Pennsylvania Education Department Delays Graduation Testing Deal
Pfister, Bonnie, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The state Education Department is temporarily backing away from graduation testing because of legislative opposition and the state's multibillion-dollar deficit.
Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak's office said Monday he would not proceed with the testing portion of a seven-year, $201 million deal with a Minnesota company, Data Recognition Corp. Two other components of the contract -- developing model curriculum and diagnostic tools for teachers -- will proceed.
"Under the current circumstance and to allow the emerging consensus to develop, we will not spend funds for state-mandated graduation test development under the Data Recognition Corp. contract," Zahorchak wrote in a letter dated Friday to the chairmen of the House and Senate education committees.
"We intend to revisit this issue when final form regulations, or the consensus we all hope for, is in place."
The decision was made one week after the Senate voted 48-1 to prohibit spending to develop a statewide graduation competency test - - know as Keystone Exams -- unless the Legislature approves such testing. The House is considering a similar proposal.
"I am cautiously optimistic about the Rendell administration suspending development of the Keystone Exams," said Senate Majority Whip Jane Orie, R-McCandless, the bill's author. "It is unfortunate that it took this legislation to get the administration to acknowledge that there are concerns over the proposal."
Department spokesman Michael Race said Zahorchak hopes lawmakers will reach consensus as part of the budget debate, as they try to close a $3.2 billion spending gap.
Although Pennsylvania administers standardized tests in 11th grade, there is no score requirement to receive a high school diploma. …