Math scores may not add up to graduation

This is quite a conundrum. A new math requirement for graduating Minnesota students may be too hard, and the timing isn’t good.

The tests are used to determine whether schools are meeting federal standards, but they also are used to determine whether a student should graduate. The problem is, apparently, that a student wouldn’t find out he/she isn’t proficient enough to graduate until late in the junior year, leaving only the senior year to learn what he or she needs to learn. Last year, about a third of 11th graders were proficient enough to pass.

Says a story from MPR’s Tom Weber:


A new task force, announced at the Capitol committee meeting, will look at possible remedies for the math test. They include everything from moving the math GRAD to 10th grade, to changing the requirement that exams be given at the end of each math course instead of once in the 11th grade, to even tying GRAD scores to drivers’ licenses as a way to entice kids to pay attention.

The possibility of not graduating doesn’t get their attention?

There’s another problem. The state’s Department of Education is about six months behind schedule coming up with the test. (See comments section)

Legislators, who caution that they’re not changing the standards, are considering moves that would prevent graduating rates from dropping dramatically, giving the state an educational black eye. But they don’t appear to know yet what options to pursue, and the clock is ticking.

What would you do?

  • http://www.trailblz.com Brian Hanf

    When do they give, I know 11th grade, the test that they do not know the answers untill the end of the year? Scan sheets can be graded in a few minutes, why don’t they know say in October?

  • http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2008/12/01/grad_math_test/ Tom Weber, MPR

    Brian, just to clarify your point: They have the answers and can grade them quickly. What they don’t have is how many of those answers constitute a passing score; in other words, they haven’t set the curve yet.

    The test will be administered in April, MDE hopes to have the scores back to schools in June.

  • http://www.trailblz.com Brian Hanf

    @Tom

    Thanks for that.

    I does not make since that it is on a curve. Is that because so few get over 70% correct (or what ever might be passing)?

    That could make this even worse. That is, having kids with (perhaps) 50% or less correct answers ‘passing’ the test.

    I can not believe that they would make it harder to pass because so many kids get 90-100% correct that kids with 70-80% correct fail the test.

    I had an even more snarky comment but decided it was a bad idea.

  • Bob Collins

    Good Morning,

    I am writing to clarify a statement in the Bob Collins post below and the original Tom Weber story:

    “There’s another problem. The state’s Department of Education is about six months behind schedule coming up with the test.”

    Currently, the Minnesota Department of Education is on schedule for the April administration of the Grade 11 Math MCA-II/GRAD assessment. The tests have been built and are currently ready for printing.

    However, because it takes approximately 2-3 years to develop a new series of assessments, the department is behind its desired schedule for development of the MCA-III high school exams by approximately six months as it awaits a resolution to the MCA-IIIs in the Legislature, which will be given to students starting in 2011 as required by statute.

    I would be greatly appreciated if you could clarify this. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.

    Sincerely,

    Christine (Dufour)

    Dept of Ed

  • http://healthygopher.blogspot.com Elizabeth T

    Am i correct in understanding that 30% of high school students passed the math competence exam? That 70% failed the exam?

    Legislators, who caution that they’re not changing the standards, are considering moves that would prevent graduating rates from dropping dramatically, giving the state an educational black eye.

    So, what they’re telling me is that they don’t want to suddenly realize that we’re failing to educate our children to the standard we want? God forbid they actually acknowledge that a problem exists. This tells me they don’t want to rock the boat. How is this going to help anything?

    I would want to establish reasonable expectations of our children. We need to ditch the ‘everyone needs to be ready to go to college’ attitude. No they don’t. They need to be ready to get a job in a wide array of settings, all of which are going to require a minimum amount of education. Let the colleges worry about whether the mathematics is adequate for their needs. Let the State Ed. Dept. worry about the student population as a whole being ready to enter the general work force.

    What types of questions are on the exam? What exactly does the state think constitutes mandatory math skills? Arithmetic? Algebra? Geometry? Calculus?

    Do they really think that calculating cosines and tangents is critical to one’s ability to function in today’s society?

    Seriously, what are the options for us to conclude?

    A) Our school system is beyond incompetent, and incapable of educating our children

    B) The exams are incapable of measuring what we want (i.e., students are capable, but the test isn’t able to discern it)

    C) The exams are valid, but the established guidelines are unreasonable/irrational. e.g., students’ ability to do differential equations might be measured, but totally stupid as a criteria for ‘passing’.

    D) The method for teaching math sucks.

    my money is on B, C, and D. I can’t accept that the school system is useless. Designing examinations is difficult. Trying to decide what is “good enough” is extremely socio-politically difficult. Trying to find a good learning method for each student is extremely difficult.

    But, riding on all of this is the American culture of “math is hard”. Why are we surprised that our children fail, when we have set them up to fail from Day 1?