Test Cheats on Students: ‘Partial Credit’ Given for Wrong Answers on State Math Exam


Now we hear that public school students taking New York state’s math test often get partial credit for wrong answers. As the state has been touting its reform credentials lately, the timing of this obvious score inflation couldn’t be more embarrassing.

According to the Post, “A kid who answers that a 2-foot-long skateboard is 48 inches long gets half-credit for adding 24 and 24 instead of the correct 12 plus 12.”

This is exactly the type of chicanery critics have been charging the state with pulling so that more students will advance from one grade to the next and thus the state can claim the requisite progress necessary to secure federal funds.

The state has already faced calls that it has dumbed down its own tests for this very reason. For example, there is a big discrepancy between how New York state students perform on national reading exams and how well they perform on the state’s own exams. New York tests claim that 69 percent of students are proficient in reading, but only 29 percent receive a proficient score on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

On the state’s math exam, which was taken by 1.2 million children in grades 3 to 8, it’s hard to make the case that partial credit is appropriate. Here’s another example, as the Post puts it: “A student who figures the numbers of books in 35 boxes of 10 gets half-credit despite messed-up multiplication that yields the wrong answer, 150 instead of 350.”

In a follow up piece in the Post, the DOE defends the practice of giving partial credit, while the chair of the City Council’s Education Committee rips it.

Now, to be fair, the exam looks to be more than just a simple multiple-choice fill-in test. Students are supposed to show their work and to be graded not just on their answers, but on how they arrive at them.

But the Post‘s source — a teacher hired to grade the exams — says that under these “holistic rubrics” for scoring, there are even ways a student can get partial credit while listing no final answer at all.