Montgomery Blair High School's Online Student Newspaper
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Nov. 16, 2008

HSA test results released for class of 2009

by Alisa Lu, Online News Editor
Over 20 percent of Blair seniors did not meet the requirements for the High School Assessment (HSA) tests as of May 2008, according to reports released by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). The class of 2009 is the first class that must take and pass all four HSA tests to graduate.

To pass the HSA tests, students can receive a combined score of 1602 in the four subjects, pass all four subjects individually by receiving a passing score on all four tests or complete the Bridge Plan to Academic Validation program. The passing scores for the Algebra, Biology, English, and Government HSAs are 412, 300, 396 and 394 respectively.

Only 4.6 percent of Blazers have taken all four tests and not met the requirement while 15.6 percent of Blazers have not taken all four tests, the report found. According to Assistant Principal Linda Wanner, 64 seniors still need to pass the Algebra HSA test, 80 seniors still need to pass the Biology HSA test, 110 seniors still need to pass the English HSA test and 64 seniors need to pass the Government HSA test.

The report found that only 4.4 percent of students who have been identified as Limited English Proficient students have met HSA requirements while 95.6 percent of those students have not taken all four tests. According to Wanner, the school has purposefully delayed administering the test to English for Speaker of Other Languages (ESOL) students so the students could be as prepared as possible for the tests. "We've pushed it as far back as possible so they can do well on the tests," she said.

The tests are especially challenging for the ESOL students because of the vocabulary in the tests, according to Wanner and social studies teacher George Vlasits. "The [government] test, which is supposed to be a test in government, is really a literacy test," Vlasits said.

In the social studies department, many ESOL students do not even take the government course until senior year so they are more proficient in English when they take the class and the test, according to Vlasits. "We want to give them the maximum chance to develop their English skills before we give them the class," he said. "You don't give them the test if they haven't taken the class."

According to a Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) press release, 81.7 percent of MCPS high school seniors met the HSA requirement. By subject area, 86.9 percent, 89.2 percent, 90.8 percent and 94.6 of students took and passed the English, Algebra, Biology and Government tests respectively. In the state, 9,000 out of 54,000 or one out of six seniors have yet to meet the requirement, according to a report released by MSDE.

MCPS Superintendent Jerry Weast testified before the Maryland State Board of Education on Oct. 28 in support of postponing the requirement of passing the HSA tests to graduate for at least one year but the Board voted seven-to-four to reject the proposal. The school was not surprised when the State made its decision, according to resource counselor Marcia Johnson. "We've been prepping for a long time so we weren't surprised when the state released a report on its decision," she said.

For students who have taken and failed the test two or more times, MSDE has provided an alternative to taking and meeting the HSA requirements called the Bridge Plan to Academic Validation. The Bridge Plan allows students to complete a project or projects, depending on their test scores, with a teacher acting as their mentor. If a project or projects are successfully completed, the student is still able to earn a diploma and graduate.

Special education students who have met a certain criteria set forth by MSDE are eligible to take the Maryland Modified High School Assessments (Mod-HSAs). The Mod-HSAs consist of three sections, 30-35 selected response each, for all four subject tests. According to the report, 10 out of 35 Blair seniors and 343 out of 840 MCPS seniors have yet to take and pass the HSAs in all four subject areas.

For more information and data on the High School Assessments, visit the HSA web site.

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  • : \ on November 17, 2008 at 11:15 AM
    tsk tsk tsk
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