- School Eligibility Requirements
- Elementary School – Pre-K-Grade 5
- Middle School – Grades 6-8
- High School – Grades 9-12
- High School
- Special Schools
School Eligibility Requirements
Age for admission to public schools has been established by the state. A child must be:
- Four years old by September 1 to attend prekindergarten.
- Five years old by September 1 to attend kindergarten.
- Six years old by September 1 to attend first grade.
Application for exception to the age requirement may be made under the waiver or early admission process. For more information, visit www.hcpss.org/schools/kindergarten/.
A child is eligible to attend a Howard County public school if his/her parents or guardians are residents of Howard County. A child must attend the school in the attendance area in which he/she lives. Tuition will be charged retroactively, if, upon investigation, it is determined that a student was enrolled as a resident student, but lacked bona fide residency. If the student does not currently qualify for enrollment under Policy 9000, the student will be withdrawn. For more information, please contact the Public Information Office at 410-313-6682 or use the School Locator
Physical Examination Requirement
Maryland law requires a physical examination for all students entering a public school for the first time. The required physical examination form is available at each school. If your child has a temporary or chronic health problem, please notify the school health assistant or nurse.
Elementary School – Pre-K-Grade 5
In Pre-K, students receive instruction in seven domains of learning (Language and Literature, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Fine Arts, Physical Development and Health, and Personal/ Social Development). The Maryland State Department of Education requires that the Pre-K program be available first for identified students. Therefore, eligibility requirements, mainly economic status, are used to determine which students are eligible for the program. For more information on the Pre-K program, including eligibility requirements and locations, visit www.hcpss.org/schools/pre-k-programs/ or call 410-313-5693.
In Kindergarten through Grade 5, students receive instruction in Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies and Health. Students are taught in whole and small groups designed to meet their specific instructional needs.
Elementary students may also choose to take classes in Physical Education, Music, Art, Library/Media and Technology.
Middle School – Grades 6-8
Middle school students take English Language Arts, Social Studies, Mathematics, and Science, as well as related arts classes, which include Physical Education and Fine Arts. Students may also choose to take Band, Orchestra, Chorus, and/or a World Language (Grades 7 and 8). Some students may take additional related arts classes including Technology Education, Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS), G/T Research and/or seminars, Innovation and Inquiry Reading modules, or Mathematics/Reading intervention seminars.
Students who successfully complete the World Language Program in middle school will receive Spanish I or French I recorded on their high school transcript. World Language study in middle school enables students to pursue world language study through the Advanced Placement level in high school. French and Spanish are available in all middle schools.
The selection of world language study is a multi-year commitment in middle school. When considering the world language option in middle school, students and parents should carefully weigh the workload of this additional class and the reduced participation the Related Arts courses.
Middle school students who take high school level courses, such as Algebra, must take and pass the appropriate high school assessment; passing scores count toward graduation requirements.
High School – Grades 9-12
A Maryland High School Diploma is awarded to students who fulfill minimum enrollment, credit, and competency requirements, including four years of approved study beyond Grade 8. Four-year enrollment may be waived if a student is admitted to a college or another approved post-secondary program and has received prior approval from the principal.
Students must earn a minimum of 21 credits. The specified core of credits must be earned as part of the 21-credit requirement.
Students must also satisfy:
- The Career Preparation requirement
- The Student Service requirement
- The high school assessments requirement
High School Credit Requirements
3 credits – Mathematics*
State-Assessed Course: Algebra I
- 1 credit in Algebra I
- 1 credit in Geometry
4 credits – English
State-Assessed Course: English 10
- 1 credit in English 9
- 1 credit in English 10
- 1 credit in English 11
- 1 credit in English 12
3 credits – Science
State-Assessed Course: Biology
- one in Biology
- two additional credits including laboratory experience, in any or all of the following areas: Earth Science, Environmental Science, Life Science, Physical Science
3 credits – Social Studies
State-Assessed Course: American Government****
- one in U.S. History
- one in Local, State and National Government
- one in World History
Fine Arts – 1 credit
Physical Education – 1/2 credit, including: Lifetime Fitness
Health – 1/2 credit including: health education or current health issues
Technology Education – 1 credit
2-4 credits – Program Choice:
- Two credits in World Language** OR American Sign Language*** OR two credits in an approved Advanced Technology Program OR four credits in a Career Academy (state-approved Career and Technology Education Completer program).
1-3 credits – Electives to include courses beyond requirements.
* Beginning with students entering Grade 9 in the 2014–2015 school year, students are required to enroll in four math classes. Students who successfully completed high school level mathematics in middle school still need to earn three credits in mathematics, preferably in higher level courses. The University System of Maryland has changed its admission policy to require four consecutive years of high school math for students who entered Grade 9 in fall 2011 or later. Check with each of your prospective colleges or universities for their specific entrance requirements.
** Students who received credit for Spanish I or French I based on work in middle school still need to earn at least two credits in World Language for this program choice option.
*** Students must complete both ASL I and II to meet the requirement. These courses may not meet all college entrance requirements.
**** This exam will count as a graduation requirement for students who enter Grade 9 in school year 2013–2014 and beyond.
Career Preparation Requirement
Students are given the opportunity to develop and update a four-year plan, participate in a mock interview, and complete a qualifications brief or resume acceptable for seeking employment.
Student Service Learning Requirement
Students shall complete one of the following programs, which include preparation, action, and reflection components:
- A locally designed program in student service learning that has been approved by the State Superintendent of Schools and is usually completed in middle school.
- 75 hours of student service learning which may begin during the middle school years.
State Assessment Requirements
The Maryland State Department of Education requires four assessments for graduation. Students enrolled in Algebra I and English 10 are required to participate in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) for those subject areas. Biology and American Government students participate in the Maryland High School Assessments (HSA) for those subjects.
In the 2015-16 school year, students completing Biology and American Government courses must pass the corresponding HSAs. Students completing Algebra I and English 10 are only required to participate in the corresponding PARCC assessments. In the 2016-17 school year and beyond, passing scores are required on PARCC or HSA as the students complete the assessed courses.
Academic Eligibility for High School Extracurricular Activities
The Board of Education has established academic criteria that must be met by all high school students to participate in school-sponsored extracurricular activities. Extracurricular activities are available to students beyond the regular school day, and are voluntary and not required for the satisfactory completion of a particular class. Policy 9070 governs minimum academic eligibility for student participation in all extracurricular activities for which there is an HCPSS contracted coach/sponsor. There are no academic eligibility standards for participation in extracurricular activities when participation is required as part of a course and for clubs and activities with a sponsor not contracted by HCPSS.
For high school, a full-time student earns academic eligibility to participate in extracurricular activities, including athletics, by maintaining a 2.0 weighted grade-point average (GPA), calculated using credit or non-credit courses, with no more than one failing grade for the marking period that governs eligibility for that activity. This provision does not apply to incoming 9th grade students for fall eligibility. Incomplete grades must be converted to a letter grade to determine eligibility (Policy 8020 Grading and Reporting: High School). If a student withdraws from a course, the grades at the time of withdrawal will be used in determining academic eligibility.
Each extracurricular activity is governed by only one marking period. A student must have earned academic eligibility prior to the start of the activity as determined by the last report card. Once academic eligibility has been earned for a particular activity, the student remains academically eligible for the duration of that activity season (e.g., basketball season). Eligibility is reviewed at the end of each successive marking period for yearlong activities or activities that do not have a particular time frame.
A student who plans to participate in athletics and his/her parent are responsible for certifying the student’s academic eligibility by signing a Howard County Public School System participation form prior to participation. Athletic coaches are responsible for verifying the academic eligibility of each athlete participating on their team(s) prior to the first practice session. Contracted sponsors of other extracurricular activities are responsible for verifying the academic eligibility of each participating student prior to the first activity.
Student eligibility for high school athletics is governed by State regulations, COMAR 13A.06.03. These regulations are implemented by The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA), which establishes procedures for regular season sports programs and state tournaments. In addition, each school district may adopt more restrictive rules for their own programs, including participation standards to ensure that student athletes are making satisfactory progress toward graduation, per COMAR 13A.06.03.01-02.
In general, high school students may participate in interscholastic sports upon the consent of their parents and guardians and after being found physically fit by a qualified physician. Student athletes must maintain amateur status, and may participate on teams outside schools if membership on the outside team does not conflict with participation in the school program. Participants must be registered at the MPSSAA member high school where they play. Students in Grades 9, 10, 11 and 12 may participate in interscholastic athletic contests for a maximum of four seasons in any one sport. Students 19 years old or older and high school graduates are ineligible, per COMAR 13A.06.03.02.
Students may not be excluded on the basis of sex or disability from overall equal opportunity to participate in athletic programs, per COMAR 13A.06.03.04(A), COMAR 13A.06.04.03(B)
Violations, Penalties, and Appeals
A student who violates interscholastic sports regulations will be penalized by having his or her eligibility to participate suspended. The length of the suspension is determined by the number of violations committed by the student, and for three or more violations, additional penalties may also be imposed, per COMAR 13A.06.03.05(A).
A student found in violation may appeal the penalty and request a hearing before the Appeals Committee of the MPSSAA. The decision of the Appeals Committee may also be taken to the State Superintendent who may, on a discretionary basis, appoint a special committee to uphold, deny, or modify the appeal. The decision of the special committee is final, per COMAR 13A.06.03.05(B).
The school system offers a wide variety of athletic opportunities for high school students. An entire athletic schedule is available.
- Boys Cross Country
- Girls Cross Country
- Girls Field Hockey
- Boys Golf
- Girls Golf
- Allied Soccer*
- Boys Soccer
- Girls Soccer
- Girls Volleyball
- Boys Basketball
- Girls Basketball
- Allied Bowling*
- Boys Indoor Track
- Girls Indoor Track
- Allied Golf*
- Boys Lacrosse
- Girls Lacrosse
- Allied Softball*
- Girls Softball
- Boys Tennis
- Girls Tennis
- Boys Outdoor Track
- Girls Outdoor Track
* Allied sports is approved athletic competition between two or more high schools for students with disabilities and general education students who have never been a member of a junior varsity or varsity interscholastic athletic team.
High School Clubs
High school students are encouraged to participate in athletics, clubs or other extracurricular activities. Each high school offers many clubs to meet a wide variety of interests. Any student who wants to start a new club should speak to a staff member or guidance counselor. Every club must have a staff sponsor/advisor. Some high school clubs include:
- Alpha Achievers
- Animation Club
- Best Buddies
- BSAP African American Awareness
- Chess Club
- Color Guard
- Computer Club
- Concert Choir
- Debate Team
- Environmental Club
- Fellowship of Christian Athletes
- Future Business Leaders of America
- Future Educators of America
- Games Club
- Gay-Straight Alliance
- Instrumental Music (Marching,
- Concert, Jazz, Orchestra)
- International Club
- It’s Academic
- Los Leones
- Math Club
- Mock Trial
- National Art Honor Society (NAHS)
- Peer Mediation
- SHOP (Students Helping Other
- Step Team
- Student Government Association
- Tech Crew
A student’s weighted marking period GPA
(grade point average) is used to determine
honor roll attainment. Weighted GPAs are
rounded to two decimal places.
- Principal’s Honor Roll – Straight A’s
- Gold Honor Roll – 3.4 GPA or higher
- Silver Honor Roll – 3.0-3.39 GPA
In addition, to make honor roll, a student
may have no more than one C and no
grades of D or E.
National Honor Society
The National Honor Society offers membership to high school students who meet eligibility standards in all four areas of scholarship, leadership, service, and character. High school juniors and seniors with a 3.40 weighted cumulative grade point average are given an opportunity to verify their leadership and service experiences, and school staff provide evidence of character displayed in school and extra-curricular situations. A fivemember faculty council evaluates the submitted information and chooses the students to whom membership in NHS is offered. To continue membership once inducted into NHS, a student must maintain the level of scholarship, leadership, service, and character set by the chapter for admission.
Student Driving and Parking on School Grounds
Permission for students to drive and park vehicles on school system property is a privilege, not a right. In order to be granted this privilege, students must obtain a student parking permit each school year, which requires students and parents/guardians to annually attend a driver safety session and to pay the $15 fee for the parking permit. Students must also comply with all school rules related to driving and parking on school property in order to retain this privilege.
Guidelines for High School Dances
High school administrators and staff support the students’ need for social interaction and opportunities to develop positive social skills. It is our intent to offer students an opportunity to enjoy a social outlet in a safe and appropriate atmosphere. In order to ensure the safety and appropriateness of that atmosphere, a group of students, parents, staff members, and administrators created the following set of guidelines for students’ behavior at high school dances. They are:
- All students must purchase their own ticket to the dance during lunch shifts. No tickets will be sold at the door. Tickets are non-transferable. This document must be signed in order to purchase tickets. Outside guests are only allowed at the Homecoming Dance and Prom, and their sponsoring student must complete a Guest Form when purchasing the ticket. Each student may only bring one outside guest per event. Guests may be no older than twenty (20) years of age unless they are enrolled in a HCPSS school. Students may be asked to show identification when checking in at the dance.
- Aside from Prom, dances are held at school for up to a three-hour period of time between the hours of 7 until 10 p.m. or 8 until 11 p.m. Students will not be admitted more than one hour after the starting time. Once students leave the dance, they may not return. Students must have arrangements to leave school property/dance location within fifteen minutes of the end of the dance. Students who fail to do so may forfeit their privilege to attend future dances.
- Students may not bring any coats, book bags, purses, or other similar items into the dance. Items are to be checked at the Coat Check prior to entering the dance. Sponsoring groups may charge a small fee for the Coat Check as a fundraising activity. All Personal Communication Device Guidelines as contained in the Student/Parent Handbook will be in effect for school dances.
- All HCPSS and school policies are in effect at dances, whether held on school property or at other locations. High school administrators and the sponsoring groups will work to provide staff chaperones at the ratio of one staff member chaperone for every twenty-five tickets sold. Failure to provide sufficient chaperones may result in the cancellation of the dance. Non-staff chaperones may observe the dance if accompanied by a staff member.
- The sponsoring organization will provide a well-lighted dance floor and determine the level of lighting necessary to maintain a safe and acceptable atmosphere. The DJ or band providing music for the dance as well as a play list of music to be played must be approved in advance by the school administration. Dances may be videotaped by school staff.
- Students are expected to dance in a manner that is acceptable and appropriate for a school activity. These expectations will be communicated to students and parents. Expectations include:
- Wearing clothing that meets the county dress code (shoes must be worn at all times)
- Keeping both feet on the floor at all times
- Maintaining an upright, vertical position
- Avoiding any dancing that suggests a sexual act, including “grinding” of genital areas.
Staff Chaperones are the final judges of what is appropriate dancing. Any student who violates these expectations will be removed from the dance, without warning. Any behavior that constitutes a violation of Policy 1020, Sexual Harassment, or Policy 1040, Safe and Supportive School Environments, will be addressed accordingly. The student may, however, remain in the school or at the location of the event to participate in other activities, if available, at the discretion of a school administrator.
- Administrators will communicate expectations for student conduct and supervision and safety plans to all students, staff, and chaperones prior to the dance.
Applications and Research Lab – Career Academies
The school system offers a broad range of Career Academies that prepare high school students for college and careers. Career Academies are available in the following Career Clusters:
- Arts, Media and Communication
- Business, Management and Finance
- Career Research and Development
- Construction and Development
- Consumer Services, Hospitality and Tourism
- Health and Biosciences
- Human Resources Services
- Information Technology
- Manufacturing, Engineering and Technology
- Transportation Technologies Within each Career Cluster are Career Academies that will prepare students for specific career pathways.
Within each Career Cluster are Career Academies that will prepare students for specific career pathways.
See the Career Academies section in the Catalog of Approved High School Courses for guidance on course selection, academy prerequisites, special requirements, and information needed to
complete each Career Academy program.
Academy students may participate in special activities and events that provide greater awareness of the specific career area and opportunities within that area. Participating students become part of a small group of students with similar interests completing courses together.
Any student may be part of a Career Academy. He/she should discuss options with the school counselor. Students may join an academy up to the end of tenth grade, as long as all applicable prerequisites are met.
Some academies are located in each local high school, while others are located at the Applications and Research Lab (ARL). If the Career Academy is located at the high school, all coursework will be taught at the school. Students who participate in an academy located at the ARL will complete all academic and prerequisite coursework at their local high school and will complete the academy courses at the ARL. Bus transportation is provided to and from the ARL.
For more information, students should contact their school counselor. Parents may call the Office of Career and Technology Education at 410-313-6629.
Cedar Lane School
Cedar Lane School, located in Fulton, is a public day school for students ages 3 to 21. The staff and facility at Cedar Lane School provide services to students experiencing significant disabilities as well as students with autism. Parents are an integral part of the program and a resource for assisting with the instructional process, in addition to being on the educational team for their child.
Students enrolled in Cedar Lane School participate in classroom groups based on chronological age that correspond to general education students. Because of the school’s advantageous setting on a campus with general education elementary, middle, and high schools, students are afforded the structure and educational support provided by a separate facility, while being offered the opportunity for interaction and education with non-disabled peers.
Homewood Center is an alternative education center that houses programs to meet the needs of middle and high school students who have experienced academic, behavioral and emotional difficulties. Homewood provides a highly structured environment and lower than average student-to-teacher ratio.