Some parents and a San Francisco Chronicle columnist flubbed the algebra and chemistry questions on California’s STAR exam. I don’t think it means much that people who haven’t used chemistry for several decades don’t know the material any more. Thanks to my tutoring of ninth graders, I could do all the algebra questions; I didn’t try chemistry, which I took in 1966-67. I question C.W. Nevius’ assertion that teaching to the test requires ignoring concepts.
Instead of critical thinkers, the ideal STAR test students would be multiple-choice experts who have memorized catch phrases and equations.
Finally, many of the questions in the math and science sections are incredibly obscure. Unless you are a mathematician or scientist, why would you need to know that information later in life?
So should we stop teaching algebra, geometry, trig, chemistry and physics to all but future mathematicians and scientists? That would require teen-agers to decide what fields — business, medicine, engineering, etc. — they want to remain closed to them forever. We can’t all be newspaper columnists. (And it would be nice if Nevius had the mathematical sophistication to understand the basic concept of “adequate yearly progress.” It’s not a fixed number.)
Here are links to state standards for various subjects — students must do more than memorize formulas — and sample questions.