Grades are in: June’s final exams in math show more failure in Montgomery County Schools

Donna St. George, via a kind reader’s email:

For another semester, Montgomery County high school students flunked their final exams in math courses in startlingly high numbers, according to new figures that show failure rates of 71 percent for Geometry and 68 percent for Algebra 1.
The numbers add to a phenomenon that goes back more than five years and came to widespread public attention this spring, setting off a wave of concern among parents as well as elected officials in the high-performing school system.
Latest math-exam figures show high failure rates persist in the high-performing school system.
The new figures, for exams given in June, show that failure rates worsened in Algebra 1 and Geometry; improved in Precalculus and Bridge to Algebra 2; and stayed fairly even in Algebra 2, Honors Precalculus, Honors Algebra 2 and Honors Geometry.
Overall, 45 percent of high school students in eight math courses failed their June finals — about 14,000 students out of roughly 31,000 enrolled.
Exactly what explains steep failure rates for exam-takers has been an issue of debate in recent months.
In a memo to the school board, School Superintendent Joshua P. Starr released a preliminary figure on test-skipping: As many as 500 students were no-shows for the Algebra 1 exam in June, accounting for one-sixth of the 2,912 students who failed the test.
Starr said student motivation was one of a half-dozen issues under study as a newly created math work group seeks to understand the failure problem and suggest ways to turn it around. Other possible causes cited include alignment between the curriculum and the exam, school system practices and policies, and the “cognitive demands” of the exam.

Related: Math Forum audio & video along with a number of connected matharticles.
2004 (!) Madison West High School math teacher letter to Isthmus on dumbing down the curriculum.