Keystone Exams - Biology test scores by proficiency level in Pennsylvania

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Why This Indicator Matters

The Keystone Exams are assessments students typically take during their junior and senior years of high school and are designed to evaluate academic performance in Algebra I, Literature, and Biology.[1] After completing each of these courses, all Pennsylvania students are required to take the corresponding Keystone Exam and demonstrate proficiency in order to fulfill their graduation requirements. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was signed by President Obama in 2015 to reauthorize the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), includes various provisions to certify the success of all schools and students in the United States. An essential element of both the ESSA and the ESEA is to provide accountability by ensuring all children have access to quality education and exposing gaps among underserved student populations.[2] The Keystone Exams were created for the purpose of meeting the federal accountability criteria of the ESSA and to replace the Pennsylvania System School Assessment (PSSA) that students used to take in 11th grade.[3]


[1] Pennsylvania Department of Education. (2021). Information for Parents of Guardians: Pennsylvania Keystone Exams. https://www.education.pa.gov/Documents/K-12/Assessment%20and%20Accountability/Keystone%20Exams/Administration%20Materials/2021KeystoneFAQ.pdf

[2] United States Department of Education. (2022). Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). https://www.ed.gov/essa?src=rn

[3] Pennsylvania Department of Education. (2022). Keystone Exams. https://www.education.pa.gov/K-12/Assessment%20and%20Accountability/Keystones/Pages/default.aspx

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Data Provided By

Definitions: The percent of students who took the Biology Keystone Exam for each district, charter school or technical school grouped by proficiency level.

Data Source: Pennsylvania Department of Education, Assessment and Accountability.

Footnotes: For 2014 -2015, only the results of the Keystone End of Course Assessment results are included.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, statewide PSSA & Keystone assessments were cancelled for the 2019-2020 school year.  For the 2020-2021 school year, Pennsylvania, like many states across the nation, afforded school entities the option to administer assessments at any time between the traditional spring window and the following fall to allow for flexibility as schools navigated the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, the test results will not be used for educator evaluations and the variability in testing periods, sharply reduced student participation rates, and other factors make comparisons between school entities and across school years improper.  Given these circumstances, the results should not be viewed as a complete, representative sample of all students in the commonwealth and will not be available.

Grade 11 scores are based on the best score to date for the assessment in which the student participated.  Project based assessments are excluded from accountability.

LNE = Low Number Event.  Statistics (rates, ratios, percents) are not calculated and displayed for counts less than 10 (or less than 3 for Bayesian/Nearest Neighbor rates).

Updated January 2023.