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State Urged to Delay Link of HSA to Graduation

May 19, 2004
The following is the text of a letter by Board of Education Member Patricia B. O'Neill, urging the state's delay on taking final action linking High School Assessments to graduation. The Board of Education approved a resolution on April 26, 2004, recommending the delay. At the same time, the Maryland Association of Boards of Education also has announced its opposition to the state's proposed action (see statement at link below).

The state's public hearing is Tuesday, May 25, and individuals can register to testify by calling 1-410-767-0100 or provide written testimony to the Maryland State Board of Education at 200 West Baltimore Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21201.

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Action Urged to Delay State's
Action Linking HSA to Graduation


This June, the Maryland State Board of Education is scheduled to take action on a proposal to link passing the High School Assessments (HSA) tests to high school diplomas, beginning with the graduating class of 2009 (today's seventh graders). That June deadline for the State's high stakes accountability looms before us, and much like the April 15 tax deadline, few parents or citizens have taken action on what is potentially the most important action this State Board would have taken in decades. Our community needs to speak up and urge the State Board to delay action on this proposal until the State has had the opportunity to address concerns expressed by stakeholders.

The Montgomery County Board of Education welcomes the concept of rigorous high-stakes tests that determine student mastery of the curriculum. As a Board we have worked very hard to support the development and implementation of the HSA program. We have also asked numerous questions and offered constructive criticism throughout the HSA development process. We have offered our input in order to assure true stakeholder collaboration and inclusion and also to ensure that the tests are accurate and can be used to monitor individual student and school progress towards meeting the state's goals.

As a Board, we want to be sure that the State:

* Adopts and implements an HSA program that focuses on using tests to monitor and guide local school system measurements of, and responses to, student, school, and school system performance in accordance with the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act and Maryland's accountability program.

* Ensures that the adoption of a rigorous, high stakes testing program is matched with the full funding required to implement intervention programs that will provide an increased opportunity for all children to meet the new standards.

* Adopts an HSA program that includes alternate methods of ascertaining student skills and knowledge that can be accessed by students with disabilities, English language learners, low-income students and other students with special challenges.

* Provides sub-score information when releasing scores to the school system, so that schools and curriculum developers can target areas for improvement and conduct analyses that would identify and prioritize areas where improvement efforts should be directed because schools need specific information about individual students to provide remediation to the students.

* Implements a communication plan for the benefit of all stakeholders that provides clear, appropriate and timely information about the new HSA, including its role in narrowing the gap in academic achievement among racial and ethnic groups and assurances that the tests, as designed, will not have a disparate impact on the ability of all subgroups of students to excel academically.

The State Board will hold a public hearing on May 25, 2004. I urge parents of seventh, sixth and elementary students to sign up to testify or send written comments to the State Board. Our children's high school diplomas may be at stake. The Montgomery County Board has requested that the State Board postpone action to adopt any proposal on the HSA program until December 2004 to allow the State to address all the concerns that have been raised by stakeholders. There is a great deal of discussion in Maryland about gambling. We urge the Maryland State Board of Education and the Maryland State Department of Education not to gamble with our children's future.

Patricia B. O'Neill, Member
Board of Education

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