The majority of Montgomery County Public Schools high school students enrolled in grade-level math courses such as algebra and geometry failed their first final exam, according to countywide school system data from 2012 final exams.
Of the high school students enrolled in Algebra 1, 61 percent failed; of those in geometry, 62 percent failed; of those in Algebra 2, 57 percent failed; of those in precalculus, 48 percent failed, according to the data.
Students who are not in advanced classes had much higher rates of failure.
School system administrators are setting up a study group to “get to the root of the issue,” said Erick Lang, the school system’s associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction.
“If you look at the data, you can’t help but be pretty shocked,” said Dylan Presman, PTSA president at Rockville High.
School board member Michael A. Durso (Dist. 5) of Silver Spring said the data, to him, is “a red flag.”
“My concern is ... a lot of times the curriculum and the tests don’t always match up,” Durso said.
Durso was Springbrook High’s principal for 13 years before being elected to the board in 2009.
He said math teachers have been worried for years about skimming through topics, without depth.
Presman is concerned that there is an issue of misalignment between the curriculum and exams.
Lang said other factors come into play, such as students’ motivation to study for the exams, which they do not need to ace to pass their courses.
Lang said his office has talked about this issue before hearing about it from principals this winter.
“We have kind of said there are a bunch of factors that weigh into this,” he said. “But we haven’t done anything.”
The data became public last week, when Presman received a chart showing countywide final-exam grade results from Rockville Principal Debra Munk, then sent it to his PTSA listserv. This data is stored privately in a school system database, although Lang said it has been published in reports previously...