# B minus 4

Counting down to the end of New York State’s Math A and Math B exams.

Thursday afternoon Math A will be administered across New York State. For the last time.

In an hour students will sit for Math B. There will be 4 more exams: June and August 2009, and January and June 2010.

No one will cry over the end of A and B (though some will cry over this week’s exams. High stakes exams place high pressure…)

Math A was introduced in 1999. It replaced Course I. and a little of Course II? It marked the beginning of the end of the RCTs (the easier route to a diploma). Teachers knew on Day 1 that something was wrong. Too much reading. Too much math in (artificial) context. Too much rounding. Too many topics (it was keyed, roughly to a year and a half of material. In many places that meant two years.) And no depth. Because it wasn’t measuring anything, it was unreliable. In June 2003, the first time the entire state had to take it, boom, failures all over, including fancy suburbs. And they rescaled it so that the suburbs would pass. And they appointed a committee that recommended a committee, that… Well, 6 years later, and we’ve reached the end.

The foot-dragging commissioner responsible for this “standards-based assessment,” Mills, is gone. But the damage he wrought lives on.

The replacement exam, Integrated Algebra, is neither really integrated, nor algebra, but schools quickly made the switch (unlike a decade ago, when the vast majority of schools tried to get as many kids into the last administrations of Course I as possible). Integrated Algebra is a lot like Math A lite, with a year’s worth of material, but the same shallowness, and far too much breadth. Some of the worst of A is gone, but…

Anyway, this week we celebrate the end of A. To those students this morning taking (or retaking) B, working on those Advanced Regents diplomas, good luck. And to my readers, we’ll come back to these topics a few more times this week.

What of the worst of Math A is gone? IA seems just as bad, to me. Maybe a little less reading….but I think the far more glaring problem is the mile wide/inch deep issue, which is at least as bad, if not wider and shallower. Trig looks to be going in the same direction – they added more topics to the already packed Algebra 2 and Trig components of the B curriculum.

BTW, this curriculum isn’t even up for review (like, changes won’t even be considered) for another several years, because “teachers had an opportunity to comment” when they were writing the standards. Not that they listened to us. So, even though it sucks, we are stuck with it until something like 2015.

Does anyone know what is supposed to happen to students who fail the Math A exam this week?