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Thursday, June 9, 2011

The numbers don't add up for the algebra EOC exam

From the St. Petersburg times gradebook

by Jeff Solochek

Tidbit No. 1: On average, Florida students taking the Algebra I end-of-course exam got 21 of 52 questions correct. That's 40.3 percent. Commissioner Eric J. Smith acknowledged that's nothing to brag about, but called it a good start on a new exam. Now it's up to the state Department of Education and individual school districts to dig into the data to see what types of questions students did well on -- there are three degrees of difficulty, Smith said -- and adjust their teacher training and classroom instruction accordingly.

Tidbit No. 2: On the scoring scale of 20-80, 406 students of the 21,004 who took the exam earned an 80. Of those, 39 got all the questions correct. The scoring system allows for a top score without having all answers correct. On the other end of the scale, 8,474 students -- the largest single group -- earned the lowest mark of 20. See the full breakdown attached below.

Tidbit No. 3: Sixth graders taking the test (all 56 of them) had the highest percentage of correct answers of any grade level, at 63 percent. Right behind them were the 12,861 seventh graders taking the exam, with an average of 62 percent correct answers. As for the ninth graders, who made up the largest group of test takers, they averaged 36 percent correct answers. See the full breakdown by grade attached below.

Smith explained that the younger students were expected to do better because they're essentially hand-picked to take algebra early based on their known skills, while pretty much every ninth grader regardless of ability must take the course if they haven't done so already. We might just see schools working to get even more kids ready for algebra earlier, Smith added, as youngsters appear very able to succeed in it.

Next year, the test takes on even more significance as it becomes part of school grades, as well as a graduation requirement. The FLDOE also plans to use the summer to convert the mean scale scores into a 1-5 grading system similar to that used for the FCAT.

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