Freshmen to take two end-of-year math exams

For the first time in recent memory, freshmen taking Algebra 1 will have to take two final exams at the end of the year.

One of these tests is the traditional Integrated Algebra Regents. The other test is based on the new Common Core Standards for Mathematics, a program that was first instituted nationwide this year. The Common Core website states that this updated math curriculum strives to achieve “greater focus on fewer topics,” “linking topics and thinking across grades,” and the pursuit of “conceptual understanding, procedural skills with fluency, and application with equal intensity.”

School districts receive Federal funding for promoting the Common Core, so New York State gave its school districts the option of administering this test in addition to the Integrated Algebra Regents. The goal is for the Regents to eventually take the form of the Common Core test.

Math teachers at Schreiber do not know exactly how the new Common Core test will be formatted.

“We really don’t know what’s coming,” said math teacher Mr. Mark Reynolds.

There are a multitude of review books and practice tests available for the Integrated Algebra Regents.  Additional Common Core review boos have been published so students can prepare, in some capacity, for that test as well.

“Each student has a Common Core version of the Regents review book that is structured exactly the way the state designed the Common Core,” said Math Department Chair Dr. Jeffrey Lesser.

While the Common Core test is uncharted territory for Schreiber teachers, there are measures in place to prepare students for the Common Core Algebra 1 test.

“The Integrated Algebra test is three weeks after the Common Core test. Students will take the Common Core test, prepare for the Integrated Algebra Regents, and then take the Regents. Whichever test they do better on is the grade that they will receive,” said Mr. Reynolds.

This policy prevents the Common Core test from potentially hurting their grades, but many freshmen have expressed disdain at having to take an additional math test at the end of the year.

“Personally, I am against it. Not necessarily for the fact that we have to stress about two tests for the same thing, but just the fact that we are being used as ‘guinea pigs,’ being thrown into something that has never been used or tested before,” said freshman Kelsey Weisburd.

This test also affects eighth graders at Weber who currently taking Algebra 1 as part of the accelerated math curriculum. Many of these students have had similar reactions to the Schreiber freshmen who are also required to take the Common Core math test.

“It’s a bit unsettling to know that no one really knows what the Common Core test looks like, and in preparation for it, we can only guess as to what kinds of questions will be asked,” said freshman Aaron Siff-Scherr.

The Common Core test is scheduled for June 3, which is almost a month before the Integrated Algebra Regents. Therefore, teachers must complete the Common Core curriculum a few weeks earlier than they normally complete the Integrated Algebra curriculum.

“We might have to add an extra unit after Common Core to use up class time in addition to preparing for the Integrated Algebra Regents,” said Mr. Reynolds.

There are also a number of topics covered in Integrated Algebra that will be on the Regents which the Common Core curriculum does not cover. As a result, teachers must assign their students additional work to complete outside of the classroom curriculum to ensure that students know the material for both tests.

While this Common Core test affects students and teachers alike, the idea of freshmen and accelerated eighth graders having to take two standardized math tests in June is not going away after this year.

“Next year, they will do the same thing for geometry,” said Dr. Lesser.

Schreiber teachers emphasize that the test is necessary procedure to ensure that the Common Core curriculum is as successful as possible in the future.

“It is an insurance policy because of all the unknowns with the Common Core,” said Dr. Lesser.

Although this is not an ideal situation for freshmen, most accept that the state’s intentions with this Common Core test are good.

“If this new Common Core teaching is felt to be better, then I am happy I get to experience it,” said Weisburd.