Montgomery Blair High School's Online Student Newspaper
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March 16, 2005

Change in HSA policy could hurt ESOL students

by Grace Harter, Page Editor
The new policy requiring students to pass the High School Assessment (HSA) tests before graduating high school may affect ESOL students negatively. These students may be barred from graduating because of their limited knowledge of English, according to ESOL director Joseph Bellino.

ESOL teachers are already planning methods to help their students pass. "We are taking the move very seriously," said ESOL teacher Ailish Zompa. "We are boosting the rigor in classes." She indicated that ESOL students may go to school for longer periods of time and go through intense preparatory courses before taking the HSA tests.

Despite all their efforts, some ESOL students still might not be able to graduate, said Bellino. Students should be able to do well in geometry, biology and algebra, "[but] English is a different story. [In ESOL], we spend a lot of time with foundation activities," he said. Students may not be able to grasp the nuances and complexities of the English language enough to pass the HSA test, according to Bellino.

Students are placed in ESOL levels depending on ability, not on age. Some students in higher levels may be able to pass the HSAs without a problem, but older students in lower levels may not be taught material tested on the HSAs before their senior year, according to Bellino.

"The state realizes there is an issue here," said Bellino. "[But] they don't know how to deal with it." Bellino thinks school administrators may wait to see ESOL students' scores before taking any action or implementing a new policy.

Students must take HSAs for English, algebra, NSL government and biology. Starting in 2009, students are required to pass the HSAs before graduating. If a student doesn't pass an HSA test, he or she is given academic assistance and allowed a retake, according to the Maryland Public Schools web site.

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  • Just curious... on March 16, 2005 at 9:24 PM
    Why is it bad or hurtful for a student to be proficient in the English language in order to graduate from an American high school?

    High school helps prepare its students for life after graduation. Wouldn't it be irresponsible to allow a student to graduate without one of the most fundamental skills required to function in society - a grasp of the English language?
  • 07 on March 16, 2005 at 11:51 PM
    I agree with 'Just Curious'. There is no harm in holding back students who can't pass the HSAs so that they get enough English teaching to be understood and to understand the language sufficiently.
  • muna (View Email) on March 17, 2005 at 10:00 AM
    What if you are asenior now and you already took the h.s.a.And youpassed all of them do you have to retake it because of the new policy.
  • Grace Harter (View Email) on March 17, 2005 at 1:07 PM
    The new HSA policy goes into effect in 2009. The first group of students affected will be the freshmen class of next year.
  • 07er on March 25, 2005 at 4:48 PM
    the problem is that they are going to be adults-maybe even older than 19 or 20 until they can graduate. the HSA does not have "regular" or common english as we speak everyday, it is supposed to be rigorous for us, which makes it even harder for ESOL students.
  • moe (View Email) on September 29, 2006 at 11:22 AM
    what if you new come from different contry and you do not speak enouf come you going to pass the HSA test
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