Testing, testing On Number 2

Testing, testing
On Number 2 Pencil, Kim Swygert rounds up the controversies over graduation and promotion exams. Basically, everyone wants to blame the test instead of blaming the school for not teaching algebra or the student for not learning. Or they just blame racism:

“I call it a testocracy,” said Ron Walters, the director of the African-American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland. He said that the tests used for high school graduation in Florida are culturally biased, as are most tests across the country now being used to measure the performance of schools, teachers and pupils.

“The sum total of these tests is that they are a strong reflection of the white Anglo-American-European experience in American culture,” and unfair to Hispanic and black test-takers, Walters said.

Black Baptist pastor Victor T. Curry, who likens President Bush to a “neo-Nazi” and his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to “the godfather, the devil,” launched a boycott this month of the state’s major citrus and tourist industries.

Most Florida students eventually pass the reading and writing part of the state’s graduation exam; they falter on the math. I wonder what part of math reflects Anglo-American experience. Perhaps most of the numbers are white, and blacks only get 13 and 17, while Hispanics get 23 and 29. What color is a triangle? What does the square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle equal in the ghetto, the barrio and the ‘burbs? And how come Asian-Americans are capable of learning algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus, despite their non-Anglo culture? For that matter, Asian-Americans can pass the reading and writing portions of graduation exams, even though many speak English as a second language.

Newspapers are running stories about B students who can’t get a 60 percent on a multiple-choice math test in multiple tries. I’d love to know what grades these students got in math.

Tyler Douglass, 18, a senior at Cimmaron-Memorial High School in Las Vegas, has been a solid student: He has a B average, has taken a smattering of honors classes and is qualified for Nevada’s Millennium Scholarship, which would award him as much as $10,000 in college scholarships over four years.

But like many students in Las Vegas, he has not passed the state’s math exam.

“Because you can’t get through this one exam, you can’t get a diploma?” said his mother, Jill Douglass. “It is really easy for people to say our high school students should know this, this and this. And we do need standards. But you can’t expect people to pass an exam if they are not being taught all the material on the test. It’s a flawed exam, that’s the problem.”

It’s a flawed system, Mom, not a flawed exam. If your college-bound son wasn’t taught algebra and geometry in high school, what was he taught? Math Appreciation?

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