Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Md. seeks comment on new exit exam requirement


The Maryland State Board of Education published in the Maryland Register, as of today, proposed changes to the high school graduation requirements for Maryland students, taking into account scores on the tests in algebra 1 and 10th-grade English from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.

The proposed changes are now open for public comment, and the comment period ends on October 3, after which the board will consider adding the new regulations to the Annotated Code of Maryland, or COMAR. The board is expected to take up the final publication of these regulations at its October 25 meeting.

Comments about the proposed regulations can be sent to

Danielle Susskind
Lead Academic Policy Specialist
Division of Academic Policy and Innovation
Maryland State Department of Education
200 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21202

By telephone: (410) 767-0476
By email:

The proposed changes say that students who graduate this year or next year will only have to take the PARCC tests, provided they’ve already done that, while other students will have to achieve a certain score on the PARCC tests in order to get their high school diploma.

That score is set based on each student’s year of graduation:

  • For school year 2016-17: a score of 725 (performance level 3) on the PARCC test
  • For school year 2017-18: 733
  • For school year 2018-19: 741
  • For school years after that: 750 (a performance level of 4 out of 5)

On the 2016 algebra 1 test from PARCC, only about 59.9 percent of students scored a 725, i.e. a performance level of 3, or higher. For the English 10 test from PARCC, 63.6 percent of students who took the test got a 725 or higher. But for these students, the assessment requirement in algebra 1 and English 10 will have been fulfilled if they’ve simply taken the test, regardless of the score they achieved.

If students are taking the PARCC algebra 1 or English 10 test for the first time this year or in the future, the passing score requirement applies. Furthermore, the idea of “taking” the test in previous years means more for students than just writing their name or logging in. In order to count as “taking” the test, they won’t have had to answer every question on the test, but a minimum participation level applies under the law.

According to the Maryland Report Card, more than 80 percent of students who took the old High School Assessment in algebra 1 obtained a score that would fulfill the graduation requirement on that test in every year between 2008 and 2015. The same passing rates were seen on the English HSA over that period.

The results on the PARCC tests were a little higher this year than in 2015, but they’re still not quite approaching the passing rates for the HSA over the past decade. The HSA became part of a graduation requirement for Maryland students beginning with the class of 2009.

Students who don’t achieve the specified score but pass the course associated with the PARCC test at their high school will be able to complete a Bridge Plan for Academic Validation after their first attempt on the PARCC test in order to fulfill the assessment requirement for graduation, provided the new regulations take effect as proposed.

In addition to the above changes, the proposed regulations list several other tests that can be substituted for the PARCC tests—the ACT, AP tests, IB exams, and a few others—in order to fulfill the assessment requirement for high school graduation.

Because the Bridge Plan and other alternative paths to fulfilling the assessment requirement remain in place, I would expect very few students to be denied a diploma on the basis of failing to meet the assessment requirement. None were denied a diploma last year for this reason.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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