With Pennsylvania’s Act 158 going into effect for the first time this
academic year, we sat down with Dr. Tony Watlington, Superintendent of the
School District of Philadelphia, to discuss changes to graduation requirements and supporting
Let’s start from the beginning – what is Act 158?
Act 158, signed into law by Governor Wolf, updated statewide high school
graduation requirements, which are in addition to any local school district
requirements. The intent of Act 158 is to create pathways to graduation
that provide students with options and flexibility to demonstrate their
readiness for college, career, and community in a variety of ways that
reflect their strengths and interests. There are pathways outlined in Act
158 that are taking effect this school year, and we want to make sure that
our students are successful in whatever career path they choose.
What are the pathways to graduation, established by Act 158?
In addition to the School District of Philadelphia’s credit and project
requirements, Act 158 established five pathways to graduation, of which
students will need to satisfy one:
• Pathway 1: Keystone Proficiency (demonstrating proficiency on the three
• Pathway 2: Keystone Composite (a composite score of the three Keystone
• Pathway 3: Career & Technical Education (CTE) Concentrator
• Pathway 4: Alternative Assessment
• Pathway 5: Evidence-Based pathways
If a student is in a Dual Enrollment Program, they must pass all dual
enrollment courses. If they are enrolled in a Career & Technical
Education program, they must also successfully complete the program and
attain all required credits.
Tell us more about these pathways.
Through Pathways 1 and 2, students can demonstrate their readiness via
their performance on the state-required Keystone Exams in Algebra I,
Literature, and Biology. Pathway 3 allows for a more hands-on demonstration
of readiness as it relates to industry-specific work. Students on Pathway 3
can successfully complete one of the District’s more than 40 Career &
Technical Education Programs to qualify for graduation (like David,
pictured here). Other students can choose Pathways 4 or 5, where they can
meet requirements based on their acceptance to an accredited four-year
college or university, their completion of a pre-apprenticeship program,
their performance on other alternative assessments, or a range of other
So, all high schoolers have to do is complete one of the five
pathways, and they’re eligible for graduation?
In addition to meeting a pathway requirement, students are still required
to earn 23.5 credits in key subject areas, as well as complete a
multidisciplinary or service-learning project that addresses a real-world
community or school need. Those requirements are not impacted by Act 158.
Our students have so many options for success whether they choose to attend
college or successfully complete apprenticeships or state-approved CTE
Which students will benefit most from Act 158?
All of them. The students in our district are diverse with various
interests and talents; their paths to graduation should reflect that.
There's no one size fits all single path to graduation. Act 158 recognizes
that and allows every student to choose the path(s) to graduation that
works best for them.
What can students do to get/stay on track to graduate from high
Students can visit philasd.org/graduate
to review more
information as well as make sure they are familiar with the requirements.
Students can also speak with their school’s career or guidance counselor to
learn more about the updated requirements and to discuss their unique path
What can families do to support their student(s)?
We encourage our families and guardians to review the updated graduation
requirements online at philasd.org/graduate
. Discussing the
various pathways with your student will ensure they have the knowledge
needed to make an informed decision about their path. We also want our
families to sign up
for our Parent
Portal – parents and guardians can view their students’ progress, grades,
attendance, etc., and receive regular communication from the District. If
you have any questions or concerns about your student specifically,
families can always contact their student’s school to request an individual
conference. We also encourage parents and guardians to make sure their
students have good attendance and take full advantage of the District’s
many tutoring and enrichment opportunities. Additionally, report card
conferences are a key opportunity for families to check in and have deeper
conversations about their child’s performance in school.
What message do you have for current high school students in the
Your future is limitless! You are bright and highly capable, and we are
here to help you succeed. Keep working hard and reach out for help if you
need it. And to the Class of 2023, congratulations! We know you will make