Friday, March 28, 2008

I Hope They're Smart Enough To Deal Cards

Las Vegas does everything big. Big hotels, big casinos, big name stars performing, big sporting contests.

Their schools fail big, too.

Clark County School District students tested in January on their grasp of first semester material in high school algebra and geometry didn't just fall short of the mark.

The preliminary report on end of semester exams shows they missed it in a spectacular way.

Across the valley, 90.5 percent of 17,586 students who took the new end of semester exams for Algebra 1 failed, scoring at 59 percent or lower.

In Geometry, 87.8 percent of 18,792 students earned the equivalent of an F.

The 10,032 students in Algebra 2 also made a dismal showing, with 86.6 percent unable to achieve a passing grade.

The preliminary numbers jolted Superintendent Walt Rulffes, who said Wednesday that district staff are analyzing the test, its implementation and the scores to identify why students made such a poor showing.

"Maybe this is the shock we need to get the system fixed," Rulffes said.

Are you kidding me??? If this guy knew the system was this broke and did nothing, and now hopes that a large number of failing students will shock him into fixing it, he needs to be led to the county line at gunpoint and "invited" never to return. If he didn't know that his schools were performing so miserably, then the statement above was just stupid.

I was prepared to give those schools a break--after all, I'm sure there are a lot of non-English-speakers in those schools, students from lower income families, two categories that typically don't perform as well as we'd like. Why do I think there are many of those kids in the schools? Because their parents are the labor force for the hospitality industry in that city. So I was prepared to cut them a little slack on the horrific performance, until I saw the sample questions at the end of the article:

(answers below)

The following questions are from practice exams in algebra and geometry developed for the Clark County School District. The practice tests reflect the material on end of semester exams, which the vast majority of students failed in January.

What is the value of w in the equation 82 = 9w +10?
A. 2
B. 8
C. 63
D. 101

Amelia ran a total of 60 miles in the first three months of her new running program. She ran equal distances in the first and second months, but ran twice that distance in the third month. How far did she run in the third month?
A. 15 miles
B. 20 miles
C. 30 miles
D. 40 miles

Which of the following equations is equivalent to 2(5m+4) = 7m - m ?
A. 10m + 4 = 6m
B. 10m + 8 = 6m
C. 10m + 4 = 7
D. 10m + 8 = 7

What statement is true about all right triangles?
A. A right triangle has 3 equal sides.
B. A right triangle has 3 obtuse angles.
C. A right triangle has no parallel sides.
D. A right triangle has 2 pairs of parallel sides.

Given two lines that intersect, which of the descriptions MUST be true?
A. The two lines are coplanar.
B. The two lines are coincident.
C. The two lines are concurrent.
D. The two lines are corresponding.


B, C, B, C, A

The article hinted at possible reasons students did so poorly: some schools' scores weren't counted correctly, some teachers aren't teaching all the required material, algebra and geometry classes have upwards of 40 students. If any of these things are true, and accurate test results were in fact somewhat higher than reported, this district still has some serious problems in leadership and management.

I'm glad I'm not working there.


Ellen K said...

Darren, you might want to read the letter a friend's husband got from one of his student's stepfathers. It's on my blog and I think it pretty much establishes what parents expect the schools to do, which is to say, produce miracles.

Eric W. said...

Question number two is phrased poorly.

Amelia ran a total of 60 miles in the first three months of her new running program. She ran equal distances in the first and second months, but ran twice that distance in the third month. How far did she run in the third month?
A. 15 miles
B. 20 miles
C. 30 miles
D. 40 miles

"that distance" is pretty vague. Is it referring to the length run in the first month, which is equivalent to the second month? In that case, the answer is C. If you interpret it like I did my first run through, and that "that distance" is the first month plus the second month, and the length for the third month was month one plus month two, then the answer is D. I'm not making excuses for the test scores, but, just thought I'd point that out.

Darren said...

Good call, Eric. I interpreted it the "correct" way, but I can clearly see how someone could interpret that problem the 2nd way that you did.

I wonder if an English teacher could tell us if "distance" as used in this problem, might indicate the first interpretation exclusively.

Even if so, we should be testing math skills and knowledge here, not English grammar skills.

Ellen K said...

Word problems are a major hurdle on science and math tests for ESL students. While they have the math skills necessary, the wording can be tricky. As for what the excuse is of those who were born and raised speaking English, I have no clue.

Anonymous said...

I thought that Vegas had good schools. I now in my small rural school chemistry class have a transfer from Vegas. He said all they did was watch movies. He works hard and did incredible makeup. He is just behind in the class.