The BBC is reporting on a trend in UK standardized math tests towards "easier, shallower and less demanding" examinations. Here in Massachusetts, I was working with our school psychologist to identify new interventions for special education students based on their standardized test scores. However, as she pointed out, when identifying low performers, we are supposed to compare kids to the state average, not an absolute right or wrong.
The UK study found that
there was a steep decline in standards from 1990 onwards, once GCSEs [General Certificates of Secondary Education] were introduced, it says.
The content became broader and shallower, with a more restricted and less demanding syllabus, it claims.
And the difficulty and demand of questions weakened along with their style, it claims, with candidates being required to follow a series of steps rather than work their own way through.
Calculators were also allowed in some papers and formulae sheets were included in papers.
This same complaint has certainly been heard in the States, while many Asian nations are focusing on a greater depth of fundamental understanding in mathematics. A quick look at the Massachusetts state frameworks for math education show a lot of content that must be covered almost superficially from elementary grades through high school to meet all of the subject matter requirements (our state's standardized tests, which students must pass to graduate, are based on the frameworks).
So are we dumbing down our tests in favor of increased content coverage? Are we replacing necessary depth and critical problem solving with just a whole lot of calculator-driven math? I'm inclined to think so. Talk back below and let us know what you think.