Standards approved for school exit exams

Board gives students 2 routes to a diploma

February 23, 2005|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Maryland's school board set minimum standards yesterday for passing a series of high school tests required for graduation from a public high school beginning in 2009.

The Board of Education's unanimous vote follows its decision last summer to require students to pass the Maryland High School Assessments in order to receive a diploma, beginning with this year's eighth-graders.

The board has set a passing score -- which is higher than a minimum score -- for each of the four tests. Students have two routes to obtaining a diploma. They can pass all four tests, or they can get a certain consolidated score on the four exams.

The latter provision allows students who may be very good in one subject and not as good in another to average their scores. For instance, said Gary Heath, assistant secretary for accountability and assessment, a foreign language-speaking student might have difficulty achieving the standard in English but have very good math scores.

As a result, a student could fail one of the tests and still graduate, but the board said that students must receive a certain minimum score on every test to receive a diploma.

Yesterday, the board set that minimum score for the algebra, biology and government tests. The English minimum will be set later.

The minimum scores were no more than 10 points below passing. For instance, in algebra a passing score is 412 and the minimum score is 402. Last year, about 58.8 percent of students in the state passed the algebra test and 66.8 percent would have met the minimum. The highest possible score for any of the tests is 650 and the lowest is 240.

Board Vice President Jo Ann T. Bell said she worries that some students would only shoot for the minimum in some subjects. "I want to make sure all of these kids work to their potential and don't skate by," Bell said.

The board also agreed yesterday to require one fewer test of high school students. Instead of taking a 10th-grade Maryland School Assessment reading test and the ninth-grade High School Assessment in English, students will take the English High School Assessment in 10th grade.

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