April 22, 1995 in Washington Voices

Math Test Should Help Put Kids In Right Place Evhs Instituting A Competency Exam

By The Spokesman-Review

As eighth-graders advance to East Valley High School, a math competency test could help determine where they’re placed.

For years, say EVHS math teachers, students have been placed incorrectly, which has had disastrous effects.

“All kinds of kids were dropping out and failing,” said Dave McCarty, head of EVHS’s math department.

Last year, math teachers got together to develop an exam that would test students’ abilities. On the test is the bare minimum teachers felt students should know to advance, thus a passing grade was set at 80 percent.

In January, the school board gave teachers permission to administer the test to all EVHS students, except those in pre-calculus and calculus classes.

The point of the test, McCarty said, was to ferret out the students who were behind and catch them up.

“We had some kids in algebra and trigonometry who couldn’t do fractions,” said math department head Dave McCarty.

When the test results came out, district officials decided to offer first semester math classes again in second semester. Students who failed first semester just “kept getting further and further behind,” said Tom Feldhausen, assistant superintendent.

“This way they can get right to it the next semester,” he said.

Although the school board has been receptive to testing eighth-graders to ensure better placement, the board stopped short of making the test the final hurdle students must leap to advance.

“I think it’s a start to make sure students are in the right level of class,” said school board member June Sine.

It’s another safety net, along with grades and teacher recommendations, McCarty said, to ensure students are where they should be.

“You can get a ‘C,’ but does that mean you really know that material?” he asked.

The test also has forced teachers to become more accountable, McCarty said. While making up the test, teachers have to be honest about how well they’ve prepared students, he said.

“We hope that it progresses so we can use it as an indicator. We hope we’re going in the right direction.”

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