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March 27, 2023

Philly High Schoolers: What they need to know about graduation this year

Education High School

Content sponsored by Limited - SDP Sponsorship Badge - March 2023

Limited - SDP - David School District of Philadelphia/for PhillyVoice

David, class of 2023 at Frankford High School, is on Pathway 3 to graduation.

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 student success.

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 Keystone exams)
• Pathway 2: Keystone Composite (a composite score of the three Keystone exams)
• 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 criteria.

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 programs.

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 school?

Students can visit 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 to graduation.

What can families do to support their student(s)?

We encourage our families and guardians to review the updated graduation requirements online at 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 District?

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 us proud!