Friday, May 21–HSA Mandates Will Not Prevent Any Graduations

NEWARK – As was the case
last year, no Worcester County high school senior will miss graduation next
month because of Maryland High School Assessment (HSA) requirements.

County public school
staff reported this week that only two seniors have not met HSA requirements
for graduation and one of those students will complete a Bridge project in time
to graduate. The other student, said Stephanie Zanich, coordinator of
instruction and assessment, has not met other graduation requirements in
addition to the HSA.

This year, 391 seniors
passed all four HSA tests, and 46 students who could not pass the four
assessment tests took advantage of the chance to complete alternate projects in
those subject areas.

Zanich made her report
to the Worcester County Board of Education at its meeting this week.

“It’s that time of year
when we look at the senior class and see who’s going to get a diploma and who
isn’t,” said Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Dr. Dick Walker.

All Maryland high school
students must achieve HSA credit in Algebra, Biology, English, and Government
to graduate. The HSA requirement for graduation has only been in place for two

Most students pass each
of the four assessment tests to earn HSA credit, but the state also offers
other paths for students who cannot get that credit after multiple attempts.

This year, 46 students
completed Bridge projects, rigorous academic programs designed to show mastery
of the required elements of each subject by students who cannot pass the
assessment tests.

Some students have also
taken advantage of the combined score option, which allows students with high
scores in one subject, but a non-passing score on another subject assessment,
to combine all four scores to meet a minimum number.

No students have asked
for a waiver of the HSA, this year or last, said Zanich.

“It appears the system
has done a great job of readying these students to pass the tests,” said Board
of Education member Gary Mumford.

Worcester schools have
aggressively pursued grant funding to provide tutors for students to help them
pass the HSA tests and to fund the extra teacher time needed to handle Bridge
projects, according to Zanich.

“The teachers are
jumping in there and helping them on their free time,” said Board member Sara
D. Thompson.

According to Zanich,
Worcester County seniors have one of the best HSA pass rates in Maryland.

“We’re probably one of
the highest,” Zanich said.

The school system faces
changes and challenges on assessments in the future, Walker warned, despite
doing so well on the HSAs currently.

While students are
meeting federal adequate yearly progress goals now, those benchmarks are
increasing every year and must be met by 2014 across the board, Walker said.

“This is going to be a
major challenge … it’s important to keep in mind, with each passing moment we
get closer to 2013-2014,” said Walker.

While the new federal
Race to the Top initiative means a new curriculum, federal criteria and
assessments could change.

The county school system
has no idea what those changes will be in any practical sense.

“There’s no visible sign
the requirement will go away,” said Walker.