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Montgomery County final-exam failures continue

CHEVY CHASE, Md. — It’s just not adding up for students in Montgomery County.

Roughly three out of every four high school students in Montgomery County failed the Algebra 1 final exam last month. The Washington Post noted that that’s actually an improvement over last year, when 82 percent failed before the system added extra points to the scores that year.

There were no extra points on this year’s exam, which has seen modest improvements in some classes.

Since moving to a Common Core-based curriculum in geometry, the number of failing final exams in that class has declined from 68 percent last school year to 64 percent this year. But Algebra 2 final-exam failures climbed to 58 percent, from 54 percent the year before.

No one has a firm reason as to why so many students are failing these exams. Some blame poor preparation; others say students are being advanced too quickly.

High school students do not need to pass these exams to pass the classes, so many of these students did end up passing their respective math classes. Even though 74 percent of students failed their Algebra 1 final, for example, 83 percent of students passed the class this year.

High-achieving students performed better on their exams than other students, with only one in four students failing honors geometry and honors Algebra 2 final exams.

Even fewer middle school students taking these advanced math classes failed their exams. Roughly one in 20 failed honors geometry; one in 10 failed honors Algebra 2. Unlike their high school counterparts, if they failed their exams, they would have failed their classes.

These numbers come as the Montgomery County school system considers ditching final exams completely and replacing them with an alternative capstone that could include unit tests, essays and other in-class assessments.

That change could come as early as the 2016-2017 school year. The full board will discuss the change in October.

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