Student is more than a test score

Algebra 1 Common Core Regents test – teacher says “Toughest Algebra exam I have ever seen!”

The Algebra 1 Common Core regents test was administered* on Wednesday June 17, 2015 and the report on the test is not good.

An email from a New York State eighth grade teacher states that ‘this was the toughest Algebra exam I have ever seen’ and explains that the test was ‘challenging’ because some of the questions were not part of the curriculum (what was supposed to be taught) or were excessively long or complex.  Read the letter for the details – portions of the letter are in italics below.

Some eighth grade students in the Kingston City School District who took the Algebra 1 regents test reported that the test was ‘difficult’.  My daughter thought it was a little harder than the two practice tests she took to prepare for the regents.  Many felt that it was unfair due to the curve applied to the grade and I agree with the students.  Reports that I heard indicated that students left the test crying and feeling like ‘failures’ and then when they received their grades after the test the crying and feelings of failure repeated even though the curve was explained to them (most of the eighth grade students ended up receiving a score in the 70’s).  Remember that these are ‘honors’ students – eight grade students who are taking the course a year early so these are not ‘average’ or ‘struggling’ students.  If this is what the honors students face, I can’t even imagine what the students who were taking the Algebra 1 course under the normal track (in 9th grade) or those who were retaking the regents test to try and get credit for graduation felt when they received their grade on their report card with no explanation of the difficulty of the test, possible unfairness of some questions or the outrageous curve applied to the grades!

The biggest problem according to the letter and according to what I heard reported locally was the curve.  It brings up lower-performing students, as you would expect, but it also brought DOWN the score for the highest-performing students!

Additionally, students were met with the toughest curve I’ve ever seen on a Regents exam as well. Typically you think of a curve as something that will add a few points onto every student’s exam to account for the difficulty level of that exam. All Regents exams have some version of a curve or another, and while this curve did help the lower-performing students, it also HURT the highest-performing students. For example, a student that knew 94% of the exam received a grade of 93. A student that knew 86% of the exam received an 84. When you look at the class as a whole, only two students met the “85 or above” that they were striving for all year long.

Having their grade pushed DOWN can be very detrimental to an HONORS student!

  • In Kingston if an honors student does not achieve a grade of 85 or above in a course, they can not continue in the honors level course of that subject the next year!
  • If students are working for a ‘Regents with HONORS’ designation on their graduation diploma, they must have a computed average of 90 or better on the 5 required regents tests.

As if that isn’t alarming enough, let’s look at the difference between a grade of a 70 and a grade of a 75. You may look at those two and think that they are just five points apart, right? Well the way the scale works, a student who knew just 47% of the material got a grade of a 70, while a student who knew 71% of the material got a 75. Therefore, a student who got the 75 may have actually gotten almost 25% more of the exam correct than the student who got the 70! This creates one of the worst bell curves I have ever seen.

Kingston parents, does this curve seem fair to you?  What will make a student want to go the extra mile and work harder if they get barely 5 percentage points more on the grade for getting 25% more of the answers correct?  Also note that in order for a student to ‘pass’ a regents test they have to achieve a scale score of 65 or proficiency level 3.  For this particular Algebra 1 test, a student only has to earn 30 out of 86 points to achieve the magic ‘proficiency’ level.  That is actually a raw percentage score of 35% but it is considered ‘passing’ and the student receives a grade of 65% on the test.  Does that sound like we are getting our students college-and-career-ready?  What is going on here?  On one hand we are penalizing our honors students and taking away points they have earned and on the other we are passing students who earned a raw percentage of 35% on the test.  Take a look for yourself at the Algebra 1 score conversion chart here.

The teacher who wrote the letter summarizes as follows:

Let me sum up what the last three paragraphs really say: the exam did a serious disservice to your child and will be reflected in their grade. It’s not a fair representation of what students knew, what they did all year, or what they were capable of. There is nothing that your son or daughter could have done to have been better prepared for this exam. Words cannot describe what an injustice this truly is to your child.

The regents tests are NOT secret like the New York State standardized tests for grades 3-8 so the tests are available to the public once the administration is completed.  The questions from the two parts of the Algebra 1 Common Core regents test are included below**.  Click on the links, part 1 and part 2, to see blog posts with the questions, answers and some explanations of the answers.

Please check out the test questions and answers.  Talk to some students who took the Algebra 1 Common Core regents test.  Talk to some math teachers – the regents tests are public and have no gag order.  If you agree that something is wrong with the Algebra 1 test, please join with other parents in talking to the Board of Regents and New York State legislators as something has to change!  The facebook group NY STOP GRAD HST is dedicated to dealing with issues that stop students from graduating such as failing the regents tests.  CLASS, Coalition for Legislative Action Supporting Students, is mobilizing parents to advocate with legislators for changes needed out of Albany.



*Prior to the 2014-2015 school year, the first high school regents math course was called Integrated Algebra.  With the introduction of common Core, the regents course became Algebra 1 and the first Algebra 1 Common Core regents test was administered last June 2014.  The test was given for the second time in January 2015 and the test on June 17, 2015 was the third time the Common Core version has been administered.  On the first two administrations of the algebra common core regents, students could take both tests and keep their higher grade with the Integrated Algebra grade being higher for most students.  Students who took Algebra 1 this year did not have the option of taking the Integrated Algebra regents test as well so the grade that they receive on the Algebra regents is the one they are stuck with unless they decide to take the regents test again.

**Algebra 1 Common Core regents test questions

Part 1 (multiple choice)

  1. The cost of airing a commercial on television is modeled by the function C(n) = 110n + 900, where n is the number of times the commercial is aired. Based on this model, which statement is true?
  2. The graph below represents a jogger’s speed during her 20-minute jog around her neighborhood.  Which statement best describes what the jogger was doing during the 9-12 minute interval of her jog?
  3. If the area of a rectangle is expressed as xˆ4 – 9yˆ2, then the product of the legnth and the width of the rectange could be expressed as
  4. Which table represents a function?
  5. Which inequality is represented in the graph below?
  6. Mo’s farm stand sold a total of 165 pounds of apples and peaches. She sold apples for $1.75 per pound and peaches for $2.50 per pound. If she made $33750, how many pounds of peaches did she sell?
  7. Morgan can start wrestling at age 5 in Division 1. He remains in that division until he next odd birthday when he is required to move up to the next division level. Which graph correctly represents this information.
  8. Which statement is not always true?
  9. The graph of the function f(x) = (x + 4)ˆ(1/2) is shown below:  The domain of the function is
  10. What are the zeroes of the function f(x) = xˆ2 – 13x – 30?
  11. Joey enlarged a 3-inch by 5-inch photograph on a copy machine. he enlarged it four times. The table below shows the area of the photograph after each enlargement.  What is the average rate of change of the area from the original photograph to the fourth enlargement, to the nearest tenth?
  12. Which equation(s) represent the graph below?                                            I. y = (x + 2)(x2 – 4x – 12)                                                                                              II. y = (x – 3)(x2 + x – 2)                                                                                            III. y = (x – 1)(x2 – 5x – 6)
  13. A laboratory technician studied the population growth of a colony of bacteria. He recorded the number of bacteria every other day, as shown in the partial table below.  Which function would accurately model the technician’s data?
  14. Which quadratic function has the largest maximum?
  15. If f(x) = 3ˆx and g(x) = 2x + 5, at which value of x is f(x) < g(x)?
  16. Beverly did a study this past spring using data she collected from a cafeteria. She recorded data weekly for ice cream sales and soda sales. Beverly found the line of best fit and the correlation coefficient as shown in the diagram below.
  17. The function V(t) = 1350(1.017)t represents the value V(t), in dollars, of a comic book t years after its purchase. The yearly rate of appreciation of the comic book is
  18. When directed to solve a quadratic equation by completing the square, Sam arrived at the equation (x – 5/2)ˆ2 = 13/4. Which equation could have been the original equation given to Sam?
  19. The distance a free falling object has traveled can be modeled by the equation d = 1/2 atˆ2, where a is acceleration due to gravity and t is the amount of time the object has fallen. What is t in terms of a and d?
  20. The table below shows the annual salaries for the 24 member of a professional sports team in terms of millions of dollars. [table omitted] The team signs an additional player to a contract worth 10 million dollars per year. Which statement about the median and the mean is true?
  21. A student is asked to solve the equation 4(3x – 1)2 – 17 = 83  The student’s solution to the problem starts as                                                          4(3x – 1)2 = 100                                                                                                                   (3x – 1)2 = 25                                                                                                           A correct next step in the solution of the problem is
  22. A pattern of blocks is shown below.  If the pattern continues, which formula(s) could be used to determine the number of blocks in the nth term?
  23. What are the solutions to the equation x2 – 8x = 24?
  24. Natasha is planning a school celebration and wants to have live music and food for everyone who attends. She has found a band that will charge her $750 and a caterer who will provide snacks and drinks for $2.25 per person. If her goal is to keep the average cost per person between $2.75 and $3.25, how many people, p, must attend?

Part 2 (open response)

25.  Graph the function y = |x – 3| on the set of axes below.  Explain how the graph of y = |x – 3| has changed from the related graph y = |x|.

26.  Alex is selling tickets to a school play. an adult ticket costs $6.50 and a student ticket costs $4.00. Alex sells x adult tickets and 12 student tickets. Write a function f(x), to represent how much money Alex collected from selling tickets.

27.  John and Sarah are each saving money for a car. The total amount of money John will save is given by the function F(x) = 60 + 5x. The total amount of money Sarah will save is given by the function g(x) = x2 + 46. After how many weeks, x, will they have the same amount of money? Explain how you arrived at your answer.

28.  If the difference (3x2 – 2x + 5) – (x2 +3x – 2) is multiplied by 1/2X2, what is the result, written in standard form.

29.  Dylan invested $600 in a savings account at 1.6% annual interest rate. He made no deposits or withdrawals on the account for 2 years. The interest was compounded annually. Find, to the nearest cent, the balance in the account after 2 years.

30.  Determine the smallest integer that makes -3x + 7 – 5x < 15 true.

31.  The residual plots from two different sets of bivariate data afe graphed below.  Explain, using evidence from graph A and graph B, which graph indicates that the model for the data is a good fit.

32.  A landscaper is creating a rectangular flower bed such that the width is half of the length. The area of the flower bed is 34 square feet. Write and solve an equation to determine the width of the flower bed, to the nearest tenth of a foot.