Efforts Underway To Help Students With Tests

OCEAN CITY – Local schools are working overtime to assure that High School Assessment (HSA) exams don’t prevent students from graduating. By implementing prevention and intervention remediation efforts, schools are aiming to insure that every student passes the HSA’s and makes that coveted walk across the stage.

HSA’s are aimed at measuring school and individual student progress. The standardized test covers the subject areas of biology, government, English 10 and algebra. The class of 2009 will be the first graduating class to be required to pass not only all of their required courses, but also the standardized HSA exams, leaving teachers with the task of making sure every student is given ample opportunity to prepare and pass the test.

At a Board of Education meeting Tuesday, Snow Hill High School Principal Thomas Davis presented intervention and remediation opportunities that are being made available to students throughout Worcester County.

There are two types of students that are involved in prevention and intervention programs; students who are enrolled in HSA courses but need more help with certain areas and concepts, and students who have not been successful in passing the HSA in the past.

A variety of tools are used to identify students enrolled in HSA classes that may need additional help. Teacher observations and recommendations, English 9 final grades and exams, MSA results from eighth grade, diagnostic tests and Benchmark Assessment results are a few of the tools used to identify students who need additional tutoring.

“If you have enough data on that child, you know exactly what areas they need work in,” Davis said.

Smaller groups and more individual attention are provided through intervention and remediation programs, giving students another option for perfecting their HSA scores.

“We don’t want students taking the HSA over and over, we want them taking it once and passing it,” Davis said.

Teachers specific to one of the four- subject areas tested work with students in extra classes during the school day and after school. Summer classes are also provided for those students who were not successful on the May HSA. An algebra resource specialist travels from school to school, spending one to two days per week at each school, giving specialized assistance to those struggling with the algebra portion of the exam.

HSA exams are taken in May, October and January, which can provide a challenge for teachers and specialists. Students return from summer break and are provided only a few weeks to refresh their memories before the October exam.

Other challenges facing schools include planning around after-school activities and scheduling enough qualified teaching staff for the extra work. Student motivation is inevitably a challenge. Davis noted that it could be difficult to motivate a student who has performed poorly on the test several times or who is not a strong test taker.

Parents are also a factor, Davis said. Many parents, like many students, have yet to realize the urgency and importance of participation in HSA programs and classes. Schools communicate with parents frequently through phone calls and letters to inform them of their child’s progress and to make them aware of the additional help that is available.

Despite the inevitable challenges, Davis reported success from the intervention and remediation program. He maintained, however, that hiring more intervention specialists would be beneficial to the program and the students.