High School Test Pass Rate Improving

NEWARK – Unofficial high school assessment scores (HSA) show that the first graduating class to face the HSA requirement to get their diplomas has improved passing scores.

“These are unofficial scores. They are still embargoed by the state,” said Stephanie Zanich, in charge of testing and assessments for the Worcester County Board of Education, at the board’s October meeting on Tuesday. “These are our best estimates.”

The official scores will be released next week.

The HSA scores are now measuring the passing rate of just seniors, according to Zanich, since high school students must now pass those tests to graduate. The class of 2009 is the first to follow the requirements of test achievement for graduation.

Of 494 seniors in Worcester County High Schools, unofficial results show that 82 percent have passed the English assessment, a total of 407 students. African American students posted an unofficial 70 percent English pass rate.

Roughly 91 percent of the total senior class has passed the Algebra HSA.

“We met AYP (adequate yearly progress) in every subgroup in Algebra,” said Zanich.

All three high schools also met AYP in Algebra, she said.

Overall, 89 percent of the class of 2009 has already passed the Government HSA and 85 percent have passed the Biology HSA.

School board member Jonathan Cook asked how the unofficial scores stack up to the unofficial HSA results in other school districts, but that data is not yet available.

“It’s really complicated to get a handle on that ‘til this school year is over,” said Dr. Dick Walker, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction.

Students having difficulty passing the assessment tests work on meeting alternate graduation requirements through the Bridge Plan for Academic Validation.

In Worcester County, 43 high school students are working on projects through the Bridge program to meet the alternate requirements; 22 of those students are white, 19 African American, and two Hispanic.

Students working in accordance with the Bridge plan must complete and pass a varying number of projects per subject to earn HSA credit.

Bridge students may also retake the high school assessment exams several times per year.

If students do not pass all four required subject assessments by April of their senior year, they must go through the bridge plan to get their Maryland high school diploma. The timing can be tight in that case, Zanich said, but students do have the opportunity to continue working on their Bridge projects the summer after.

According to Walker, the Bridge plan places a double burden on the school system.

“Generally, you need a mentor and a content teacher,” said Walker of the support offered students through the alternate approach.

Content teachers are brought in to reinforce a student’s knowledge of a subject when a weakness is revealed, according to Walker.

A couple of students have undertaken nine projects to be completed between October and January.

Teachers must also take time from their normal schedules to score the bridge projects.

“It’s stretching our resources to the max,” Walker said.

Zanich said the mandate has proved challenging for the school system.

“It’s quite a challenge. It’s time consuming and the school’s have really stepped up,” said Zanich.

Board of Education member Sara Thompson expressed concern over the burden on the local teachers.

“We’re stretching our teachers very thin,” said Thompson.