The figures are another hint of underlying problems as school leaders in Montgomery County try to get to the bottom of high failure rates on high school final exams, particularly in math.
Data revealed this past spring showed that a majority of the 30,000 students enrolled in seven high school math courses in Montgomery had failed their most recent finals, touching off alarm among parents in the well-regarded school system.
Superintendent Joshua P. Starr created a math work group to investigate reasons for the poor performance. The group, including school and community leaders, is scheduled to make recommendations by early November.
Among information provided to the work group was the survey, which was optional and taken as students completed June exams at Rockville High School, which has been a focal point of the issue. Rockville High educators came up with the survey as a way to better understand the student perspective, according to a Montgomery County schools spokesman.
Complaints about failing grades bubbled up at Rockville High last school year, and in late April, its PTSA president, Dylan Presman, obtained systemwide data on the problem. He shared the figures with other parent leaders, and many called for immediate action.
Several waves of data have been released since then, most recently figures
from June, which showed that 71 percent of high school students countywide flunked their geometry final exams and that 68 percent did not pass the exam for Algebra 1.
Parents and educators have offered ideas about why exam grades are so low, suggesting that it could be attributed to a misalignment between the test and what is taught in the classroom, a push to move students ahead in math before they are ready, grading policies and student absences, and a lack of student support.
Many also have suggested that some exam-takers don’t try hard because their course grades are settled by the time exams are given, even though exams can be worth 25 percent of a student’s overall grade. For example, students with C’s for their quarter grades would still get a C even if they fail the final. Students consult an archived online table of grading scenarios as they consider how much to study or whether they should study at all.
The new survey did not ask specifically about that issue, but it asked about the length of time a student studied and about intensity. Nearly 57 percent of students at Rockville High said they had studied “hard” for their math final.