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Most county students pass assessment tests needed for graduation

November 01, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

More than 92 percent of high school juniors in Washington County Public Schools passed the state exams they need in order to graduate next year.

This year's seniors will be the first graduating class required to pass High School Assessments in algebra, English, government and biology in order to receive a high school diploma.

According to data released by the Maryland State Department of Education last week, 92.7 percent of juniors took the four exams last year or earlier and met the requirement. Nearly 3 percent of last year's juniors had not taken four exams as of May.

However, 4.5 percent of last year's juniors took the four exams and did not achieve a score needed to graduate. In order to meet the requirement, students can either pass each of the four exams or receive a combined score of 1,602.

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Jeremy Jakoby, supervisor of testing and accountability, said some of these numbers have changed as students took tests over the summer or left the school system.

Washington County Public Schools officials said that in light of the new graduation requirement, testing information is being reported in a different way, making it difficult to compare 2008 data with that from 2007. However, state officials released information about students statewide that can be compared to county scores.

Throughout Maryland, 83.4 percent of last year's high school juniors had taken all four HSA tests and met the graduation requirement, and 9.1 percent of students took those tests and did not pass. About 7.5 percent of students have not taken the tests.

Information about last year's 10th-grade students also was released last week by the Maryland State Department of Education.

Donna Hanlin, Washington County Public Schools assistant superintendent for secondary education, said that if a student does not meet the requirement after taking tests for the first time, they have several more opportunities to take the tests. Those students also are offered additional help in meeting the requirement.

Students who have difficulty taking exams are offered an alternate choice, which includes completing a project, in order to meet the requirement. Officials said they were unsure how many students were taking that option.

A modified HSA also is offered for students with special needs.

Clyde Harrell, director of high school education, said that Washington County Public Schools officials are working to improve student performance in all areas.

In Washington County, 95.7 percent of last year's 11th-grade students who took the algebra exam passed it, which is higher than the state average of 87.2 percent. Local achievement on that exam among African-American students was 86.9 -- higher than the state average of 74 percent, according to state data.

About 89 percent of Washington County's juniors last year passed the biology exam, which is higher than the state average of 84.5 percent among that same group of students.

In Washington County, 85.2 percent of last year's juniors who took the English exam passed it, which is higher than the state average of 84.4 percent, according to state data. However, local achievement on that exam among African-American students was 72.9 percent -- less than the state average of 73.1 percent.

In Washington County, 94.3 percent of last year's juniors who took the government HSA exam passed it, more than the 91.9 percent who passed statewide.

According to data released by the state, African-American students are taking the exams and failing them at a higher percentage than all of their peers except those with special needs. Nearly 13 percent of African-American students who took the algebra exam in their junior year did not pass it, and another 21.8 percent did not pass the biology HSA.

Locally, 11.4 percent of last year's juniors who are African-American failed the government exam.

More than 26 percent of African-Americans in last year's junior class failed the English exam, which is less than the number of Hispanic (28.3 percent), special education (46.3 percent) and limited English proficient (53.8) students who failed the same exam, according to state data.

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