I tutor a number of students outside of my school. One of the students I tutor recently got a 63% on her test.
What does a 63% communicate? Does that mean she got 63% of the questions correct? Did she know 63% of the material? What do you think this test looked like when she got it back? This test covered quadratics, factoring, and similar concepts. We had been working on these skills pretty extensively and she was rightfully disappointed in her grade. I was confused since I felt she was pretty solid on these skills.
The student that received this score is very knowledgeable in math, but like many students starting algebra, she is losing her confidence in her abilities. This confidence took another hit when she scored a 63% on a math test.
Would you be surprised to know that this student actually knew the learning standards being taught? She could explain the process on how to factor quadratic equations. She could apply special rules for differences of squares. She knew rules for sums and differences of perfect cubes.
Yet she got a 63% on the test.
Why? Because the questions responses were either ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ Despite showing her work (as was required by the directions), each question was scored based on the final answer. No credit was given for correct steps. Here is a sample of some of her errors:
She misread her handwriting from one line to the next, turning a 7 turned into a 1. Instead of a final answer of 4x2+3x+7, she wrote 4x2+3x+1. The question was marked incorrect and no credit was earned.
She was building a binomial picture with bars and squares to show (2x+3)(x+2) . When she finished her picture she forgot to put 1s in two of the boxes. Instead of getting the correct answer of 2x2+7x+6 she got 2x2+7x+4. The question was marked incorrect and no credit was earned.
When we went over the test we talked about attention to detail and how she lost a total of 7.5 points out of 20. Six of the points were due to attention to detail, an executive function skill. Only 1.5 of the points lost were from a lack of math knowledge.
So as these grades and then report cards come home, what do the marks tell us about our child’s learning and acquisition of knowledge? Do the grades reflect what is known, or are the grades including other soft skills such as executive function?