Debating What the Meaning of Correct Is
A Brooklyn teacher hired to grade the fourth-grade math test in New York was outraged enough at the scoring procedure to blow the whistle:
Students received credit for incorrect answers, partial answers, and sometimes for no answer at all. According to the scoring guidelines:
These questions ask students to show their work. The scoring guidelines, called “holistic rubrics,” require that points be given if a kid’s attempt at an answer reflects a “partial understanding” of the math concept, “addresses some element of the task correctly,” or uses the “appropriate process” to arrive at a wrong solution. Despite flubbing the answer, students can get 1 point on a 2-point problem and 1 or 2 points on a 3-pointer.
The teacher was right to be upset about invalid test scores hurting kids. If test results aren’t accurate, teachers can’t help kids to improve. As the teacher noted:
“The kids who really need the help are just being shuffled along to the next grade without the basic skills to have true success. They are given a hollow success — that’s the crime of it. The state DOE is doing a disservice to its children.”
A spokesman for New York’s State Department of Education defended the scoring. Students who demonstrate partial understanding, he said, should get partial credit.
He’s wrong about that, though.
Recognizing a partial understanding of a process or concept is fine– a good atta-boy to encourage a student who’s made a start. It’s something to build on in the learning process. It lets the teacher know where a student is struggling and what needs to be retaught. But giving any credit for adding 24 + 24 to find out how many inches are in two feet — on a test to measure math competency– is plain wrong.