Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New York Math Grades Don't Add Up

Student scores on the New York state mathematics tests are up in every grade tested this year, with some grades showing astonishing double-digit improvement. Some experts and critics claim that's because the tests were easier than prior years, despite the schools’ promises to “increase the rigor” of both the questions and the scoring for the 1.2 million kids who took the math exams in May. A Brooklyn teacher was so angry about the grading standards that she went to the media and told the New York Post, “They were giving credit for blatantly wrong things.” She provided a scoring guide proving that kids got half-credit or more for showing fragments of the calculation, even if they gave incorrect answers or left the answer blank. Here are some examples from the 4th-grade scoring guide:

* In a problem to subtract 57 cents from 3 quarters, the kid gets half credit if he answers 15 cents instead of 18 cents.
* In a problem to calculate the total number of books in 35 boxes with 10 books in each box, the kid gets half credit if he answers 150 instead of 350.
* In a problem to find 1/5th of $400, the kid gets half credit if he sets up the division problem but leaves the answer blank.

The Brooklyn teacher said she had scored tests with “controversial questions” in past years, but this kind of cheating is “more outrageous.” She said she and her peers were stunned at some of the instructions this year, adding, “You feel like you’re being forced to cheat.” But inflating the scores is not funny, said the teacher. “The kids who really need the help are just being shuffled along to the next grade without the skills to have true success.”

The State Education Department spokesman defended the grading instructions. He said, “Students who show work and demonstrate a partial understanding of the mathematical concepts or procedures embodied in the question receive partial credit.”

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