Blog: The Educated Reporter

12 + 12 = 48 = half-right?

On New York’s state test for fourth-graders, it is. The New York Post writes about scoring guidelines for students, given to them by “an outraged Brooklyn teacher,” that allow partial credit for wrong or no answers. Shocker, right?

Not exactly. Many states have always scored their tests like this. That’s the point of having kids show their work: even if they do the computation incorrectly, they get credit for understanding how to set up the problem. It is worth asking just what level of omission or inaccuracy is deemed acceptable—whether teachers are encouraged to accept even the most fumbling scrawlings—but the general practice of valuing the solution process as much as the final answer has become ingrained into pedagogy. This would be common knowledge if people had a better understanding of what is on standardized tests and how they are graded.

Reducing an emphasis on computation through this sort of scoring is similar to how spelling and sentence structure often don’t count on constructed responses. I sat through an information session years ago where a Maryland official told educators that their students could write bullet lists instead of essays and still get the full score on the written portion of the test, which was, after all, a reading test and not a writing test.