I tend to be a pretty optimistic person. Every once and awhile, however, I come across a piece of news that is so appalling that I have no other choice but to conclude that our world, America specifically—now with New York at the helm, is close to a tremendous fall from glory. This morning a NY Post article revealed that New York state exams are now giving partial credit for blatantly incorrect math answers.
The following fourth grade examples show when partial credit is awarded for incorrect reasoning:
- Writing that 28 divided by 14 equals 4 instead of 2 gets partial credit if the student uses the right method.
- Setting up a division problem to find one fifth of $400 but not solving the problem gets half credit.
- A kid who writes 75 – 57 = 15 gets half credit.
- Writing 35 x 10 = 150 warrants half credit.
The Chinese and Russians are laughing at us right now. Math is a very logical science, but ultimately there is a right and wrong answer. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not a good standardized test taker and love partial credit for complex word problems that display rational thinking. Basic mathematical calculations do not fall in this category. If you are engineering a bridge and think that 28 divided by 14 equals 4, chances are that bridge is going to collapse and people will die— hell, that even happens when people design bridges and know how to actually do math! Instead, we want each child to think they are beautiful unique flowers that deserve to advance even though they can’t add or subtract. Many of my friends in the Teach for America program have seen first-hand how students fall three or four grades behind, and grading state exams in this manner only exacerbates this frustrating problem and distorts progress.
As a diligent New York taxpayer, I am angry that we are funding schools to accept wrong answers. The higher taxes that one pays in this city are a fact of New York life that I have had to level with over time, but that does not mean we should start accepting mediocre and abysmal performance at such a young age. If we’re going to start giving away partial credit, I’d prefer it be for creativity like in the Huffington Post’s slideshow last week!