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Montgomery Co. exam failures: It's not just math

Sunday - 5/26/2013, 5:09pm  ET

WASHINGTON - Montgomery County public schools have been getting slammed over how many high school students have failed their math finals.

Turns out, it's not only math.

The Washington Post reports that some county high school courses saw exam failure rates of 37 to 50 percent in biology, English and history.

Board of Education member Patricia O'Neill told the Post, "it raises tons of questions. It is clearly not just a math problem." Member Phil Kauffman added that the numbers are "just one more piece of the puzzle," though he said he was confident the Superintendent Joshua Starr could fix the problems.

Still, the math numbers are even more are alarming, and parents and county leaders want some answers.

Last semester, more than half of the county's 30,000 high school students failed their math exams. Data recently released by county school officials show that trend has been coming for five years.

Starr says in a statement that that's unacceptable, and he promises action. He says he's creating two work groups to find out what's going on with the math finals and says he'd like some changes in place by the fall.

Starr says the high failure rate on the math finals doesn't tell the whole story. Students who fail a final don't necessarily fail the course. He also says that high schoolers have improved on the math portion of the SATs over the last five years.

Starr also wants to address test-score differences from school to school, since the data revealed gaps that ran along racial and income lines.

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