School Improvement in Maryland

How do I support my child in being successful on the High School Assessments?

Over thirty years of research show that early and active involvement by a parent throughout their child’s education—helping with homework, talking about school, attending school activities—is the most powerful influence and has benefits that reach far beyond a student’s preK-12 years. Parent interest in supporting their child’s success on state assessments gives students a huge advantage.

State tests assess the Maryland Content Standards that describe what students are expected to know and be able to do and teachers are expected to teach these standards at the appropriate grade level or course. Assessment items on the state assessments should be an extension of classroom instruction and assessments. Consequently, the best way to support your child in being successful on state assessments is to support their active engagement in core classes and monitor their progress in those classes. This would include asking your child what he/she was learning; showing an interest in class work, homework, and test results; and talking to the teacher whenever you need more information about your child’s mastery of the content standards. Though report card grades will be useful information in assessing how well your child performed in that class, you would not want to wait until a nine week quarter had been completed to find out if your child was struggling and needed help in any area.

What does it mean to pass or fail HSA?

There are three ways that your child can meet the HSA requirement:

  1. Students can earn a passing score on all three exams; or
  2. Students can use the combined-score option, which requires earning a total score of at least 1208. The combined-score option allows students to offset lower performance on one exam with higher performance on another; or
  3. Students can successfully complete the Bridge Plan for Academic Validation for those assessments on which the student has not achieved the passing score. The Bridge Plan cannot be used as part of the combined-score option.

Passing rates for HSA are listed below:

Topic Area Passing Score
Algebra/Data Analysis 412
Biology 400
English 396

What happens if my child fails an HSA?

Students can retake the HSAs as many times as necessary to pass. Students who do not pass one or more HSAs must be offered locally-administered or approved assistance by their school. The student is responsible for taking advantage of the assistance to help prepare for retesting.

Students who do not pass an HSA should talk to their teachers or school counselors to find out how to get extra help before retaking the exam. Parents can contact the school, and administrators there will be able to tell you what kind of extra help your child will receive. Once students have gotten help, they can retake the exam the next time it is given. There is no limit to the number of times a student can take an HSA test. Retesting opportunities are available in October, January, May, and in the summer, with a fifth test administration available for seniors beginning in April 2009. Check with your school for a schedule of HSA test dates.

What if he/she fails it again?

Maryland has alternatives for students unable to pass the HSAs—ways for them to demonstrate what they know in the three core subjects and still graduate on time. These options are fair. They still require that students know the material, but acknowledge that some students show that they know the material in different ways.

MSDE recognizes that there will be some students who will struggle on the HSAs, even after they take the tests several times and take advantage of academic remediation. Students who have failed an exam at least twice may be allowed to satisfy the HSA testing requirement through the Bridge Plan for Academic Validation. The Bridge Plan is a series of challenging projects linked to the Core Learning Goals tested by each HSA. The Bridge Plan is for students who have passed the HSA-related course but have not passed an HSA after two or more attempts. To be eligible for the Bridge Plan, the student must also be making satisfactory progress toward graduation; have participated in locally administered or approved assistance; and have demonstrated satisfactory attendance as determined by local standards.

Students taking advantage of the Bridge Plan must complete one or more projects (worth different point values) to make up the difference between their highest score and the HSA passing score. For example, if your child is struggling on the Biology HSA, he or she might be assigned a project examining the Structure and Function of Biological Molecules, worth 20 points. If your child missed the Biology passing score of 400 by 16 points, successfully completing that project alone would be sufficient to fulfill the testing requirement.

If your child missed the passing score by 27 points, he or she would have to complete another project as well, like one on the Mechanism of Evolutionary Change. (The number of points earned on any project or combination of projects cannot exceed the HSA passing score; any excess points are forfeited.)

You can see some examples of Bridge Plan projects by clicking on the link below:
Bridge Plan Project Samples

A local review panel, established by your school district, will evaluate the Academic Validation Project(s) at the end of the assigned work period, and your local superintendent will give final approval. For more information about the Bridge Plan, go to