August 2022


Beginning with the class of 2023, graduating Pennsylvania high school students will need to demonstrate career or postsecondary preparedness in addition to meeting existing statewide graduation requirements. Act 158 of 2018 outlines five pathways to meeting this requirement, including two that rely exclusively on Keystone Exam performance and three pathways that allow for alternative demonstration of college or career readiness.

In this policy brief, PERC:

  • Outlines Act 158 and the new graduation requirements,
  • Describes the evolution of the policy,
  • Summarizes the previous research conducted on high-stakes graduation requirements in PA, and
  • Highlights equity concerns that previous research has raised.

For guidance on each pathway, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has prepared a toolkit to aid districts, youth-serving organizations, and families in understanding and preparing for the requirements, beginning with the Class of 2023. Pathway descriptions are summarized below.


What are the Pennsylvania High School Graduation Pathways for Demonstrating College or Career Readiness?


Keystone Pathways

  • Keystone Proficiency: Score proficient or advanced on each end-of-course Keystone Exam: Biology, Algebra I, and Literature.
  • Keystone Composite: Earn a composite score of 4452 on all three Keystone Exams (while obtaining a proficient score on at least one of the three exams and no less than a basic score on the remaining two).

Alternative Pathways

  • Career and Technical Education (CTE) Concentrator: Attain an industry-based competency certification related to the student’s program of study or a demonstration of readiness for continued success or engagement in a CTE program of study.
  • Alternative Assessment: Attaining approved alternative qualifications (e.g., ACT/SAT achievement, AP/IB exams, or acceptance and ability to enroll in a 4-year college/university).
  • Evidence-Based: Demonstration of evidence consistent with the student’s goals and career plans (e.g., completion of an internship, externship, or cooperative education program; attainment of an industry-recognized credential, acceptance to a 4-year college/university, and/or letter guaranteeing full-time employment).