At long last, the Maryland State Department of Education is scheduled to release the 2008 High School Assessment scores tomorrow, just as the state school board votes on whether to keep the requirement that this year's seniors earn a minimum passing score on four tests or complete project equivalents to graduate.
A preview of Baltimore's scores is already available on the city school board Web site, under an information item for tomorrow night's meeting about the state of high schools. The presentation shows that high school enrollment is up, the graduation rate is up (to a projected 62.6 percent, from 60.1 in 2007) and far more students have passed the HSAs. The number of city high schools meeting AYP is up to 21, from 11 last year.
Still, for many city students, the news is far from positive. Of about 3,900 seniors, 678 have not yet passed any of the four graduation exams; another 403 have passed just one. While the pass rates among special education students have improved, they're still in the single digits on every test except government. There are 1,232 seniors working on 2,397 projects, an overwhelming prospect for some, as Liz explained in her story about students at Northwestern.
To celebrate the city's improvement, state schools chief Nancy Grasmick and Gov. Martin O'Malley are scheduled to attend a news conference this morning at the Digital Harbor/National Academy Foundation high school complex. Funny how they can appear together (and both take credit?) when the news is good. Remember the vicious insults that flew back and forth just a few years ago, when O'Malley was governor and Grasmick tried to take control of 11 city schools?
Behind the scenes, relations aren't so rosy. Liz reports that some of the O'Malley-appointed state school board members want to delay denying students diplomas based on their HSA results. Grasmick wants to keep the requirement this year (as does Dr. Alonso). One O'Malley appointee is upset that Grasmick cut off, days in advance, the sign-up for public comment that the state board will hear before voting on the HSA requirement tomorrow, suggesting that perhaps critics are being silenced.
UPDATE: I asked Dr. Grasmick about the public comment tomorrow. She said extra accommodations have already been made: Public comment will be heard at the beginning of the meeting rather than the end, and an additional half-hour was added to the time normally allotted. Still, the spots filled quickly, and not everyone who wants to speak will be able to do so.