The Keystones are Great… Unless You’re a Student


Image credit: The Sentinel

Dylan Shapiro, Education Writer

Every year, as we near the month of May, high school students all across the state ask themselves “Why do we need to take this test?”. The Keystone exams take hours to finish, leaving everyone who takes them virtually brain dead for the next twelve hours. So why do we take the tests, and do they actually help anybody?

The Keystone does help some people- just not students. School districts can hold up test scores as a reason for parents to send their students there. This mentality of “high test scores, or else,” is obviously bad for a school environment. Telling a student that their worth as a person is nothing more than a number in a spreadsheet will demotivate an entire generation, and fast.

Educators preach the importance of a “growth mindset,” but Keystones undermine this philosophy. For instance, after a student passes the Keystone Exam, they are done with Keystones for that subject for the rest of their lives. Essentially, if you can pass the Keystone, you don’t need to learn anything else about that subject. This teaches that a student’s value is based off of their test scores, and once a student has met those goals, there is no reason for them to improve themselves academically.

In addition, Keystone scores really don’t affect the lives of students. It makes no difference in terms of graduation if a student passes the Keystone as a senior or as a freshman. This says to every student in the state that as long as they have a ninth grader’s knowledge of algebra, or biology, in the twelfth grade, they will be perfectly fine forever. It completely disincentivizes learning.

These problems don’t even include what taking a Keystone is like. Passing the Algebra Keystone is much more about being good at logic puzzles than being good at math. From confusing questions to absurd diagrams to word problems with so much meaningless fluff you could make a pillow out of them, the problems never seem to end. Numerous questions on the test seem to make no sense whatsoever. This structure simply reinforces the mindset that students are less smart if they can’t do well on standardized tests.

State standardized tests (like the Keystone Exam) are currently, and will likely continue to be, a problem, with each facet more awful than the last. Until these tests and the way they are administered seriously changes, there will continue to be an old, outdated, and incredibly problematic system as the centerpiece of our education system in this state. So all people who believe that the problems with these tests outweigh their benefits should contact their state legislators as soon and as often as they can. We must take the fight for our education into our own hands.