Monday, June 15, 2009

Something Doesn't Add Up

Today we can thank the lovely state of Minnesota for their contribution to the dumbing down of America. Nice job, Minnesota! You've managed to make sure that those that fail are not accountable for their own failures! On top of that, you've managed to implement a system of test taking as a 'requirement' that doesn't 'require' one to actually pass the test! Again, ladies and gents, that's Minnesota! The state of Minnesota! How 'bout a big hand for 'em? Grrrrr.

So, I see the headline over there in the StarTribune.com which read "Minnesota juniors dodge math-test bullet." First of all, you really shouldn't be shooting at the students, I don't care what class you're in. Math, biology, English, it doesn't matter. Leave the firearms out of the classroom, that's what I always say. (Well, it's what I've always thought. No one likes to be shot at.) And I tried really hard to ignore the fact that they hyphenated "math test" (even though I think that it makes them look like dumb-asses.). But what I couldn't ignore was only 57 percent of high school juniors who took a state math test (the passing of said test was to be a requirement for graduation) were able to pass the test. That means that 43 percent (or, if you're authoring this article "more than 40 percent". What? Could they not figure out how many didn't pass if they knew how many passed, so they just rounded down to 40? Were the folks writing this story part of that 43 percent?) of the kids failed the test that was a requirement for graduation. Yeah, that's a problem. So you know what they did to fix it? That's right. "The Legislature decided in May that, at least for now, students no longer have to pass the 11th-grade math graduation test." Um, what now?

Correct. See, the thing is "Many educators think it's too hard, and feared it would have caused a dramatic drop in graduation rates next year." Oh, OK. That's fine. Better to just get the kids to graduate regardless as to whether or not they've learned a damn thing than to not graduate them and realize that something is wrong somewhere and try and fix it. Sure, that seems like a perfectly reasonable solution. Oh, wait a minute. NO IT DOESN'T!!

I mean, that's not even a do-over rule. I want that rule applied to my entire life! I want Minnesota's "Too hard, never mind, our bad" rule applied to my entire life. Bank account overdrawn? Yeah, the math that I needed to do to in order to have an accurate balance was too hard, so the bank should give me back all of those overdraft fees they charged me. Oral exams for my Master's degree? Too hard? Ah, never mind. Just give me the degree anyway. Always late to work because it's "too hard" to make it on time? That's OK. Just show up whenever you feel like it; that will be much easier. Sure, all of those examples sound swell. What could possibly go wrong?


Well, how about this scenario? How about new rules get implemented that say if you fail the test that was required for graduation, you're allowed to take it again and try and pass again? Sound good? And if you fail again, you can try again after that. After all, this is high school graduation we're talking about. I'm all for second chances. Minnesota is even giving them a THIRD chance if they fail the test the first two times. Well, good. Giving the students at least three chances to pass seems reasonable and if they can't pass it after the third try, well then I guess they don't graduate. Wait a minute. Whoops. I'm sorry. That's not right. This is how it really works: If they take the test which is a requirement to graduate all three times and fail alll three times, they can still graduate. Wait. What?!

Then that's not a "requirement"! A "requirement" is something that is "required" of you. HENCE THE TERM! Um, I'm not trying to be demeaning here, but just how stupid are these kids who can't pass the test? I mean, are they really not so bright that they're going to take the test two more times after the first failure and graduate regardless as to how they do on it? Why on earth would you do that? Take it once. Fail it once. Realize that you don't have to pass it to get your diploma. Do not take the test two more times. Do not pass 'GO'. Do not collect....oh, never mind. Those folks will be collecting $200 and then some from the welfare rolls because they'll have a useless diploma.

The state Education Commissioner, a one Alice Seagren, has said that "...she's worried that the math scores could drop next year once students figure out they don't have to do well to graduate." What is wrong with you people in Minnesota who are running the education system?! Of course that would happen! If I didn't have to pass the behind the wheel portion of the driver's license exam, would I be a careful and courteous driver with that testing person in the car with me? Hell, no! It's demolition derby all the way, baby! I'm taking out a couple of cars in the parking lot before a run a few red lights going at least 20 miles over the speed limit in a residential neighborhood as I dodge families of four in crosswalks! I'm certainly not keeping my hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel if I can still get a license if I fail that test! (Does anyone really drive like that? 10 and 2? It's like an ancient myth or something. Be on the lookout for someone who drives with their hands at the 10 and 2 position on the steering wheel. And while you're at it, keep an eye out for Bigfoot and the Yeti as well.)




Ah, but here's the problem. See, the folks in Minnesota who are in charge of these sorts of things? They seem to have an amazing talent for interpreting the situation in a way that has absolutely nothing to do with what the problems are. That and they say things that are the complete opposite of each other, but act like they're the same. For example, the article states that "...many educators say that, overall, Minnesota is still near the top in the world when it comes to math education. The state simply has high expectations for its students." Now, the article doesn't specifically cite any of the "many" by name. And really? "Top in the world"? Minnesota? Math? Was the state originally going to be named Minus-ota, but they wanted to keep their world class math education kind of low key, so they went with Minnesota instead?

So what's the problem? I mean, if you set those high expectations and you actually did have "top in the world" math education, wouldn't you be able to 'educate' those kids about all of your world class math and get them to pass the damn test? And why is Minnesota even comparing itself to the rest of the world? What say you start with the other states in this country before you and your "top in the world" math education start globetrotting, OK? And while you're over there not comparing your state to Latvia, can you give me any sources at all that back that up?

Well, the article (which continues to get worse in content as it goes along) cites something called The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study that claims "...Minnesota's students are outperformed by only four of 36 countries in fourth-grade math, and five of 49 countries in eighth-grade math." Am I the only one who remembers that we're talking about those in eleventh grade?! And who are in the United States?! Where are those numbers?! Nope, they don't have them and that lends absolutely no credibility to the unnamed educators who are allegedly claiming "top in the world" math education exists in Minnesota. I'll tell you what does not exist in Minnesota, (at least at the Star Tribune )and that's decent reporting and journalism! (We're SO doomed.)

So the next time you make a purchase in a store and the clerk (who looks to be about twelve but is probably 18) can't even count your damn change back to you correctly, you can thank Minnesota for leading the way in the dumbing down of our youth! Not only that, but let's make sure that re recognize their education administration over there because that bureaucracy is really "top in the world" for stupidity and asinine decision making as well!

Now, anyone who knows me personally knows that I have a very fond affection for math in general. (I have an even fonder affection for some of those who taught me math in high school.) I like numbers because they're orderly and they make sense. I wanted to see this test that these 11th graders could not pass. Let me just mention that you ARE allowed to use a calculator AND the first few pages of it are every single formula under the sun that you could ever possibly need to solve any of problems (thus eliminating any extra memorization of said formulas). The test itself does contain some typos and some of the questions are poorly constructed, I will say that about it. Other than that, it's not that difficult. Once you understand what the question is asking (which, again, not always the easiest to understand), you can use a little bit of logic and the process of elimination to noodle them through. So, considering all of the help that it gives you at the beginning, what with the formulas and the calculator and all, coupled with the "top in the world" system they think they have going there, perhaps it's not math that the students are having difficulty with and instead it's their inability to use logic and reasoning to effectively problem solve. Ever think of that, Minnesota?

You can view a sample of this test at this link here. You know, in case you want to see if you're smarter than a fifth grader AND smarter than an 11th grader in Minnesota. Actually, I'm not so sure if it's the 11th graders that I'm concerned about as much as I am the administrators who are patting themselves on the back and comparing the achievements of their students against those of students in foreign lands. After all, the 11th graders will eventually get out of that system. Those administrators? They'll still be there long after kids have failed the required math test three times and still been allowed to graduate. Way to go. USA! USA! USA!!

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