The graduation tests known as the High School Assessments did not keep any students from graduating in St. Mary’s last spring, according to data released this week by the Maryland State Department of Education.
Last school year was the fourth that students had to pass the HSA requirement, which could be met in several ways. Students had to pass state-mandated tests in English, algebra, biology and government; earn a combined score of 1602 on all four tests; or a combined 1208 on the English, algebra and biology tests to receive a diploma.
The government exam was reinstated in this past spring’s Maryland General Assembly, and will again be administered starting this school year after a short hiatus. Students entering ninth grade next year will again be responsible for passing the government HSA, Jeff Maher, executive director of teaching, learning and professional development, said in an email.
Nearly all of last year’s seniors in St. Mary’s high schools either passed all four tests or met the combined score option to qualify as meeting the HSA graduation requirement, repeating trends from the previous three years. Anyone who did not meet the HSA requirement failed to meet other graduation requirements, too, such as earning the proper number of credits.
A total of 94.3 percent of the 2012 graduating class passed the tests or met the combined score option, down from 95.6 percent of the 2011 class.
Those who failed to do that could meet this graduation requirement by completing alternative projects under what is called the Bridge Plan for Academic Validation.
The 71 of St. Mary’s high school 2012 seniors (up from 53 in the class of 2011) who didn’t pass the tests met the requirement by completing at least one bridge project. In St. Mary’s, 5.7 percent of students relied on at least one bridge project. Statewide 9.6 percent of students met the requirement through the alternative bridge plan.
The percentages of students having to complete a bridge project in lieu of passing the tests was higher for certain subgroups. For example, 17.4 percent of black students met the requirements by completing a bridge project and nearly one-third of special education students completed a bridge project.
“Recognizing that students demonstrate their learning in varied ways, and not always through a single assessment, we work to support students in meeting this graduation requirement,” Maher said in an email.
He said some students may begin a bridge plan and then end up meeting the requirement by passing the HSA exam, which students can retake multiple times.
“For others, the bridge plan allows them to demonstrate their understanding of the content in a different way than a traditional assessment,” Maher said.
Only one student in the state out of nearly 60,000 students who completed high school last spring was denied a diploma solely because of not completing the HSA requirement, according to an MSDE release.