Bridget Green was all set to be valedictorian of her New Orleans high school, but she didn’t even go to the graduation ceremony. Despite her A in Algebra II, Green failed the math portion of the graduation exam. It was her fifth try.
The test measures 10th grade skills: the 75 percent passing score reflects “approaching basic” competency, according to Number 2 Pencil, which has a link to sample test questions. Furthermore, Green’s difficulties with the graduation exam were no fluke. Her ACT score of 11 was lower than 99 percent of students who took the college admissions test.
The Times-Picayune story is heart-breaking. Green was willing to learn, but her teachers didn’t tell her that she needed to improve.
Studious, athletic and outgoing, teachers and peers said Green is an ideal student. In her three years at Fortier, she balanced a college-prep class schedule with competing on Fortier’s basketball and track teams. Her transcript, which is full of A’s and B’s, shows she earned top marks in biology, geography, history, creative writing and Spanish.
On her 12th-grade report card, her teachers praised her, with several congratulating her for her “outstanding effort” and calling her a “pleasure to have in class.”
They were giving her As for being a good kid. But they weren’t teaching her. She passed the English exam on her first try, but just barely. The math questions “looked nothing like what she learned in class.”
To sharpen her math skills and improve her chances of passing the exam, Green asked school officials to let her skip a physical education class and take an additional math course during her senior year. But she said the school’s counselor wouldn’t let her make the switch.
(Principal Harvey) Cyrus said he doesn’t know why Green’s request was blocked, but he said his counselors wouldn’t deny it without strong reasons.
“My counselors are excellent,” he said. “They’re going to do everything they can to help a student.”
. . . Cyrus said Green’s experience does not suggest the school is doing anything wrong.
“I feel my teachers did everything they could do,” Cyrus said. “Sometimes students just don’t ask for help.”
And sometimes a student asks for help, and doesn’t get it. She gets inflated grades that signal she’s doing fine when she isn’t.
The principal blames the test. He has no worries about the students who got lower grades than Bridget Green.
“I would say most of our children are ready to go on to college,” he said.
Green plans to keep retaking the test till she passes. Then she’ll enroll in community college. Based on her high school grades, she’s confident she can succeed. She wants to major in elementary education.