed to measure these standards.

How long is a Keystone Exam administration?

There is no time limit for a student to complete a Keystone Exam. Each Keystone Exam should take the typical student 2 to 3 hours to complete. There are two modules on each test, and each module (or Test Session) of the Keystone Exam should take 1 to 1.5 hours to complete. Districts can administer the Keystone Exam modules across two days or divided across the morning and the afternoon of the same day.

What are the available formats for administering the Keystone Exams?

The Keystone Exams are available in both online and paper/pencil formats. Districts will determine if online, paper/pencil, or both formats will be used locally. Makeup exams will also be administered in either online or paper/pencil format.

Will students have an opportunity to experience online testing before taking a Keystone Exam online?

Tutorials and online training programs have been developed for the Keystone Exams. The PA Online Assessment Student Tutorial uses pictures, motion, and sound to present visual and verbal descriptions of the properties and features of the PA Online Assessment system. Students are allowed to repeat the Student Tutorial as often as desired and needed. The Online Tools Training (OTT) provides an introductory experience using the PA online assessment software allowing students to observe and try out features of the PA online assessment software prior to the actual assessment. Within the OTT, students also have the opportunity to practice typing responses in a narrative format, graphing functions, and entering equations using an equation builder tool. The online exam also has a “Help” feature that is available to the student during the exam.

What types of questions are on the Keystone Exams?

The Keystone Exams will include multiple-choice questions and constructed-response, or open-ended, questions. For each Keystone Exam, approximately 60  percent to 75 percent of the total score will be  from multiple-choice questions and 25  percent to  40  percent of the total score will be from constructed-response questions.

How are the written responses to constructed-response questions scored?

The written responses for constructed-response questions are scored by evaluators trained in applying a pre-determined scoring system. Scores are based on content only. Spelling and punctuation are not included as part of the scoring process. Most constructed-response questions require students to show their work or explain their reasoning. These Keystone Exam questions will ask students to explain, analyze, describe, or compare. Some questions will also require students to perform calculations or create graphs, plots, or drawings.

How are the results reported?

Keystone Exam scores will be processed as quickly as possible and provided to the districts. Two copies of the individual student report for all Keystone Exams will be sent to the school districts and charter schools. One copy should be sent home to parents/guardians; the other is kept by the school/ district. School-level reports will be used for curricular and planning purposes. School districts and charter schools may publish the results of Keystone Exams  for  each school. The state will also release school-by-school exam data.

May parents see the Keystone Exams?

Parents and guardians may review the Keystone Exams if they believe they may be in conflict with their religious beliefs by making arrangements with the School Test Coordinator once the exams arrive at the school. Confidentiality agreements must be signed, and no copies of the Keystone Exams or notes about exam questions will be permitted to leave the school. If, after reviewing the Keystone Exams, parents or guardians do not want their child to participate in one or all of the exams due to a conflict with their religious beliefs, they may write a letter specifying their objection to the school district superintendent or charter school CAO to request their child be excused from the exam(s).

Report Testing Irregularities

Parents/guardians who believe that a testing irregularity may have occurred may email or call 844-418-1651 to report the incident.

For additional information about the Keystone Exams, visit the PDE website at or contact your school district.