Sunday, December 11, 2011

There Are Lies, Damn Lies and Then There Are Statistics--Mark Twain

While waiting on line to eat, my dad struck up a conversation with the mom behind us.  My dad tells everyone that I am a math teacher (fatherly pride) and the woman told me how happy she was that her son got a 75 on his algebra regents.  It hurt, but I had to do it.  I told her that the 75 meant the child only had about 42 out of 87 problems correct, which was less than 50% of the exam.  She looked crushed.  She had no idea the grade was so meaningless.

These inflated grades are hurting children, giving parents a  false sense of what their child knows and leaving them totally unprepared for college.  My students, some who got A's in high school, can barely squeak through an algebra-trig class in college.  They only want to do multiple choice questions, where guess and check is a skill they have perfected.  They only know how to regurgitate exactly what they have been taught, that which requires no thinking.

I don't know why I even bother writing this stuff.  No one seems to care enough to change anything.  When the kids don't do well, the test is just given again with more test prep and less teaching.  As Zulma just said: 
The relationship of course grades to regents scores is obvious to everyone except the principals, who want to keep their jobs, and the students who think that they have acquired the necessary skills. When they get to college, they see that their diploma can be used as scrap paper. Reparation from this damage will take longer than the damage from the 1974/75 lay off of 15,000 teachers.

1 comment:

zulma said...

Thank you for highlighting my comment.

As a current high school math teacher, I understand your sentiment and your reason for telling the mom the truth. I've been teaching math for 22 years and these last 6 years of teaching math to students, who cannot solve a two-step equation in Geometry or in Alg2/Trig, have been very disheartening and frustrating, too.

I hear my students tell me, "Yo miss I passed the regents with a 65. I told ya that I know the stuff." I only look at them and smile. I'm not allowed to tell them the truth until they graduate.