Where only first names appear, names have been changed to protect the identities of the sources.
Some students have been asked to take the High School Assessments (HSAs) again despite achieving the minimum combined score required to receive the Maryland state diploma, according to Assistant Principal Linda Wanner.
The administration sent letters to those who had not passed the English or Algebra HSAs, even if they had achieved the necessary cumulative score of 1602, said Wanner. The letters were the same as those sent to students who still needed to pass an HSA to graduate. However, Jim, a junior, after further inquiries, opted out of retaking the English HSA.
According to Wanner, the administrators chose to send the letters so that the school can meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements this year, which are set by the national No Child Left Behind Act. She said that even if only a few students fail in certain areas, the school is still labeled as a "failing school" when evaluated for AYP by the state.
Most students in this situation only failed by four or five points the first time, so if they just are a little more careful when they take it a second time, they can easily pass, said Wanner. She said there were approximately 20 seniors who took the HSAs in April who had failed previously and passed the second time, which helps the school and Wanner said does not harm the students.
Wanner acknowledged that the students did not technically need to take the HSAs again to graduate, but said it is still important for them to do the best they can on them.
Although Blair met AYP for 2008, meaning every demographic group earned an average of "proficient" on the Algebra and English HSAs, maintained at least an 85.5 percent graduation rate and had at least 95 percent participation on these two HSAs, Blair was still considered a school "identified for improvement," according to Blair's Maryland Report Card. In addition, Wanner said Blair did not meet AYP for two consecutive years prior to 2008. In order to shed the "identified for improvement" label, Blair must meet AYP again this year. Wanner explained that the administration was only concerned with the English and Algebra HSAs because those are the examinations that factor into determining AYP. "Schools are still judged on the Algebra and English HSA passing rates," she said.
When Jim first got a letter saying he needed to retake the English HSA, he said he was alarmed and became angry since he had met the combined score requirement and was three points below the passing grade score for the individual English HSA. The letter he received, signed by Wanner and Assistant Principal Andrew Coleman, was a standard letter telling students which HSAs they needed to take, and did not make any mention of the fact that he did not need to meet anymore HSA requirements to graduate.
Jim went to his counselor and called the HSA Hotline, a phone number for anyone with questions about the HSAs, to double check that he was not explicitly required to take the English HSA a second time and so decided against it. He felt it was just a way to make the school look better, without considering students' previous hard work. While Wanner did acknowledge that certain students may not wish retake the HSA, she stressed that these students could help out Blair by retaking the exams. By taking the HSAs again and passing, students are doing good for Blair. "Our school wants to meet AYP," she said.
Additional reporting by Warren Zhang.
Rebecca Guterman. Rebecca Guterman loves being on Silver Chips! In what little spare time she has left over, she loves to play the piano, dance really badly, and listen to music. Above all, seeing and talking to friends 24/7 is a must. Even though most of her … More »