Nine states, one Algebra II test

Nine states will use a common Algebra II exam, ensuring that standards don’t vary. Arkansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island are the first states to sign on. All are part of Achieve’s ADP Network, which is trying to raise and standardize expectations.

Students typically take Algebra II in high school after taking a basic algebra course and geometry. Research has shown that students who complete Algebra II are much more likely to go on to earn a college degree. That has prompted more and more states to require the course for graduation for most of their students.

Students who passed Algebra II in high school “more than doubled their chances of earning a four-year college degree,” Achieve says, citing two Education Department studies.

But requiring all or most students to take Algebra II creates pressure to lower standards, so the weaker students can pass. The common test will set high standards. I predict states that use it will decide that Algebra II shouldn’t be a graduation requirement.

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Comments

  1. Catch Thirty-Thr33 says:

    I think this is an idea whose time has come…the states, on their own, agreeing to a standard to reach in terms of education; while at the same time (since they are still separate states) free to pursue whatever they deem necessary to achieve that standard.

    This way, you have a standard the that states have come up without federal government interference, AND the states will be free to find methods that are the most successful (the one most successful then is open to emulation).

  2. Ohio is a member of the ADP Algebra II consortium and it will require Algebra II (or its equivalent) as a graduation requirement for the class of 2011. See the new “core” legislation: http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/bills.cfm?ID=126_SB_311

  3. Charles R. Williams says:

    You can write a tough but fair test and then set the passing score so low that the test become irrelevant. This is what has happened to the Ohio Graduation Test in math.

    Games, games games.

    What happened to trigonometry, permutations, combinations, matrices, determinants, mathematical induction, etc. that used to be a part of Algebra 2.

  4. wayne martin says:

    > You can write a tough but fair test and then set
    > the passing score so low that the test become irrelevant.

    Always a possibility. Who will be watching to see that this doesn’t happen?

  5. Research has shown that students who complete Algebra II are much more likely to go on to earn a college degree. That has prompted more and more states to require the course for graduation for most of their students.

    Doesn’t this reek of post hoc fallacy? Passing Algebra II either a) makes students smarter so they’ll do better in college, or b) shows that the students who are smart (or whatever) enough to pass Algebra II will typically do better in college than those who couldn’t pass it. I suspect it’s (b).

  6. wayne martin says:

    I’ll be more impressed when a common reading test is adopted.

  7. Charles –
    Do you have anything to back-up the OGT in math being dumbed-down?

  8. Charles R. Williams says:

    Kevin,

    I am not saying that the OGT in math is dumbed down. I am saying that the passing score is ridiculously low. Since this is a multiple choice test, a passing score should be 70%. it is way below that.

    The versions of the OGT in math that I have seen are quite impressive. They will put remedial math operations at Ohio public universities out of business – if they are ever implemented in an honest way.

    There is an issue though about Algebra 2 being dumbed down. I think that this is an incontestable fact. It used to be the equivalent of today’s Precalculus. Today they are teaching kids to solve quadratics in Algebra 2.

  9. I’m all for setting high standards for my students. However, I’m tired of people thinking that just by making students pass a ‘high standards’ test they will be propelled to go on to college and be successful. I’m a great teacher and I motivate my students in several ways, not just by making a difficult tests. As a mathematician and a statistician, I understand the difference between correlation and causation. Has anyone ever thought that the Algebra II/College Success relationship is just a correlation and does NOT show a cause and effect relationship? Just because you can get a student to pass a test, does not mean that they will be motivated to do anything but that. Going to college isn’t the only way to be successful in life. There are a lot of students out there who want to learn a trade and do not have any desire to pursue a college career. I know some plumbers, electricians, contractors, and mechanics who make a lot more than I do as a teacher… Plus…How many Registered Nurses out there do Algebra II on the job? Requiring a future nurse to pass a Algebra II test actually might close the door on getting into nursing school and being successful if he or she has difficulty with math.

  10. Charles-
    The cut scores for the OGT are fairly low if you look at them as a percentage, but setting cut scores is more complex than that. They are actually trying to see how a student performs on content at varying levels of difficulty.
    As to Algebra II being less difficult than it was a generation ago (or whenever), that is possible. The new assessment will at least define what Algebra II is, according to a consortium of multiple states.

    Dave-
    You’re right about test-taking and future success. If there is any effect, we will probably see the (current) correlation between course-taking and college success weaken, since people will no longer self select.
    Students who graduate and enter a trade (or pursue an associate’s degree) are following a valuable and sometimes lucrative path. We should encourage that. The difficulty is that we don’t really know how to test students’ preparation for the workplace. If there were a test for high school students of math ability that was equally valid for those desiring to become electricians or beauticians, enter the military, or enroll in college, that would be an excellent tool. In the place of a better assessment, businesses, educators, and politicians have decided Algebra II is a good place to start.