Handbook – School Information
Elementary School – Pre-K–Grade 5
The Pre-K program is a high-quality, early childhood instructional program. Students must be four years old by September 1 to be considered for enrollment. The curriculum supports early learning and school readiness and provides experiences that foster children’s academic, social, emotional and physical development. The Maryland State Department of Education requires that the Pre-K program be made available to students who meet eligibility criteria, which include disadvantaged economic status, homelessness and foster care. For more information, visit www.hcpss.org/school/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 also receive instruction in physical education, music, art, library/media and technology.
Middle School – Grades 6-8
The Board of Education approved a seven-period schedule across all middle schools. The Maryland College and Career-Ready Standards establish a set of shared goals and high expectations for what students should understand and be able to do in Grades Pre-K–12. The goal is to ensure all students will be well prepared for success in college and the workplace.
Middle school students take English language arts, social studies, mathematics, and science, as well as related arts classes, which include physical education and health. Students must also take band, orchestra, chorus, art, theater, and/or music. Students may select world language, language arts, and career and technical education options in Grades 7 and 8. Also, students will take additional classes such as technology education, family and consumer science (FACS), careers, G/T research and/or seminars, or mathematics/reading intervention seminars.
Students who successfully complete the World Language Program in middle school may receive up to two high school credits 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.
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 in Related Arts courses.
Middle school students who take high school level courses such as algebra and/or geometry, must take and pass the appropriate high school assessment; passing scores count toward graduation requirements.
High School – Grades 9–12
(See Policy 8030 for entire policy.)
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 Maryland State Assessment requirement
Career Preparation Requirement
Students are given the opportunity to develop and update a four-year plan, participate in a mock interview and complete a resume acceptable for seeking employment.
High School Credit Requirements
4 credits – English
- 1 credit in English 9
- 1 credit in English 10
- 1 credit in English 11
- 1 credit in English 12
3 credits and 4 years of participation* – Mathematics
- 1 credit in Algebra/Data Analysis
- 1 credit in Geometry
- 1 credit beyond Geometry
3 credits – Science
Laboratory-based science that is aligned to the Maryland Science Standards and the Maryland Integrated Science Assessment (MISA). Students may follow a variety of possible course sequences, but a student’s course sequence must offer a breadth of experiences that include the following science disciplines:
- Earth Space Science
- Life Science
- Physical Science (Chemistry and Physics)
3 credits – Social Studies
- 1 credit in U.S. History
- 1 credit in American Government
- 1 credit in World History
1 credit – Fine Arts
1/2 credit – Physical Education
1/2 credit – Health Education
1 credit – Technology Education (a number of designated courses will fulfill this requirement)
2-4 credits – Program Choice:
- 2 credits in World Language or
- 2 credits in an approved Advanced Technology Program or
- 3 or more credits in a Career Academy (state-approved Career and Technical Education Completer program).
1-3 credits – Courses beyond requirements
Students must earn a minimum of 21 credits to graduate.
*Students must be enrolled in a mathematics course in each year of high school (up to a maximum of four years unless a mathematics course is needed to meet graduation requirements in additional years).
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 take the Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP) for those subject areas. Students enrolled in American Government take the Maryland High School Assessment (HSA) for Government. Students must also participate in a science assessment for high school. Starting in the 2021-2022 school year, students enrolled in Biology take a Life Science assessment. Prior to 2021-2022, students participated in the Maryland Integrated Science Assessment (MISA).
Individual student requirements can be checked by doing the following:
- Log in to HCPSS Connect Synergy: https://www.hcpss.org/connect/
- Select Academic Information from the left panel.
- Select Graduation Requirements from the middle panel.
Due to COVID-19 school closures and testing window disruptions, passing requirements may vary by graduating class.
Standardized Tests Given in the HCPSS
Name of Test/Time of Year
Description of Test
Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English state-to-state for English Language Learners (ACCESS)
January to February
Assesses the English Language Proficiency of English Language Learners. The test assesses a student’s proficiency in five areas: General Language, Language of mathematics, science, social studies and English language arts.
Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT)
Grades 3 and 5
Measures verbal, quantitative, and nonverbal learned reasoning abilities that have been developed through both in-school and out-of-school experiences. Results from the CogAT administration are used to enhance instructional practice and are often used to identify students for participation in gifted education programming.
Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) – Alternative Assessment
March to May
Note: Due to the postponement of Spring 2021 testing, DLM will also be delivered in fall of 2021 to students who would have participated in spring of 2021.
Grades 3-8 and 11 – ELA, Math
Grades 5, 8 and 11 – Science
An assessment designed for students with significant cognitive disabilities who, even with accommodations, are unable to participate in the MCAP. The DLM measures a student’s achievement in English language arts, mathematics and science in Grades 3–8 and 11.
Maryland High School Assessment (HSA) –
Government & Life Science
Grade 10 – Government HSA
Grade 9-10 –
End-of-course exams designed to ensure that graduates are prepared for the workplace or post-secondary education. Both assessments are required as part of Maryland high school diploma.
Maryland Integrated Science Assessment (MISA)
Grades 5 & 8
Measures student achievement on the Maryland Content Standards in Science in Grade 5 and Grade 8. The MISA assesses students on earth/space science, life science, and physical science topics.
Measures of Academic Progress (MAP)
Fall and Winter: Grades 3-8
Fall, Winter, and Spring: Grades 1-2
A computer adaptive assessment in reading and mathematics. MAP provides growth and achievement data for each student within a school year and across grades. Test results help school staff to make student-focused, data driven decisions and to plan school improvement strategies.
The Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP) – Math and ELA/L
May to June
Note: Due to the postponement of Spring 2021 testing, the MCAP will also be delivered in fall of 2021 to students who would have participated in spring of 2021.
The English Language Arts and Literacy and Mathematics assessments are end-of-course exams. Students in grades 3–8 take corresponding grade level math and ELA/L assessments. English 10 and Algebra I students will participate in MCAP assessments to fulfill graduation requirements. Algebra II is also given as an end of course assessment to determine college and career readiness. MCAP is the Maryland designed replacement to the previous Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) program.
The Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP) – Social Studies
May to June
Measures student knowledge of United States History from 1763-1890.
Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT)
Grades 9, 10 and 11
Published by the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), PSAT provides a practice opportunity for the SAT. Juniors who participate in the PSAT/NMSQT may be eligible for college scholarships.
Career and Technical Education
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 industry areas (called clusters):
- Arts, Media and Communication
- Business, Management and Finance
- Construction and Development
- Consumer Services, Hospitality and Tourism
- Environmental, Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Health and Biosciences
- Human Resources Services
- Information Technology
- Manufacturing, Engineering and Technology
- Transportation Technologies
- Work-Based Learning (Apprenticeship Maryland and Career Research and Development)
The programs allow students to explore a wide range of career options and to apply academic and technical skills in a specific industry.
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 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.
Some academies are located in each local high school, while others are located at the Applications and Research Laboratory (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 the academy courses at the ARL; all other academic coursework will take place at their high school. Bus transportation is provided to and from ARL.
For more information, students should contact their school counselor. Parents may call the Office of Career and Technical Education at 410-313-6629.
Cedar Lane School
Cedar Lane School is a unique educational environment that caters learning to students who have special education needs of varying levels of impact from the ages of 3-21. Education is specifically designed and delivered to students based on individual needs in order to create an environment of success, both in school and in the community. Cedar Lane is located on a campus that also houses a comprehensive elementary, middle, and high school, and this advantageous location allows for inclusion and interaction with peers from those schools.
Connections with families are essential and valued at Cedar Lane. Family involvement, along with an exceptional PTA, is an integral part of the success Cedar Lane experiences daily.
Homewood Center encompasses both the county’s middle and high school alternative and special education programs. Homewood provides an individualized highly structured, restorative, and trauma-sensitive environment with small class sizes and access to school and community resources that helps students focus on the skills and confidence needed to meet their postsecondary goals.
High School Student Activities
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. 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.
See Policy 9070 for complete information.
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.
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:
BSAP African American Awareness Club
Fellowship of Christian Athletes
Future Business Leaders of America
Future Educators of America
Instrumental Music (Marching, Concert, Jazz, Orchestra)
National Art Honor Society
SHOP (Students Helping Other People)
Student Government Association
Interscholastic Athletic Program
The school system offers a wide variety of athletic opportunities for high school students. The entire athletic schedule for all schools is linked from the school system website at: www.hcpss.org/athletics.
Boys’ Cross Country
Girls’ Cross Country
Girls’ Field Hockey
Boys’ Indoor Track
Girls’ Indoor Track
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.
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).
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 (2).
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).
A student’s weighted marking period GPA is used to determine honor roll attainment. Weighted GPAs are rounded to two decimal places.
Principal’s Honor Roll – Straight As
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 extracurricular situations. A five-member 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 [a]
Permission for students to drive and park vehicles on school system property is a privilege, not a guaranteed right. This privilege requires that students submit a student parking permit and complete the Parent-Guardian/Teen Driving Contract. In order to retain this parking privilege, students must comply with all school rules related to driving and parking on school property. Each school’s Administration has the final decision on when and how parking permits are issued. The school may revoke a parking permit at any time. Parking permit fees are $15, annually.
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. The Guidelines for High School Dances 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 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 25 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.