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Topic: Texas EoC Algebra Exam
Replies: 16   Last Post: Aug 15, 2000 10:29 AM

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Wayne Bishop

Posts: 5,465
Registered: 12/6/04
Texas EoC Algebra Exam
Posted: Aug 11, 2000 5:27 PM
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It was a couple of years ago that I looked at the 1995-98 exams in
considerable detail to see why this, already evident, phenomenon was
occurring. More generally, why was lower grade mathematics performance in
Texas going up sharply while eventual college intending performance was not
appearing to reflect that improvement? My involvement was to see if the
EoC algebra was, perhaps, too hard or too inappropriate in some other
way(s)? It was not. There are things I would do differently but, if all
but one eighth grader who took algebra (40% of the eighth graders in that
district) - in a district that is over 90% Hispanic and lower end
socioeconomically (though not bottom) - could pass the test, something is
wrong in the message, not with the messenger.

Our conclusion? Too low of a standard for genuine college intending
opportunity, at least for anything with an honest mathematics base. The
focus on pass-only, not on improvement across the *range* of student
performance, using a standards level with a content-to-time slope that does
not point high enough for successful algebra performance, may be
politically wise but does not cut it for enough kids. The improvement for
those at the very bottom is real, and that is important. But there's more
to education than preparing a higher grade of McDonald's worker, and that's
about what's happening.

The California standards are *much* better (when fully embraced by the
powers-that-be) but a decent EoC Algebra exam still strikes me as a good
idea. Dropping it in a few years, because everyone "knows" algebra by
then, is (being generous) idealistic. The danger (as in bet the ranch) is
that it will be possible to miss every single question that is genuine
algebra and still pass the test. That does nothing to put pressure on the
lower grades and middle schools to get kids where they ought to be
mathematically and *that* is the secret to the end of the effective
Separate-but-Equal, still too prevalent in our society. Everyone in my
daughter's private school gets there, so with Chandler, so with Mayfield,
so with, ..., but the public schools we pass on the way do not, even in my
suburban Pasadena.

------------------------------------------------ __ | Section: Front page

Aug. 11, 2000, 1:23AM

X marks spot on low algebra scores

End_of_course test failed by 55 percent of students in Texas

Copyright 2000 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau

AUSTIN __ More than half of Texas public school students who took
first_year algebra last year flunked the end_of_course exam, news that
overshadowed gains students made on similar tests in other subjects,
education officials announced Thursday.

Results of tests given this spring to middle and high school students
showed that overall, only 45 percent of students passed the Algebra I test
and that fewer than one in five mastered all the math concepts on the test,
according to Texas Education Agency figures.

It was the same passing rate as last year, and as weak as the results are,
they are significantly higher than they were when the test was first
administered in 1996. That year, only 27 percent of students passed.

The results were even more dismal when broken down by race and ethnicity.
While 57 percent of Anglo students passed the math test, only 34 percent of
Hispanic students and 27 percent of African_American students passed. Asian
students posted the best performance, with 73 percent in that student group
passing, according to the TEA.

State education officials track the performance of students by ethnicity,
race and income level to make sure that minority and low_income students
are not overlooked in public schools. Without tracking student performance
by ethnicity and race, experts say, overall passing rates could disguise
large groups of failing students.

State Education Commissioner Jim Nelson expressed concern over the algebra

"Being able to add, subtract, multiply and divide isn't going to be enough
to make it in the real world," Nelson said. "Our students need to develop
the higher_level mathematics skills that can only be developed through
rigorous courses like Algebra I."

One factor that Nelson said could be contributing to the poor math test
results is the shortage of certified teachers in the subject. ith
high_tech industries and investment professions luring teachers away for
higher salaries and better benefits packages, he added, school districts
are having greater difficulty finding good math teachers.

The test results, however, serve as little more than a barometer for Texas
schools because passing the exam is not a requisite for graduation and
because all end_of_course exams are being phased out, said TEA spokeswoman
Debbie Graves Ratcliffe.

"It still gives us a good gauge," Ratcliffe said. "Pretty soon all this
material will be on the tests that determine graduation. I hope schools pay
serious attention to the tests, and I think they do."

By 2005, end_of_course exams will be eliminated. That year, high school
students will have to pass a new exit test that will include algebra,
geometry and other subjects currently not tested. While performance on the
algebra test was weak, Texas public school students posted much higher
passing rates in other subject areas:

· 81 percent of students passed end_of_course exams in biology, a 4
percentage point improvement over 1999. When broken down by student groups,
91 percent of Anglos passed the biology exam, as did 70 percent of
African_Americans and 69 percent of Hispanics.

· In second_year English, 85 percent of Anglos passed, as did 72 percent of
Hispanics and 69 percent of African_Americans, for an overall passing rate
of 78 percent, another 4 percentage point gain over the previous year.

· 73 percent passed U.S. history end_of_course tests, up from 71 percent in
1999. When broken down by student group, 84 percent of Anglo students
passed that exam, as did 59 percent of African_American students and 58
percent of Hispanic students.

"Overall, I am pleased with the progress Texas students are making, but we
certainly still have work to do, especially in the area of algebra," Nelson

The tests are administered near the end of the instructional period for
each subject, and most students take them in the spring.

Ratcliffe, the TEA spokeswoman, said officials are concerned about the
algebra results.

"We are really struggling to determine why the algebra scores aren't
better," she said. "We went back and did a number of safety checks and
analyses to make sure there wasn't anything wrong with the test or its
scoring, and there's not."

TEA officials are questioning why algebra scores are not improving as
rapidly as scores in other subject areas, Ratcliffe said.

Among the possible explanations, she said, is that there is no downside to
students if they fail.

"We know in the past that when a test doesn't count, students don't take it
as seriously," she said. "And in most cases, the scores on this test aren't
used when teachers calculate course grades."

Sample questions
The following questions are taken from the end-of-course examination given
to Texas public school students last spring. The complete exam and answer
key can be found on the Texas Education Association Web site:

1. What is the value of x in the following equation?
3x + 2(4x-1)-9=0
F. -2
G. -1
H. 0
J. 1
K. 2

2. A truck is carrying 1,500 pounds of cargo that occupies 138 cubic feet
of space. A television weighs 50 pounds and occupies a space of 4 cubic
feet. A microwave oven weighs 30 pounds and occupies a space of 3 cubic
feet. Which system of equations can be used to find the total number of
televisions, t, and microwaves, m, that are in the truck?
F. 4t + 3 m = 1,500
50t + 30m = 138
G. 50t + 4m = 1,500
30t + 3m = 138
H. 50t + 30m = 1,500
4t + 3m = 138
J. 50 + 4t = 1,500
30 + 3m = 138
K. 50t -30m = 1500
4 t -3m = 138

3. The number of pieces of mail processed by a machine in the post office
is directly proportional to the number of minutes that the machine runs.
The machine processes 2,700 pieces of mail in 60 minutes of continuous
running. How many pieces of mail would the machine process in 25 minutes of
continuous running?
A. 108
B. 675
C. 900
D. 1,125
E. 1,500
Answers: J, H, D

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