Seniors score lower in biology, English

Maryland students do better in math, government on HSAs

November 05, 2008|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,

Maryland's high school seniors are having more difficulty passing their biology and English exams than tests in the other two subjects, according to data released recently by the Maryland State Department of Education.

Statewide statistics released at the state board meeting last week showed that, overall, 83 percent of students in the Class of 2009 had passed all the High School Assessments required to receive a high school diploma. Special education students and those who are learning English as a second language were struggling the most.

More recently, the state posted the pass rates for last year's 10th- and 11th-graders on its Web site, The data are broken down by test rather than in terms of overall pass rates.

While 88 percent of students passed the American government test, only 81 percent of students have passed English and biology. About 4 percent of students still had not taken each of the exams by the end of junior year. The members of the Class of 2009 who are struggling most were those who have recently arrived in the country and are learning English: Only 14 percent have been able to pass their English test. However, they did far better in other subjects. About 50 percent passed algebra, and 39 percent passed government.

School board members voted 7-4 last week to continue linking passage of the end-of-course exams in biology, 10th-grade English, Algebra I and American government to the high school diploma. Students may do projects in the subjects in which they have failed the exams so they can still graduate with their class.

State education officials have said they expect few students to fail to get a diploma because they cannot pass the exams or do the makeup work.

But other groups say there will be thousands of students who will fail or drop out because they cannot make it through this year.

Looking toward the future, the pass rates reported for the Class of 2010 look slightly better than they did for the Class of 2009 a year ago.

The rates rose significantly in government and biology. In biology, for instance, some 68 percent of students have already met the requirement, up 6 percentage points compared with members of the Class of 2009 at that point.

In algebra the rates remained steady, and in English they rose a few percentage points.

Still, only 64 percent of this year's junior class have taken all four tests and passed. A quarter have yet to take one or more tests, and only 10 percent have failed one or more of the tests.


Students in the Class of 2009 scored highest on the government portion of the High School Assessments. The highlights:

* The pass rate on the government test was 88.4 percent. Of those who did not pass, 7.8 percent failed and 3.8 percent had not yet taken the test.

* Students performed second-best in algebra, with a pass rate of 84.1 percent. On that test, 12.3 percent failed and 3.6 percent hadn't yet attempted it.

* Performance in biology was only slightly better than in English. The pass rates were 81.2 percent and 81.1 percent, respectively. The portion failing was 14.9 percent and 15 percent, respectively. In biology, 4 percent had yet to take the test, compared with 3.8 percent who hadn't taken the English test.

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