Sunday, April 15, 2007

Nine States to Administer Standardized Algebra 2 Exam

NJ Commissioner of Education, Lucille E. Davy, announced on 4-10-07, that New Jersey is one of nine states that will administer a common exam for Algebra 2 students in May 2008. A link to the actual Algebra standards that will be used is given near the end of this post.

Here is an excerpt of her statement:

New Jersey Joins Nine-State Partnership to Administer New Algebra II Exam

New Jersey has agreed to join a partnership of nine states in the American Diploma Project Secondary Math Partnership to administer a common exam with common standards for Algebra II students beginning in May 2008. The eight states joining New Jersey in the partnership are Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. The project is an initiative of the ADP Network, a group of 29 states that educate more than 60 percent of all American public school students.

“This new exam will help to ensure that our children are learning the math skills that are becoming more and more essential in an increasingly competitive job and secondary education marketplace,” said Commissioner of Education Lucille E. Davy. “Our work in the American Diploma Project (ADP) Secondary Math Partnership complements our efforts in New Jersey to re-design our schools to meet the challenges of preparing our young people for the demands of the 21st century.”

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Those of you who have been reading my posts for the past four months know that I am elated at this news. I had mentioned the possibilities of this happening a couple of months ago and now it's gaining momentum. Common exam, common standards, common curriculum,...

Of course, we will need to see how this plays out. When it becomes mandatory, will all NJ high schoolers be required to pass this in order to get credit for the course? Does this mean that all NJ students will eventually be expected to take Algebra 2 in high school and does this imply that those students taking more basic level mathematics will have to reach much higher than now? Will it follow a Regents model as in NY? If a student does not pass the exam, what appears on their transcript? NYS educators can probably provide insight into how this is handled in their state. From my understanding of the American Diploma Project, developed by Achieve.org, ALL youngsters need to and will be strongly urged to take Algebra 2. For those intending to continue their education, this is not an option.


I do believe this is a big step in the right direction, however, Commissioner Davy must surely recognize that there is a demographic of youngsters who, at this time, do not yet have the skills to tackle this course. Perhaps she and the others in the consortium believe that this will force the math curricula in Grades K-8 to be significantly upgraded and compel high schools to begin to phase out low-level math courses for most students. Not that there's anything wrong with that but we're certainly not there yet!

For those interested in the Algebra benchmarks (standards) developed by Achieve.org, read this. I looked it over and I like its structure, clarity, examples and content. I need to consider more carefully whether it encompasses all of the important topics in Algebra 2, but, on first glance, it looks good. Their goal and mine is to make our children more competitive and to upgrade the quality of education for ALL of our students, particularly underrepresented groups in our society. After looking these over, let me know if you see any omissions in these benchmarks.

Update on my view of the benchmarks: After reading both the geometry and algebra 'standards' and some of the sample postsecondary problems more carefully, I detect a more traditional flavor with some newer content sprinkled throughout. Those who remember learning from or teaching from the Houghton Mifflin Dolciani series for Algebra 1/2 (Structure and Method if I recall correctly) may feel nostalgic. This is more of an instinct than a careful analysis, so feel free to correct me....

5 comments:

jonathan said...

What content/standards will they use?

Dave Marain said...

jonathan--
I updated the post to include a link to these standards. From a cursory glance, it looks ok but I'd like the opinions of others who teach an Algebra 2-type course. Also, let me know how NYS handles the issues I raised regarding credit for a Regents course, how the final transcript grade is determined, etc.

Anonymous said...

This is a good idea, but not if it determines whether you pass a class or not. Not everyone does well on tests. And many people I know can get an A every marking period and fail a major test. It is quite common. I think it should stay separate from determining if you pass a class or not. Only the CLASS can determine that. If you did the work, understood it (if not a little), then why should a test count against you?

Dave Marain said...

Anon--
I agree that one test should NEVER determine whether one passes a course for all the reasons you mentioned and more.

In NY, where Regents (End of Course Exam) are required for most courses, students are required to TAKE the Regents exam. However, I do not know if they currently need to PASS a Regent exam in order to get credit for the course for graduation purposes. I'll rely on our NY readers to clarify that. Here is one approach used by a Physics teacher in NY:

The Regents Exam will be your official final exam grade and will count as 20% of your yearly average. All students are required to take it in order to receive credit for the course.

This makes sense to me provided the results come back in a timely fashion for final grades to be determined - I assume they do. I seem to recall that students who failed a Regents had to retake the exam in order to get 'Regents' credit which appears on a high school diploma. Again, I need clarification on this.

Anonymous said...

Well, I have to take that test this year and our teacher told us it determines if we pass or fail the class for the year... She's probably wrong though. If not, then whoever made that decision is definitely insane.