Amazing! When passing grade is lowered, more students pass test!

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I'm stunned by today's banner headline article on the front page of today's Whirled. Here's the headline:

Test results spike after change

The story breathlessly tells of "remarkable results":

The statistical leaps being reported by area districts in the percentage of students deemed proficient in Algebra I are staggering -- up 51 percentage points in Glenpool, more than 60 percentage points in Sapulpa and 44 percentage points in Broken Arrow.

In Tulsa Public Schools, the percentage of students deemed proficient in Algebra I at Washington High School jumped from 17 to 86 percent, and Memorial High School's numbers went from 9 to 50 percent.

What change caused these results? A return to traditional methods of instruction? Better control of classroom behavior?

Nope. They just lowered the passing grade. Instead of needing to answer 41 questions out of 55 to be deemed proficient, now students only need to answer 26 out of 55 questions. In percentages, the passing grade was dropped from 75% correct to 47% correct. A student who gets as many answers wrong as right still is deemed proficient in Algebra.

What might be motivating this change in standards?

End-of-instruction exams are given to secondary students in Oklahoma in four subject areas, but only the results for the Algebra I and English II tests are used to gauge overall student achievement under state and federal school accountability systems.

They lower the standard and more students are able to meet the lowered standard. I'm just amazed that the Whirled would think that's worth a banner headline.


Retired algebra teacher Michael Phillips comments on the Whirled website about the use of competency tests:

I am a retired Tulsa Public Schools teacher, who taught mostly algebra through out my career. I dreamed of someday seeing end-of-instruction exams in my classroom. There was a time in the mid 80s when Tulsa had a version of this. We were required to give what we called Competency Tests to each student in any high school level math class. Those students who passed were given the grade the teacher believed they earned through their course work. Those who failed the Competency Test failed the course. This system worked out well for those teachers who were demanding of their students. It was disaster for those teachers who offered little or no instruction and things were even worse for the students in their classes. The Tulsa Board of Education did away with these tests after a few years because too many parents were complaining about their children, who appeared to be doing well all year long and then suddenly failed their algebra course. I was of the opinion that they should have gotten rid of the do-nothing teachers, and kept the tests.

Much easier to fudge the numbers than to fix the problems that the numbers are revealing. It's like taking your child's temperature, finding out he's running a 102° fever, and instead of taking him to the doctor, re-marking the thermometer so it reads 98.6.

TRACKBACK: Stan Geiger says it's an example of the "media leg of the political-educational complex at work."

Our great "heroes of the classroom" have moved to increase the number of passing students by lowering the bar. And one of the biggest newspapers in the state offers no criticism. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The way this story is written and its placement on the page are worth scrutiny. While the facts that reveal the number-fudging are in the story, they aren't called to the reader's attention in the headline or lead. The skimming reader may come away with the impression that Commissar Sandy Garrett has worked an educational miracle.

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Tyson Wynn said:

This just in:

*Track athletes clearing new shorter hurdles at astronomical rates!

*Christian giving up exponentially as tithe lowered to 2%.

*Reading rates through the roof as libraries ditch boring books with no pictures in favor of tabloids and pronography.

I'd hate for anyone--students or teachers--to feel like a failure for something so trivial as, say, failing.

Jeff Shaw said:

That is amazing. You know, I wasn't the best high school student; I would have loved a cut score like that. A 60 passes?

I have always said that it takes a lot of effort to fail. You have to set your mind and body to do absolutely nothing. That is a difficult thing for most people.

Now they go and make it easier to be a failure.

Dan Paden said:

The pitiful part is that when this stuff comes up, people will always--always!--tell you, "Yeah, but my kid's school is okay."

Yeah right sure buddy.

susan said:

An Algebra I teacher that teaches in Tulsa Public School told me the problems start because the kids that do have trouble in Algebra I don't pay attention in class and don't do their assigned homework (their single parent or parents don't care enough to make sure their homework is being done) and teachers feel pressured to keep moving the students in Tulsa Public Schools along in math so that they can graduate. They get the same paycheck either way.

There is even a college in Tulsa that had a teacher once that passed a College Algebra class of students with the students only completing through chapter 2 of the College Algebra book because the teacher was busy with personal situations the teacher did not require an end of semester test. This happened where the College Algebra course was taught at a high school site instead of at their college campus sites.

Ask the colleges and universities in Oklahoma if College Algebra is a common class that students do NOT do well in. Many colleges and university counselors in Oklahoma will tell you that College Algebra is a college course that a large percentage of Oklahoma students make D's or F's in.

susan said:

Here's another frustrating fact for students at universities -- the mandatory "fees" charged are almost the same as the price of tuition.

Talking about "math" -- don't you think the Mayor, City Councilors, those on the County Commission should all take a personal exam and quizzed individually to see if they fully understand the math of what they are asking voters to pass on the River Tax?

Lovely how we lower our standards, isn't it? I wonder how low they will go in the future? We'll be churning out flunkees who all have a 4.0 one day.

Natasha said:

I had this amazing math teacher while at Berryhill High School (1999-2002) who, especially in classes like geometry and algebra that everyone had to take, had to fight her students every day because they wanted "a free day." Well, why wouldn't they - most of the other teachers would cave to their whining at a rate that seemed close to once per week and would allow students to gossip, do homework for another class, or "run errands" for the hour. This math teacher never let us have these "free days" - we were always working in her class, and we consistently made it to the back of the text book by the end of the year.

Imagine everyone's surprise when the kids who took this math teacher's AP courses or had her consistently throughout their high school years were the ones who not only went to college, but graduated on time, at the tops of their classes, and quickly went on to professional-level jobs.

English was always my favorite subject, but it seems to me that performance in math classes, helped along perhaps by a dedicated teacher, determines students' success.

susan said:

I had a high school mother complain to me her daughter received (A's) on her high school transcript in classes when her own daughter said she was hardly required to do anything to pass.
The mom withdrew her daughter and even though it was tough financially on the family budget, they put her in a private high school because the parent wanted to make sure her child received teachers that were demanding, completed homework and active participation was expected -- no sleeping allowed in class and had private teachers that taught the classes thoroughly, actually "prepared" for the classes they taught, made sure the students understood the coursework so when the student goes on to college or university they are accepted into, they won't be in complete shock when university professors have a whole different standard when it comes to grading.

When the River Tax is presented, voters should not have to vote on something that is worked out later. Do voters feel that the ones pushing the River Tax is comparable to passing a lot of these Algebra I students that never fully understood?

susan said:

Can you imagine how many students that fall into this category of barely passing the required math courses including Algebra I taxpayers of Oklahoma have paid for free university education under the OHLAP. How do you think these same students will pass Algebra II if they never understood Algebra I? Would they take Spanish II if the never understood Spanish I?

Now it would be interesting to see if these OHLAP students have been allowed to make D's for passing grades in their college or the university required classes the OHLAP student chooses. All funded by Oklahoma taxpayers if family income is $50,000 or less.

If your family income is more than $50,000 or a little more than that, all the freebies of the OHLAP does not apply to all those well deserving students that were well behaved in high school, stayed awake in class, were examples to others,
that actually have studied, stayed out of trouble -- the Oklahoma Legislature has decided those "rich" families (those making a little more than the cutoff family income level) that have students that qualify to go to universities can just take out student loans.

Taxpayers of Oklahoma aren't told the full story of exactly how their tax dollars are spent.

Is this fair and well deserving students have to put up with the expensive mandatory "fees" that are almost as expensive as the university tuition -- thanks to the Oklahoma Higher Regents and our Oklahoma Legislature.

I think the OHLAP should give a report how many were on the free OHLAP university and college Oklahoma taxpayer funded program of the number of students getting freebies that made D as a passing grade. Are our tax dollars well spent in Oklahoma education?

slaw said:

VOTE and defeat the River Tax. Help put up signs to defeat it, call someone and see how you can help to defeat this. If you don't like the Mayor - then work to put her in her place or run her out of town. Sitting at a keyboard isn't going to accomplish this. It's 130 degrees in Bagdad, our US soldiers are fighting a useless war and dying, and Bush is on vacation in Texas. Tulsa Public Schools begins tomorrow. Call the school by you and see how you can help, purchase a needed supply for them, volunteer to read to students in the classroom. Go sit in a classroom for a week and see what a teacher has to deal with before they even begin to teach and you will wonder why they even want to be a teacher and you might be proud of what they do accomplish.

susan said:

Taxpayers of Oklahoma are funding many OHLAP college and university students full tuition.
Hey, taxpayers as generous as we are will even get to pay for private university full tuition for the OHLAP students. Oklahoma State Regents "tough" grading policy in order to get this free taxpayer paid tuition and freebies is they must have a l.7 grade point average (which is a D+ grade point average) in the college or university.

Students with family incomes of more than $50,000 do not qualify for the free OHLAP university tuition funding.

susan said:

Oklahoma State Senator Kathleen Wilcoxson feels Oklahoma students need more rigorous standards since students who take Oklahoma 8th grade math only needs to score a 44% to be rated "satisfactory". At 44%, students can pass as "satisfactory" and pass on to the next level of math -- never really mastering that course.
In 2004, only 36% of Oklahoma middle school math teachers were certified in math, and that is when many Oklahoma students will take Algebra I.
In 9th grade (high school) they should complete 3 more math courses such as Geometry, Algebra II, etc.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 17, 2007 5:41 PM.

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