« Thanks to Roger Ebert, my | Home | Nicholas Kristof uncovers some more »

June 20, 2003


A friend writes:So, everybody's all

A friend writes:

So, everybody's all upset over the Regents exam in Math that was given to NY's high schoolers on Tuesday. Almost everybody failed. Parents and teachers are complaining the test was too difficult, but someone who was at the exam tells me that if the kids had studied the problems carefully and used critical-thinking skills, they probably would have been able to solve most of the problems. Instead, many of the kids glanced at a problem, figured they didn't know how to solve it, panicked, and moved on. The kids were pretty shell-shocked and dazed after the exam. Sample problem: A triangle has points A, B, and C. Use your compass and a straight edge to draw a median between Point A and Line BC. Another sample problem: "Chris has one less than double the number of CDs that Jerry has. Tom has 75% has many CDs as Chris. [etc, etc., etc.] How many CDs does [someone] have?" These kids (mostly sophomores), I'm told, were struggling to translate "one less than double" into an algebraic expression. Hmm. Sounds like there wasn't enough studying going on. Relatedly, teachers at one school had to distribute calculators to 50% of their students on the day of the exam. That says a lot about the mindset of the students coming into the exam. What kind of student doesn't bring a calculator to the math regents? Usually kids are looking for any advantage (besides studying) when they enter an exam. (Relatedly, the students who had calculators were using them to calculate things like "What is 275 x 10-3?" If we let kids use calculators for this sort of thing, how can we be at all certain that they have any idea what the concept behind 10-3 is?)

All of this is yet another symptom of declining educational standards in this country. Each year it seems we allow the complaints/laziness of our students to lower our expectations of them, and we demand less. Over the course of a generation or two, the end result is that the education the kids receive is a skeletal version of what kids were getting 20-30 years earlier. Improving education in this country has much less to do with annual testing, increases or decreases in funding, free laptops, or revolutionary classroom techniques than it does with the attitudes of the parents and schools. What's needed is the understanding, on a national level, that our kids are not getting the education that they need because we (teachers/administrators/government officials/parents) accept laziness as a fact of life and an excuse not to do work. Why is laziness accepted? Because it's too difficult to fight inertia.

The latest word is that the Education department is going to review the test to see if it was too hard. Will they again cave to the lowered expectations of teachers/parents/administrators?

posted by amy at 2:55 PM | #


Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)