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Pennsylvania switches to digital format for Keystones, PSSAs

Ashley Du / The SPOKE

By Ashley Du and Rajan Saha, Staff Reporters

On April 18, the Pennsylvania Department of Education announced the mandated transition to online testing for the 2026 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) and Keystone exams.

Over the next two years, every public school in Pennsylvania will make the transition to online testing for standardized exams. The department will issue a specialized software program for administering standardized tests. TESD plans for students in elementary school to use their district-provided iPads, and all middle and high school students to use a laptop.

Conestoga hopes to pilot the online Keystones in the winter of 2026 with a group of students who were absent for the main Keystones. The district will officially administer online exams in May 2027.

“I think (these changes) are going to be a good thing,” English teacher Dori Madigan said. “It will save our school time, save the state a lot of money and it’s going to cut down on paper usage.”

The department also announced two significant changes to the exams in addition to online testing: Technology-Enhanced Items (TEI) Question Types and the Benchmark Assessment Tool. TEIs will implement new questions using drag-and-drop options, sorting and graphic manipulation, which many students are already accustomed to using. Paper tests will remain available to students who require additional accommodations. The optional Benchmark Assessment Tool allows educators to gauge student progress and whether their students are on track to succeed on the end-of-year exams.

Sophomore and American Voices student Gisele Albert feels that the digital format will be advantageous to students taking the Literature Keystones.

“Especially for the (Literature) Keystone, it’ll be easier to write your response and type it out instead of handwriting. It takes less time and will be easier to edit,” Albert said.

Online exams will also shorten the time that scores return to students. James Bankert, 10th grade assistant principal and assessment coordinator, feels that these new changes will benefit both teachers and students.

“Keystone teachers don’t see how their students did until September, when they’ve already got a new crop of students for the next year,” Bankert said. “I haven’t seen how fast the turnaround time will be, but it’ll make things more efficient.”

Ashley Du can be reached at [email protected].

Rajan Saha can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Ashley Du
Ashley Du, Staff Reporter
Ashley Du is a freshman and a Staff Reporter for The Spoke. She likes to write for the T/E Life and Sports sections. Outside of The Spoke, she swims for the Malvern Swimming Association and plays violin.
Rajan Saha
Rajan Saha, Staff Reporter
Rajan Saha is a freshman and Staff Reporter for The Spoke. He covers sports in school. Outside of the newsroom, he has been playing guitar for the past eight years. He also plays soccer as a right wing for FC Europa and participates in DECA, working on the written business startup plan.