Thursday, January 29, 2009

Give The Kids A Fighting Chance

The results for the math B exam are in. (Big discussion about the exam over at JD2718. They are not good. Only about 50% of the kids passed. The exam was not only hard, but did not even fairly represent what was taught. There was a logarithmic regression on the exam. The kids never did these. And, to top it off the calculator only does natural logarithmic regressions which use a different base and natural logarithms are not even taught until pre-calculus. The course has so much material in it, I can't understand why a topic like this has to be asked.

There was also a question on the mean and standard deviation. This is a question that can be answered by pushing a few buttons on a calculator. Doing this requires no understanding of the topic being taught. In spite of this, the powers that be decided pushing buttons was worth 4 points.

Missing from the non multiple choice questions of this exam were trigonometric equations, trigonometric graphs and probability. These are topics taught and emphasized in the third part of the course, the part most recently in the minds of our students.

It was interesting watching the kids reaction when they left this exam. Many were confident that they did well. After all, the only other math regents they ever took was Math A, where if you breathe on your own, you pass, they expected this exam to be the same. The cut off for passing on this exam was much higher than on the math B exam and while their raw scores were much higher than the score they received in math B, the conversion was much worse. (49 was passing--out of 86 points) The poor little girl with the Ms POd on her shoulder only got a 39.

Some administrators think that the teacher should be able to predict accurately how a student will do on these exams. Very few of my predictions would have come true. Kids I gave charity passing grades to last year came through with grades in the 70's and 80's. (I had to plead with Mr. AP to let me pass one of these kids.) Others who did very well, bombed this exam badly.
Merry was one of my students last year. I got to know her when she was a tenth grader, struggling through Math A. She came to tutoring every day and did well on the regents exam. Math B has been a struggle, but until this term, she always succeeded. She has spent countless hours studying and going for tutoring. She spent all day Saturday in school getting extra help.
When I told her she scored a 50 on the exam, I started to cry. Then she started to cry and we cried together. She knows her stuff but panics easily and then the knowledge she has flies out of her head. Just a few more straight forward questions would have given Merry her passing grade.

My students will be taking the geometry regents in June. I worry about how they will do. Not for me, I am a hardening my heart against criticism from Mr. AP. I worry for them. These kids have low self esteem, especially when it comes to math. I would hate to see it go any lower.


Anonymous said...

Not that I understood every word of this post, but I got the gist.

Elementary teachers get an overview on what's going to be on the math test from the state. Of course it doesn't match the city curriculum calendar, so we make adjustments.
But it's important to know just what is going to be covered so you can create a curriculum overview.

This seems very unfair.


Victor Morgan said...

I just posted my own rant about Math B . As someone who's taught the course for years, I still can't believe that Log question! Thank God New York is putting the problematic Math A / Math B sequence to rest.

Pissedoffteacher said...

I just sent my protest letter to Steve Katz. It is going out on both e-mail and snail mail.

Anonymous said...

I took Math B a few years ago and thought that my test didn't accurately test the curriculum, but after looking at JMAP, I realize that I got off easy. It's ridiculous that NY State can get away which this.

Richard Lewis said...

Why couldn't I have had you as my math teacher?

PS If Jamaica falls through, come to Bali...

Anonymous said...

The State implicitly recognizes that they have no idea what they are doing when they set their cut scores based on how many kids should pass, not on what the kids should know.

The quality of these exams is so low, the mix of topics so inappropriate, we need to think about recommending that NY State get out of the math testing business. It is a question of lack of basic competence.

That being said, they will soldier on, horrendously, as long as they can get 80% passing IA and some smaller number passing the others.

The content doesn't matter to them, not one whit. All that matters is that they have the same standards for everyone.

Don't laugh. Since everyone takes Math A, the State will claim that everyone is measured by the same standard.

Write to Katz. Write to Abrams. These guys respond to pressure. But don't think for an instant that they are concerned about mathematics or mathematics education, aside from the percentages that are passing/failing.


Barbara said...

I teach math at a community college and only just found out about the scaled scoring. Here we were, using a Math A Regents exam score of 65 to place students into our courses, only to realize that a grade of 65 really means about 35% of the material has been mastered. What is going on?! We would like to write to the State BOE and the Board of Regents and protest the scaled scoring practice. Why are the scores scaled? Can someone explain this to me?

Anonymous said...

My daughter needs this for the higher regents diploma. The exam was rediculous. If NYS really cared about these last group of kids they would have made a resonable test. I think they should bring back the curve and rescore these tests. NKS