Senator Orie calls for suspension of keystone exams

Today, State Senator Jane C. Orie (R-40) called on Governor Ed Rendell to suspend funding for the Keystone Exams, the Administration’s controversial end-of-year testing scheme.

In a letter to the Governor, Sen. Orie stated, “With federal rejection of our Race to the Top application, the $250 million shortfall in federal funding, and the fact the Administration’s chief advocate for the Keystone Exams (former Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak) is now rejecting them, I believe now is the right time to halt their development, particularly as a new Administration will soon be taking office.”

*One of the selling points of the Keystone Exams was the potential for Pennsylvania to win $400 million federal Race to the Top Funding.  Despite the Exams being adopted, Pennsylvania lost out on Race to the Top Funds.  With only 122 of 500 school districts on board, there was not sufficient local support for Pennsylvania application.

*The Commonwealth’s 2010-11 Budget was predicated upon the federal government enacting legislation appropriating $850 million in FMAP funding.  While federal legislation was passed and Pennsylvania will receive $600 million in FMAP funding, the Commonwealth will need to identify $250 million in spending reductions to truly balance our budget.

*According to the July 26th Morning Call: “(Former Secretary and current Allentown Superintendent Gerald) Zahorchak will not use the new Keystone graduation exams for 11th-graders that the state is paying an outside firm to develop. Instead, Zahorchak will use a different standards test, University of Cambridge International Examinations, to measure graduation preparedness.  Zahorchak said the Keystone exam will be a good test when it is complete, but he prefers to use a test 71 other countries use.”

Kim Geyer, President of Mars Area School Board stated, “Former Secretary Zahorchak’s decision not to utilize the Keystone Exams for Allentown School District flies in the face of hundreds of school districts statewide who fought in opposition to their being imposed as a one size fits all assessment system.  Secretary Zahorchak fought against local control.  Is it not ironic he has chosen at his own discretion to become the exception one of his own rules?”

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