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Topic: Testing and Coaching Businesses
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Testing and Coaching Businesses
Posted: Jul 5, 1998 3:56 PM
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Note: From the AMTE List

Topic No. 1

Date: Wed, 10 Jun 1998 12:05:25 -0700
From: Domenico Rosa <>
Subject: Math exam whistle-blowers
Message-ID: <>

The 24 May 1998 edition of The Boston Sunday Globe (FOCUS, p D3) had a
commentary by Al Cuoco and Faye Ruopp, "Math exam rationale doesn't add
up." Cuoco is a former member of the NCTM Board of Directors.
Cuoco and Ruopp made the following comments about the Massachusetts
Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS).

Indeed the battery of tests given in grades 4, 8, 10
follows a tradition with which teachers are quite familiar.
It is one more example of a numerical indicator that can
be improved over time without significantly increasing our
students' understanding. In other words, the test is
designed so that first-round scores will be low and so that
scores can be improved, year by year, through an evolving
cottage industry of coaching techniques.

The May/June 1998 issue of FOCUS, the newsletter of the Mathematical
Association of America, contained a letter (p 9) in which R. W.
Hamming stated:

We already have a flourishing business of teaching students,
usually for money, how to pass such standardized exams as
the SAT. Coaches claim to be able to raise scores by more
than 100 points, and there is ample evidence that they do--
and the more you pay, the more you can raise your scores.

Hamming mentioned the Tripos exams, for which students went to special
coaches and trained for a year or two, that were abolished at Cambridge
after G. H. Hardy protested.

It is becoming more and more apparent that the current trends in
mathematics education are providing little more than huge windfalls
for our testing and coaching businesses. It is encouraging to see
that responsible people are speaking up.

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Fax: (618)453-4244
Phone: (618)453-4241 (office)

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