Board to back graduation requirement change

May 19, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

The Washington County Board of Education on Tuesday voted unanimously to support a proposed change in high school graduation requirements that would go into effect for the class graduating in 2009.

The board's position will be shared with the Maryland State Board of Education at a May 25 public hearing, board President Edward Forrest said.

The proposal would change the requirements of a plan drafted by the state school board in December 2003. That plan would have required high school students to pass all four High School Assessments to graduate.


The assessments consist of tests in English 1, algebra/data analysis, government and biology.

The proposed change would require students either to pass each of the four assessments or to receive at least a combined passing score when all test results are tallied, said Robert Brown, coordinator of testing and accountability for Washington County Public Schools.

Under the new proposal, Brown said, a minimum score would be set for each assessment, meaning a student could not score below that minimum and still receive a combined passing score. The minimum score would be lower than the passing score for each subject.

The new option was developed after parents in the state expressed fear that their children might do well on three of the assessments, for example, but not receive a diploma because they performed poorly on the fourth, a state education department spokesman has said.

Brown said 1,086 Washington County 10th-grade students - or about 70 percent of the students at that grade level - have taken all four assessments. Brown said 515 of those students would meet the requirements of the December 2003 plan.

If the planned change were adopted, the number of students meeting the requirements would increase to 658.

The requirements would first take effect with students who would be freshman in fall 2005.

Students who do not pass the High School Assessment tests can take them again, Brown said.

Also under the proposal, students would be able to substitute passing scores on other tests for the High School Assessments. The substitute tests may include Advanced Placement Tests, the SAT II test or other state-approved tests, according to the Department of Education.

At a 2 p.m. work session Tuesday, Forrest said he thought the board should take a position on the issue and pass it on to the state board.

After a one-hour discussion, the majority of the school board members agreed that they support the proposal but also expressed some concerns, including the effect on the dropout rate, the cost of remediation and the turnaround time for providing the test results.

Board member Jacqueline Fischer said she thinks implementation of the requirements should be delayed for one year while concerns are addressed.

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