Test Pattern

The polynomial quiz results were fantastic. Over half the class got a perfect score; no one outright failed–that is, all of the students did at least one of the four problems correctly.

Which brings up something that I’ve been bothered by for a while: around a dozen of my algebra II students are nailing the quizzes and failing the tests, or close to it.

All of the students showing this pattern are hard workers. Some have shown strong math skills; a few of them struggle but patiently work things out. I know they are discouraged by their low test scores, and I’ve been encouraging, but puzzled.

Certainly, I expect some fall-off between quizzes and tests. My quizzes are directly on point with no surprises. I give problems exactly like the ones we’ve been working in class. My tests slant off sideways and crisscross (my geometry students constantly whine about this). Some of the strugglers might get flummoxed when the problems don’t appear in exactly the same form, sure. But others of these students are well beyond that. They work the toughest problems of the day with minimal guidance; when they have questions, they are logical and structured.

I don’t know what’s going on, but since all the students in question did excellent work on the last quiz, I decided it was time to step up to the problem. Rather than try to set up time with them individually, I just made an announcement in class when I returned the quiz.

“If you are a student who is looking down at an A on this quiz, but got a C or worse on the last test, I want you to know that I’ve noticed this pattern–great on quizzes, near-disaster on tests. So here’s the deal: I will be adjusting your grade on the next progress report. It’s now clear to me that something about the test is causing you problems, not the math itself.”

“BUT. You must schedule time to come in after our next test and work quietly, either at lunch or after school, so I can watch you and see what’s going on when you take tests. I’ve invited everyone to do that after every test, but for you guys, it’s mandatory if you want a grade adjustment. You can’t keep going through life tanking important tests when it’s clear you know more.”

In all three classes, I scanned the room as I said this, and every one of those dozen students looked up in hope and relief.

Which makes me a bit sad. It’s not like they haven’t had this option all along. Why don’t they take advantage of it? Why wait until I mandate it?

But it also reminds me that no matter how many times I think I’ve made it clear that my door is open, help is here, even on tests—I haven’t said it enough.


About educationrealist

2 responses to “Test Pattern

  • Cheating « educationrealist

    […] kid who aces the multiple choice test but has horrible math on a quiz? Cheater. (I’ve mentioned before that a number of kids have the opposite problem–they are strong at free response and terrible […]

  • surfer

    Maybe just make the tests no tricks either, similar to quizzes. After all, they are longer and cover more material. Are the harder tests really helping the students? Or would they be better off with more formulaic approach? Which does more good in the long run in terms of teaching them?

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