Montgomery teacher survey: more views from the classroom on exam failure

Nearly half of Montgomery County teachers who were surveyed on the causes of widespread exam failure in the high-performing school system cited student studying as a problem, according to a 38-page summary of the results.

About 45 percent of teachers said students choose to not adequately prepare or don’t know how to prepare for a cumulative exam, and 12 percent pointed to the district’s grading practices as an issue.

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The results included about 400 teacher comments about why so many students do poorly and what can be done to fix the problem. The Washington Post story included a sampling of such comments, and here are many more: (The comments did not include names or identifying information.)

On curriculum:

“There is too much stuff in the curriculum and too little time to teach it all.”

“Students retain information only for a test in class and then do not remember information.”

“There is not enough time to teach and develop a mastery of the objectives that are being tested.”

“Shorten curriculum, allow more review time.”

“Deficits accumulated from previous math courses prove too challenging to overcome, while also trying to master the course material.”

On acceleration of math students:

“Don’t place students in the course who are not ready.”

“A significant portion of middle school students are not prepared for Algebra 1, yet they are placed there anyway.”

“Stop pushing students to high level math when they are not ready yet.”

“Make sure students are placed correctly in above grade level classes.”

On exam format:

“Semester exams cover a lot of material, so give students a break on the challenging questions. Often easier questions can reveal whether students have retained the major ideas.”

“I think the exam is very fair for the students that should be in the class.”

“Too many word problems.”

“Exam is too easy.”

“Many of the questions on the exam are the most challenging or ‘tricky’ versions of the problems. Include more problems that show a basic level of understanding of concepts.”

“Allow us to write our own exams. ‘One size fits all’ is not appropriate in such a diverse county.”

“The exam is comprehensive and good.”

On student preparation and grading practices:

“Students are too aware of the fact that they can fail the final and still pass the class.”

“Students are conditioned to never have to bring their best for a graded exam/quiz. They can retake quizzes. In my school, even if they put their name on their paper and nothing else, they are to earn no less than 50 percent. Deadlines are not enforceable at my school.”

“Students want to pass the course. They don’t care about doing well or learning the material.”

“Students are not prepared.”

“Students have been advanced too quickly and do not have the foundational skills and knowledge to succeed in the higher level math courses.”

“Exam grades do not go on their transcripts. They just go into the semester grade. Students already know the combinations of grades needed to achieve a certain semester grade.”

“They play the grade game. They know that if they get certain letter grades for the quarters, then they only have to achieve a certain level on the exam to get the grade they want.”

“Students who have earned a C and a C during the quarters do not prepare, since they know an E on the exam has no effect on their overall course grade.”

On suggested changes:

“It must be worth more and have an impact on their cumulative average or they won’t study.”

“Make passing the final exam a requirement of proceeding to the next course.”

“Make the exams really count and make it stand for how important it will be for next year’s work.”

“I feel all grades should be reported as numbers, not letters.”

“More time to review the entire semester with the class. The curriculum is so full, the time is not there.”

“Make students accountable for passing the final exam--a real world situation.”

“Tighten up the expectations in the prerequisite courses.”

“Mandate a three-day minimum window for reviewing for the final exam, instead of the one day mandated by MCPS. With 60-plus problems on our final exam review packets, there is no way to cover all of those problems in a 46-minute period.”

“Share tips and best practices for helping students prepare for cumulative assessments, when they do not have the parental or internal pressure to prepare at home.”

 
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