Thursday, June 10, 2010

NY: Educrats pass students who get wrong answers on tests

It's racism behind it, of course. Must not fail blacks. And blacks generally perform so poorly that even the tiniest shred of comprehension from a black is pounced on with gratitude

When does 2 + 2 = 5? When you're taking the state math test.

Despite promises that the exams -- which determine whether students advance to the next grade -- would not be dumbed down this year, students got "partial credit" for wrong answers after failing to correctly add, subtract, multiply and divide. Some got credit for no answer at all. "They were giving credit for blatantly wrong things," said an outraged Brooklyn teacher who was among those hired to score the fourth-grade test.

State education officials had vowed to "strengthen" and "increase the rigor" of both the questions and the scoring when about 1.2 million kids in grades 3 to 8 -- including 450,000 in New York City -- took English exams in April and math exams last month.

But scoring guides obtained by The Post reveal that kids get half-credit or more for showing fragments of work related to the problem -- even if they screw up the calculations or leave the answer blank. Examples in the fourth-grade scoring guide include:

* A kid who answers that a 2-foot-long skateboard is 48 inches long gets half-credit for adding 24 and 24 instead of the correct 12 plus 12.

* A miscalculation that 28 divided by 14 equals 4 instead of 2 is "partially correct" if the student uses the right method to verify the wrong answer.

* Setting up a division problem to find one-fifth of $400, but not solving the problem -- and leaving the answer blank -- gets half-credit.

* A kid who subtracts 57 cents from three quarters for the right change and comes up with 15 cents instead of 18 cents still gets half-credit.

* A student who figures the numbers of books in 35 boxes of 10 gets half-credit despite messed-up multiplication that yields the wrong answer, 150 instead of 350.

These questions ask students to show their work. The scoring guidelines, called "holistic rubrics," require that points be given if a kid's attempt at an answer reflects a "partial understanding" of the math concept, "addresses some element of the task correctly," or uses the "appropriate process" to arrive at a wrong solution. Despite flubbing the answer, students can get 1 point on a 2-point problem and 1 or 2 points on a 3-pointer.

The Brooklyn teacher said she and peers who had trained to score the tests were stunned at some instructions. "Everybody in the room was upset," she said. The teacher had scored tests with some "controversial questions" for several years, but "this time it was more outrageous," she said. "You feel like you're being forced to cheat."

Scorers joked about giving points to kids who wrote their names, brought a pencil or shared gum. However, score inflation is not funny, the whistleblower said. "The kids who really need the help are just being shuffled along to the next grade without the basic skills to have true success. They are given a hollow success -- that's the crime of it. The state DOE is doing a disservice to its children."

Some testing experts are also troubled. Ray Domanico, a former head of data analysis for city schools, said kids deserve a little credit for partial knowledge but agreed the scoring system "raises some questions about whether it's too generous."

State Education Department spokesman Tom Dunn defended the scoring. "All teachers who score exams receive clear training and rubrics that detail scoring criteria for every question on the tests," he said. "Students who show work and demonstrate a partial understanding of the mathematical concepts or procedures embodied in the question receive partial credit."

But a few extra points can let a failing kid squeak by. A year ago, Chancellor Joel Klein boasted that the city was making "dramatic progress" when 82 percent of city students passed the state math test and 69 percent passed in English, up sharply from 2002. And fewer kids have been left back in recent years. What officials didn't reveal was that the number of points needed to pass proficiency levels has, in most cases, steadily dropped.

The state Board of Regents, which oversees the tests, has postponed the release of results until late July, but let the city Department of Education set its own "promotional cut scores" to decide which kids may be held back. The DOE will release those scores in the next two weeks, a spokesman said.


British schools failing to teach the Christian foundations of British culture

The Christian religion is the foundation of most of Britain’s culture and traditions. The history of our nation is incomprehensible without some knowledge of it. And yet, as we report today, and as anyone who has school-age children attending a non-religious state school will already know, the rudiments of Christianity are frequently poorly taught — if, indeed, they are taught at all. A report by Ofsted has found that, although nominally required by the national curriculum, in many schools instruction is “superficial”, and is treated less seriously than the study of other religions.

In part, this is a result of a misplaced enthusiasm for “multiculturalism”, and a determination to include other faiths such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism, all of which the national curriculum requires pupils to study. But it is also a reflection of the ignorance of many of the teachers themselves. There is, as Ofsted euphemistically puts it, “uncertainty” about what the teaching of Christianity should involve.

That needs to be remedied as soon as possible, and Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, should ensure that it is. Our youngsters have no chance of understanding the history of Britain, or its fundamental values of equality, toleration, and freedom of conscience, unless they also understand where those values came from.

No one is required to adhere to Christianity’s precepts in order to teach them: atheists can do that job quite as well as committed Christians (or Muslims, come to that). But in failing to teach children about the religion of the country they live in, we are depriving them of a critical element in their education.


Degrees at Australian university 'dumbed down' for foreign students

Such complaints are familiar and undoubtedly true so one wonders if anything will ever be done about them. Graduating unqualified engineers etc. is of great concern

FOREIGN students are cheating and getting special treatment to ensure they get their degrees, according to evidence gathered in a secret investigation by the Ombudsman.

Victorian universities chasing a bigger slice of Australia's $17 billion a year foreign students industry have also been accused of pressuring staff to "dumb down" courses. Some international students who failed tests at Royal Melbourne Institite of Technology were allowed to keep sitting the same exams until they passed, the Ombudsman's investigators allegedly found.

RMIT's 26,000 international students bring in almost $204 million a year to the university.

An RMIT whistleblower sparked the Ombudsman's investigation early this year. Investigators have found evidence suggesting:

- A teacher allowed students to cheat in aerospace and aviation exams.

- At least one Middle Eastern student suspected of cheating spent months in a detention centre while intelligence agencies checked his background.

- An international student graduated from RMIT despite turning up drunk, missing lectures, failing exams, abusing staff and students, and sparking sex assault accusations.

The university, and the individuals accused of wrongdoing, will be able to respond to the allegations in the Ombudsman's draft report before the final report was tabled in State Parliament.

RMIT Vice-Chancellor Margaret Gardner said the Whistleblowers Protection Act prevented her from commenting on the allegations until after the report is tabled. She said she would be happy to answer questions when she was legally able to do so.

An RMIT teacher, who asked not to be named, said some staff were concerned foreign students were getting preferential treatment. "RMIT is falling over backwards to make sure these fee-paying international students don't fail," he said. "A big slice of RMIT's income is generated by international students and they don't want to jeopardise it."

Leading Monash University researcher Bob Birrell claimed some international students who got degrees didn't have enough English to to get a job in Australia in their chosen fields. Dr Birrell said he couldn't comment on the Ombudsman's report as he was not aware of its contents.

But he said competition between Victorian universities was so fierce that evidence suggested some were cutting corners as they desperately pursued the lucrative international student dollar. "In order to deal with the students who were being recruited, they had to dumb down the curriculum," he said.

Investigators from the Ombudsman's office are believed to have discovered the cheating during an investigation into other damaging claims against RMIT. They found evidence suggesting a long-serving teacher handed out an exam paper to a Middle Eastern aerospace student several days before the exam. The student allegedly allowed other Middle Eastern students to use the exam paper to cheat.

Telephone records of the teacher and several aerospace students allegedly reveal late-night contact in the days before a test on the stress on aeroplane components.


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