Testing in NYS Getting Less Testy?

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Courtesy of Tribune News Service

A student and teacher in Finland. American education reformers often compare us to the Finnish system.

Lex Minnick, Business Manager, Editor

Recent discussion between New York State education officials is whether or not to make testing, particularly Algebra and English exams, easier to help increase the passing rate. The passing rate for the Algebra I exam fell from 72 percent to 63 percent within the past few years.

In 2013, the State Board of Regents changed the scoring of the regents from needing a 65 to pass on a 100 point scale to needing a “college and career-ready” grade. That would mean needing a 79 on the English exam and a 74 on the Algebra I. The purpose behind the change would be to help students be more prepared for college.

The 2015 Algebra I exam paralleled the Common Core curriculum. This is where the drop in the pass rate was seen. Beyond just passing, only a quarter of students scored at the new “college and career-ready” level. In NYC, a much worse passing rate was seen on the new exams and at the college grading.

Reviewing the passing rates on the new exams, a committee was established to confront the issues upon raising the scores. A bar was originally going to be set for the class of 2017 but was pushed onto the class of 2022 to achieve the higher test scores.

The old Algebra regents exam was found to be a struggle already for many students, let alone the new test made harder. In 2010, three in ten students failed the Algebra regents on the first try, resulting in at least one or two more attempts in order to pass. Schools had to implement more resources to help those pass the basic algebra instead of looking into college level courses.

The problem begins with kids in lower grades not being taught to the higher standards of testing. Therefore when they get into high school, the test comes as a big shock that they’re not well prepared for.

Lauren Brady, head of the math department at Park East High School in Manhattan, wrote her own curriculum for Algebra along with two other teachers. She said that it was hard to find a curriculum that paralleled with the Common Core standards.

David Goldsmith, local student at IRHS stated, “Kids should have to take algebra but it shouldn’t be a requirement to graduate.”

Focusing so much on one subject has made for a lack of other subjects to be studied. Some high school and colleges are looking into if Algebra should be a graduation requirement and if it’s that important for students to learn Algebra. Some community colleges are offering other math courses in place of Algebra. Algebra is a rising debate, focus harder or change directions?