Sophomore Angelina Goosey has what has become a common story for students not only in Hillcrest High School but around New York City.
Last year, Angelina excelled in her freshman Common Core Algebra class. She earned 80s in her Algebra class, but something funny happened when she took the new Common Core Regents for Algebra -- she failed. Angelina thinks the class covered all the topics, but the test displayed such topics in a completely different way. “The test was something different,” she said.
Like many students at Hillcrest, there was a disparity between class grades and Regents scores. This past year was the first year in which freshmen have to take and pass the new tougher exam. Overall the school saw a 10 to 15% percent drop in the Math test grades. “We acknowledge that our scores are not where we want them to be,” explained Mr. Rios, Assistant Principal of Math.
Hillcrest isn’t alone in this Common Core struggle. NYChalkbeat.org cited teachers from around the city saying that “unexpected numbers of their students didn’t pass.” The New York Post noted Brooklyn’s Abraham Lincoln High School who saw their school passing rate dip under 25% and cited the head of the NYC Association of Mathematics Teachers as predicting the citywide percentage under 50% passing.
The AP of Math agrees that the new test is much more difficult than the previous Regents. “Common Core Math makes you think,” exclaimed Mr. Rios. “You are required to go deeper into a topic.” Media, Arts and Music math teacher Mr. Choe says it’s no longer about memorizing a formula. “The goal is trying to understand where the formula comes from rather than plugging in numbers. You are required to take steps using higher Math to understand how the formula works.”
Mr. Choe noticed that students that earned 90s in his class got 70s in the test. He thinks students aren’t doing as well on the new Regents compared to the class because they were pressured to do a heavy concentration of Math in little time.
“Many students did well in my class because exams given in class focused on specific and less topics, and students were consistent in their studies. A number of students also stated to me that they ran out of time during the exam, and given the rigor and high level of the Common Core Math subjects, students must take the full time in order to do well,” said Mr. Choe, However, with new deeper thinking and use of advanced Math curriculum in beginner classes, students started to struggle.
Public Service & Law Junior Sharanpreet Kaur has taken both sets of Math courses and notices a big difference. “There’s a lot of complicated parts. It’s really hard to get higher than 80,” Kaur remarked.
Although Media, Arts and Music senior Teyanah Cleve didn’t have to take Common Core Math exam, she notices that it requires more of the student because of the struggles of her little sister. “I noticed that my sister who is taking Common Core Math courses has to study a lot harder than I did,” said Teyanah.
But, along with Assistant Principal Mr. Rios, Hillcrest Math teachers are taking several steps to improve the school’s Math grades. Mr. Rios is taking consideration of the results and modifying the way the Common Core Math curriculum is being taught. “We’re taking a really large curriculum and condensing to make it more accessible to the student,” explained Mr. Rios. He pointed out that the curriculum that is given to them is almost 1,000 pages long and to better ensure student success, teachers are being instructed to condense larger lessons to key and big ideas. “The curriculum is too long for us to implement effectively and we need to make it our own,” he said. He also wants to expose students to outside resources that will aid them as they prepare the upcoming test.
Students are also changing the way they handle a difficult subject. Sharanpreet says that paying attention in class is no longer enough. “If you want to pass the class, you need to get all of the information and the background of a specific topic.”
Mr. Rios and other teachers are confident that the test rate will increase as they continue to perfect the new curriculum and study the exam. “Common Core Math is preparing you for your college life now,” he said.
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