Wednesday, February 24, 2016
UK: Pupils who get a B grade in A-level maths today would only have scored an E 50 years ago as study shows exams HAVE got easier
The research, by Loughborough University, found standards in the subject have dramatically declined since the 1960s as exam papers have become easier.
It confirms long-held views that those who took the maths exams five decades ago would have to be schooled to a much higher standard to achieve a good mark.
Critics have warned that erosion of standards over the last century has led to youngsters in the UK falling behind peers in other countries in maths ability.
And elite universities have complained that the high numbers of students obtaining top grades makes it harder for them to select the truly exceptional candidates.
However, while recent exam papers appear to be significantly easier than those taken in the 1960s, there appears to have been little change in the last 20 years. The report’s authors concluded that grade inflation in maths A-level may have plateaued after 1996.
Dr Ian Jones, at the university’s Mathematics Education Centre, said: ‘There has been ongoing concern that maths A-levels are getting easier. ‘Whilst our study does show a decline in standards between the 1960s and 1990s, there is no evidence to suggest there has been further decline in the last 20 years.
‘Our study has overcome limitations of previous research in this area, making it the most robust of its kind.
‘With debate continuing about the standard of maths exams it’s important the decision makers have the best evidence available to them.’
Major reforms to exams in England are currently being introduced, with the first new GCSEs and A-levels in subjects including English and maths brought in last autumn.
Ministers have previously said that changes to the system are needed to make the qualifications more rigorous.
The report, called Fifty years of A-level mathematics: Have standards changed?, was based on studies of exam answers from 66 papers taken from 1964, 1968, 1996 and 2012, held in the National Archives.
The study involved papers at grade A, B and E and saw maths experts looking at pairs of papers and deciding which one showed the better mathematician.
All papers were standardised and anonymised, so that the experts would not be able to tell from which year they originated.
The researchers concluded that a grade B in a maths paper from the 2010s was equivalent to an E in the 1960s, but no different from the 1990s.
Alan Smithers, professor of education at the University of Buckingham, said: ‘A-level maths is much easier now than it was fifty years ago. ‘It has had to adjust to what the candidates can do. Very few took the exam in the 1960s and they were almost all grammar school pupils. ‘A much wider range now take the exam and the exam has been simplified so that there is an acceptable pass rate.’
However, he added: ‘The teaching of maths in primary schools has greatly improved in recent years and the government is toughening up the exam again as it expects those pupils to be able do better when they take A-levels.’
According to international maths tests for 15-year-olds run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, UK teenagers are lagging behind peers from many other countries including China and Singapore, which top the league table.
A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘We have introduced a new, more rigorous maths curriculum at GCSE and a gold standard A-level. ‘The changes we have made will help to tackle the grade inflation of the past.’
‘Free’ College and a Better Alternative
Should America provide tuition-free college to every high-school grad? President Obama and Sen. Bernie Sanders are campaigning for it, but whether this would be a good investment for the nation is an entirely different matter. One reason to raise doubts, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki E. Alger, is that while high-school graduation rates may be at all-time highs, many grads are woefully unprepared for the rigors of higher education.
Citing the National Assessment of Educational Progress—the nation’s report card—Alger writes, “just one-quarter of students score proficient or better in math and only slightly more than one-third (36 percent) are proficient in reading.” The promise of a free college education would only push those academic deficiencies into the nation’s colleges, particularly community colleges, where, Alger writes, “barely one in five students earns a degree in five years.”
Rather than offering “free” college (a misnomer, because taxpayers would get stuck with a larger tab), Alger advocates an alternative that would better align the incentives of students, taxpayers, and schools: replacing all government student loans with performance grants (and only for needy students). If the recipient doesn’t perform well academically, the grant would convert to a loan. “With this reform,” she writes, “schools, two- and four-year alike, would have to compete for students and their associated grant funding, which would exert powerful pressure on schools to control costs, keep program quality high, and offer more generous institutional aid—or risk losing students to other institutions.”
Boston Latin school not subservient enough to NAACP
There was a big official inquiry that found just a single adverse verbal incident but that was not the desired conclusion
The Boston branch of the NAACP called for ousting Boston Latin School’s headmaster following a five-hour meeting Sunday on the results of an investigation released Friday into the administration’s response to racially charged incidents at the school and on social media.
Headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta failed the students at Boston Latin School, branch president Michael Curry said, and “for that she needs to go.”
“We no longer have faith that she can act in a way that is in the best interest of the students at Boston Latin, particularly when it comes to safety,” Curry said Sunday night after the meeting. “We don’t come to this lightly.”
Curry said he held off calling for Teta’s termination until the release of the report, which the group reviewed in depth Sunday afternoon.
Asked about the call for Teta to be fired, Boston Public Schools spokesman Dan O’Brien said Sunday night that “Superintendent [Tommy] Chang is looking forward to meeting with NAACP leadership in the immediate future to discuss any concerns people in the community have raised in recent days.”
Investigators found that Boston Latin School officials responded appropriately to several racially charged incidents.
Curry slammed Teta’s handling of an incident on Nov. 7, 2014, in which a student called a black female student a racial slur and “threatened her with a reference to lynching.”
Curry said the NAACP brought the incident to the attention of the Office of Equity, and said Teta knew about it, but the case was not communicated to other officials within the school district. He said police made a report on the incident.
“The handling of that case by Teta and lead administrators in that building warrants termination,” Curry said. “There was an effort to protect this young man’s reputation at the risk of this young lady’s safety.”
While administrators disciplined the male student, the report stated, they did not notify his parents about the incident or tell them about his punishment. The school also failed to notify the female student’s parents.
Curry said his group spoke with at least 20 current and former Boston Latin students, dating back to the 1970s, and their families about racism at the school.
Parents have said that Teta has been unresponsive in the past with regards to similar incidents and has failed to acknowledge the problem or talk about race, Curry said.
He said the report also failed to include other information collected from social media and the probe did not look at other incidents at the school.
Curry said he heard during the meeting about an incident in which a teacher referred to a student using the N-word.
Last month, when two Boston Latin School students publicly denounced racially charged incidents at the school and on social media, they spurred a community often divided on other issues to unite.
In the days following the students’ appearance on a YouTube video, clergy, elected officials, and civil rights leaders quickly rallied in their support and launched an effort to combat a racially charged climate at the city’s most elite public school that some say has spanned generations.
“Folks have certainly coalesced around this issue,” said the Rev. Charles Richard Stith, longtime civil rights activist and former ambassador to Tanzania, on Sunday afternoon. “It’s wrong for young people who are trying to get an education to be subjected to this sort of treatment. That’s why you see people coming together in the way that they have.”
The allegations surfaced when students Kylie Webster-Cazeau and Meggie Noel initiated a social media campaign about race relations at the school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The results of the investigation into the complaints released Friday found that school administrators had responded appropriately to several racially charged incidents at the school and on social media.
But black leaders have said the investigation’s scope was limited and planned community meetings this week to discuss the issue.
“It’s pretty unusual for us to have one mind and to feel like there’s a problem that needs to be addressed,” said Jacqueline C. Rivers, executive director of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies. “This kind of atmosphere is detrimental to the achievement of black students.”
Rivers said the community galvanized around the issue because racism at the school has been a decades-long problem and “the response from the administration seems to be inadequate at every turn.”
The community should continue to work together, Rivers said, and formulate a strategy.
Some say the situation at Boston Latin School offers the community a chance to support the next generation in efforts to defeat racism.
“It’s a good thing people see this as an opportunity to address larger systemic issues,” said Rahsaan Hall, director of the Racial Justice Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts, which is representing a student at the school. “No one wants to see our children in an educational setting exposed to the type of treatment these kids have been exposed to.”
The Rev. Egobudike E. Ezedi Jr. of the Empowerment Christian Church in Dorchester said his congregation includes a Boston Latin School student, who sought guidance from him as to how to address racism at the school and whether to speak up about it.
“It’s our young people that are affected by this and they stepped up and took the bull by the horn and said, ‘We’re not going to take this injustice,’ ” Ezedi said. “It has reminded adults of what we are called to do and need to do.”
Darnell L. Williams, chief executive of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, echoed those sentiments.
“These are the best and brightest students. . . . Shame on us if we don’t do what we can to support them,” he said.
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