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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pass rates on 2010 state math tests shocking

By Laurie H. Rogers

(Updated Nov. 14 to reflect adjusted scores, per the OSPI Report Card.)

Mathematics is a “gatekeeper” subject. Math guards the “gate” to college, the trades, the military, and entrepreneurship. If high school graduates don’t have sufficient math skills, they cannot pass through these gates.

Washington State’s pass rates for the spring 2010 standardized tests came out this week. I have a few of the math pass rates here, including some for Spokane Public Schools. I hope you’re sitting down.

Pass rates for Washington's 2010 math tests

Washington students: Spokane students:
4th grade 53.7% 59.1%
7th grade 55.3% 55.4%
10th grade 41.7% 38.9%

Spokane Public Schools middle school math pass rates

Chase Garry Glover Sacajawea Salk Shaw
7th: 61.0% 44.8% 44.2% 67.5% 59.2% 50.8%
8th: 49.1% 43.3% 30.6% 69.2% 61.4% 31.2%

Spokane Public Schools high school math pass rates
Ferris Lewis and Clark North Central Rogers Shadle
54.0% 54.2% 27.1% 21.1% 44.4%

Folks, it's bad. But don’t get up from your seat just yet. It's worse than you think. According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), our students needed to earn slightly more than half of the possible points on these tests in order to pass them.

Grade Points needed to pass: Pct. needed to pass
3 21 out of 34 61.76%
4 20 out of 34 58.8%
5 20 out of 34 58.8%
6 23 out of 40 57.5%
7 22 out of 40 55%
8 22 out of 40 55%
10 unchanged from 2009 56.9%

Washington State’s 10th-grade students needed just 56.9% on their math tests in order to pass, and yet 61.3% of Spokane’s 10th graders couldn’t do it.
I’ll bet you also didn’t know:

  1. OSPI looks at the completed tests first, and THEN decides where to set the cut scores. The State Board of Education approved these cut scores in August 2010, several months AFTER the students took the tests in the spring of 2010. The cut scores moved to fit -- not math standards nor academic content -- but test outcomes.
  2. All of the cut scores dropped from 2009 (thereby making the tests easier to pass), with the exception of 7th grade, which rose 1 percentage point, and 10th grade, which was unchanged.
  3. OSPI considers the passing scores noted above to also mean that students are “proficient” in mathematics. Therefore, a 10th grader is supposedly “proficient” in mathematics if he or she earns just 37 points out of a possible 65.
The takeaway message from these numbers is that our students are completely unprepared in mathematics. Worse, our administrators perpetuate this failing system deliberately, purposefully, willfully, stubbornly. It obviously is NOT working for the students. Despite what administrators like to claim, the math problem is NOT because of poor parenting, unmotivated students, unhelpful legislators, insufficient money, ineffective teachers, difficult social issues, insufficient "professional development," changing standards, or raging hormones. The math problem is because students are not being given enough mathematics, and that is because school administrators stubbornly REFUSE to allow the teachers to teach enough mathematics. Instead, our students are fed a steady diet of pretend mathematics, designed to suck up learning days with busy work, group work, “student-centered” activities, and student-created processes and definitions. These programs do NOT provide students with sufficient usable skills in mathematics. You can see for yourself how well the current programs work.

Parents and teachers: You are being betrayed. The children are being purposefully and persistently miseducated. They are not being given the math skills they need for college, for a trade, for business ownership, or for any postsecondary life that depends on or even uses mathematics. Most are unlikely to ever become engineers, doctors, attorneys, pilots, air traffic controllers, architects, or dozens of other types of well-paid professionals. Recent high school graduates who have not had outside intervention are likely to need remedial math classes before beginning college – perhaps several remedial math classes.

And that brings me to one more piece of bad news. In Spokane, nearly half of all SPS-educated students who take remedial math classes at our area two-year colleges fail those remedial classes or withdraw early. And what are their career options then?

Parents and teachers: Rise up. Take back the classroom from those who have stolen it. Go to board meetings, write letters, call school board members. Hold state and district administrators accountable for this education horror. Make the superintendent and the curriculum department personnel answer to you – specifically, out loud, and in public. And if they can't, if they won't ... call for their resignation or firing.

Meanwhile, please take the necessary steps to save the children. Supplement the math program, homeschool in mathematics, provide the children with tutors, or pull them out of the school system entirely. Do not let public-education administrators squander their futures. To those in Spokane: Please let me know if you plan to speak to the school board. I will do my best to be there, to support you and to cheer you on.

Please note: The information in this post is copyrighted. The proper citation is: Rogers, L. (September 2010). "Pass rates on 2010 state math tests shocking." Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site:


kprugman said...

"Meanwhile, please take the necessary steps to save the children. Supplement the math program, homeschool in mathematics, provide the children with tutors, or pull them out of the school system entirely. Do not let public-education administrators squander their futures."

And all the rest of the world is wondering why not change the math program and do the implementation correctly? In Singapore, children who speak Malay at home are learning algebra in English. A subject that is forbidden for the majority of children in the US.

Anonymous said...

Hi, very interesting post, greetings from Greece!