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  • Writer's pictureJoanne 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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Guest
Aug 23, 2022

Just curious. Are there older (circa 1960s or 1970s) editions or versions of the whole set of Regents Exams available for comparison? Or perhaps versions at 20 year intervals, 70s, 50s, 30s ... a generation or so between. Are the versions on-line, and could anyone post a link?


It might be interesting to see what educational attainment a HS diploma supposedly signified at various points in our history.

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Guest
Aug 24, 2022
Replying to

Here's a site that has Regent's tests dating back to their Arithmetic test in 1866:


https://www.jmap.org/JMAP_REGENTS_EXAM_ARCHIVES.htm


It's an interesting resource for looking at changes in math curriculum and subject emphasis.

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Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Aug 23, 2022

What a pathetic joke. Compare the Matura exams of Switzerland: you need to have passed the equivalent of Algebra 2 to get into such high schools, then study three more years of mathematics, ensuring that even humanists know at least a little calculus, without which a person is not considered generally educated -- and there are no multiple choice questions on such exams!

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pas28
Aug 23, 2022

The Living Environment (fancy NYS name for Biology) Regents wasn't far off, requiring a whopping 27 of 85 possible points to earn a curved score of 50 and qualifying for the special appeal.

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Guest
Aug 24, 2022
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The BoE here has stated that 'ready for college' means ready for a SUNY two year college, not a SUNY four year University. The taxpayers in many areas do not want to pay for more than the required minimum education, as they want to keep their

school taxes from pricing them out of their homes. When boomers and silents aren't the voting majority, change will happen. Until then, 'just enough for a pass' is the philosophy, not 'be all you can be'. A student passing R.LE will be able to enroll in College Biology for nonmajors at a SUNY two year and succeed...that course too has been watered to what used to be 10th grade bio. I personally know peopl…


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Guest
Aug 22, 2022

The dumbing down of standards will be the death of this nation as eventually no one will learn anything

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Guest
Aug 23, 2022
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The decision not to open enough Honors/Advanced seats is deliberate. People vote with their feet.

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