WASHINGTON – Montgomery County Public Schools are shedding more light on a big problem — high failure rates on the math final exams. New information shows stark differences in student achievement across the high schools, and some parents are outraged.
The Algebra 2 exam shows one of the greatest performance gaps: 20 percent of students flunked it at Whitman High School, while 97 percent of Wheaton High School students failed the test.
The Bridge to Algebra 2 exam had the highest failure rates: All of Blake High School’s 79 students enrolled in the course failed the exam.
Nearly 80 percent of honors pre-calculus students at Einstein High School failed the final, compared to just one percent at Wootton High School – even though Wootton enrolls more than twice as many students in the course.
Montgomery County Superintendent Joshua Starr suspects some kids figure out that they can fail the test but still pass the class.
“Students, parents, teachers, and administrators have all told us that is one factor. There are likely multiple factors,” Starr says.
“Course grades have traditionally been the measure that Montgomery County has used, and those results look a lot better than the exam results.”
A math work group established in 2009 to address the exam failures recommended a curriculum overhaul, which will be implemented next school year. But Janis Sartucci, of the Parents Coalition of Montgomery County, says the teaching issues were not addressed.
“Superintendent Starr has been here for two years. He’s had two years to fix it. His time is over. It’s time to get to the teachers. Let them speak without fear of retribution and find out what is going on in these classrooms.”
In a statement, Starr calls the failure rates “unacceptable” and vows to create two new committees – one made up of administrators and teachers, the other including parents. He also is examining whether the tests match what is taught in the classroom.
“Other than implementing new curriculum relative to the common core standards, any changes to policy will be considered by our math work groups,” he says.
The 2009 work group also addressed the fact that many students were accelerated too quickly, and Starr says they’re looking into that issue.
“We absolutely know we have an achievement gap in Montgomery County Schools,” he says.
“If that’s what the problem was, then let’s hear that from the teachers and what solutions they want,” says Sartucci.
Charts courtesy of the Montgomery County Public schools: