In this post, I’d like to discuss the Algebra 1 exam from the June 2015 regents exam administration. Not the old Integrated Algebra exam, but the new Common Core exam. That’s not to say that the strong criticism which is to follow is leveled at ‘Common Core’. In fact, I am a big fan of the general idea and the educational shifts that underlie the Common Core standards. A bad test can be designed within any standards, and this Algebra 1 exam was a bad test. What’s additionally unfortunate is that in these early stages of Common Core implementation, when the fate of Common Core is not yet certain (NJ, for example, just changed their mind about it), one would think it more prudent to design a test that would not serve as yet additional evidence for Conmon Core critics that the whole idea is a bad one.
But let’s move on to the test itself.
Where should we start?
This question is testing a student’s ability to use a graphic calculator. The equation uses fractions that cannot be calculated accurately without one. Except that this equation, if not absolutely properly entered into the calculator, will yield very wrong results, and thus causing the student to lose most or all of the points on this most valuable problem of the exam. Is there truly a need to use such fractions? And that, on the last problem of the exam.
Most students taking this exam used all of the three hours allotted for it. That’s three hours of continuous concentration! And then you come to the last, most valuable problem, and they give you numbers that are prone to throw you off!
But wait, that’s not all!
“The goal post is 10 feet high and 45 yards away.” The entire problem up to this point was presented in terms of “feet”, but here they sneak in “45 yards”! Again, when a student has been struggling for three hours straight, it is very unlikely that he or she will catch that switch. Dear test designers, next time try “CTRL I”! Would it be so difficult to italicize yards? By the way, most math teachers I spoke to, overlooked the yards in the problem.