Maryland Eases Rules on Tests Tied to Diplomas
Ylan Q. Mui, Wash. Post, Feb. 25
Maryland school officials approved a plan yesterday that would make it possible for a high school student to fail at least one of the four state tests that will be required for graduation starting in 2009 and still receive a diploma.
The decision represents an about-face from state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick’s earlier proposal to create different levels of diplomas for students who did not pass all of the standardized tests or who have disabilities. Critics of that idea, who included many parents and educators, said they worried that some of the diplomas would be considered inferior.
With the plan it approved yesterday by an 8 to 1 vote, the State Board of Education has cleared a broader path to a single diploma. Starting with the Class of 2009 — today’s seventh-graders — students may fail one or more of the state High School Assessments in English, algebra, government and biology as long as they earn a passing score when the four results are added together.
Maryland education officials say low-income and minority students are the ones whom their plan is built to accommodate. Gary Heath, an assistant state superintendent, pointed out that immigrant students who are less likely to pass the state English test could still receive a diploma if they did well on the other exams.
Only about 7 percent of students who speak limited English passed the state test in that subject in 2003, the second year that the exams were administered. Only about 16 percent of Hispanic students and 11 percent of black students passed the algebra test.
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