On March 8, 2013, Coalition for Refugees from Burma held the last HSPE Study Group before the big exam! 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 as a significant hurdle to receive a high school diploma for English Language Learners. This is particularly true for newly arrived refugee youth from Burma whom often experience interrupted formal education and may not have the advanced literacy skills to pass this exam.
I recruited a volunteer tutor, Dave Alefaio, and we began working with students in October of last year. CRB staff and volunteers assisted 14 high school students over the past few months with practice HSPE reading and writing assignments. We explained standardized testing tips and techniques for success, we built vocabulary, and we practiced . . . a lot. The students have worked incredibly hard, and we are confident they did well over the last few days of testing.
I must admit that I was quite nervous during their week of HSPE Tests. I could not help but think about all of our students diligently writing thoughtful responses, erasing answer bubbles, and scratching their heads with the backs of their pencils before being struck, as if by lightning, with just the right word. I am so thankful to the wonderful volunteers, Michelle and Dave, who helped our students over the past few months. They both worked conscientiously to meet with our students every week, answer their questions effectively, and take the time to review countless pieces of practice material. I am so proud of everything the students and tutors have accomplished and wait with baited breath for the results.