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Are American high school students effectively learning math? According to the documentary Waiting for Superman, American high school student continue to fall behind in math with simultaneously believing that they are doing as well or better than any other student body in the world.
While the American education system might have some potholes it is not through lack of effort. In Missouri, high school students must take End-of-Course Assessments. The exams are not only used to track a student’s progress but also included as part of his or her final grade. Stan Johnson, the assistant commissioner for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said that using the tests as part of the students final grade will require the students to take the tests more seriously. The End-of-Course Assessments also have to meet the federal standards that have been laid out by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
Whenever that piece of legislation is mentioned controversy begins. The bipartisan piece of legislation originally had many supporters. The Act is now reviled by many teachers who contend that their lesson plans have become little more than teaching the test and by critics who question if leaving “no child” behind causes the bar to be lowered to a point that it injures the educational progress of others.
Can national assessments work, even when used as part of a student’s final grade? It does not seems as if the educational community has come to a firm answer on that question. Perhaps it is not the methods of testing, but rather the methods of teaching that should come into question. Math is often taught in an abstract manner. It is difficult to seem the practical applications or enjoy problem solving for the sake of problem solving. Perhaps if teachers showed how mathematicians used their skills to make money on the bond market students would strive for more than minimum proficiency.