Algebra 2 exam will test ‘college readiness’

Passing an Algebra 2 exam (or Math 3 for integrated math) will show college math readiness in 23 states that belong to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers, or PARCC.

In PARCC states, students will be forced to take Algebra 2 or Math 3 if they want to avoid remedial classes in college.  That’s controversial, reports Ed Week.

Richard Freeland, Massachusetts’ commissioner of higher education, said he was reluctant to base a college-readiness determination on Algebra 2 or Math 3, noting that many students who don’t plan to major in science, technology, engineering, or math may not take such classes in high school.

But James Wright, the director of assessment for the Ohio education department, cautioned against going down that road. It’s a “dangerous slope to differentiate” among different types or levels of college readiness in math, he said, when the aim is to assess students against all the common-core standards in math. He noted, however, that the group’s math tests will not gauge mastery of the so-called “plus standards,” which are designed for students aiming to take more-advanced math courses in college.

All but five states have adopted Common Core State Standards in math; all but four have signed on to the English Language Arts standards.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which has 25 members, plans an 11th-grade “summative” math test.

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  1. Stacy in NJ says:

    Don’t we already have an exam that tests Algebra II and college readiness? It’s called the SAT.

    • Crimson Wife says:

      The SAT tests some basic algebra and geometry, but most of the math on it is actually pre-algebra.

      • Stacy in NJ says:

        According to the college board the majority of the questions on the SAT are algebra or geometry related
        Content # of Questions
        Numbers and operations 11–13
        Algebra and functions 19–21
        Geometry and measurement 14–16
        Data analysis, statistics, and probability 6–7

        It’s widely recommended that students complete through pre-calc before taking the SAT. Our idea of what constitues “basic” alge/geo may differ significantly.

  2. It’s interesting.,.. My mom said that when she was in school, if you were college bound with STEM in your future, you had to take calculus as a senior, and if you were non STEM, you were expected to hit at least precalc. This was about 45 years ago. More proof that ‘college ready’ is not what it once was….

    • Crimson Wife says:

      My mom graduated high school in ’71 and it didn’t even offer calculus. The highest class was honors Trig. Now that same high school has honors track juniors take AP Calc and seniors post-AP math.

      • I think it really varied (as I suppose it does now). My mom’s high school in the 60s didn’t offer much higher math at all. Mine, in the 80s, offered one class of calculus for the super-mathy seniors. My neighborhood high school offers AP Calc and all kinds of things.

    • Mark Roulo says:

      My father graduated with an engineering degree (from a pretty good school) in 1963 and he took Calculus in college. I don’t think his high school offered it.

      • I graduated from HS in the 60s, and that fits with my memories. Only big schools offered calc, but colleges expected it for STEM majors (and perhaps others) IF it was offered. One of my small-school (no calc) classmates went on to graduate with an engineering degree, in 4 years.

        I really don’t see calc as a necessary prereq for college; it should depend on major. I would agree with requiring geometry, algebra 1 and 2 for all – providing the SAT/ACT score indicated college readiness. I’d rather see REAL algebra 2 than pre-calc/calc in name only.

        I’m opposed to requiring algebra 2, chem and/or physics for all HS grads, however, because I don’t believe that the college-for-all mantra is either desirable or achievable.

        • I graduated in 1981, and the highest math class available to non-I.B. students (my high school was the first in the state to offer the IB coursework back in the late 70’s) was called Analysis (commonly known as pre-calc).

          The standard math sequence for college bound students was:

          Algebra I
          Geometry (plane and proof)
          Algebra II/Trig

          We didn’t really have honors based coursework, and our state didn’t allow dual credit for college coursework to be applied to high school graduation (that changed in the late 1990’s here).

          Defining students ready at Algebra II/Trig should be more than enough, but other posters have also said that standards aren’t quite what they used to be from 40-50 years ago, either.

          A real Algebra II/Trig course, like the kind I had back in in 1980 would be desirable for any student who is college bound, IMO. Watered down algebra serves no purpose what so ever, and what happens when the student has to take a placement exam which most colleges require before they’re allowed to enroll in a math course?

        • As long as the Chemistry, Physics, Biology, and other Science classes in high school are introductory classes, they should certainly be required. At least a bare, basic, minimum understanding of those subjects is a requirement to be a good citizen in an open, free society! (You want someone with no knowledge in these subjects whatsoever serving on a jury, for example? Scary thought…) The same goes for Algebra II… That’s not advanced Math, and the fact that it even is these days is a testament to the dumbing down of the K-12 standards in the U.S…

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            There has never been a time in any country when a substantial proportion of the population, let alone a majority, had “a bare, basic understanding of”” Chemistry, Physics, Biology.” How has the world survived?

          • Since I went to school in the era when non-college-bound kids did not take algebra II, chem or physics (the basic principles of chem and physics were covered in 1-8), and most people in my small town (HS grads and less) were far more literate, numerate and had far more general knowledge than today’s college grads, I disagree. A proper k-8 curriculum should be able to turn out decently-informed informed citizens, with some students needing another few years to get there. Requiring chem, physics and algebra II for all HS grads will inevitably mean that the courses are so watered-down that the kids that have the background and motivation for the real courses will not have them. Only larger schools can offer two versions.

          • Peace Corps says:

            I think you have it backwards. The requirement that all students (in my state anyway) must take Algebra II is the cause of the of the “dumbing down” of the course.

            I personally think college bound students need Algebra II, but generally speaking many students would be better served with a more practical “general education” math.

            Don’t ask me to teach it though.

          • Imagine a fully ignorant person serving on a jury (unfortunately, it happens all the time). The lawyers on both sides can just make stuff up, and that jury member will beleive it! Of course that bullet can make right turns and curve around a barn to hit that body! Of course the powder left at the scene was a common hair cleaner that everyone has in their hair! etc. Igorant people serving in juries get innocent people sent to jail, and guilty people freed. When people can’t think logically and for themselves, it just comes down to which lawyer is the better salesman and/or lier. Now, think about the damage that ignorant politicians can do…

          • “How has the world survived?”

            In other words, Roger, not very well…

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            No, lawyers cannot just make things up. There are standards for what evidence can and cannot be admitted. I guarantee you that a lawyer who tried to tell a jury that bullets could curve around a barn would quickly be slapped down.

          • “Lawyers cannot just make things up.”

            Really? Seems like it happens all the time. Also, their ability to not get caught making things up depends on those in charge of making sure they don’t having a basic, introductory knowledge of the basic Sciences. How else would they know to catch them if they tried?

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            “Seems like” and “happens all the time” are two very different things. One is a personal impression. The other is a statement of fact.

            There are rules of evidence for all legal proceedings. If a lawyer tries to introduce made-up evidence, the opponent’s lawyer will object and the evidence won’t be admitted. Judges get annoyed by lawyers who try to introduce “prejudicial” “non-probative” etc. evidence. And it usually looks bad to the jury, too. “If he has a good case, why is he trying to use crappy evidence?”

            The system is hardly perfect, and it relies on the opposing lawyer paying attention, but it does keep lawyers from actually making up much.

    • “My mom said that when she was in school, if you were college bound with STEM in your future, you had to take calculus as a senior, and if you were non STEM, you were expected to hit at least precalc. This was about 45 years ago”

      Uh, no. That’s flatly wrong.

  3. Wow, I hit reply on Dierdre’s post, and it went all the way to the bottom instead of in the chain? Why are so many blogs changing their comments system to something less attractive and intuitive?

    • You know what my mom said, and what her HS guidance counselors told her? Wow! Is that you, sis? You really shouldn’t be hanging out on blogs posing as a teacher!

      • “You know what my mom said, and what her HS guidance counselors told her?”

        You quoted your mother’s assertion (no mention of her HS guidance counsellors). I am saying your mother is wrong. That’s not what was true back in the day. Of course, you might be misquoting your mother.

        • She went to a Catholic prep school in New Jersey. She also had to take German… German for STEM types, French for Humanities majors, Spanish for kids who were not college bound because it was an easy language for bad students.

          • Perhaps people at different schools in different regions had different experiences, but that’s no reason to assume it’s totally wrong that, 45 years ago, some schools had stricter standards for what constituted ‘college bound’ than we do today.

  4. “but that’s no reason to assume it’s totally wrong that, 45 years ago, some schools had stricter standards for what constituted ‘college bound’ than we do today.”

    You didn’t say “some schools”, or even “your mother’s schools”. And I very much doubt it was true for your mother’s school, either.

    In any event, that high schools today are mandating higher levels of math than high schools fifty years ago, across the board, is a fact. Your mother’s claim comes down to “I read it on the Internet, so it must be true.”

    • Cal,

      The question that schools are mandating higher levels of math isn’t the issue, but rather the student’s ability to ACTUALLY understand and perform the math in question. I know that without a solid working knowledge of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, percentages, and fractions, along with whole and decimal numbers, and a few other things, many students will NEVER make it through algebra, never mind anything higher in life.

      These concepts are usually learned in Elementary School, at least they were when I attended ES in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Of course, when I go to the deli counter and ask for 3/4’s of a pound of corned beef, and the clerk looks at me and says “I don’t know how to convert 3/4ths on a digital scale”, I know we’re in trouble.

      That was common knowledge at least a quarter of a century ago, but today, it’s leave it up to the computer, regardless if it is right or wrong.

    • I attended a flagship state college that had a large out-of-state population, and the out-staters mostly came from affluent suburbs with large high schools that offered many APs. Even at that time, the school was highly competitive for out-staters and coursework counted. Since few schools inside the state were large enough to offer anything like the top NE metro suburban ones had, the result was that the out-staters arrived with stronger coursework. I knew kids from all over the state and I never heard of anyone taking an AP course until I arrived in college and met kids from big metro areas. Those in my classes mostly had AP calc and AP English and many had AP foreign language and/or history. Perhaps that kind of situation was the basis for Cranberry’s mom’s experience. A general (several tracks) HS with 30-100 per grade just couldn’t offer the kind of advanced coursework as schools with 500+ kids per grade or private, college-prep-only schools.

      • Bill is absolutely right; too many of today’s kids don’t get the proper foundation in (especially) ES and MS. Without that, they won’t master HS-level math, no matter what the course label is. I think the course description formerly was much a much more accurate reflection of the course content than it is today.
        That’s where remediation in college enters the picture. Of course, the same is true for grammar, composition and general knowledge.

      • I don’t think I commented on this thread before this comment. I believe you’re confusing me with Deirdre Mundy.

  5. “The question that schools are mandating higher levels of math isn’t the issue, but rather the student’s ability to ACTUALLY understand and perform the math in question.”

    No, it wasn’t the question. Not in Deirdre’s post. As for your comment, you might as well find a grandma and teach her eggsucking as presume to explain the difference between transcripts and actual ability to me.

    • “had to take’ for college bound didn’t mean ‘required’…just that you wouldn’t get into college without it. The high schools were pretty rigorously tracked at the time, and guidance counselors actually refused to let certain students apply to certain schools. If they felt you wouldn’t succeed there, then good luck getting your transcripts sent…

      So by ‘had to’ I didn’t mean ‘would not get a HS diploma without’ I meant ‘would not get into college without.’

      Now, we have a much broader definition of ‘College Ready,’ and “STEM ready” especially for women, than we did in 1966.

      But, again, this was Catholic Girls Prep schools in New Jersey…. I can believe that it varied a lot by locality. And my mom majored in Microbiology and minored in Math. I’m sure that there were other majors with less stringent requirements. But now, we tell kids with very little math that they’re ‘college ready’ and should ‘pursue STEM careers.;

      In the world of 1966, some talented kids probably got shunted off the academic track, but I think we’ve gone too far in the ‘everyone can be anything!’ direction.

      • Mark Roulo says:

        Unless there was a great collapse in high school calculus enrollment rates between, say 1960 and 1980, calculus could not have been a requirement for college admissions in the 1960s.

        Among the earlier graduates (who were born in the years 1957–1964), just 2 percent completed high school calculus…

        Since more than 2% of the US population born between 1957–1964 went to college, high school calculus could not have been a requirement unless high school calculus classes were massively discontinued in the 15 or so years before this cohort.

        I doubt that 🙂