More dumbed-down education


You might think that when it comes to math problems, there's only one right answer. But New York education officials have managed to dumb down even that seemingly precise subject.

Last month, students across the state were given proficiency exams in mathematics. Thanks to one teacher hired to help score the tests, we now know about the "holistic rubrics" used to help inflate the grades, and presumably put the state education system---and educators---in a better light. For questions in which students are asked to show their work, points are given if the attempt shows a "partial understanding" of the concept, "addresses some element of the task correctly," or uses the "appropriate process" to arrive at the answer, right or wrong.

The Brooklyn teacher/whistleblower provided some specific examples to the New York Post from the fourth grade scoring guide:

  • One question asks how many inches are in a 2-foot-long skateboard. Half credit is given for the answer 24+24=48 (instead of 12+12=24).
  • When asked to find one-fifth of $400, if the student writes out that the way to find the answer is to divide 400 by 5 but leaves the answer blank, half credit is given.
  • Miscalculating that 28 divided by 14 equals 4 instead of 2 is "partially correct" if the right method was used.

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I think, for example, it's understandable for math teachers to give partial credit on homework if students demonstrate that they theoretically know how to solve the problem, even if they come up with the wrong answer. That's the point of homework---for teachers to see what kids are and aren't grasping.

By the time the statewide test comes along, overseen by the New York Board of Regents I might add, it's time to see if concepts are applied correctly.

The words "right" and "wrong" have been disappearing from the cultural landscape for quite some time. Who knew they'd soon be missing from math tests?

Marcia Segelstein
Marcia Segelstein


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