• Joanne Jacobs

Guess and pass: No math required

Guessing C on every multiple-choice question was enough to pass New York's Regents exam for Algebra I this year, writes math teacher Ed Knight. Pre-pandemic, students who answered 30 percent of multiple-choice questions could pass, even if they didn't try to answer the "constructed response" questions. This year, 19.6 percent on the four-answer multiple-choice section and 0 on "constructed response" was good enough.


His student "River," rarely in class and knowing no algebra, passed. He deviated from all C's to mark B for two answers, both of which were C. But he made that up by trying a constructed response question.

Constructed response question on Regents' Algebra I exam

Knight shows one worth four points out of the 17 needed to pass. It requires the ability to read a graph.


The Algebra I test is "stuffed with know-the-definition, yes-or-no questions and reading comprehension questions without any algebra required," writes Knight. "Other questions require nothing more than copying a graph from a calculator, and yes, graphing calculators are not just allowed, but required."


Regents exams "matter for scholarships and 'free' college programs and what courses you can take at SUNY universities and university honors programs and — and do not underestimate how highly parents and students value this — which cords a high school graduate wears around her neck at graduation," writes Knight.


Furthermore, a school with terrible test scores will be classified as a “focus” school, generating "mountains of additional paperwork, meetings, and ultimately a humiliating loss of local control."


So everyone has an incentive to make the tests very easy to pass.

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