Keystone Exams Should be Erased

Last week, in a rare display of bipartisanship, the Pennsylvania Legislature voted unanimously to delay the start of Keystone Exams for high school seniors. Joe Ciresi, Democratic candidate for state rep in the 146th District, says lawmakers should take the extra step of eliminating these graduation exams altogether.

“School districts have spent hundreds of thousands of your tax dollars, in addition to many hours of staff time, to comply with this unfunded mandate from Harrisburg that furthers high-stakes testing,” Ciresi said.

The 45-year-old vice president of the Spring-Ford Area School Board supports the elimination of Keystone Exams, rather than simply delaying them until the 2018-19 school year, because details were not fully worked out prior to the law’s passage in 2013. Students will be required to pass end-of-course state exams in Algebra I, Biology I and language or a state-approved alternative assessment to graduate, beginning with the Class of 2019.

Instead, the money used to implement Keystone testing would be better spent investing in new classroom programs, continuing education for teachers and reducing property taxes.

“In Spring-Ford, parents are worried that their children won’t be able to graduate on time. In some cases, they are held over for remediation courses, instead of entering the vo-tech programs that they desire,” Ciresi said. “Furthermore, no one knows what the alternative project would be if the student opts out of the test.”

The son of a factory worker, Ciresi has served for seven years as a board member of the Western Montgomery Career and Technical Center, including three years as chairperson. This school provides excellent opportunities for high school students to learn a trade or skill not offered at conventional four-year universities.

Together with his fellow board members, Ciresi helped move Spring-Ford into the top 2 percent out of Pennsylvania’s 500 public school districts. During his tenure, the district expanded the high school’s Advanced Placement program and implemented the nation’s first-of-its-kind Hybrid Learning Center.

In 2012, Spring-Ford received the National Blue Ribbon Award — the first in district history.

“The PSSA tests, in combination with outstanding teachers and a well-rounded curriculum, are helping our students enter the world ready for college or a career at the conclusion of high school. Ramping up high-stakes testing is not the answer,” Ciresi said.

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Ciresi, a resident of Limerick with his wife and son, has served as a Spring-Ford Area School Board director for 10 years. For the last 14 years, he has worked as the Director of Sales and Promotions at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. The 146th District includes the boroughs of Trappe, Royersford and part of Pottstown, as well as Limerick, Lower Pottsgrove and Perkiomen townships.

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