This is a video of three girls at Elyria High School taking a PARCC practice test. Two of them are honor students. As you will see, they find the test questions baffling.

The girl in the middle has started a new group called the Badass Student Organization. It is likely to spread.

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Poorly written tests are often baffling. Remember how misleading the questions were for black voters in the Jim Crow south. Questions tend to be baffling when there is a hidden agenda behind them.

Yes for BADass Students!

The tests are dumber than dumb. The tests are inky $$$$$makers for the oligarchy.

I’ve tried both SBAC and PARCC tests myself and did great until I couldn’t find the rest of the text. I just sat in frustration and finally quit. Turns out I was supposed to click on a tab to switch pages within a page, but there were no instructions to do so. What’s the point? All they needed to do was create a separate page! Not to mention the test was in black and white, although color would have made the different tabs stand out.

Again, on the other test, I clicked everywhere trying to find the rest of a reading passage. After five minutes of wondering if my Honors College degree was worth decades of bondage to the bank, I noticed an extremely thin bar to scroll the page within a page. Again, what’s the point? They could have just created separate pages, or better yet, just printed test booklets in multiple versions so there’s no cheating. (I used to proctor SAT’s.) Simple. For all their hype, the PARCC and SBAC are still just glorified multiple-choice tests, and poorly designed at that.

Taxpayers have been charged Lamborghini prices for what is really just an over-sized Fiat.

If I may correct your last statement:

“Taxpayers have been charged Lamborghini prices for what is really just an over-sized EDSEL.”

Every kid in America ought to refuse all tests……now. What would the states do then?

Secretary Duncan might order in the National Guard.

I’ve done all of the (precious few) PARCC practice problems for Algebra II. Considering how broad the standards are and the point many Reformers make that these are tests worth “teaching to,” there are a disappointingly small number. Many of them are abstruse. Some all but impossible. Many of them are tricky due to an overarching test-making philosophy that the test-makers don’t want students getting questions correct by accident or without using the proper mathematics. For example, you won’t be able to plug numbers back from multiple choice answers into an equation to see what works. And you won’t be able to succeed with guess-and-check. Not really an inappropriate thought. However, to maintain this, they had to make the problems considerably more difficult or higher-level than a typical student can handle.

Here’s the first question (and I’m going by memory, so if I’m slightly off, at least the concept is correct) from the recently released “Performance Based Assessment” (what does that even mean?):

A number line is supplied below the equation, and students are to mark the interval on the number line for all solutions.

square_root(x^2 – 4x + 4) = x – 2

Ok. Looks harmless enough, though radical equations typically have 0, 1, or 2 solutions (not an entire interval on a number line; in fact, I’ve never seen an Algebra II radical equation with an answer that’s an interval before this problem).

Typical student (and actually most high school Calculus students) will square both sides, as I’ve taught them to do forever. WARNING: You’ve already missed the problem. This leads to:

x^2 – 4x + 4 = x^2 – 4x + 4 (Ok. Kind of weird…but workable.)

0 = 0 (Unusual. Many kids will be thrown. Some will make correct deduction that every solution works, as this result suggests….interval is the entire number line….BUT….)

The actual way to get to the correct interval requires doing the following:

square_root(x^2 – 4x + 4) = x – 2

square_root( (x – 2)^2 ) = x – 2 (PARCC loves perfect square trinomials)

ab_value( x-2 ) = x – 2 (Yikes! I’ve never taught typical Alg II students how to solve absolute value equations equal to an expression with a variable; maybe in an honors-level class…but surely not in this context…well, that is until now.)

if x>=2

x – 2 = x – 2

0 = 0 (Works for all x >= 2)

If x<2

-(x-2) = x-2

-x + 2 = x – 2

4 = 2x

2 = x (Doesn't work, since x<2)

So…the correct answer is to fill in the number line interval [2, infinity).

This is a terrible question. A student (even a generally math-challenged student) may have learned a great deal of math…but far too many will surely come up empty on this problem. And a teacher is left scratching his or her head about how to prepare students for this kind of problem. It's certainly not worth wasting a day for the average student on this kind of absolute value equation, when 90%+ won't remember how to handle it down the road. It's similarly not worth wasting a day on this kind of sui generis radical equation for the average student.

By the way, this question is on the no calculator portion of the PBA. It might have been interesting to have allowed students the possibility of solving this equation with a graph, but that is not really an appropriate manner for teaching or learning radical equations, and I can't imagine many students (even honors-level) thinking of that.

The test-makers get to congratulate each other for making a clever question. And there are many others like this one. But for those of us trying to prepare our students, it's simply a wasted sample problem from the way too few supplied. (I'll grant that with test prep over this problem, an honors-level student would now have a fighting chance of getting it right…but it would demand test prep or teachers warning students that this is a kind of question you'll need to be ready for).

The test questions are poorly worded at best. A “tricky” test does not make a “good” test. Results from these tests give zero reliable information about mathematical concepts. I have been pulling my hair out helping my 7th grade grandson with Common Core practice Math. If I as a veteran teacher of over 30 years can’t figure out what the hell they want, how can my grandson?

Carol,

You are overlooking the obvious.”What the hell they want” is to create failure.

I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. I think the test is very poorly constructed.

This is how I felt when I took the Pearson Practice EOC English II test that was available online. There were quite a few questions that I just didn’t know the answer to. I graduated with honors from UVA, which has a top-notch English department. God help kids who have to take this. It would drive me insane.