Siobhan: HSPE Prep

Siobhan and Burmese youth in Kent

I am proud of all of the hard work I have put into my service year so far. However, I am perhaps the most pleased with the new component I created for the Kent Refugee Transition Center’s extended learning program. Based on the ideas and comments of high school-aged refugee youth from Burma I was inspired to help students who had not passed the HSPE.

The HSPE or High School Proficiency Exam is a high school graduation requirement for Washington State. It is a challenging exam for Native Language Speakers but can pose a significant hurdle to receiving a high school diploma for English Language Learners (ELL). This is particularly true for newly arrived refugee youth from Burma, who often experience interrupted formal education and may not have the advanced literacy skills needed to pass this exam.

I conducted considerable research on ways to prepare, searched for sources of practice materials, and the rights students have as ELL to ask for assistance and other accommodations. I met with the Seattle Public School’s State Assessment Coordinator, Nancy Steers, to discuss best preparation practices. I contacted the Office of Superintendent (OSPI) to receive the released practice materials. I recruited a volunteer and provided training that explained the different components of the exam, how students were graded, and how we could build on the practice materials and create a curriculum. I conducted outreach efforts to students, mainly high school juniors and seniors, who had not passed the HSPE and discussed their schedules with them. The volunteers and I have held over 10 sessions, and we will continue with these meetings until the Reading and Writing portions of the exam on March 12-14.

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