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Changes to statewide graduation requirements not yet finalized

While the State Board of Education approved a transition plan last month from students taking the High School Assessment to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam, the changes won't be official until July.

Currently, students must pass all four HSAs in order to graduate. The transition plan calls for graduation requirements to be changed so that students must take PARCC assessments and will graduate no matter what they score. The pass/fail requirement for graduation would return in 2016.

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"If accepted by the state board, students scheduled to take [PARCC assessments] in Algebra and English will not be required to pass the tests because we don't know what passing the test means yet," said Steve Johnson, Carroll County's Assistant Superintendent of Instruction.

Per the Maryland State Department of Education, PARCC scores will not be available until December 2015, which is too late for re-takes to be administered or for a Bridge Plan to be developed.

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The Bridge Plan allows students who don't score well on exams to complete a project instead. Students must fail an exam twice before they are allowed to complete the Bridge Plan which allows students more time to complete the test content in a project form as a teacher serves as monitor.

Johnson said students, "test throughout the year at the high school level."

The delay in test results could cause a problem for freshmen and sophomores enrolled in Algebra 1 or English 10 during the 2014-2015 school year. These students will be first-time takers of the PARCC exam.

In order to iron out the wrinkles, the state board asked the Maryland State Department of Education to submit revisions.

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According to an implementation timeline released by the Carroll County Board of Education, the state board will approve publication of Annotated Code of Maryland graduation revisions during their December meeting, after which the Carroll school board plans to submit a letter with comments or concerns regarding the revised graduation requirements.

The public comment period will be from December to March, the state board will approve revisions between February and March, the county will revise documents in March and revisions will become effective July 1.

"They're giving school systems time to implement the new assessments," Johnson said. "At this point, we're just waiting to see and the ball is in the state Board of Education's court."

Johnson said he anticipates the state board will move forward with the PARCC assessments which will be completely online and will adhere to new curriculum standards.

Reach Sarah Hainesworth at 410-857-7873 or email sahainesworth@tribune.com.

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