Well America, the Common Core-aligned standardized tests that Common Core supporters have zealously trumpeted as college-related and so dramatically superior to all previous standardized tests are finally starting to trickle out for public consumption.
New York is one state that has released some Common Core tests. The tests for elementary school kids remain strictly guarded. However, other tests including the Common Core Algebra Regents test which eighth- and ninth-grade students took in early June – and must pass at some point to get high school degrees – are now available online.
The algebra test is shockingly awful.
The test resembles New York State’s pre-Common Core Algebra Regents test, but with some more advanced algebra concepts showing up. The main difference, as The Washington Post notes, is that the new Common Core test questions are rambling and confusing. They unnecessarily interject people into story problems (e.g., Caitlin, Pat, Keith, the Jamison family, etc.). They rely heavily on useless vocabulary terms. They also ambiguously ask test-takers to explain their answers.
Take the very first question, for example:
When solving the equation 4(3x² + 2) – 9 = 8x² + 7, Emily wrote 4(3x² + 2) = 8x² + 16 as her first step. Which properly justifies Emily’s first step?
(1) addition property of equality
(2) commutative property of addition
(3) multiplication property of equality
(4) distributive property of multiplication over addition
In addition to the unnecessary and confusing presence of Emily, there is no actual math here. It’s purely a vocabulary question.
Questions 19 and 33 require the memorization of stunningly obscure math terminology. Eighth- and ninth-graders who could otherwise perform the math are likely to have trouble if they don’t know the all-important, college-ready math terms “trinomial” or “interquartile range.”
Or take Question 12, which gives students two roots and asks them to identify an equation presented as a function — in the most ridiculous way possible. Here’s the question in full:
Keith determines the zeros of the function f(x) to be -6 and 5. What could be Keith’s function?
The Common Core sheen here is the addition of Keith. What is he doing? What possible reason explains his presence? The only thing he is clearly doing is adding an unnecessary layer of complexity to a garden-variety function question.
The pre-Common Core version of New York’s Algebra Regents test would have used cleaner, clearer language, notes The Post. Something like: “Given the roots -6 and 5, which of the following would be the correct equation?”
The most egregiously awful questions begin at Question 29 and run basically all the way through to Question 37 — the last question. All of them ambiguously ask the test takers – who are typically around 14 years old – to “explain” or “justify” their answers.
“Explain your answer,” demands Question 29, just after perfectly reasonably asking students to graph a simple equation. “Justify your answer” insists Question 30. “Explain how you arrived at your answer” commands Question 35 (which has students graphing out Caitlin’s movie rental card expenditures). “Use your equation to justify your answer” orders Question 36 — a multipart question involving an equation about an animal shelter.
Perhaps the worst question of all is Question 34, which highly imprecisely tells students: “Describe how your equation models the situation.” The “situation” is a garden surrounded by a walkway.
For all of these questions, the obvious answer to “Explain your answer” and “Justify your answer” is very easy for any honest kid: “I used math.” (RELATED: This Second Grader’s Revenge Against Common Core Math Will Make Your Day)
However, it’s highly unlikely that such an answer would gain students any credit on the test that will identify them as college-ready or not — and that they must now pass to graduate from high school.