Placement tests

Part of my job includes grading placement tests for incoming freshmen to help figure out where to place them within our curriculum.  We have students from all over the world, which means all sorts of different school systems.  I do my best to figure out what class they should be in now, and if I don’t get it right, we talk to the student and their family in the summer and the fall to adjust.

As I graded my first batch of tests this year, I found myself feeling slightly annoyed as I graded placement tests of 8th graders from Massachusetts, who were coming from an 8th grade Common Core class.  What this means to me is that they have studied about 2/3 of Algebra I, and 1/3 of Geometry.  We have now created a class, designed for students who come from this type of class (or for those who have not yet studied Algebra I).  I was annoyed because I wanted the applicants to look the same as they always have to make my job easier – if you’re taking Algebra I, I’ll place you in Geometry, for example.  I had to think a little harder and then found myself second guessing some of my placements.  Should I instead be reaching out to those kids to ask them to do some more Algebra I over the summer, so they can take a full year of Geometry?


Tonight, I find myself wondering why it even matters. We have figured out a course that will allow these students to stay aligned with their classmates, and proceed into Algebra II the following year.  Students should not (in my opinion) have to do extra summer work as they transition to a new school.  I am also noticing that I am at an independent school where we can just create the class we need and adjust to the students coming in our door.  It is harder for other places (including colleges) to adapt, so schools resist change to avoid the hassle of figuring out the new things.  Change takes effort and time, but flexibility is vital to the educational system.

Noticing and wondering!  That sounds like @MFAnnie…


2 thoughts on “Placement tests

  1. I agree, flexibility is so important in education! It’s hard to balance flexibility and lasting insights with identifying what is just a fad. I am at a small private school and teach Algebra 1, 2, Precalculus, and AP Calculus. I’m curious about your school’s interest in transitioning to an integrated math curriculum. By the way – I saw you mentioned using ShareLatex, I’m super interested in using that in my classes. How exactly does your school incorporate this in to regular use?


    • Thanks for posting! I’m not sure my school is transitioning to a more integrated math curriculum, but instead we are adapting at one end of our path to accommodate our incoming students.Perhaps it will grow to more, but I’m not sure yet. For using sharelatex – we are trying to encourage the skill of typing up your work (sometimes) in Honors Precalculus classes. Therefore, our goal remains to help students learn to use LaTeX via sharelatex and posting some initial documents for kids to explore and edit. So far, so good, but I want to do more next year. The students all really want their work to look good, and we can all see that nothing looks better than TeX’d math.


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