Parents Frustrated with HSA Exam Results

Odell B. Ruffin | 12/29/2008, 12:01 p.m.

With six months to go until the end of the school year, parents of seniors at Prince George€s County High Schools are in a state of uncertainty. As many as 2,754 students remain at risk of not graduating in June because they have not yet passed their High School Assessment (HSA) Exams. The four-subject exam requires students to demonstrate proficiency in English, algebra, government and biology, and they must achieve a minimum score of 1602.

€As a concerned parent of a child that attends a Prince George€s County school, I think this test should have been introduced gradually. That€s a lot, considering that some of our students today have a phobia when it comes to taking tests,€ said La'Nita Wrenn, the parent of a high school senior.

New PGCPS Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. took an aggressive approach when dealing with the matter in his first official meeting last month. Hite offered alternatives for parents to become more aware of their students progress in passing the HSA exam and presented current updates on progress and report cards.

€I didn't even order her cap and gown yet in case she doesn't pass this test,€ said Michelle Hicks, a Kenwood high school parent.

Hicks said her daughter is on the honor roll, but seems to have a problem when it comes to taking tests.

€I wish they would figure this thing out,€ Hicks said.
Seniors have three opportunities to take the tests before graduation. Those who have not passed after two tries, but meet all other graduation requirements, may complete certain projects over the summer instead. One, called the Bridge Plan, is for students who have passed the HSA-related courses.
As a teacher, Jackie Layer said she is frustrated with how the exam is presented to middle school students, but mentions the problem of certifying students for performance in society. €The passing score is cumulative so that a low score in math can be off set with higher scores in English or social studies,€ Layer said.

Close to 200 students had not taken the test according to the PGCPS board. A major effort was placed on meeting with parents to coordinate a plan for the students. Also of concern is the rate of truancy among PGCPS students, which is a contributing factor to students missing exams.

€The most important thing the community can do is encourage the students to take the exams,€ said Donna Muncey, PGCPS System Accountability Chief.

Some parents€ frustration is causing them to consider transferring their children to other school systems.

€I will not let my son work hard and not be able to graduate. He has the grades. I will not let this destroy his self esteem,€ Wrenn said.

The next round of test scores will be available in early January.