This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
The clock is ticking.
By 2017, in order to graduate high school in Pennsylvania, students must pass three state standardized tests: algebra, literature, and biology.
Based on most recent student scores — especially in biology — if trends continue, Pennsylvania will soon see far fewer of its students walking down the aisle in cap and gown.
In order to preempt that scenario, State Rep. Mike Tobash (R-Dauphin) has introduced a bill that would repeal the state-mandated graduation requirement, leaving the decision to local school districts.
"The children of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, they need to learn, they need to be assessed, but when we’ve gone so far that we end up handcuffing our educational system with really an overwhelming amount of standardized assessment," said Tobash, "we need to stop and put the brakes on here, take a look at it."
The bill would also halt the creation and implementation of the seven other subject-specific Keystone exams called for by existing state law.
Tobash, who testified on the matter at a hearing at Philadelphia City Hall in November, is skeptical that the tests are judging students on material that’s applicable to a modern workforce.
State Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York), newly minted as majority chair of the House education committee, has scheduled a hearing for the bill in Harrisburg on Feb. 12.
"There definitely is support for it," said Saylor. "Is there overwhelming support? I’m not sure."